DVCPRO (1995 – early 2010s)

DVCPRO (also known as DVCPRO25 or D-7) is a variation of the DV format, and was introduced by Panasonic in 1995 for professional and broadcast use.

In common with all DV formats, DVCPRO uses tape that is ¼-inch (6.35 mm) wide, but DVCPRO uses metal particle (MP) tape rather than metal evaporate. DVCPRO also adds an analogue audio cue track and a control track to make editing easier.

DVCPRO50 was introduced in 1997 and used two DV codecs in parallel, doubling the data rate over the original DVCPRO to 50 Mbps. DVCPRO50 decks can use DVCPRO tapes, but the tape is run at twice the speed so capacity is halved.

In 2000, Panasonic launched DVCPRO HD for high-definition recording. This had a data rate of 100 Mbps and competed with Sony’s HDCAM.

Panasonic stopped selling equipment using video tape around 2013.

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EIAJ-2 (1972 – late 1970s)

EIAJ-2 was a video tape format developed by the Electronic Industries Association of Japan and sold by Matsushita under the National or Panasonic brands, and also by Hitachi. The format is also referred to as Omnivision. It was introduced around 1972, as Billboard magazine refers to it being under development in August 1972, and in February 1973, Panasonic re-emphasised its commitment to the format.

It was a development of the open reel EIAJ-1 standard and used the same ½-inch tape and recording specifications. However, the tape was enclosed in a cartridge to do away with the need for manually threading it, but unlike later video cassette formats the take-up reel is enclosed within the video recorder so the cartridge needed to be rewound before the cartridge could be removed from the machine.

EIAJ-2 offered colour recording on 30 minute cartridges (a 60 minute cartridge came later, and appears to be rare) and was used in the industrial, educational and consumer markets.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

MII (1986 – early 1990s)

MII (pronounced as M 2) was an analogue videocassette format introduced by Panasonic in 1986 for professional use, to compete with Sony’s Betacam SP format.

MII was a development of the M format, which was originally derived from VHS, and it used ½ inch wide metal-formulated tape and component video recording.

Two sizes of MII cassette were available. The larger one was similar to a VHS cassette in size and had either a 60 or 90 minute recording time, and the smaller version provided 20 minutes.

MII had more success in the marketplace than its predecessor M, but MII suffered from poor marketing and customer support, and the machines gained a reputation for being less robust than those for Betacam SP.

It was used by a few UK television companies until the early 1990s, including Thames Television and TV-am. It was also used by NBC and PBS in the US, but NBC dropped it in the early 1990s in favour of the digital Sony D2 format.

The tape used in MII cassettes is very thin, and if stored badly can become mouldy and hence prone to tearing.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 3obsolescence 5

VX (1975 – 1977)

VX was an early analogue video cassette format aimed at the consumer market. It was launched by Matsushita in Japan in 1975, and was also sold in the US under the Quasar brand. The only machine using the VX format in the US was the VR-1000, marketed under the name ‘The Great Time Machine’ as it could be programmed to record at specific times. In Japan, only two models of video recorder were made.

The tape in a VX cassette was ½-inch wide, and was wound on two coaxial reels (like the VCR and Cartrivision formats). The tape was pre-formed in a loop to go around the video head, which was inserted into the cassette after a protective plug was removed by the machine. The video head itself could be unscrewed and removed for cleaning or replacement.

Tape lengths of up to two hours (120 minutes, or 1200 feet) were available, but the cassettes were much larger than cassettes for the Betamax or VHS systems that pulled the tape out of the cassette to loop around the video head.

Matsushita later went on to support JVC in its introduction of VHS and by 1977 had started producing VHS video recorders.

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Phase-change Dual (PD) disk (1995 – 1998)

Introduced by Panasonic in 1995, the Phase-Change Dual (PD) disk is a rewritable optical disc similar to later technologies like CD-RW. They have a capacity of 650MB and could be rewritten 500,000 times.

Like DVD-RAM disks, they are enclosed in a protective cartridge.

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Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) (1992 – 1996)

Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) was a digital audio recording format using magnetic tape, introduced by Philips and Matsushita in 1992. Pitched as a successor to Philips’ own Compact Cassette and competitor to Sony’s MiniDisc, it never became popular.

It shared the same form factor as compact cassettes, and DCC recorders could play back either type of cassette. This backward compatibility allowed users to adopt digital recording without rendering their existing tape collections obsolete.

As well as home players, portable and in-car players were produced.

Digital Compact Cassette was discontinued in October 1996 after Philips admitted it had achieved poor sales.

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Nintendo Wii Optical Disc (2006 – 2013)

The Nintendo Wii Optical Disc was a proprietary DVD-based format used in the Nintendo Wii games console, introduced in 2006.

The format was created by Panasonic for Nintendo, and is a full sized version of the Nintendo GameCube disc, with the potential capacity of a double-layer DVD-ROM (most early discs were single-layer). The disc reader of the Wii does not play DVD-Video, DVD-Audio or Compact Discs.

The Wii Optical Disc uses a burst cutting area mark on the disc to store encrypted data for copy-protection.

The Wii was a seventh-generation game console, that competed with consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox 360, and Sony PlayStation 3. It introduced the Wii Remote controller, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and which detects movement in three dimensions. Early models were compatible with GameCube discs and with GameCube Memory Cards. Secure Digital cards can be used for uploading photos and backing up saved game data and downloaded Virtual Console and WiiWare games.

The Wii was replaced by the Wii U in 2012, and was discontinued in 2013.

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D5 / D5 HD (1994 – late 2000s)

D5 was a professional digital video format introduced by Panasonic in 1994. Like Sony’s D1, it was an uncompressed digital system, but used the same ½-inch tapes as Panasonic’s digital composite D3 video.

Recording in D5 mode on a D3 tape provided half the capacity, so a 120 minute D3 tape gave 60 minutes.

D5 HD was a high-definition system that used the same tapes as D5, and was also released in 1994. D5 HD video was compressed to save bandwidth.

D5 tapes were available in three sizes, S, M and L. S tapes provided up to 23 minutes in D5/D5 HD mode, M tapes provided up to 63 minutes, and L tapes provided up to 94 minutes.

D5 HD (D-15) competed with Sony’s HDCAM and Panasonic’s own DVCPRO HD formats, and by 2010 Panasonic has stopped producing D5 camcorders.

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Nintendo GameCube (2002 – 2007)

The Nintendo GameCube was a sixth-generation video game console introduced in 2001 in Japan and the US (it became available in Europe in 2002) and was the successor to the Nintendo 64. It was the first console in Nintendo’s history not to offer a Mario platform title at launch.

The GameCube was Nintendo’s first console to move away from cartridge-based media altogether, although Nintendo had previously experimented with other storage technologies (namely the Famicom Disk System, and the 64DD).

The GameCube discs were designed by Panasonic, and were a proprietary version of the miniDVD format with a different encryption system to prevent copying. As a result of the use of smaller size discs, the standard system couldn’t play DVD-Video or Compact Discs. GameCube discs had a capacity of 1.5 GB which meant some larger games had to be spread over two discs.

Reception of the GameCube was mixed, but it sold approximately 22 million units and more than 600 games were released for the GameCube before it was discontinued in 2007. Its successor, the Wii, was released in 2006.

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