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What Is VHS-C?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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VHS-C is a format for compact VHS video cassettes. It was introduced as a way to reduce the size of home camcorders, which had previously required space to house large reels of film or tape that had a limited recording time. Although still in use, the format has largely been superseded by digital formats.

The VHS-C format was launched by Panasonic in 1982 in an attempt to meet two market developments. First, there was a demand for smaller and thus more portable camcorders for use by consumers. Second, the VHS format was beginning to emerge as the most popular format for home video recording machines. There are some claims that Panasonic originally developed the VHS-C format for use in portable video recorders, but it's not clear how much truth there is in this.

The recording technology of a VHS-C cassette is the same as the full-sized VHS cassette, using the same type and size of tape. The cassette is around 25% the total size of a full-blown VHS cassette, measuring 2.3 x 3.6 x .8 inches (5.8 x 9.2 x 2 centimeters). A cassette can record up to 40 minutes in standard format, and 120 minutes in extended play format, which has a lower picture quality.

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One of the main selling-points of the VHS-C format was that it does not require any conversion to play back on a television set. This is because users can simply put the cassette into an adapter, which is the same shape and size as a standard VHS tape, and play it in a VHS machine. The adapter works purely mechanically, rather than converting the content. It simply loops the tape into the correct length and positioning for the VHS player.

The format eventually lost its appeal with the emergence of digital recording formats. These include Mini-DV, which initially used cassettes. Later, tape-based recording lost even more appeal thanks to the increased popularity of recording formats that used optical disks or even small hard drives. This shift in market trends was compounded by the widespread adoption of DVD players by consumers, making disk-based camcorders more attractive.

Although VHS-C has lost a great deal of popularity, it is still supported by the consumer electronics industry. New VHS-C camcorders are available, as of 2011, for a few hundred dollars, with cheaper used models also available. Even if and when the format loses any appeal in major markets, it is possible that its low price will mean it survives in developing markets.

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