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Author Topic: Did Porn Kill the Beta Tape?
RayPV
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I recently read that during the beta vs vhs war, they were going pretty much neck and neck until the porn industry got involved and chose to record their movies in the vhs format, therefore allowing VHS to beat out beta, even though most people thought the quality was better in the beta format.
Anyone else hear about this?

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pirateslife
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I believe that beta tapes and players were more expensive and therefore fewer people were willing to invest despite the differences in quality.

On the quality side, my beta player and tapes still work. Care to find me a VHS player that's 20 years old and still plays 20 year old tapes?

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snopes
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quote:
I recently read that during the beta vs vhs war, they were going pretty much neck and neck until the porn industry got involved and chose to record their movies in the vhs format, therefore allowing VHS to beat out beta, even though most people thought the quality was better in the beta format.
Porn was predominantly put into VHS format because customers were already favoring that format, for all the familiar reasons (longer tapes, non-proprietary players, etc.).

Realistically, if the formats had been runnning neck-and-neck, why would producers of video material (porn or otherwise) have eliminated half their potential market right off the bat by opting to make their products available in only one format?

- snopes

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martin-at-work
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Someone's demonstrating a remarkable familiarity with porno video tapes...

not that there's anything wrong with that of course [Smile]

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Mycroft
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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One legend (at least in the UK) is that one education authority (buys equipment for hundreds of schools) chose VHS, leading to others following and thousands of orders, reducing costs. Another possibility is that JVC (who developed VHS) were willing to licence manufacture, enabling other manufacturers to produce cheaper machines, whereas Sony kept Beta to themselves and aimed for the higher end of the market (a version of beta was widely used professionally until recently). In either case VHS became much cheaper than Beta so it cornered the market and with much larger pre-recorded sales (on all types of titles) Beta was gradually dropped by the studios
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pirateslife
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now I have "Video Killed the Radio Star" stuck in my head.

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Richard W
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I saw something about "Internet Killed the Video Star" but I think it was a headline in The Guardian, rather than an actual song.

It surprised me that "Video Killed the Radio Star" came out in 1981 for the launch of MTV though; both because I'd not realised that MTV was around that long ago, and because I remember singing "Video Killed the Radio Star" in my junior years at primary school*, and I think that should be the late 1970s not the early 1980s. Weird that I want to be older than I am. Perhaps I just want to persuade everybody that I was there, man!!

* "Junior" as opposed to "Infant" - at primary school, that was the Big Boys category...

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greatbeast
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I do believe that the reason was manufacturing costs and final price for the VHS players were lower than BETA.

BETA was a proprietary format that needed to be licensed, if I remember right, and that raised the cost of the product.

I do remember being told by a video-phile supervisor years ago that Beta was better (had more heads than VHS vcr's did) but that once the ball was rolling, consumers went with the cheaper and more popular one.

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Singing in the Drizzle
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Years ago when Beta was out there. A freind of mine had one and we went down and rented a couple of... ummm... let say we saw there was porn avalable for Bata just not as much as VHS.
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frogpond
Jingle Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by greatbeast:

I do remember being told by a video-phile supervisor years ago that Beta was better (had more heads than VHS vcr's did) but that once the ball was rolling, consumers went with the cheaper and more popular one.

My mom was told the same thing, brought a Beta machine, and ended up having to order her tapes from a special catalog. The machine did last longer than any VHS I had, however.

ETA: I remember mom laughing at a couple of video titles - "Buck Naked Line Dancing" and "Boobs on Fire" so I think Beta did have a share of alternative entertainment. I still think she should have ordered the line dancing tape!

In a library class we were discussing how information can be lost when the medium becomes obsolete. I brought up Beta vs. VHS as an example and a couple of my younger classmates had no idea what I was talking about! Of course, it may not be much longer before nobody knows what a videotape is. [Roll Eyes]

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smackmac
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First porn movie I ever watched was on Beta. WPINK, I think. Ron Jeremy still scares me.

