Video Home System (VHS) is a standard for consumer-level
analog video recording on tape cassettes. Developed by Victor Company
of Japan (JVC) in the early 1970s, it was released in Japan in late
1976 and in the United States in early 1977.
From the 1950s, magnetic tape video recording became a major
contributor to the television industry, via the first commercialized
video tape recorders (VTRs). At that time, the devices were used only
in expensive professional environments such as television studios and
medical imaging (fluoroscopy). In the 1970s, videotape entered home
use, creating the home video industry and changing the economics of
the television and movie businesses. The television industry viewed
videocassette recorders (VCRs) as having the power to disrupt their
business, while television users viewed the VCR as the means to take
control of their hobby.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, there was a format war in the home video
industry. Two of the standards,
VHS and Betamax, received the most
VHS eventually won the war, dominating 60 percent of
the North American market by 1980 and emerging as the dominant
home video format throughout the tape media period.
Optical disc formats later began to offer better quality than analog
consumer video tape such as standard and super-VHS. The earliest of
these formats, LaserDisc, was not widely adopted. However, after the
introduction of the
DVD format in 1997, VHS's market share began to
decline. By 2008,
DVD had replaced
VHS as the preferred low-end
method of distribution. The last known company in the world to
Funai of Japan—ceased production of VHS
equipment in July 2016.
1.1 Prior to VHS
1.3 Competition with Betamax
2 Initial releases of VHS-based devices
3 Technical details
3.1 Cassette and tape design
3.2 Tape loading technique
3.3 Recording capacity
3.4 Tape lengths
3.5 Copy Protection
4 Recording process
4.1 Erase head
4.3 Audio recording
4.3.1 Original linear audio system
4.3.2 Tracking adjustment and index marking
4.3.3 Hi-Fi audio system
ADAT / SVHS-ET
VHS-C / Super VHS-C
W-VHS / Digital-
6 Signal standards
8 Uses in marketing
VHS vs. Betamax
11 Modern use
12.3 High-capacity digital recording technologies
15 External links
Prior to VHS
Video tape recorder
After several attempts by other companies, the first commercially
successful VTR, the
Ampex VRX-1000, was introduced in 1956 by Ampex
Corporation. At a price of US$50,000 in 1956 (over $400,000 in
2016's inflation), and US$300 (over $2,000 in 2016's inflation) for a
90-minute reel of tape, it was intended only for the professional
Kenjiro Takayanagi, a television broadcasting pioneer then working for
JVC as its vice president, saw the need for his company to produce
VTRs for the Japan market, and at a more affordable price. In 1959,
JVC developed a two-head video tape recorder, and by 1960 a color
version for professional broadcasting. In 1964,
JVC released the
DV220, which would be the company's standard VTR until the mid-1970s.
JVC collaborated with
Sony Corporation and Matsushita Electric
(Matsushita was then parent company of
Panasonic and is now known by
that name, also majority stockholder of
JVC until 2008) in building a
video recording standard for the Japanese consumer. The effort
U-matic format in 1971, which was the first format to
become a unified standard.
U-matic was successful in business and some
broadcast applications (such as electronic news-gathering), but due to
cost and limited recording time very few of the machines were sold for
Soon after, Sony and Matsushita broke away from the collaboration
effort, in order to work on video recording formats of their own. Sony
started working on Betamax, while Matsushita started working on VX.
JVC released the CR-6060 in 1975, based on the
U-matic format. Sony
and Matsushita also produced
U-matic systems of their own.
JVC engineers Yuma Shiraishi and Shizuo Takano put together a
team to develop a consumer-based VTR. By the end of 1971 they
created an internal diagram titled "
VHS Development Matrix", which
established twelve objectives for JVC's new VTR. These included:
The system must be compatible with any ordinary television set.
Picture quality must be similar to a normal air broadcast.
The tape must have at least a two-hour recording capacity.
Tapes must be interchangeable between machines.
The overall system should be versatile, meaning it can be scaled and
expanded, such as connecting a video camera, or dub between two
Recorders should be affordable, easy to operate and have low
Recorders must be capable of being produced in high volume, their
parts must be interchangeable, and they must be easy to service.
In early 1972 the commercial video recording industry in Japan took a
JVC cut its budgets and restructured its video
division, shelving the
VHS project. However, despite the lack of
funding, Takano and Shiraishi continued to work on the project in
secret. By 1973 the two engineers had produced a functional
Competition with Betamax
In 1974, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry
(MITI), desiring to avoid consumer confusion, attempted to force the
Japanese video industry to standardize on just one home video
recording format. Later, Sony had a functional prototype of the
Betamax format, and was very close to releasing a finished product.
With this prototype, Sony persuaded the MITI to adopt
Betamax as the
standard, and allow it to license the technology to other
JVC believed that an open standard, with the format shared among
competitors without licensing the technology, was better for the
consumer. To prevent the MITI from adopting Betamax,
JVC worked to
convince other companies, in particular Matsushita (Japan's largest
electronics manufacturer at the time, marketing its products under the
National brand in most territories and the
Panasonic brand in North
America, and JVC's majority stockholder), to accept VHS, and thereby
work against Sony and the MITI. Matsushita agreed, primarily out
of concern that Sony might become the leader in the field if its
Betamax format was the only one allowed to be
manufactured. Matsushita also regarded Betamax's one-hour recording
time limit as a disadvantage.
Matsushita's backing of
JVC persuaded Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and
Sharp to back the
VHS standard as well. Sony's release of its
Betamax unit to the Japanese market in 1975 placed further pressure on
the MITI to side with the company. However, the collaboration of JVC
and its partners was much stronger, and eventually led the MITI to
drop its push for an industry standard.
