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Tapeheads and the Quiet Return of VHS 446 446

Hugh Pickens writes "Joshua Phillips writes that something was lost when videos went from magnetic tape and plastic, to plastic discs, and now to digital streams as browsing aisles is no more and the once-great video shops slowly board up their windows across the country. Future generations may know little of the days when buying a movie meant you owned it even if the Internet went down and when getting a movie meant you had to scour aisles of boxes in search of one whose cover art called back a story that echoed your interests. Josh Johnson, one of the filmmakers behind the upcoming documentary 'Rewind This!' hopes to tell the story of how and why home video came about, and how it changed our culture giving B movies and films that didn't make the silver screen their own chance to shine. 'Essentially, the rental market expanded, because of voracious consumer demand, into non-blockbuster, off-Hollywood video content which would never have had a theatrical life otherwise,' says Palmer. While researching the documentary Palmer found something interesting: there is a resurgence taking place of people going back to VHS because a massive number of films are 'trapped on VHS' with 30 and 40 percent of films released on VHS never to be seen again on any other format. 'Most of the true VHS fanatics are children of the 1980s,' says Palmer. 'Whether they are motivated by a sense of nostalgia or prefer the format for the grainy aesthetic qualities of magnetic tape or some other reason entirely unknown, each tapehead is unique like a snowflake.'"
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Tapeheads and the Quiet Return of VHS

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  • by afabbro (33948) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:10AM (#38949789) Homepage

    I have no desire to "go back to VHS" or even to own any VHS tapes. But as the article points out, there are several good movies that have not been released on DVD.

    In those cases, I'd much rather have someone's mp4 conversion off piratebay than a fresh VHS tape because VHS tapes do not last the way digital files do.

    Same is true for a number of good movies and TV series that were never released on VHS. You want to watch the original Batman '66? Be prepared for some TV Land logos in your mp4s.

    The only reason every video ever made is not available on demand is idiotic IP laws and greed. That is what we all want, not this piecemeal idiocy.

  • While home video was certainly a net gain in availability of obscure films nationwide/worldwide, at a local level it destroyed many local cinemas who ran classic art films. It used to be that you could go to a screening of, say, an Ingmar Bergman film from several years prior, meet other cinephiles in your neighbourhood, and walk out of the cinema having passionate discussions with your peers about what you just saw.

    Sure, nowadays you can torrent the film or get it from Netflix, and then go on IMDB or Flixster to post a review or get into a masturbatory flame war with anonymous people who can't spell, but that in-real-life community aspect is gone except in a very few places.

  • You never owned it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:11AM (#38949795)

    Future generations may know little of the days when buying a movie meant you owned it even if the Internet went down and when getting a movie meant you had to scour aisles of boxes in search

    Ownership means you can do what you want. Like make copies and sell the copies of the contents of the tape as an example.

    You were a share cropper in the tape days, just like now.

  • LOL! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:16AM (#38949813)

    grainy aesthetic qualities of magnetic tape

    Grainy? Has this moron ever SEEN a video off VHS? How about blurry with messed up tint? How about seeing annoying streaks across the screen from where the tape has worn?
    I can see the motive behind records and audio tapes (not my thing), but this is RETARDED.

  • Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@justco ... t ['d.n' in gap]> on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:25AM (#38949875)

    Stupid article, stupid person, stupid premise, stupid argument. Stupid stupid stupid. Video has followed the same trajectory as audio, from analog to to digital physical to downloads. Except that analog video sucks just as much as, if not more so than, analog audio tapes. I know there's something of a vinyl resurgence, and I even think there's something to it (not audio quality, experience), but there's a reason nobody ever wants to screw around with audio tapes again. They're a pain in the ass, there's static, you need to rewind them, etc. Except video is even more finicky. Remember screwing with the tracking? Pulling the tape out of the box and finding it not rewound? Finding a particular scene?

    And is he seriously arguing that obscure films are *more* obscure now that you can watch them online, as opposed to finding them tucked away somewhere in the local video store? I'm also pretty sure that those obscure films have been digitized and are easy to "acquire" if you wanted to watch them.