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Psihala
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quote:
Originally posted by pirateslife:
Care to find me a VHS player that's 20 years old and still plays 20 year old tapes?

Does my 1986 Magnavox VHS camcorder count?

~Psihala
(*Desperately trying to get that stuff on DVD before the thing dies...)

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Nick Theodorakis
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What killed Beta was a strategic marketing error by Sony; they tried to control a proprietary technology too closely and most video player manufacturers balked and went with the less restrictive VHS format. Moreover, VHS was earlier than Beta in releasing longer-playing versions of the tape.

Nick

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Troberg
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quote:
On the quality side, my beta player and tapes still work. Care to find me a VHS player that's 20 years old and still plays 20 year old tapes?
Though I've thrown away some of them, I still have a stack of somewhere in the vicinity of 5-7 VHS players in my cellar.

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Lindiglo
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Hmm... I don't know much about the beta-VHS wars, but I do recall reading about this in David Collier's "Just the Facts" which, IIRC, depicts a representative of Sony as stating no pornography would be available on the beta format. I've heard this myth many times over, including in an early article about HD, which suggested HD might not catch on because the pornography industry may not like having viewers be able to see into the pores of it's players. I've always accepted this story as true, so it would be really interesting to read a snopes page on it.
-L

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Mycroft
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Richard W:
It surprised me that "Video Killed the Radio Star" came out in 1981 for the launch of MTV


The Buggles had the hit in 1979; however it was the first video shown on MTV for obvious reasons

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Elwood
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I heard/read/thought that part of Beta's downfall was its superior quality. Not having yet realized the revenue potential of home video, movie studios were leery about releasing movies on a high-quality format sans some serious copy protection of some sort, so they favored the lower-quality VHS, which degraded substantially when copied, with or without copy protection.

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jimmy101
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Did a little rumaging around on the Beta vs. VHS war. Beta was "generally considered to have better image quality". Sony (owners of Beta) may have been a little too restrictive in the licensing. Etc.

But I think the #1 cause for the VHS victory is pretty simple. Beta had a one hour maximum record time. Not enough for a typical movie. VHS could do 2, 4 even 6 hours on a tape (IIRC). Seems to be a "no brainer" as to why VHS won.

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Unusual Elfin Lights
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Re: Beta recording time.

I seem to recall longer recording time tapes. We used to tape made for TV movies on one channel when we watched the other channel's hockey game (great saviour in the days when we only had two channels). I believe that there was either a setting or a tape that allowed us to tape for over two hours.

I liked the Beta tapes because they were more compact and would easily fit into most bookshelves that were made for paperback novels. The VHS, on the other hand, would not and started ungainly piles of movies.

My wife's uncle owned a convenience store in the '80s and he did not like having two formats of tapes. It meant that he had to buy two copies of each tape, even though one would have been enough. But to spread the joy, he needed each movie in different formats. He sold the business before DVDs caught on.

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Griffin at the Maul
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Beta is still in use in the video-editing community. Of course, most of it is Digital (although the quality of the analog Beta still rivals SVHS and the other non-HD digital systems. Of course, since Sony has now discontinued any production, and with the growth of laser-based systems it was on its last legs anyway. Now, if the industry would just settle on a single format for HD...

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Mr. Furious
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quote:
Originally posted by Griffin 2020:
Beta is still in use in the video-editing community. Of course, most of it is Digital (although the quality of the analog Beta still rivals SVHS and the other non-HD digital systems.

Are you talking about Betacam? I ask because, AFAIK, Betamax (the subject of the OP) is long since dead, while Betacam (the commercial product introduced by Sony in 1982) is still in wide use, especially Digibeta and HDCAM. I don't recall ever hearing about a digital version of Betamax.

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snopes
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quote:
Did a little rumaging around on the Beta vs. VHS war. Beta was "generally considered to have better image quality".
Yes, it had a bit better image quality. The problem in the typical Beta vs. VHS debate is that too many people don't understand the better technological product is not necessarily the better consumer product.