JVC released the first VHS
machines in Japan in late 1976, and in the United States in early
Betamax competed with
VHS throughout the late 1970s and into
the 1980s (see
Videotape format war). Betamax's major advantages were
its smaller cassette size, higher video quality, and earlier
availability but its shorter recording time proved to be a major
Originally, Beta I machines using the
NTSC television standard were
able to record one hour of programming at their standard tape speed of
1.5 inches per second (ips). The first
could record for two hours, due to both a slightly slower tape speed
(1.31 ips.) and significantly longer tape. Betamax's
smaller-sized cassette limited the size of the reel of tape, and could
not compete with VHS's two-hour capability by extending the tape
length. Instead, Sony had to slow the tape down to 0.787 ips
(Beta II) in order to achieve two hours of recording in the same
cassette size. This reduced Betamax's once-superior video quality
to worse than
VHS when comparing two-hour recording.
Sony eventually released an extended Beta cassette (Beta III) which
Betamax to break the two-hour limit, but by then
already won the format battle.
VHS had a "far less complex tape transport mechanism"
than Betamax, and
VHS machines were faster at rewinding and
fast-forwarding than their Sony counterparts.
In machines using the
SECAM television formats, Beta's running
time was similar to VHS, the quality at least as good, and the format
battle was not fought on running time.
Initial releases of VHS-based devices
JVC HR-3300U VIDSTAR – the United States version of the
It is virtually identical to the Japan version. Japan's version showed
the "Victor" name, and didn't use the "VIDSTAR" name.
The first VCR to use
VHS was the Victor HR-3300, and was introduced by
the president of
JVC in Japan on September 9, 1976. JVC
started selling the HR-3300 in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan on October 31,
1976. Region-specific versions of the
JVC HR-3300 were also
distributed later on, such as the HR-3300U in the United States, and
HR-3300EK in the United Kingdom in January 1977. The United States
received its first VHS-based VCR – the RCA VBT200 on August 23,
1977. The RCA unit was designed by Matsushita, and was the first
VHS-based VCR manufactured by a company other than JVC. It was also
capable of recording four hours in LP (long play) mode. The United
Kingdom later received its first VHS-based VCR – the Victor
HR-3300EK in 1978.
General Electric would follow-up with VHS-based VCRs –
all designed by Matsushita. By 1999, Matsushita alone produced
just over half of all Japanese VCRs.
Cassette and tape design
Top view of
VHS with front casing removed
VHS cassette is a 187 mm wide, 103 mm deep, 25 mm
thick (73⁄8 × 41⁄16 × 1 inch) plastic shell held together
Phillips head screws. The flip-up cover that protects the
tape has a built-in latch with a push-in toggle on the right side
(bottom view image). The
VHS cassette also includes an anti-despooling
mechanism consisting of several plastic parts between the plastic
spools, near the front of the tape (white and black in the top view).
The spool latches are released by a push-in lever within a
6.35 mm (¼ inch) hole accessed from the bottom of the cassette,
19 mm (¾ inch) inwards from the edge label.
There is a clear tape leader at both ends of the tape to provide an
optical auto-stop for the VCR transport mechanism. A light source is
inserted into the cassette through the circular hole in the center of
the underside when loaded in the VCR, and two photodiodes are located
to the left and right sides of where the tape exits the cassette. When
the clear tape reaches one of these, enough light will pass through
the tape to the photodiode to trigger the stop function; in more
sophisticated machines it will start rewinding the cassette when the
trailing end is detected. Early VCRs used an incandescent bulb as the
light source, which regularly failed and caused the VCR to erroneously
think that a cassette is loaded when empty, or would detect the blown
bulb and stop functioning completely. Later designs use an infrared
LED which had a much longer lifetime.
The recording media is a 12.7 mm (½ inch) wide, approximately
800 foot long Oxide-coated Mylar magnetic tape that is wound
between two spools, allowing it to be slowly passed over the various
playback and recording heads of the video cassette recorder. The tape
speed for "Standard Play" mode (see below) is 3.335 cm/s (1.313
ips) for NTSC, 2.339 cm/s (0.921 ips) for PAL—or just over 2.0
and 1.4 metres (6 ft 6.7 in and 4 ft 7.2 in) per minute
Tape loading technique
VHS M-loading system.
As with almost all cassette-based videotape systems,
VHS machines pull
the tape out from the cassette shell and wrap it around the inclined
head drum which rotates at 1798.2 rpm in
NTSC machines and at
1500 rpm for PAL, one complete rotation of the head corresponding
to one video frame.
VHS uses an "M-loading" system, also known as
M-lacing, where the tape is drawn out by two threading posts and
wrapped around more than 180 degrees of the head drum (and also other
tape transport components) in a shape roughly approximating the letter
The interior of a modern
VHS VCR showing the drum and tape.
VHS cassette holds a maximum of about 430 m (1,410 ft.) of tape
at the lowest acceptable tape thickness, giving a maximum playing time
of about four hours in a T-240/DF480 for
NTSC and five hours in an
PAL at "standard play" (SP) quality. More frequently
VHS tapes are thicker than the required minimum to avoid
complications such as jams or tears in the tape. Other speeds
include "long play" (LP), and "extended play" (EP) or "super long
play" (SLP) (standard on NTSC; rarely found on
PAL machines). For
NTSC, LP and EP/SLP doubles and triples the recording time
accordingly, but these speed reductions cause a reduction in video
quality – from the normal 250 lines in SP, to 230 analog lines
horizontal in LP and even less in EP/SLP. The slower speeds cause a
very noticeable reduction in linear (non-hifi) audio track quality as
well, as the linear tape speed becomes much lower than what is
commonly considered a satisfactory minimum for audio recording.
NTSC and PAL/
VHS cassettes are physically identical
(although the signals recorded on the tape are incompatible). However,
as tape speeds differ between
NTSC and PAL/SECAM, the playing time for
any given cassette will vary accordingly between the systems. In order
to avoid confusion, manufacturers indicate the playing time in minutes
that can be expected for the market the tape is sold in. It is
perfectly possible to record and play back a blank T-XXX tape in a PAL
machine or a blank E-XXX tape in an
NTSC machine, but the resulting
playing time will be different from that indicated.
