Video Formats

There are many Video formats available for cameras and camcorders. A partial list of some of the major formats is given here. Two important considerations (there are others) are the resolution, or number of lines per frame, and tape generation loss, or how the quality of the recording is affected following editing, dubbing, and copying.


The type of tape you play in your home VCR. Records up to 240 lines to make the picture that is a low resolution picture. Color reproduction is relatively poor. Tape generation loss is high. Tape is ½" (12.5mm) wide and made of Ferric Oxide

VHS-C A smaller, shorter (1 hour vs. 2 hour) version of the VHS format. The C stands for compact. VHS-C tapes can be placed in an adapter and played on a standard VCR.
SVHS-C A higher quality version of VHS that provides a resolution of 400 lines. There is less tape generation loss than with VHS tape.
8mm Tape size reduced to the size of an audio cassette. It records the same number of lines as the VHS tape or slightly better. A common camera for home or school use.

A prosumer format. The tape is about the size of the 8 mm tape, but like SVHS it records 400 lines. Another common family or school camcorder.
Digital 8 The digital version of 8mm; records 500 lines of video. The Digital 8 can use any of the 8mm tapes. If your family or school has a digital camcorder, it might be this kind, or the slightly more expensive MiniDV.
Mini DV A small digital video tape. Records 1 hour of video at 500 lines.
DV-pro A prosumer/professional format. Slightly larger than mini DV but otherwise records in the same format as mini DV.
Betacam SP A professional and broadcast format. Colour and brightness, the two key video components, are recorded on separate video tracks for greatly improved quality. High resolution..

This is only a short list of camera and tape formats - there are several other standard professional formats as well as higher, broadcast quality formats and new consumer and prosumer formats come out all the time.

An important thing to remember is to make sure you don't record on the same tape too many times. Tapes do wear out, and the quality will go down as you re-use a tape. The same is true for VHS tape - although you can reuse a tape, the quality gets very poor very quickly.

The quality of video tape varies. Cheaper tape will usually produce a poorer quality picture.