A color TV is a better technological product than a black-and-white TV, but a $50 black-and-white TV is a heck of a lot better consumer product than a $6,000 color TV. Yes, the Beta format had some technological edges over VHS at the beginning, but VHS gained the edge in aspects that were most important to consumers (e.g., length of tape, affordability of players, etc.). To the bulk of videocassette system buyers, a longer playing time per tape was a far more important factor than slightly better picture quality.

- snopes

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Joe Bentley
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Don't worry folks if the Beta vs VHS battle doesn't make any sense to you... we're about to go through it all over again with Blu-Ray DVD and HD-DVD.

No joking, I've actually heard serious technological opinion pieces state that the winner of the next generation DVD format war will be decided by whether the PS3, which uses Blu-Ray, or the Xbox 360, which uses HD-DVD, comes out on top during the console wars.

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Mr. Furious
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quote:
Originally posted by snopes:
To the bulk of videocasette system buyers, a longer playing time per tape was a far more important factor than slightly better picture quality.

My cousins, who are both huge Betamax fans, told me that the shorter recording time was really what killed it - not licensing, not bad marketing, not even expense.

quote:
Originally posted by Joe Bentley:
No joking, I've actually heard serious technological opinion pieces state that the winner of the next generation DVD format war will be decided by whether the PS3, which uses Blu-Ray, or the Xbox 360, which uses HD-DVD, comes out on top during the console wars.

I've read the same things, and it looks like HD-DVD has a leg up because the PS3 is coming out much later than the 360, and people are really irritated by the PS3's price, which is $100 more than the 360. Interestingly, the PS3 is as expensive as it is primarily because of the Blu-Ray drive, which Sony is still taking a loss on.

I love my PS2, but I'm going to be hard pressed to buy a PS3 at that price. In fact, now that EA Sports has said they'll be producing titles for the Wii, I may end up buying my first Nintendo console since the Super NES.

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Ulkomaalainen
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At least on the European market, there was a third (short lived) competitor, Video 2000, a joint system made by Philips and Grundig. It was considered even more technical sophisticated, but similar to what snopes wrote about beta, it was not the better product to buy. For (nearly) all the reasons claimed for beta:

- proprietary format. Max Grundig, owner of Grundig, even went so far as to think that *only* quality movies (determined by Philips and Grundig) should be available. A notion that he could hardly be convinced to drop.

- higher price

- but maybe worst of all, the idea to push the technological edge just a tad further made Video2000 arrive a year later than it could have. Hardly a bonus.

Whatever, history is full of great products whose companies fell, because they were too expensive, too early on the market, too late on the market, or the company just did not work properly in the other departments.

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Canuckistan
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quote:
Originally posted by pirateslife:
now I have "Video Killed the Radio Star" stuck in my head.

Wasn't there a porn movie called "Video Did the Radio Star"?

No? Well, there should be.

Starring Video, of course.

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Johnny Slick
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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
quote:
Originally posted by pirateslife:
now I have "Video Killed the Radio Star" stuck in my head.

Wasn't there a porn movie called "Video Did the Radio Star"?

No? Well, there should be.

Starring Video, of course.

Have you seen a radio star recently? Guhh. No thanks. [Razz]

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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by Mycroft:
The Buggles had the hit in 1979; however it was the first video shown on MTV for obvious reasons

That makes sense; I think I misunderstood the article I read to mean that it was first played on the launch of MTV as well as being the first song played on MTV.
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mgbdriver
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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quote:
Originally posted by Griffin 2020:
Beta is still in use in the video-editing community. Of course, most of it is Digital (although the quality of the analog Beta still rivals SVHS and the other non-HD digital systems. Of course, since Sony has now discontinued any production, and with the growth of laser-based systems it was on its last legs anyway. Now, if the industry would just settle on a single format for HD...

Um, Betacam SP is/was a mainstay of the video editing industry. The only thing it shares with Betamax is the size of the cassette. Digital Betacam and Betacam SX are professional/broadcast formats only, with a deck costing upwards of $30,000.
Although Sony is no longer making Betacam SP equipment, the other digital formats are going strong.