To calculate the playing time for a T-XXX tape in a
PAL machine, use
this formula: PAL/
SECAM Recording Time = T-XXX in minutes * (1.426)
To calculate the playing time for an E-XXX tape in an
use this formula:
NTSC Recording Time = E-XXX in minutes * (0.701)
Panasonic NTSC/ATSC recorders also include a XP mode which is
not part of the official specification. It enables recordings at
double the SP speed, such that a T-180 holds 1.5 hours.
E-XXX indicates playing time in minutes for
SECAM in SP and LP
T-XXX indicates playing time in minutes for
PAL-M in SP, LP,
and EP/SLP speeds.
SP is Standard Play, LP is Long Play (½ speed, equal to recording
time in D
VHS "HS" mode), EP/SLP is extended/super long play (⅓
speed) which was primarily released into the
Common tape lengths
(nominal length in minutes)
Rec. time (NTSC)
Rec. time (PAL)
66 min (1h 06)
T-30 (typical VHS-C)
63 min (1h 03)
95 min (1h 35)
90 min (1h 30)
94 min (1h 34)
142 min (2h 22)
67 min (1h 07)
135 min (2h 15)
63 min (1h 03)
126 min (2h 06)
188 min (3h 08)
89 min (1h 29)
179 min (2h 59)
93 min (1h 33)
186 min (3h 06)
279 min (4h 39)
132 min (2h 12)
265 min (4h 25)
T-120 / DF240
124 min (2h 04)
247 min (4h 07)
371 min (6h 11)
176 min (2h 56)
352 min (5h 52)
144 min (2h 24)
287 min (4h 47)
431 min (7h 11)
204.5 min (3h 24.5)
404.5 min (6h 49.5)
T-150 / DF300
158 min (2h 38)
316 min (5h 16)
475 min (7h 55)
226 min (3h 46)
452 min (7h 32)
164 min (2h 44)
327 min (5h 27)
491 min (8h 11)
233 min (3h 53)
467 min (7h 47)
T-180 / DF-360
184 min (3h 04)
369 min (6h 09)
553 min (9h 13)
263 min (4h 23)
526 min (8h 46)
205 min (3h 25)
410 min (6h 50)
615 min (10h 15)
292 min (4h 52)
584 min (9h 44)
T-210 / DF420
216 min (3h 36)
433 min (7h 13)
649 min (10h 49)
308 min (5h 08)
617 min (10h 17)
T-240 / DF480
250 min (4h 10)
500 min (8h 20)
749 min (12h 29)
356 min (5h 56)
712 min (11h 52)
E-30 (typical VHS-C)
68 min (1h 08)
64 min (1h 04)
88 min (1h 28)
133 min (2h 13)
63 min (1h 03)
126 min (2h 06)
65 min (1h 05)
131 min (2h 11)
196 min (3h 16)
93 min (1h 33)
186 min (3h 06)
87 min (1h 27)
174 min (2h 54)
260 min (4h 20)
124 min (2h 04)
248 min (4h 08)
108 min (1h 49)
227 min (3h 37)
324 min (5h 24)
154 min (2h 34)
308 min (5h 08)
129 min (2h 09)
259 min (4h 18)
388 min (6h 28)
184 min (3h 04)
369 min (6h 09)
139 min (2h 19)
279 min (4h 39)
418 min (6h 58)
199 min (3h 19)
397 min (6h 37)
144 min (2h 24)
284 min (4h 44)
428 min (7h 08)
204 min (3h 24)
405 min (6h 45)
152 min (2h 32)
304 min (5h 04)
456 min (7h 36)
217 min (3h 37)
433 min (7h 13)
174 min (2h 54)
348 min (5h 48)
522 min (8h 42)
248 min (4h 08)
496 min (8h 16)
196 min (3h 16)
392 min (6h 32)
589 min (9h 49)
279 min (4h 39)
559 min (9h 19)
217 min (3h 37)
435 min (7h 15)
652 min (10h 52)
310 min (5h 10)
620 min (10h 20)
Several other defined lengths of cassette entered mass production for
both markets, but were either used only for professional duplication
purposes (often pushing the limit of how much tape of a particular
grade/thickness could fit into a standard cassette, in order to hold
films that could not quite fit onto a shorter standard size without
risking poorer quality or reliability by switching to a thinner
grade), or failed to find popularity amongst home consumers because of
a glut of tape length choices or poor value for money—e.g.
T130/135/140, T168, E150, E270, and more besides.
VHS was designed to facilitate recording from various sources,
including television broadcasts or other VCR units, content producers
quickly found that home users were able to use the devices to copy
videos from one tape to another. Despite the generation loss, this was
regarded as a widespread problem, which the members of the Motion
Picture Association of America (MPAA) claimed caused them great
financial losses. In response, several companies developed
technologies to protect copyrighted
VHS tapes from casual duplication
by home users.
The most popular method was Macrovision, produced by a company of the
same name. According to Macrovision, "The technology is applied to
over 550 million videocassettes annually and is used by every MPAA
movie studio on some or all of their videocassette releases. Over 220
commercial duplication facilities around the world are equipped to
Macrovision videocassette copy protection to rights owners."
Also, "The study found that over 30% of VCR households admit to having
unauthorized copies, and that the total annual revenue loss due to
copying is estimated at $370,000,000 annually." The system was
first used in copyrighted movies beginning with the 1984 film The
Macrovision copy protection saw refinement throughout its years, but
has always worked by essentially introducing deliberate errors into a
VHS tape's output video stream. These errors in the output
video stream are ignored by most televisions, but will interfere with
re-recording of programming by a second VCR. The first version of
Macrovision introduces voltage spikes during the vertical blanking
interval, which occurs between the video fields. These high levels
confuse the automatic gain control circuit in most
VHS VCRs, leading
to varying brightness levels in an output video, but are ignored by
the TV as they are out of the frame-display period. "Level II"
Macrovision uses a process called "colorstriping," which inverts the
analog signal's colorburst period and causes off-color bands to appear
in the picture. Level III protection added additional colorstriping
techniques to further degrade the image.
