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History of photography, film and video formats




Early Beginnings

Modern photographic techniques can be traced back to the Camera Obscura (Latin for "dark room") or pinhole camera. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle spoke of the process. In 1038, an Arab named Alhazan described the workings of the camera obscura, a room or box completely devoid of light with a single hole in one wall, created an inverted image on the opposite wall. A person inside the room was then able to trace the image outline, which was upside-down (simulating the way that images enter our eyes).

In 1823, Niepce, A French man produced the first photograph by using silver chloride on a pewter plate. The exposure took 8 hours. In 1837, Daguerre, after a brief partnership with Niepce, developed a vastly improved photographic plate called a Daguerrotype. This became the first commercial photographic process. In 1884, George Eastman produced the first photographic film.


In 1914 the first 35mm still cameras were produced. Whilst the first true colour photograph was made by Maxwell in 1861, the modern colour process was not created until 1935 when Kodak introduced the three emulsion colour film, Kodachrome. Colour negatives became available in 1939. The 35mm film has basically evolved since then to provide better images. Whilst there have been a number of other formats that have come and gone (including 110 and 125mm film), 35mm has dominated.


In 1963, Gregg, an inventor from Stanford created the videodisk camera which could store images for several minutes. The first digital still cameras appeared in the early 1990s. However, it is only now, in the 2000s that they are starting to catch up to the same definition as those offered by 35mm cameras.


Early Beginnings

The first record of home film equipment was the Birtac, a home movie camera that used 35mm film split lengthways in June 1898. This was followed by a number of different formats including 8.75, 11.5mm, 13mm, 15mm, 17.5mm, 19mm, 20mm, 22mm, 28mm, 35mm, 38mm 42mm. None of which were more than modestly successful due to the expense of the film and equipment. Early film was made with nitrate compounds that could easily self combust. Fortunately, most film used by home film enthusaists was made with acetate based satefy films.

Pathe 9.5mm (also known as Pathex and Pathescope)

In 1922, Pathe introduced the 9.5mm format which split the 35mm film into three strips with perforations running in the centre between each frame. This format became relatively popular in France and the UK. In France it was referred to as Pathe, Outside France, it was referred to as Pathex. The first projectors were hand cranked and took only 27ft of film and ran just over a minute. The definition afforded by the cameras that were introduced to take advantage of the format was much higher than anything else around. In 1938, Pathe introduced 9.5mm sound film. Popular 9.5mm models were the Pathe Baby, Pathe Lux, Pathescope 200B, Pathescope Ace, Pathe Gem, Pathe Vox. The 9.5mm format also had an ingenious way to show titles for an extended period of time by use of a special notch. The film is still sold, processed and transferred by DVD Infinity.


In 1923, just after Pathe introduced the 9.5mm film format, Kodak introduced the 16mm format. The advantages were that the perforations were at the edges rather than in the middle. This meant that there would not be any striping due to projector light passing through the perforations and there would be less likelihood of damage to the film itself in viewing it. The grain quality of 16mm was better. In later years a sound track was added on one side of the film, sacrificing one row of perforations. 16mm film allowed sound to be recorded as optical and magnetic. Although 16mm film was initally branded as a film for amateur film makers, it was quickly taken up by government, in educational institutions, and by professional film makers.

Standard 8mm

In 1932, Kodak introduced the 8mm (or Standard 8 or Regular 8 or Double 8) format. The film was a 16mm film with twice the number of perforations. The idea behind it was to make film affordable to many more people. It was inserted one way and fed through the camera. Once one side had been used, it was turned around and fed through the other way. Once processed, the film was split through the centre and the two 8mm halves spliced together. Kodak acquired Pathé in the late twenties putting an end to any competition between the two formats and assuring the dominance of the 8mm format. 8mm film never allowed sound to be recorded through the camera. However, later in its life, a magnetic strip was able to be added after development that could be used to record a sound track. Film comes in 25ft lengths (7.62 metres). The Standard 8mm frame size is 4.8 mm x 3.5 mm. It is normally filmed at 18fps or on older model cameras at 15-16fps. High quality commercial footage was shot at 24fps. It could also be shot at many other frame rates. The film is still sold, processed and transferred by DVD Infinity.

In 1963, the assassination of President JFK was caught on Standard 8mm film and was later known as the Zapruder film. In 1999, the film "8mm" was released starring Nicolas Cage. The film was about an 8mm film that appeared to show the murder of a teenage girl.