Regarding Betamax vs. VHS: Besides the propriatory issues already discussed, record time is what ultimately killed Betamax. Sony built the cassette to fit into the recorder mechanism. The standard size Betamax was the L-500, which contained 500 m. of tape, good enough for 60 minutes recording at Beta I speed. A thinner tapestock allowed a 750 m. tape (the L-750), which allowed for 1.5 hours at Beta I, 3 hours at Beta II, and 4.5 hours at Beta III.
JVC (Japanese Victor Corporation), which at the time was a division of RCA, developed the cassette first and then built the machine around it, allowing a 2-hour tape from the onset. By slowing the tape speed, they could jam 6 hours on a cassette; remember, a blank videotape cost between $10 and $15 each at the time. VHS won the war handily, despite a poorer image quality.

I'm starting to ramble now.

mgb "don't even ask me about EIAJ Type 1 or Umatic tape formats" driver

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Mr. Furious
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quote:
Originally posted by mgbdriver:
The only thing it shares with Betamax is the size of the cassette.

Actually, the original Betacam tapes were exactly the same as Betamax tapes - you could use a Betamax tape in a Betacam deck, and vice-versa. One wouldn't play on the other, but the tapes themselves were exactly the same.

ETA: And U-Matic was teh debil. You had to be a friggin' weightlifter to carry the equipment.

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
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Hub's got a betacam that he is considering selling since he's mostly been doing work on HD.

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mgbdriver
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Furious:
Actually, the original Betacam tapes were exactly the same as Betamax tapes - you could use a Betamax tape in a Betacam deck, and vice-versa. One wouldn't play on the other, but the tapes themselves were exactly the same.

That was the original Betacam (oxide) tape. Betacam SP (what I referred to) used a metal particle tape that could not be used in a Betamax machine unless you really wanted to change video heads every day.
quote:

ETA: And U-Matic was teh debil. You had to be a friggin' weightlifter to carry the equipment.

Never worked with MII have you?

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Mycroft
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quote:
Originally posted by mgbdriver:

JVC (Japanese Victor Corporation), which at the time was a division of RCA, developed the cassette first and then built the machine around it, allowing a 2-hour tape from the onset. By slowing the tape speed, they could jam 6 hours on a cassette; remember, a blank videotape cost between $10 and $15 each at the time. VHS won the war handily, despite a poorer image quality.


In Europe they actually play slower as standard; your 2 hour tape lasts 3 hours, but long play is the same (6 hours). I'm not certain about the rest of the world.
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talk2sparky
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Basically VHS won because you could fit a movie on one tape as opposed to needing at least 2 beta tapes for a movie. This was the biggest edge. VHS players became cheaper faster than Beta did and that sealed the deal.

Cost and convience will almost always win out over quality for consumers. Look at the success of iPods. Serious quality downturn, but so convenient.

And I have a VHS player from, I believe 1980. It still works, amazingly enough. I also have a VHS camcorder from 87 that still works.

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Ean
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quote:
Originally posted by Ulkomaalainen:
At least on the European market, there was a third (short lived) competitor, Video 2000, a joint system made by Philips and Grundig. It was considered even more technical sophisticated, but similar to what snopes wrote about beta, it was not the better product to buy. For (nearly) all the reasons claimed for beta:

My dad bought one of those, probably because Which? magazine recommended it, and it clung onto the wreckage for years so he didn't enter the VHS age until the early nineties.

It did have great picture and sound quality - especially considering it used double sided tapes that were the same size as a VHS, although the tape did have a tendency to stretch after a while. If it'd caught on, and they'd stuck long play on it, you could have got about 16 hours on a tape. They were bloody expensive though, and rare as hen's teeth in the shops.

It was one of the very early machines - about the size of four modern players stacked 2x2 next to one another and by god it was heavy.

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Posts: 178 | From: Shropshire, England | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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