|For some people, the main attraction of home video was as a replacement for cine film. Even though "Portable Video" was still a contradiction in terms in the mid-seventies, video had several advantages over film as a medium for home movies. |
Firstly, video is instant - you didn't have to send the tape away to be developed. This was not only fun and convenient, it was vital for covering live events, where re-shooting later is not an option. Secondly, video tape is re-usable, which was particularly attractive to the home-user on a budget as tapes were much more expensive then than they are today. In 1973 a VCR format tape cost over £120 an hour (2002 equivalent), and while things were a bit more realistic by the time Betamax and VHS appeared, tape cost was still an important issue.
Video also needed no special equipment or darkened rooms to be viewed, included sound for no extra cost or complexity, and had automatic exposure and even focus, features which were usually manual on a cine camera.
|There was a downside, of course. The initial cost was a major problem, a portable recorder and camera costing around £1500, though this was not as bad as it seemed when the additional cost of film and film processing was taken into account. And surprisingly, if the cine equipment being considered was 16mm rather than Standard 8 or Super 8, the equivalent video set-up might actually be cheaper. But the main problem with video was, simply, the weight.|
A professional "portable" system.
Note the chest-brace needed
to support the camera!
|Portable VTRs had been around since it became even remotely possible to pick one up, though perhaps the term "luggable" would be more appropriate - even a basic system weighed 10 to 15 kg, and professional setups could be anything up to 40kg, with the camera on top of this. |
Sony's SonyMatic AV-3420 "Video Rover" reel-to-reel portable from 1975.
The spools are 10 cm (4 inch), which shows the compact size of the machine.
The tape was laced around the head drum by hand, and had to be rewound before it could be safely removed.
|In order to reduce the weight which had to be carried, everything which wasn't absolutely essential while "on location" was left out of the recorder. So these "portapaks" had no built in mains power supply - the recorder being battery powered, of course - and even sometimes no playback circuits. Power for the camera was also provided by the recorder's battery. |
In the same way, portable versions of the domestic formats began to appear soon after the first home machines, with the power supply, tuner and timer in a separate unit which was left at home while out shooting. These "separates" machines are exhibited in this room.
However, even a fully stripped-down VHS or Beta machine was large and heavy, and the manufacturers knew that the real solution was a new miniature format specifically designed for portable equipment. Miniature formats are covered in the next room.