    DVDs are superior to VHS in literally every respect. You don't have to rewind them, random access is as easy as sequential access, quality is better, audio is better (5.1 channels), smaller media, smaller players, quieter players, no static, no head cleaning, no moving parts in the media, cheaper media, extra features... the list goes on and on.


  • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@justco ... t ['d.n' in gap]> on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:30AM (#38949901)

    I should add that I understand and accept that VHS was revolutionary for giving people the ability, for the first time, to consume media on their own schedule. Being able to record something to watch it later is a big deal, and we've actually taken a step backwards in that respect - less people have DVRs than had VHS recorders (though I'm not sure most people taped much - I know I only did it occasionally because it was a pain).

    But we moved away from VHS as soon as possible, much like we did with the hand-starter in a car. And that's a good thing.

  • Edited for clarity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by billcopc (196330) <> on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:35AM (#38949927) Homepage


    I am not a VHS fanatic. Even in the 80's, I hated the format. VHS tapes are/were made to the cheapest possible materials, so they wore out very easily and were highly susceptible to heat warping. Much like audio tapes, the sound tends to warble and even distort on overly bright video frames... such a kludgey format!

    I do think we need to preserve the content of these tapes, but not the medium itself. I've been an all-streaming guy for 8-9 years and have no desire to go backward.

  • That's not what he's talking about. Those people who don't know how to behave are not going to Ingmar Bergman films or even English-language arthouse/indie films, so the experience is only ever positive if you find a place showing such films - because for people who really like movies, the theater experience (including the film experience, which can't practically be replicated at home) is a big part of the enjoyment.

    There are still such places - theaters that show classic films, new foreign films, and indie and art films. The Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House in Rochester NY (where I went to university) is my favorite, though I don't live there anymore. Yeah you can get it all on DVD, but it's still worth going if you're into movies - and if you're not into movies, you're not watching those kinds of films anyway.

  • Re:LOL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:51AM (#38950007)

    I'd group the vinyl and tape people in with the vhs heads.. it's all nostalgia and or generational insecurity, with the new converts just trying to differentiate themselves socially with their peers. obviously it's legitimate to go to those older formats when the recording doesn't exist on the newer ones (or it's a bad transfer), but otherwise it's pure snobbery. properly done digital is superior to all those formats.

  • Re:LOL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @02:24AM (#38950155)

    properly done digital is superior to all those formats

    That is very rare. In many ways I view the quality of DVDs and Blurays as equivalent to that of VHS tapes. It's Apples and Oranges really. With VHS you had degradation and quality issues inherent to the format. With digital, which is usually done poorly, even on high end Blurays, you have the "waterfall effect" where the blocks become noticeable in high speed movement in the scene, most noticeably on water falls.

    If we had a nearly loss less compression algorithm, or better methods of dealing with such artifacts that would be nice, but for now it is not like digital is perfect fidelity.

    If I had to choose I would go with my 300 pound Pioneer LaserDisc player. It was expensive as hell, and I did not have to flip the discs. The quality though was just shy of DVD and still analog video. That meant no artifacts and no degradation (well a heck of lot less without laser rot). It was a nicer looking picture to me.

    Not to mention the audio was in many cases digital and the Elite players had optical connectors to your stereo system.

    I know it may sound crazy, but it really pisses me off when I see a $20+ Bluray title, with super high resolution compared to the LD, and yet still have bullshit encoding artifacts in high speed motion scenes. LD did not have that.

    One of the many reasons why I won't spend a dime on Bluray.

    LD is too much of a pain in the ass though, not to mention new titles are not exactly being sold either. Never did see a burner or blank ones around either.....

  • Re:LOL! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @02:55AM (#38950277)

    What, the sounds above 22kHz, the ones humans aren't capable of hearing?



  • Re:LOL! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:02AM (#38950541)

    VHS to DVD was a considerable leap forward. DVD is simply better in nearly every way.

    DVD to bluray on the other hand... a gigantic waste of time and money.

  • Re:LOL! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @07:12AM (#38951625)

    On the contrary, CDs are perfect.

    Really? So why do professionals/studios use higher sampling rates?

    One major reason is that by doing so, the signal can take more editing without losing fidelity in the process.