These protection methods worked well to defeat analog-to-analog
copying by VCRs of the time. Products capable of digital video
recording are mandated by law to include features which detect
Macrovision encoding of input analog streams, and reject copying of
the video. Both intentional and false-positive detection of
Macrovision protection has frustrated archivists who wish to copy
VHS tapes to a digital format for preservation.
A close-up process of how the magnetic tape in a
VHS cassette is being
pulled from the cassette shell to the head drum of the VCR.
This illustration demonstrates the helical wrap of the tape around the
head drum, and shows the points where the video, audio and control
tracks are recorded.
The recording process in
VHS consists of the following steps, in this
The tape is pulled from the supply reel by a capstan and pinch roller,
similar to those used in audio tape recorders.
The tape passes across the erase head, which wipes any existing
recording from the tape.
The tape is wrapped around the head drum, using a little more than 180
degrees of the drum.
One of the heads on the spinning drum records one field of video onto
the tape, in one diagonally oriented track.
The tape passes across the audio and control head, which records the
control track and the linear audio track or tracks.
The tape is wound onto the take-up reel due to torque applied to the
reel by the machine.
The erase head is fed by a high level, high frequency AC signal that
overwrites any previous recording on the tape. Without this step,
the new recording cannot be guaranteed to completely replace any old
recording that might have been on the tape.
Panasonic Hi-Fi 6-head drum VEH0548 installed on G mechanism as an
example, demonstrated a typical
VHS head drum containing two tape
heads. (1) is the upper head, (2) is the tape heads, and (3) is the
The upper- und underside of a typical 4-head
VHS head assembly showing
the head chips.
A typical RCA (Model CC-4371) Full-Size
Camcorder with a built-in
three-inch color LCD screen. The tiltable LCD screen is rare on
VHS camcorders; only the smaller
VHS-C camcorders are more
common to have a tiltable LCD screen on some units.
The tape path then carries the tape around the spinning head drum,
wrapping it around a little more than 180 degrees (called the omega
transport system) in a helical fashion, assisted by the slanted tape
guides. The head rotates constantly at approximately 1800 rpm in
NTSC machines, exactly 1500 in PAL, each complete rotation
corresponding to one frame of video.
Two tape heads are mounted on the cylindrical surface of the drum, 180
degrees apart from each other, so that the two heads "take turns" in
recording. The rotation of the head drum, combined with the relatively
slow movement of the tape, results in each head recording a track
oriented at a diagonal with respect to the length of the tape. This is
referred to as helical scan recording.
To maximize the use of the tape, the video tracks are recorded very
close together to each other. To reduce crosstalk between adjacent
tracks on playback, an azimuth recording method is used: The gaps of
the two heads are not aligned exactly with the track path. Instead,
one head is angled at plus seven degrees from the track, and the other
at minus seven degrees. This results, during playback, in destructive
interference of the signal from the tracks on either side of the one
Each of the diagonal-angled tracks is a complete TV picture field,
lasting 1/60th of a second (1/50th on PAL) on the display. One tape
head records an entire picture field. The adjacent track, recorded by
the second tape head, is another 1/60th or 1/50th of a second TV
picture field, and so on. Thus one complete head rotation records an
PAL frame of two fields.
VHS specification had only two video heads. Later models
implemented at least one more pair of heads, which were used at (and
optimized for) the EP tape speed. In machines supporting
(described later), yet another pair of heads was added to handle the
VHS HiFi signal.
The high tape-to-head speed created by the rotating head results in a
far higher bandwidth than could be practically achieved with a
VHS tapes have approximately 3 MHz of video bandwidth
and 400 kHz of chroma bandwidth. The luminance (black and white)
portion of the video is recorded as a frequency modulated, with a
down-converted "color under" chroma (color) signal recorded directly
at the baseband. Each helical track contains a single field ('even' or
'odd' field, equivalent to half a frame) encoded as an analog raster
scan, similar to analog TV broadcasts. The horizontal resolution is
240 lines per picture height, or about 320 lines across a scan line,
and the vertical resolution (the number of scan lines) is the same as
the respective analog TV standard (576 for
PAL or 486 for NTSC;
usually, somewhat fewer scan lines are actually visible due to
overscan). In modern-day digital terminology,
VHS is roughly
equivalent to 333×480 pixels luma and 40×480 chroma resolutions
(333×480 pixels=159,840 pixels or 0.16MP (1/6 of a MegaPixel)).,
VHS offers the equivalent of about 335×576 pixels luma and
40×240 chroma (the vertical chroma resolution of
PAL is limited by
PAL color delay line mechanism).
JVC would counter 1985's SuperBeta with
VHS HQ, or High Quality. The
frequency modulation of the
VHS luminance signal is limited to 3
megahertz, which makes higher resolutions technically impossible even
with the highest-quality recording heads and tape materials, but an HQ
branded deck includes luminance noise reduction, chroma noise
reduction, white clip extension, and improved sharpness circuitry. The
effect was to increase the apparent horizontal resolution of a VHS
recording from 240 to 250 analog (equivalent to 333 pixels from
left-to-right, in digital terminology). The major
VHS OEMs resisted HQ
due to cost concerns, eventually resulting in
JVC reducing the
requirements for the HQ brand to "white clip extension plus one other
JVC introduced a new format called Super
VHS (often known as
S-VHS) which extended the bandwidth to over 5 megahertz, yielding 420
analog horizontal (560 pixels left-to-right). Most Super
can play back standard
VHS tapes, but not vice versa.
designed for higher resolution, but failed to gain popularity outside
Japan because of the high costs of the machines and tapes. Because
of the limited user base, Super
VHS was never picked up to any
significant degree by manufacturers of pre-recorded tapes, although it
was used extensively in the low-end professional market for filming
After leaving the head drum, the tape passes over the stationary audio
and control head. This records a control track at the bottom edge of
the tape, and one or two linear audio tracks along the top edge.
