BUYING TAPE ABROAD
Normally we would advise against buying any
video or TV related products whilst abroad or on holiday, but you can buy blank
tape, and be reasonably sure it will work in your equipment. Thereís a few ifs
and buts, however, the main point is the magnetic tape spooled inside cassettes,
destined for countries that use the PAL, NTSC and SECAM colour TV systems, is
exactly the same. That applies to all domestic tape formats, whether theyíre for
high or low-band systems, analogue or digital.
The actual amount of tape inside analogue
cassettes does vary however, and thatís because of the differences in the tape
transport speed between the PAL and NTSC systems. (DVC camcorders and VCRs
operate at the same tape speed, but the way the digital data is configured is
different). SECAM VCRs and camcorders operate at the same as PAL machines and cassettes
sold in this country are normally labelled as being suitable for PAL and SECAM
equipment. NTSC analogue VCRs and camcorders run at a slightly higher speed
than PAL machines, so NTSC blank tapes will actually last a little longer than the
times printed on the sleeve. In real terms the difference are fairly small, thereís
around 3% more tape in a NTSC cassette of any given length.
Whilst itís okay to buy blank video tape when
youíre on holiday, itís quite another matter with pre-recorded material.
Generally speaking thereís no compatibility problems with PAL and SECAM
recordings; the differences are mainly
to do with the way the colour information is processed before and after itsí
recorded or replayed; the actual signals that end up on the tape is the same in
both cases. Thatís not to say PAL and SECAM equipment is interchangeable
though. If you try to play back a SECAM recording on a PAL machine (and
vice-versa), you will get a stable picture, but it will be in black and white.
The situation is more clear cut with PAL and
NTSC recordings and equipment, and itís fair to say that if youíve got friends
of relatives living in the US, or the parts of the far East where they use the
NTSC system, they will have the devilís own time watching any PAL recordings
you send to them. Unless they happen to have multi-standard equipment, they
will almost certainly have to have the recording transcoded -- copied to their
system -- before they can watch it. On the other hand, if youíve got a
reasonably recent TV, and a VCR with an NTSC replay feature, thereís a very
good chance you will be able to play and watch their tapes on your equipment.
Unfortunately this only extends as far as VCRs, only a couple of camcorders
have NTSC replay. This feature is a useful spin-off from the steady internationalisation
of TV and video equipment. To save costs and help rationalise production, TV
manufacturers often use the same type of video processing microchips in TVs
destined for PAL and NTSC countries. These TVs can be persuaded to display
partially decoded colour signals, though it only works in one direction, and
thereís no equivalent feature on NTSC VCRs and TVs.
* A typical VHS video cassette contains 32 components;
that includes the outer sleeve and sticky labels...
* Thereís 258 metres of tape inside a 3-hour VHS
cassette. You would need the tape from approximately 5000 E-180s to stretch around
the equator, and around 150,000 to reach from the Earth to the moon.
* On average it takes about half an hour to assemble
a VHS cassette. Most of the processes in tape manufacture are now relatively Ďcleaní
and do not involve the release of harmful chemicals. In fact video cassettes
must be one of the most environmentally-friendly products there are. Most video
cassettes are either recycled by constant re-recording, or archived. Very few
are thrown away, and if properly disposed of, the plastics can be easily recovered.
* Why are video cassettes always black? They
donít have to be, though they have to be light-proof, as VCRs and camcorders
use optical sensors, to detect when the cassette is in place, and the beginning
and the end of the tape. Several companies have tried marketing coloured cassettes
from time to time, but usually with limited success. Research has shown the
public perceive coloured cassettes to be Ďcheapí or low quality items; thatís probably
a hangover from the days of coloured LPs, which often sounded really horrible.
Black is the most popular colour with manufacturers because the carbon-based pigment
is very stable, inexpensive and resistant to a build up of static charges.
* Video tapes can kill! Fire brigades around
the country are becoming increasingly concerned about the hazard posed to householders
and fire-fighters by collections of tapes, in house fires. A typical VCR owner
will have between 50 and 100 tapes, usually all together in one fairly confined
space. This represents a significant quantity of flammable plastic, that will burn
and give off large volumes of highly toxic gasses, when exposed to fire.
* Normal VHS tape is between 18 and 20 micrometers
thick, (a micrometers is a millionth of a metre); of that the magnetic layer is
only 3.5 to 4.5um thick. The base film, on which the magnetic layer is coated,
is made out of polyester or PET (polyethylene terephlalate), the plastic they
make lemonade bottles out of).
* The magnetic layer on video tape contains an
incredible mixture of exotic chemicals, most of which have no magnetic properties
at all. It includes pigments, dispersants, light inhibitors, electro-conductive
substances, abrasives, lubricants, solvents, binders, and good old
* DVC tapes are the thinnest, theyíre just
7um thick. Hi8 metal evaporated (ME) tapes are 11um thick and 8mm and Hi8 metal
particle (MP) tape is 13um thick.
* BASF, TDK, 3M, JVC, THATs; manufacturers
whose names are acronyms abound in the magnetic tape industry, but what do they
all mean? BASF stands for Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik; TDK is Tokyo Denki
Kagaku, the three ĎMsí in 3M are Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, and JVC
are better known to their friends as the Victor Company of Japan. THATs, as far
as we can make out, doesnít stand for anything.
” R. Maybury 1996 1208