  • WTF? WHY? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @07:19AM (#38951663) Homepage

    VHS is inferior in EVERY WAY to DVD. From the format it's self, you need at LEAST SVHS to get even 1/2 way to DVD. to the durability to the workflow for editing and creating a movie on tape.

    Only complete morons would be "gong back" to VHS. I'm glad it's gone, dead, buried. Hell I'm happy that DV, HDV, Umatic, and Beta are dead.

    Tape sucks, After working with Tape for 20+ years... I am glad it is dead.

    Head alignment causing the camera to not record correctly, crap tape clogging heads, head maintenance, belt replacement, pinch roller replacement, oh god no.

    Plus let's look at resolution. Regular VHS records and plays back 320X240 resolution MAX. SVHS doubled that. It's why all recordings looked smeared compared to the live broadcast. By the end of it's life Mass produced VHS was a lot better but still nothing like even a crappy made DVD. A SuperBit DVD will fake someone into believing they are watching a BluRay.

    Shelf life of Tape is horrid, I have had to spend days trying to figure out how to get a tape to play one last time after sitting in a controlled vault for 12 years. Many tapes would adhere to themselves.

    I can see an advantage with records, I can see an advantage with some other older stuff, but VHS was crap from day 1. It wasn't even the better format from day 1.

  • Re:LOL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @10:05AM (#38952989) Journal

    Vinyl for home listening as it has superior sound quality

    I suspect you've been blasted on this already, but this is absolutely false. Vinyl has a higher noise floor and the sampling rate of digital audio is above the limit of human perception. If you're perceiving a difference, it's because of the mastering of the recordings. That or the placebo effect.

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @10:08AM (#38953043)
    Because, short of building my own machine, there's no good DVR solution for over-the-air content and I don't have cable. I can stream it for free, but this often forces me to wait some period of time after the original broadcast. Usually a day. Also, the streaming sites often fail to properly support captioning. My wife has hearing loss, so captioning is of premium importance. So we pipe the digital TV signal through a digital-to-analog converter and record shows on VHS.
  • Re:LOL! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dfghjk (711126) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @10:22AM (#38953233)

    "eg. How does a CD store the difference between 22kHz square/sine/sawtooth waves?

    It can't. It will even have trouble distinguishing them at 11kHz - well within the hearing limit."

    It doesn't need to. Any 22K signal is entirely outside the passband of CD.

    CD encoding has no trouble with 11K signals.

    "Other problems: How do you even sample a 22kHz sine wave? Where do you put the sample points? How wide should they be? You can't use the beautiful 'dot' samples shown in the theory books - if the phase is wrong you might sample the zero-crossing points and not see any signal (in fact there's only one phase which would see the full signal - 90 degrees out of phase with the sampler would give a quieter output)."

    CD doesn't attempt to reproduce 22K signals. The reason for the 44K sample rate is to leave some room for the anti-aliasing filters.

    What Nyquist says is that you need a sample rate more than twice the highest frequency you wish to reproduce. You've deliberately violated that in your example. Even so, the actual sample rate is 44.1K so it's still theoretically possible, just impractical.

    "CD sound is FAR from "Right, that's that sorted out then...". On the contrary, It's on the very limit of audio fidelity, only just good enough. To get a good result you need to sample at much higher frequency/resolution then process it down but even then the exact waveform of the high frequency waves is lost (you can argue over whether those differences are audible, I think they are)."

    Your argument would be more persuasive if you had gotten anything you said right.

    "These days we ought to be listening to 96kHz/24bit, the technology to reproduce it is ubiquitous. The problem is the MAFIAA doesn't want us to have it."

    No, we shouldn't. That's the problem with people thinking beyond their pay grade.

  • Re:LOL! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @11:57AM (#38954711)

    >> The audio of Laserdisc wasn't stereo, high bandwidth, or even digital!!!

    Please research before spouting.

    "Audio could be stored in either analog or digital format and in a variety of surround sound formats; NTSC discs could carry two analog audio tracks, plus two uncompressed PCM digital audio tracks, which were CD encoded channels ............EFM-encoded as in CD.[14] Dolby Digital (also called AC-3) and DTS"

    - retrieved from [] 2010-02-07

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