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Film to Digital - A Look at the Last 20 Years

Being a big part of modern life, technology is seeing constant improvements and updates to the extent that within just a couple of years, current technological devices already seem outdated. It’s no surprise then that when you look at the last 20 years, things have changed dramatically. Our handheld smartphones, for instance, is able to do all the things that we relied on camcorder, walkmans and computers to do for us in the 90s.

It’s no surprise then that the storing and viewing of home videos and home entertainment such as films and series has changed radically too. Let’s take a look at the main film formats over this period and how they have evolved over this period.


VHS

Most people that grew up in the 80s and 90s no doubt have fond memories of the VHS format. Part of what made it great was its flexibility and ease-of-use; anyone could play, record and enjoy content without needing to have technical knowledge of any kind. Released in the late 1970s, it acted as both the most popular home entertainment format and home movie format, with people being able to transfer footage from camcorders onto VHS tapes quite easily.

Eventually it was superseded by other, higher quality film formats.


Pros:

Ease of use and storage
Television programs could be recorded easily
Stayed in vogue for decades
Still nostalgic

Cons:

Tapes can be damaged from repeated use
Rewinding was necessary
Poor quality by today’s standards
Large collections take up space


DVD

One of the first digital disk formats on the market, the DVD was the dominant and preeminent video format for the better part of 10 years. Home entertainment distributors used the DVD format in the sale of films, series and other content, making it the go-to for consumers over other formats.

Launched in 1995, it took a few years for people to make the adjustment from VHS to DVD, but once it took hold, most Australian households had a DVD collection! To this day, DVDs remain a effective way of storing old home movies, and old, out-of-date formats are often converted to DVD, usually by a professional company.


Pros:

Disks are a lot smaller than VHS tapes and could be stored more easily
Easier navigation between chapters
Content can be viewed on some computers

Cons:

Disks can easily be damaged if not looked after
Difficult to transfer content onto or off disks without certain equipment


Blue-Ray

The Blu-Ray is essentially the successor to the DVD, being the leading HD home entertainment format. Utilising laser technology, the Blu-Ray is superior to the DVD in that it can stored significantly more information and ultra high-definition video, making the viewing experience all the more impressive.

Despite this, it took some time to catch on and take over from the DVD. Indeed, DVDs are still widely used even today. Part of the reason for this was the fact that when released it was seen to be quite expensive with few titles available, plus there was competition from HD DVD. The release of the gaming console Sony Playstation 3 helped it gain a larger market share in 2006, with a large marketing campaign to promote the format.

Unfortunately, there is currently little practical use for the Blu-Ray as a means of storing older film formats, and this likely never what is was intended for with other formats more convenient and easy to use.


Pros:

Highest picture and sound quality of any format on the market
Huge storage capacity
Will be the premier format for the next few years at least

Cons:

Can be expensive
You’ll need a HDTV to get the most o of them
Difficult to write information onto Blu-Ray discs


Media Files

Computer media files can be considered a entirely separate film format, which has arisen for many as an alternative, both in terms of home entertainment and home videos.
Nowadays, instead of running to the store and hiring out a film on the weekend, we simply download it. Instead of putting our home movies and recordings on to a physical disk or tape, we store it on our computer or a USB. While not everyone uses this digital format for such things, it’s becoming the norm.


Pros:

Easy to share between several devices
Can be stored digitally instead of physically
Many copies can be created

Cons:

Some people like to keep a physical collection of films
Certain equipment is needed to view files on a TV or large screen


Each of these formats have had their advantages and disadvantages, with each of them still remaining active today and used by many. If you are looking to convert old film formats to one of the formats mentioned in this article (we’d recommend the modern formats!), speak to the team at Cineclair Productions.