Beta tapes

Mike Matei / February 25th, 2010

Moving over to cassette formats, we take a look at Beta.


  • April 8, 2010 at 3:10 am

    I used to use those pudgy little cassettes all the time with my old RCA camcorder. You just cram it into that big ass shell and it pries the goddamn door open and streches the shit out of the film with two prongs like it’s mutilating the poor bastard. You and I both know the furstrations of using a VHS camcorder. First things first, god knows you can’t review your movie without cutting off dialoge from the previous scene when you start recording after it.

  • JasonsMinion

    April 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Yeah, those Beta tapes, a bunch of hype over nothing in my opinion, haha.

  • Lorelai

    April 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    O common, I still watch VHS 🙂 I believe I even asked for ‘Monsters Inc.” on a casset, rather than a DVD. By the way, what about BlueRay? I mean, I live in Belgium, and in the ‘house of the future’ – 2008- they said ” ‘BlueRay’ has now officially beaten DVD on the market’. Well, I don’t feel that. I mean, it’s not like as with musi^ players. I first bought a walkman, then a diskman, then an mp3 player (you know, the ones with less than a GB on it, and a crappy LCD screen) and finally an iPod. All this, and I’m nineteen! I mean, wtf, BlueRay beats DVD?

  • Strazdas

    May 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

    “I first bought a walkman, then a diskman, then an mp3 player (you know, the ones with less than a GB on it, and a crappy LCD screen) and finally an iPod. ”
    So basically you went better->better->worse?
    well of it its a crappy mp3 then sure but there are better and cheaper players than ipod -.-

  • Brutal

    May 5, 2010 at 3:11 am

    The beta tapes actually look alot sicker then the VHS tapes.

  • highart

    May 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Those little screws are for fine tuning the channels if you used an antenna. I used to have a tv with them and it came with a little tuning key.

  • May 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    LOL at 1:22-1:25!!!

  • odan

    June 19, 2010 at 6:03 am

    beta was superior, but it did not become the standard because of 1 simple reason the makers did not want the porn industry to release movies on the tapes. and vhs had no problem with that. so that is how vhs won that war. at the beginning of the bluray hd-dvd period it looked like that might happen again and if it did bluray might have lost.

  • deadbabies

    July 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I had a VHS player when I was a kid that had those same mysterious fuse/switch things that yours has in the bottom right corner.

    Also, James, I think you’re about the same age as me, and I don’t think you or I were too young not to remember Beta movies being released on tape. In fact, there was a large amount of stuff that was only available on beta. The big problem with being exposed to it was that if you didn’t have one, you didn’t go to the places that sold or rented the commercially made tapes. My grandma specifically went to a video rental store that only rented Betamax videos, and this existed still in the late 80’s. If she had not had a beta player, I would never have been exposed to that. I never remember seeing a beta tape anytime other than when I was with her.

  • wetvein

    August 6, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I heard that the porn industry had a big say in the format wars. Supposedly Sony (beta) didn’t embrace porn the way VHS did. And you know how people like their porn.

    -I’m not positive about it thou… Sometimes my brain makes things up. -then years later i believe them to be true.

    -And James, I remember their being a “Beta Wall” in our local video shop when i was a kid. I’m not that much older than you am I? (i’m 35)

  • August 9, 2010 at 3:15 am

    The Japanese NOT EMBRACING PORN?? Crazy. Look at them now… anyway…

    You used to have to fuck with TRACKING on these. I hated that. That’s what made your Dracula tape look like shit. VHS did this as well, I believe.

  • NWPowerhouse85

    September 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    You forgot to comment on Super Vhs!

  • FYFFilms

    October 28, 2010 at 5:39 am

    BetaCam SP and DIgiBeta are actually still the standard in broadcast television today.

    Most of it is edited in Avid and the dumpt back onto a Beta tape for broadcast.

  • krusses82

    December 23, 2010 at 5:42 am

    My college had a few beta machines in their video lab too! I never thought much about Beta except that a few years ago when I was in Japan I was astonished to find a hanger stocked with blank Beta tapes in an electronics store.

  • VerveBirder

    January 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Oh man. My family had this exact model of Beta VCR in the early-mid 80’s. The only difference is that the cassette door had a sticker on it that read “Proud Sponsor of the 84′ Olympics!” It was still fully functional until at least the late 90’s.
    I still own VHS-C tapes as well that I used for camcording from the early to late 90’s.
    I can relate to all of these great Cinnemassacre videos due to the fact that I was born in 79′.

  • JimmyDash32

    January 30, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I never owned nor parents owned a Beta player. But I still collect old movies only available on VHS. Also I wonder if you know those old VHS-C cassettes did at one time have actual store bought movies on them also. I used to own Star Trek 2 on one of those small cassettes. Had a sleeve and everything. Now that seems even more odd as a format for buying and watching movies.

  • Orionsaint

    March 15, 2011 at 3:48 am

    You couldn’t be more wrong James. I’m 38 and grew up during the VHS/BetaYears. First of all VHS and Beta were not popular in the 70’s. Very few people owned a VHS player. They were way too expensive, bulky and they had ugly wood paneling. VHS and Beta was used more by TV Networks, mostly News Networks.

    VHS didn’t really get noticed by the consumer until around 1982. The first VHS player we had was a Maganovox top eject loader. At that time my parents would buy VHS tapes to record, mainly from the company Fuji. They were one of the first ones to really distribute recordable VHS tapes. I still have many of them and have old MTV footage recorded and even the US festival concert.