Original linear audio system
In the original
VHS specification, audio was recorded as baseband in a
single linear track, at the upper edge of the tape, similar to how an
audio compact cassette operates. The recorded frequency range was
dependent on the linear tape speed. For the
VHS SP mode, which already
uses a lower tape speed than the compact cassette, this resulted in a
mediocre frequency response of roughly 100 Hz to 10 kHz for
NTSC; frequency response for
VHS with its lower
standard tape speed was somewhat worse. The signal-to-noise ratio
(SNR) was an acceptable 42 dB. Both parameters degraded
significantly with VHS's longer play modes, with EP/
response peaking at 4 kHz.
Audio cannot be recorded on a
VHS tape without recording a video
signal, even in the audio dubbing mode. If there is no video signal to
the VCR input, most VCRs will record black video as well as generate a
control track while the audio is being recorded. Some early VCRs would
record audio without a control track signal, but this was of little
practical use since the absence of a control track signal meant that
the linear tape speed was irregular during playback.
More expensive decks offered stereo audio recording and playback.
Linear stereo, as it was called, fit two independent channels in the
same space as the original mono audiotrack. While this approach
preserved acceptable backward compatibility with monoaural audio
heads, the splitting of the audio track degraded the signal's SNR to
the point that audible tape hiss was objectionable at normal listening
volume. To counteract tape hiss, decks applied Dolby B noise reduction
for recording and playback. Dolby B dynamically boosts the
mid-frequency band of the audio program on the recorded medium,
improving its signal strength relative to the tape's background noise
floor, then attenuates the mid-band during playback. Dolby B is not a
transparent process, and Dolby-encoded program material will exhibit
an unnatural mid-range emphasis when played on non-Dolby capable VCRs.
High-end consumer recorders took advantage of the linear nature of the
audio track, as the audio track could be erased and recorded without
disturbing the video portion of the recorded signal. Hence, "audio
dubbing" and "video dubbing", where either the audio or video are
re-recorded on tape (without disturbing the other), were supported
features on prosumer linear video editing-decks. Without dubbing
capability, an audio or video edit could not be done in-place on
master cassette, and requires the editing output be captured to
another tape, incurring generational loss.
Studio film releases began to emerge with linear stereo audiotracks in
1982. From that point onward nearly every home video release by
Hollywood featured a Dolby-encoded linear stereo audiotrack. However,
linear stereo was never popular with equipment makers or consumers.
Tracking adjustment and index marking
Another linear control track, at the tape's lower edge, holds pulses
that mark the beginning of every frame of video; these are used to
fine-tune the tape speed during playback, so that the high speed
rotating heads remained exactly on their helical tracks rather than
somewhere between two adjacent tracks (known as "tracking"). Since
good tracking depends on precise distances between the rotating drum
and the fixed control/audio head reading the linear tracks, which
usually varies by a couple of micrometers between machines due to
manufacturing tolerances, most VCRs offer tracking adjustment, either
manual or automatic, to correct such mismatches.
The control track is also used to hold index marks, which were
normally written at the beginning of each recording session, and can
be found using the VCR's index search function: this will fast-wind
forward or backward to the nth specified index mark, and resume
playback from there. At times, higher-end VCRs provided functions for
the user to manually add and remove these marks — so that,
for example, they coincide with the actual start of the television
program — but this feature later became hard to find.[citation
By the late 1990s, some high-end VCRs offered more sophisticated
indexing. For example, Panasonic's Tape Library system assigned an ID
number to each cassette, and logged recording information (channel,
date, time and optional program title entered by the user) both on the
cassette and in the VCR's memory for up to 900 recordings (600 with
Hi-Fi audio system
JVC added Hi-Fi audio to
VHS (model HR-D725U, in response
to Betamax's introduction of Beta Hi-Fi.) Both
VHS Hi-Fi and Betamax
Hi-Fi delivered flat full-range frequency response (20 Hz to
20 kHz), excellent 70 dB signal-to-noise ratio (in consumer
space, second only to the compact disc), dynamic range of 90 dB,
and professional audio-grade channel separation (more than
VHS Hi-Fi audio is achieved by using audio frequency
modulation (AFM), modulating the two stereo channels (L, R) on two
different frequency-modulated carriers and embedding the combined
modulated audio signal pair into the video signal. To avoid crosstalk
and interference from the primary video carrier, VHS's implementation
of AFM relied on a form of magnetic recording called depth
multiplexing. The modulated audio carrier pair was placed in the
hitherto-unused frequency range between the luminance and the color
carrier (below 1.6 MHz), and recorded first. Subsequently, the
video head erases and re-records the video signal (combined luminance
and color signal) over the same tape surface, but the video signal's
higher center frequency results in a shallower magnetization of the
tape, allowing both the video and residual AFM audio signal to coexist
on tape. (
PAL versions of Beta Hi-Fi use this same technique). During
VHS Hi-Fi recovers the depth-recorded AFM signal by
subtracting the audio head's signal (which contains the AFM signal
contaminated by a weak image of the video signal) from the video
head's signal (which contains only the video signal), then demodulates
the left and right audio channels from their respective frequency
carriers. The end result of the complex process was audio of
outstanding fidelity, which was uniformly solid across all tape-speeds
(EP, LP or SP.) Since
JVC had gone through the complexity of ensuring
Hi-Fi's backward compatibility with non-Hi-Fi VCRs, virtually all
studio home video releases produced after this time contained Hi-Fi
audio tracks, in addition to the linear audio track. Under normal
circumstances, all Hi-Fi
VHS VCRs will record Hi-Fi and linear audio
simultaneously to ensure compatibility with VCRs without Hi-Fi
playback, though only early high-end Hi-Fi machines provided linear
Due to the path followed by the video and Hi-Fi audio heads being
striped and discontinuous—unlike that of the linear audio
track—head-switching is required to provide a continuous audio
signal. While the video signal can easily hide the head-switching
point in the invisible vertical retrace section of the signal, so that
the exact switching point is not very important, the same is obviously
not possible with a continuous audio signal that has no inaudible
sections. Hi-Fi audio is thus dependent on a much more exact alignment
of the head switching point than is required for non-HiFi VHS
machines. Misalignments may lead to imperfect joining of the signal,
resulting in low-pitched buzzing. The problem is known as "head
chatter", and tends to increase as the audio heads wear down.