Super 8

In 1965, Kodak introduced Super 8 (and Fuji Single 8). It had a clever notching system that told the camera at what ASA to expose the film and the film lab at what ASA the film was shot. With a larger frame size, better emulsion process, and better precision feed process through the camera gate. Add to that the ability to add sound. Super 8 came in optical and magnetic sound varieties with the ability to add an extra sound strip after taking the film. Whereas Standard 8mm film was in fact 25ft of 16mm film that was cut in two at development, Super 8 was provided as a cartridge. This meant three main differences: the camera could be more easily loaded; the pressure plate was not as stable as it was a disposable plastic part mounted inside the plastic cartridge rather than being a metal part of the camera; and it could no longer be used for trick photography (eg. double exposure) as in Standard 8, Super 8 sound film became available in 1973 and ceased production in 1997. A 200ft Super 8 cartridge was also available for a short period of time. In 2005 Kodachrome, the most popular film was replaced by Ektachrome 64T and then Ektachrome 100D and Kodak shut its last lab. Prior to this, processing was included in the price of a cartridge of Kodachrome 40. Both Ektachrome 100D and Tri-X (a black and white film) are still sold, processed and transferred by DVD Infinity.

Super 8 was used by the Leyland Brothers for shooting their around Australia adventures. It was also used by such well known names as Stephen Spielberg, Peter Weir and Peter Jackson. Recently in 2011, JJ Abrams/Stephen Spielberg's film "Super 8" was released about the capturing of an alien on Super 8 film. If you feel inspired to dust off that old SUper 8 camera and shoot some more, come and see us and we can help. You will find nobody more knowledgeable than DVD Infinity, and we can even create your Super 8 to Blu-ray Blockbuster when you have finished.


Early Beginnings

John Mullins demonstrated the first videotape recording in 1951. Ampex introduced the first commercial videotape, a 2" videotape, in 1956. In 1969, it became possible to record colour on video. In 1971, the ¾" U-matic format was introduced but the equipment was too large to fit in a normal home.

Analog video

In 1976, Sony introduced Betamax, the first consumer video format. It was a ½" format with an initial record time of 1 hour. The Betamax tape was later transformed into the broadcast format - Betacam, a standard in the broadcast industry. In 1976, after Sony's initial success with Betamax, VHS became the dominant format. It was another ½" format and came in a compact format VHS-C (compact 45 minute tape). Providing 240 lines of resolution and 180 minutes of footage in SP mode. S-VHS or Super VHS was a high-end ½" consumer format. "S-video" separates the chrominance (colour) and luminance (brightness) signals, although not as purely as the true component systems do. It provides 400 lines of resolution and has a maximum tape length of 160 minutes. In 1985, the first 8mm video was launched. Video8 had 240 lines of resolution and a maximum tape length of 120 minutes in SP mode. In 1989, Sony introduced a much-improved version of 8mm video. It has a second audio track for stereo sound and 425 lines of resolution. Maximum tape length is 120 minutes in SP mode.

Digital video

In 1995, Sony released miniDV (DV), the first digital recording format available to consumers. Nearly loss-less broadcast quality picture. The ¼" format has a maximum tape length of 80 minutes in SP mode and provides 500+ lines of resolution. In 1999, Sony released a second digital consumer format - Digital8. It records the same digital signal as DV onto less expensive Hi8 tapes. A 90 minute Hi8 tape can record 60 minutes of Digital8. In 2001, Sony released microMV format, a digital format that trades off quality for size. It achieves smaller size at the expense of a halved bit rate and compressed data storage rather than full frame. Another failed video format is the DVDCam (not to be confused with DVCam). This was an attempt to record directly to a DVD on the fly. It was a compromise that heavily traded off quality for the ability to write to a DVD. The second problem was that the DVD would only play in about 1% of DVD players. In 2004, HDV became a consumer format, offering Hi Definition video to the consumer videographer. Later AVCHD became available as a better quality format that took up less space.


Phonograph, Gramophone and LP records

On 4 December 1877 Thomas Edison created history by recording and playing his reading of Mary had a little lamb. The technology he used was based on the workings of the rudimentary telephones that he had invented. The device used a cylinder with a piece of paper to generate vibrations in a speaker similar to that which he had used in his telephone. In 1888, Berliner developed the Gramophone. It was essentially a flattened version of the earlier phonograph recording devices. In 1930 RCA Victor introduced the vinyl record at 33 1/3rpm and later the 45rpm record in 1949.

Wire Recordings

A wire recording is an audio recording made onto a thin piece of stainless steel wire. They were popular just after the second world war.