    By 1984 you could buy movies on VHS tape, but they could cost you 100 dollars. Luckily rental stores started opening up. They were mostly small businesses, with names like Midnight Videos or Night Owl Video. There still wasn’t a Blockbuster. I first saw Beta videos in 1987 at a local rental store in Hialeah Florida called Econo Video. That’s where I first saw Beta, There were like five aisles with movies on Beta and you could buy Beta tapes to record on too.

    We asked the store clerk what they were and he told us Beta was the future. They were smaller, recorded better quality and more hours than a VHS tape. My parents always ignored them when we would go renting. We loved VHS and we didn’t wanna invest on a new machine just for Beta. So anyway, VHS appeared more prominently in the early 80’s and started taking off in the mid 80’s and not the 70’s. Beta movies appeared in the mid 80’s to challenge VHS, but by 1990 Beta was history and VHS was the King.

  • Orionsaint

    March 15, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Yes I know Beta is still around here and there, but I mean in terms of being a commercial success.

  • April 17, 2011 at 6:11 am

    I have the same betamax player James XD Its suprisingly higher quality than I expected

  • JackeeLee

    April 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Come on James, lots of people still use VHS. I sure do. I remember the first time I watched a DVD was on my PS2 and that was so wierd to think a videogame disk is gonna play a movie.

    I always prefered a VHS to a DVD. When the YU-Gi-Oh movie first came out and I went to go buy it, they didnt offer it in a VHS version and I was like WTF why not? Meanwhile my new friend from college never even heard of a VHS and was shocked to hear we had to rewind things. Like come on, we’re 18 and he doesnt remember them?

    And btw, Blu-Ray has got to go. I dont even understand what they are, can somebody please tell me? It just sounds like a high definition DVD that you cant play on a regular DVD player from what ive heard.

  • ElvisPresley

    April 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I work in a Tv station that still uses beta tapes, so I guess I can fill you guys in (at least on the professional side of things). The Tapes we use are called Digital Beta Cam, in standard def these are the same quality, and just as crisp, as DVDs. Believe it or not these also come in HD, and are used on HD channels. I believe Sin City was filmed on the same format.

    One of it’s advantages over VHS is ‘peep-seek’ (being able to view picture while fast-forwarding), which was something VHS wasn’t initially able to do, and then later only at certain speeds – but could never match beta because of a design flaw.

    I’m not sure about early beta tapes, but the ones I use are extremely reliable and can be thrown around a bit. They are fast too, with minimum lag and frame specific editing options.

    Keep making great movies guys, and feeding my nerd-appetite.

  • fgx13

    August 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    dont worry my friend…you arent as crazy as you think.I am 18 years old and i remember VHS and the mini VHS cassettes and even now i use my old camera.

    Best regards: FGX13 from Bulgaria

  • flipmywhip

    September 13, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Awwwww i still Love my VHS tapes . i watch them quite frequently (:

  • Firewall_Philip_Hanan

    October 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Were Betamax tape prototypes called Alphamax tapes?

  • LysanderTheevilmonkey

    January 16, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I have Beta tapes but nothing to play them on 🙁

    • EliseHolmes

      January 20, 2012 at 4:42 am


      I’m in the same boat.

  • pgregston

    February 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    The amount of misinformation you provide here is astonishing. But you weren’t there, and there just is no way you could find out, like maybe have some magical way to tap libraries or other people’s memories from your desk, but then how would you search all that? Golly. Gee.

    Beta in consumer form, provided higher information rates by metrics such as lines of video, compression, etc. It failed because Sony didn’t license the design like JVC did with VHS, which resulted in more suppliers, more scale and lower cost.

    Betacam totally won the professional capture and post market because the VHS equivalent there, “M” format, couldn’t leverage scale because there isn’t any appreciable scale available. That BETA you used in school in this decade, is BETACAM, but then you would have to read the label to notice this.

    And it won’t play in that charming consumer VCR you have.

    Love your site’s logo. Keep pushing stuff out. Because it is better to make a bad movie, or informational video, than not make one at all.

    Best regards,

    • March 1, 2012 at 4:21 am

       @pgregston Yep, can’t wait to go down to the Sam Goody and get me some of them successful Beta tapes

    • KushberryCrunch

      January 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      You’ve been nominated for the “Biggest Douche in the Universe” award sir. Please take your sarcasm with you when you walk up the ramp to accept your award.

  • vgamer567

    April 6, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    i never used beta but when i was 1-10, cassete was all i knew about. now that im in the digital age…wait, i still use cassete

  • japansgreatest

    July 26, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I’ll never forget, back in the early 90’s my dad bought a new video camera, and they gave us Dick Tracy on one of those little tapes that goes in the camera. It was kinda cool, stupid gimmick, but kinda cool.

  • June29

    October 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Hi James, it’s great tribute to the beta tapes, but
    my question is: where I can see a commercial, that you’ve made, that have been aired on TV ( I’m veery interested and want to see that ) ?

  • March 10, 2013 at 9:46 am

    all those yellow dials are the individual channel tuning for that beta recorders channels.

    • tbb033

      May 9, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      “all those yellow dials are the individual channel tuning for that beta recorders channels.”

      Worth pointing out that it’s not something unique to Beta VCR’s. I had a VHS player that had that sort of thing. I’ve even seen it on some TV’s from that era.

  • October 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I would still watch my VHSes, but my VCR broke. It’s sad since many nostalgic films for me are unwatchable since I don’t own the DVD.

  • skwij

    December 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Man, that Johnny Five lookin’ little monkey is really loud. Thanks for the video!

  • John Russell

    May 10, 2014 at 2:57 pm


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