The sound quality of Hi-Fi
VHS stereo is comparable to the quality of
CD audio, particularly when recordings were made on high-end or
VHS machines that have a manual audio recording level
control. This high quality compared to other consumer audio recording
formats such as compact cassette attracted the attention of amateur
and hobbyist recording artists.
Home recording enthusiasts
occasionally recorded high quality stereo mixdowns and master
recordings from multitrack audio tape onto consumer-level Hi-Fi VCRs.
However, because the
VHS Hi-Fi recording process is intertwined with
the VCR's video-recording function, advanced editing functions such as
audio-only or video-only dubbing are impossible. A short-lived
alternative to the hifi feature for recording mixdowns of hobbyist
audio-only projects was a
PCM adaptor so that high-bandwidth digital
video could use a grid of black-and-white dots on an analog video
carrier to give pro-grade digital sounds though DAT tapes made this
VHS decks also had a "simulcast" switch, allowing users to record
an external audio input along with off-air pictures. Some televised
concerts offered a stereo simulcast soundtrack on FM radio and as
such, events like
Live Aid were recorded by thousands of people with a
full stereo soundtrack despite the fact that stereo TV broadcasts were
some years off (especially in regions that adopted NICAM). Other
examples of this included network television shows such as Friday
Night Videos and
MTV for its first few years in existence. Likewise,
some countries, most notably South Africa, provided alternate language
audio tracks for TV programming through an FM radio simulcast.
The considerable complexity and additional hardware limited
to high-end decks for many years. While linear stereo all but
disappeared from home
VHS decks, it was not until the 1990s that Hi-Fi
became a more common feature on
VHS decks. Even then, most customers
were unaware of its significance and merely enjoyed the better audio
performance of the newer decks.
S-VHS (left) and S-
ADAT / SVHS-ET
S-VHS and D-VHS
Several improved versions of
VHS exist, most notably Super-VHS
(S-VHS), an analog video standard with improved video bandwidth. S-VHS
improved the horizontal luminance resolution to 400 lines (versus 250
for VHS/Beta and 500 for DVD). The audio-system (both linear and AFM)
is the same.
S-VHS made little impact on the home market, but gained
dominance in the camcorder market due to its superior picture quality.
ADAT format provides the ability to record multitrack digital
JVC also developed SVHS-ET technology for its
VHS camcorders and VCRs, which simply allows them to record
VHS signals onto lower-priced
VHS tapes, albeit with a slight
blurring of the image. Nearly all later Super-
VHS camcorders and VCRs
have SVHS-ET ability.
VHS-C / Super VHS-C
Main article: VHS-C
Another variant is VHS-Compact (VHS-C), originally developed for
portable VCRs in 1982, but ultimately finding success in palm-sized
camcorders. The longest tape available for
NTSC holds 60 minutes in SP
mode and 180 minutes in EP mode. Since
VHS-C tapes are based on the
same magnetic tape as full-size tapes, they can be played back in
VHS players using a mechanical adapter, without the need of
any kind of signal conversion. The magnetic tape on
VHS-C cassettes is
wound on one main spool and uses a gear wheel to advance the tape.
The adapter is mechanical, although early examples were motorized,
with a battery. It has an internal hub to engage with the VCR
mechanism in the location of a normal full-size tape hub, driving the
gearing on the
VHS-C cassette. Also, when a
VHS-C cassette is inserted
into the adapter, a small swing-arm pulls the tape out of the
miniature cassette to span the standard tape path distance between the
guide rollers of a full-size tape. This allows the tape from the
miniature cassette to use the same loading mechanism as that from the
S-VHS Compact was developed by
JVC in 1987. S-VHS
provided an improved luminance and chrominance quality, yet S-VHS
recorders were compatible with
Sony was unable to shrink its
Betamax form any further, so instead
developed Video8/Hi8 which was in direct competition with the
VHS-C format throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Ultimately
neither format "won" and both have been superseded by digital high
W-VHS / Digital-
W-VHS and D-VHS
W-VHS allowed recording of MUSE Hi-Vision analog high definition
television, which was broadcast in Japan from 1989 until 2007. The
other improved standard, called Digital-
VHS (D-VHS), records digital
high definition video onto a
VHS form factor tape.
D-VHS can record up
to 4 hours of ATSC digital television in 720p or 1080i formats using
the fastest record mode (equivalent to VHS-SP), and up to 49 hours of
lower-definition video at slower speeds.
Main article: Digital-S
There is also a JVC-designed component digital professional production
format known as Digital-S, or officially under the name D9, that uses
VHS form factor tape and essentially the same mechanical tape
handling techniques as an
S-VHS recorder. This format is the least
expensive format to support a
Sel-Sync pre-read for video editing.
This format competed with Sony's
Digital Betacam in the professional
and broadcast market, although in that area Sony's
ruled supreme, in contrast to the outcome of the VHS/
format war. It has now been superseded by high definition formats.
A tape rewinder.
Shortly after the introduction of the
VHS tape rewinders
were developed. These devices served the sole purpose of rewinding VHS
tapes. Proponents of the rewinders argued that the use of the rewind
function on the standard
VHS player would lead to wear and tear of the
transport mechanism. The rewinder would rewind the tapes smoothly and
also normally do so at a faster rate than the standard rewind function
VHS players. However some rewinder brands did have some frequent
abrupt stops, which occasionally led to tape damage.
