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Videotape Versus Film: And The Winner Is …

June 2024
1min read

When the Ampex Corporation launched two-inch black-andwhite videotape in 1956, broadcasters were smitten by it. At last they had a quality electronic medium that let them store their output for later broadcast and duplication. Many advertisers welcomed it too. Tape was less costly to shoot than film, needed no processing, and was indistinguishable from live TV. It was “instant movies.” Still, agency creative people were not thrilled.

Location tape shooting required a huge recording and control van. And tape was best shot in sequence using multiple cameras, like doing live TV, because editing with Ampex tape was slow and laborious. Special effects were limited. So the technical limitations of the medium restricted creativity.

Color television made more demands that film seemed better able to satisfy. So film dominated quality production. It still does at most agencies and production companies.

Film is capable of sharper, subtler, and more color-correct images than tape and will probably continue to be, at least until digital tape is perfected. Then digitally stored images may finally make videotape the medium of choice. Or—maybe not. The film scientists have held the line against tape for forty years. They’re not likely to give up any time soon.

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