Home : Video : Formats : VHS

The VHS Format


VHS is a consumer-level video standard developed by JVC and launched in 1976. Originally VHS was an acronym for Vertical Helical Scan (a reference to the recording system used) but was later changed to the more consumer-friendly Video Home System.

VHS was involved in a bitter format war against Sony's Betamax standard throughout the 1980s. VHS was eventually victorious.

Technical Specifications of the VHS Standard

Tape Width: 12.70 mm (½ inch)
Tape speed: 3.335 cm/s for NTSC, 2.339 cm/s for PAL
Record Time: Up to 6 hours (SP) using thin tape. Normal tape has a maximum of 3 hours.
Note: Many VCRs have a long-play (LP) mode which slows the tape speed to allow longer record time. This is not part of the official VHS standard.
Video bandwidth: Approx 3 MHz
Horizontal resolution: Approx 240 lines
Vertical resolution: 486 lines for NTSC, 576 lines in PAL

VHS Cameras

VHS was a popular format for early consumer video cameras. Initially these were two-piece units with a separate camera and connected recorder. In the 1980s the VHS-C format was introduced, reducing the size of cameras significantly and accelerating growth of the new camcorder (one-piece camera/recorder) market.

The camcorder format war did not go as well for VHS. When Sony introduced the Video8 format it was widely regarded as superior. Along with their ability to produce top-class camcorders, Sony had a powerful answer to VHS-C and gained the upper hand. Luckily for the VHS-C format, it was kept alive by the convenience of shooting in the same format used by the family VCR.

Other Formats


In the early 21st Century both VHS and Video8 were made obsolete by new digital formats. In 2002 sales of DVD players exceeded sales of VHS players, and over the ensuing few years manufacturers began discontinuing production of VHS machines.