Some devices were marketed which allowed a personal computer to use a
VHS recorder as a data backup device. The most notable of these was
ArVid, widely used in Russia and CIS states. Similar systems were
manufactured in the United States by Corvus and Alpha
Microsystems, and in the UK by Backer from Danmere Ltd.
VHS can record and play back all varieties of analog television
signals in existence at the time
VHS was devised. However, a machine
must be designed to record a given standard. Typically, a
can only handle signals using the same standard as the country it was
sold in. This is because some parameters of analog broadcast TV are
not applicable to
VHS recordings, the number of
VHS tape recording
format variations is smaller than the number of broadcast TV signal
variations—for example, analog TVs and
VHS machines (except
multistandard devices) are not interchangeable between the UK and
VHS tapes are. The following tape recording formats exist
VHS (listed in the form of standard/lines/frames):
SECAM/625/25 (SECAM, French variety)
MESECAM/625/25 (most other
SECAM countries, notably the former Soviet
Union and Middle East)
NTSC/525/30 (Most parts of Americas, Japan, South Korea)
PAL/525/30 (i.e., PAL-M, Brazil)
PAL/625/25 (most of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, many parts
of Asia such as China and India, some parts of South America such as
Argentina, Uruguay and the Falklands, and Africa)
Note that PAL/625/25 VCRs allow playback of
SECAM (and MESECAM) tapes
with a monochrome picture, and vice versa, as the line standard is the
same. Since the 1990s dual and multi-standard
VHS machines, able to
handle a variety of VHS-supported video standards, became more common.
VHS machines sold in Australia and Europe could typically
handle PAL, ME
SECAM for record and playback, and
NTSC for playback
only on suitable TVs. Dedicated multi-standard machines can usually
handle all standards listed, and some high-end models could convert
the content of a tape from one standard to another on the fly during
playback by using a built-in standards converter.
S-VHS is only implemented as such in PAL/625/25 and NTSC/525/30; S-VHS
machines sold in
SECAM markets record internally in PAL, and convert
SECAM during recording and playback.
for the Brazilian market record in
NTSC and convert between it and
A small number of
VHS decks are able to decode closed captions on
prerecorded video cassettes. A smaller number still are able,
additionally, to record subtitles transmitted with world standard
teletext signals (on pre-digital services), simultaneously with the
S-VHS has a sufficient resolution to record
teletext signals with relatively few errors.
VHS logo was commissioned by
JVC and introduced with the JVC
HR-3300 in 1976. It uses the Lee font, designed by Leo Weisz.
Uses in marketing
VHS was popular for long-form content, such as feature films or
documentaries, as well as short-play content, such as music videos,
in-store videos, teaching videos, distribution of lectures and talks,
VHS instruction tapes were sometimes included with
various products and services, including exercise equipment, kitchen
appliances, and computer software.
VHS vs. Betamax
Videotape format war
Size comparison between
Betamax (top) and
VHS (bottom) videocassettes.
VHS was the winner of a protracted and somewhat bitter format war
during the late 1970s and early 1980s against Sony's
Betamax format as
well as other formats of the time.
Betamax was widely perceived at the time as the better format, as the
cassette was smaller in size, and
Betamax offered slightly better
video quality than
VHS – it had lower video noise, less luma-chroma
crosstalk, and was marketed as providing pictures superior to those of
VHS. However, the sticking point for both consumers and potential
licensing partners of
Betamax was the total recording time. To
overcome the recording limitation, Beta II speed (two-hour mode, NTSC
regions only) was released in order to compete with VHS's two-hour SP
mode, thereby reducing Betamax's horizontal resolution to 240 lines
(vs 250 lines). In turn, the extension of
VHS HQ produced
250 lines (vs 240 lines), so that overall a typical Betamax/
could expect virtually identical resolution. (Very high-end Betamax
machines still supported recording in the Beta I mode and some in an
even higher resolution Beta Is (Beta I Super HiBand) mode, but at a
maximum single-cassette run time of 1:40 [with an L-830 cassette].)
Betamax was released more than a year before VHS, it held an
early lead in the format war. However, by 1981, United States' Betamax
sales had dipped to only 25-percent of all sales. There was debate
between experts over the cause of Betamax's loss. Some, including
Sony's founder Akio Morita, say that it was due to Sony's licensing
strategy with other manufacturers, which consistently kept the overall
cost for a unit higher than a
VHS unit, and that
JVC allowed other
manufacturers to produce
VHS units license-free, thereby keeping costs
lower. Others say that
VHS had better marketing, since the much
larger electronics companies at the time (Matsushita, for example)
supported VHS. Sony would make its first
VHS players/recorders in
1988, although it continued to produce
Betamax machines until
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VHS VCR was a mainstay in television-equipped American and
European living rooms for more than 20 years from its introduction in
1977. The home television recording market, as well as the camcorder
market, has since transitioned to digital recording on solid-state
memory cards. The introduction of the
DVD format to American consumers
in March 1997 triggered the market share decline of VHS.
Though 94.5 million Americans still owned
VHS format VCRs in 2005,
market share continued to drop. In the mid-2000s, several retail
chains in the United States and Europe announced they would stop
VHS equipment. In the U.S., no major
brick-and-mortar retailers stock
VHS home-video releases, focusing
The last known company in the world to manufacture
VHS equipment was
Funai of Japan, who produced videotape recorder under the
in China and North America.
Funai ceased production of
in July 2016, citing falling sales and a shortage of components.
A badly molded
VHS tape. Mold can prevent modern use. See Media
Despite the decline in both
VHS players and programming on VHS
machines, they are still owned in some households worldwide. Those who
still use or hold on to
VHS do so for a number of reasons, including
its alleged nostalgic value, its ease of use in recording, the fact
that certain media still only exist in
VHS format, their videos of
personal events in their life are on VHS, or they are collectors of
VHS releases. Expatriate communities in the United States also obtain
video content from their native countries in
VHS has been discontinued in the United States,
and blank tapes were still sold at stores in other developed countries
prior to digital television transitions. As an
acknowledgement of the continued use of VHS,
Panasonic announced the
world's first dual deck VHS-
Blu-ray player in 2009. The last
JVC VHS-only unit was produced on October 28, 2008.
