Oct 24
LIGHTS, CAMERA, CAPTURE by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Oct 24, 2012

Part 1

In the olden days before the digital technology, only the rich and famous could watch movies outside the cinema. There was no video yet and motion picture for home use was made using the 8mm camera.

Recording an event with the 8mm camera was costly because the film’s negative needs to be processed in the laboratory and the processed product called positive requires a projector. Before the 1980s, it’s a fact that only the rich could record their activities.

The landscape of home movies drastically changed with the arrival of honest to goodness video cameras. First it was the Betamax then it was succeeded by the VHS (Video Home System), both using tape as medium.

Although still not affordable to the masses, the magnetic tape-driven cameras became a hit mainly because of the accompanying affordability of the Beta and VHS players. Hongkong was the origin of those cheap magnetic tape players.

Remember the rewinder? It’s a gadget to rewind the tape to its original position so as to conserve the tape player’s read head. For preventive maintenance, there was the tape cleaner which needs to be played in the player.

The cartridge – the VHS was larger than the Beta – originated from the audio cassette tapes. Inventors found out that the magnetic tape can also carry video tracks aside from the usual audio tracks.

Blank cartridges were not really cheap but they could be considered affordable. This paved the way for the popularity of the Beta and VHS cameras. Photo studios instantly converted their services to photo and video coverage.

Grand occasions, particularly weddings and debuts, wouldn’t be complete without the ubiquitous small video camera together with yellow klieg lights. And after a month, the celebrants could watch the event on their tv set, courtesy of the Beta or VHS player.

The photo album got a stiff competition from the tape players. But unlike the cell phone era, the marginalized sector still couldn’t afford the tape players so the majority of celebrations were still captured by still cameras.

Another plus factor for the popularity of the Beta and VHS players were the conversion of films into tape. One cartridge equals one movie that could be watched in the comfort of one’s home, that’s a sure winner.

The tape rental business was born. Owners of tape players were easily convinced to rent a tape of movies instead of watching the movie in the theaters. Admittedly, the tape rental was a direct competitor of the movie industry.

With the arrival of tape players having a write function, aside from the usual play or read function, copying of tapes became as easy as abc. As an added bonus, the tape player can record anything that’s played on the television (that is attached to the player).

In late 1980s, Filipinos in the US developed a fondness for PhilippineTV programs that were recorded by enterprising balikbayans. Such tapes were rented out for a minimal fee. It was an underground industry that thrived among Filipinos in America.

According to Surf Reyes, the need for television broadcast gave impetus to the development of the so-called broadcast quality. Surf, by the way, is the director of the Film Gym, the Film Academy’s educational arm.

The magnetic tape was the center of recording during the days of VCR – video cassette recorder, a handy recording machine with a broadcast quality output. Hence the term VTR was born, to mean Video Tape Recording.

The bulk of VCRs and video players (Beta and VHS) were made in Taiwan and readily available to the Philippines via Hongkong. The mass production gave way to lower prices including that of blank tape cartridges.

Just a technical note for the home videos, the frame of the Betamax is smaller than that of the VHS. The bigger the frame, the clearer the video. That’s one advantage of VHS over the Betamax, aside from the longer running time.

In the heydays of the video camcorders, the movies were not affected at all. The 35mm film was still the standard medium of the cinema projectors which runs the movie reels at 24 frames per second.

New cameras were still coming out. The sleek Arriflex D-21 was a thing to brag about. Later on it was the Arri Alexa and the Arriflex 235. These cameras can be considered hi-tech in the sense that they are very modern compared to their predecessors.

Amid the booming digital technology, the movie industry ignored the possibility of using video in movies. In terms of digital measurement, the 480 x 640 pixels of the video is so small compared to the 3072 x 4096 pixels of the film.

With the clearer resolution, the video’s broadcast quality had become the standard of television. The same goes for home videos which shifted to digital cameras using DV tapes (digital video format).

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