Video Tape Formats

It's altogether too easy to give a customer the wrong size video tape, particularly when they ask for "the small tape that fits my camcorder."

There are three basic formats of video tape used today.

  • Sony BETA is the oldest, and one of the best from a strictly technical standard. Everybody who owns a Beta format camcorder knows what he owns, and will tell you.
  • VHS is the most popular tape size for use in home video decks. Full-sized VHS camcorders use the same tape. A variation called Super VHS provides higher quality. VHS-C (VHS-Compact) is a smaller cassette that uses the same width tape as VHS, but a shorter length. VHS-C tape lasts for 20 to 40 minutes in the high-quality recording mode. For playback, most people put the VHS-C into an adapter and put that into a full size VHS home VCR.
  • 8 mm Video is an even smaller and thinner tape cassette that uses tape only 1/4 inch wide. 8mm video can record for up to 2 hours with tape size P-120. 8mm video cannot be played back in an adaptor. 8mm cameras are usually hooked up to the TV or a VCR with cables. Hi-Band 8mm is an upgraded 8mm, popular with enthusiasts.

How can you tell what kind of tape the customer needs when he doesn't know?

The key question is, "How do you show your tapes when you've recorded them?"

  • If they say "I take the tape out and put it directly into my VHS VCR" then they must use full-size VHS.
  • "I have to put it into this bigger tape thing and stick it in my VCR." Sounds like VHS-C to me.
  • "I have to stick a bunch of wires into my TV, and I play it back right in the camera." This consumer probably uses 8mm tape.