JVC, and other manufacturers, continued to make combination DVD+VHS
units even after the decline of VHS.
A market for pre-recorded
VHS tapes has continued, and some online
retailers such as Amazon still sell new and used pre-recorded VHS
cassettes of movies and television programs. None of the major
Hollywood studios generally issue releases on VHS. The last
major[vague] Hollywood film to be released in the
VHS format in the
United States, other than as part of special marketing promotions, was
A History of Violence
A History of Violence in 2006. In 2008, Distribution
Video Audio Inc.,
the last major American supplier of pre-recorded
VHS tapes, shipped
its final truckload of tapes to stores in America.
However, there have been a few exceptions. For example, The House of
the Devil was released on
VHS in 2010 as an Amazon-exclusive deal, in
keeping with the film's intent to mimic 1980s horror films. The
V/H/S/2 was released as a combo in North America that
VHS tape in addition to a
Blu-ray and a
DVD copy on
September 24, 2013.
Video CD (VCD) was created in 1993, becoming an alternative medium
for video, in a CD-sized disc. Though occasionally showing compression
artifacts and color banding that are common discrepancies in digital
media, the durability and longevity of a VCD depends on the production
quality of the disc, and its handling. The data stored digitally on a
VCD theoretically does not degrade (in the analog sense like tape). In
the disc player, there is no physical contact made with either the
data or label sides. And, when handled properly, a VCD will last a
Since a VCD can only hold 74 minutes of video, a movie exceeding that
mark has to be divided into two or more discs.
See also: DVD-Video
DVD-Video format was introduced first, in 1996, in Japan, to the
United States in March 1997 (test marketed) and mid-late 1998 in
Europe and Australia.
Despite DVD's better quality (typical horizontal resolution of 480
versus 250 lines per picture height), and the availability of
VHS is still used in home recording of video
content. The commercial success of
DVD recording and re-writing has
been hindered by a number of factors including:
A reputation for being temperamental and unreliable, as well as the
risk of scratches and hairline cracks.
Incompatibilities in playing discs recorded on a different
manufacturer's machines to that of the original recording machine.
MPEG-2 video compression can result in visible
artifacts such as macroblocking, mosquito noise and ringing which
become accentuated in extended recording modes (more than three hours
DVD-5 disc). Standard
VHS will not suffer from any of these
problems, all of which are characteristic of certain digital video
compression systems (see Discrete cosine transform) but
result in reduced luminance and chroma resolution, which makes the
picture look horizontally blurred (resolution decreases further with
LP and EP recording modes).
VHS also adds considerable noise to
both the luminance and chroma channels.
High-capacity digital recording technologies
See also: Digital video recorder
High-capacity digital recording systems are also gaining in popularity
with home users. These types of systems come in several form factors:
Hard disk–based set-top boxes
Hard disk/optical disc combination set-top boxes
Personal computer–based media center
Portable media players with TV-out capability
Hard disk-based systems include
TiVo as well as other digital video
recorder (DVR) offerings. These types of systems provide users with a
no-maintenance solution for capturing video content. Customers of
subscriber-based TV generally receive electronic program guides,
enabling one-touch setup of a recording schedule. Hard disk–based
systems allow for many hours of recording without user-maintenance.
For example, a 120 GB system recording at an extended recording rate
(XP) of 10 Mbit/s
MPEG-2 can record over 25 hours of video content.
Often considered an important medium of film history, the influence of
VHS on art and cinema was highlighted in a retrospective staged at the
Museum of Arts and Design in 2013. In 2015, the Yale
University Library collected nearly 3,000 horror and exploitation
VHS tapes, distributed from 1978 to 1985, calling them "the
cultural id of an era."
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etc., quoted in this article for
NTSC machines are based on the old
black and white RS-170 standard. When this was adapted for color under
NTSC standard the actual field time was altered to 1/59.94 of a
second, so the actual
VHS head rotation speed is accordingly 1798.2
rpm. The pre-color timings are quoted here for simplicity. The
corresponding numbers here for
PAL are, on the other hand, exact, as
PAL's field rate is exactly 1/50th of a second.
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The House of the Devil
The House of the Devil
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DVD Combo Pack -
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Tapes". Bloomberg. Bloomberg. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
^ Rogers, Stephanie. "Library acquires 2,700
VHS tapes". Yale Daily
News. Yale Daily News. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
^ Rife, Katie. "Even Yale University is getting into
A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
^ "Yale Acquires 2700
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American Library Association. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to VHS.
HowStuffWorks: How VCRs work
The 'Total Rewind' VCR museum covering the history of
VHS and other
Video Cassette Archive A growing archive of
commercially released video cassettes from their dawn to the present,
and a guide to collecting.
Video storage formats
Ampex 2 inch helical VTR (1961)
Sony 2 inch helical VTR (1961)
Type A (1965)
Philips VCR (1972)
Type B (1976)
Type C (1976)
Video 2000 (1980)
Digital Betacam (1993)
Digital-S (D9) (1995)
Betacam SX (1996)
Sony HDVS (1984)
D6 HDTV VTR
D6 HDTV VTR (2000)
HDCAM SR (2003)
VSD (c. 1987)
DVD (c. 1996)
Video Disc) (2003)
HVD (High-Definition Versatile Disc) (2004)
MUSE Hi-Vision LD (1994)
Blu-ray disc) (2006)
MiniBD (c. 2006)
HVD (Holographic Versatile Disc) (2007)
CBHD (China Blue High-definition Disc) (2008)
UHD BRD (Ultra HD
Blu-ray disc) (2016)
DVCPRO HD (2000)
Video recorded to film
Electronicam kinescope (1950s)