1/4" audio recordings

1/4" open reel or quarter inch audio reel to reel was first introduced in 1948. It became popular for both consumer products and professional recordings. Whilst consumer products were replaced by the audio cassette. 1/4" consumer audio tapes could be 1 7/8ips, 3 3/4ips or 7 1/2ips. Professional recordings were generally done at 7 1/2ips or 15 ips.

Cassette recordings

Originally introduced by Philips as a mono dictaphone audio format in 1962, the audio cassette became the predominant format up until recently when the audio CD took over.

Microcassette recordings

Originally introduced by Olympus in 1969, using thin magnetic coated tape and half or a quarter the tape speed, microcassettes offer comparable recording time to the audio cassette. Microcassette was popular with dictation machines and answering machines. It was also used in computer storage due to its size.

Digital Audio formats

In 1982, the Audio CD was introduced and it immediately had a market due to the illimiation of imperfections related to other media and the high quality output. In 1998, the miniDisc was introduced. However, it never really developed a market. MP3s were first developed in 1989. However, this is a software format rather than a true audio format.


The first commercial Video tape was introduced in 1956 and there have been many varieties that have come and gone since. The following table aims to document the commercial formats that have been available. Some became standards and these have been highlighted in BLUE
Year Manufacturer Model Tape Size
1956 Ampex


2" see 2" video to DVD
1962 Machtronics


1962 Sony

Helical SV-201

1963 Precision Instruments


1963 Ampex

VR 1500/600

1964 Sony


1964 Sony

UV-340 or EV-210

1965 Sony


½" see EIAJ to DVD
1965 Phillips


1965 Ampex

1" Type A

1" see 1" video to DVD
1967 Concord


1967 IVC

IVC 700/800/900

1969 Akai

¼" Akai

¼" see Obscure Video Formats
1969 Sony/ Panasonic

½" EIAJ Type 1

½" see EIAJ to DVD
1969 RCA

TCR-100 Quad

1969 RCA

TCR 100

1970 Phillips

Phillips ½" VCR

½" see N1700 to DVD
1970 Ampex

ACR 25

1971 Panasonic

EIAJ Cartridge

½" see EIAJ to DVD
1971 Sony/ JVC/ Matsushita

¾" U-Matic

¾" see U-matic to DVD
1971 Sony/ Panasonic

½" EIAJ Type 2

½" see EIAJ to DVD
1972 Cartivision

AVCO Cartivision

1972 Sanyo


1973 IVC

IVC 9000

1975 Panasonic/ Quasar


1975 Sony


½" see Betamax/Betacord to DVD
1975 Bosch

1" Type B

1" see 1" video to DVD
1976 JVC


½" see VHS to DVD
1976 JVC


½" see VHSC to DVD
1976 Sony


1978 Ampex/Sony

1" Type C

1" see 1" video to DVD
1982 Sony


½" see Betacam Oxide to DVD
1982 RCA/ Panasonic


1983 Sony

8mm/ Video8

8mm see Video8 to DVD
1984 Funai/ Technicolor


¼" see Obscure Video Formats
1984 Sony


1985 Toshiba

1" Analog HDTV

1986 Panasonic


1986 Sony

Betacam SP

½" see Betacam SP to DVD
1986 Sony

¾" U-Matic SP

¾" see U-matic SP to DVD
1987 Sony

ED Beta

½" see ED Beta to DVD
1987 Sony


1987 JVC


½" see SVHS to DVD
1987 JVC


½" see SVHSC to DVD
1988 Ampex and Sony


¾" see Obscure Video Formats
1988 Sony


1989 Sony


8mm see Hi8 to DVD
1990 Panasonic


½" see Obscure Video Formats
1992 Ampex


¾" see Obscure Video Formats
1993 Sony

Digital Betacam

½" see Digital Betacam to DVD
1994 Matsushita/ Panasonic


1994 Panasonic


1994 JVC


1995 JVC

D9 (Digital-S)

1995 Toshiba/BTS


1995 Panasonic/ EIAJ


1996 EIAJ

DV & miniDV

¼" see miniDV to DVD
1996 Sony


¼" see DVCam to DVD
1996 Sony

Betacam SX

½" see Betacam SX to DVD
1997 JVC/ Matsushita


1997 Sony


1998 Panasonic


¼" see DVCPro 50 to DVD
1999 Sony

Digital 8

8mm see Digital8 to DVD
2000 Panasonic


¼" see DVCPro HD to DVD
2000 JVC


2001 Sony


½" see Betacam IMX to DVD
2004 Sony


¼" see HDV to DVD



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