Analog Video Formats

Here's a listing of the analog formats you're likely to encounter in FCP work. We won't attempt to list all the analog formats ever made, or all those currently in use somewhere in the world; these are the ones likely to cross your path.

Analog Video Formats (SD) at a Glance


Best FCP I/O

Best FCP Control


1-inch Type C

Composite through TBC


Most common 1-inch format; obsolete

1-inch Type B

Composite through TBC


Mostly European 1-inch format; obsolete

¾-inch U-matic & U-matic SP

Composite through TBC, Y/C through Y/C-688 converter, Y/C or component from Y/C-688-accepting TBC


Still used for dailies and video workprints; best decks: BVU-900 series

Betacam, BetacamSP

Component YPrPb


BVWs/CVWs best, then PVWs, then UVWs


Y/C, through TBC if no TBC in deck


VHS looks better captured through Y/C from an S-VHS deck than via composite; Panasonic AG-7500 series is best, but hard to find


Component YPrPb


AU-650 best; AU-65 and later JVCs OK, too

Video8, Hi8

Y/C, through TBC if no TBC in deck; FireWire from a Digital8 deck


Video8 looks better captured via Y/C from a Hi8 deck than via composite from a Video8 device; EVO-9000 series is best; EVS-7000 also very good (but has only LANC control)

EIAJ Type 1, ½-inch reel-to-reel

Composite through TBC, if possible

Manual (no device control)

Obsolete; B&W and color variants; early ½-Inch does not conform to RS-170A specs and may require specialized TBC to recover signal

2-inch, Quadruplex, Quad

Composite through TBC

Manual (no device control)

Obsolete, though some systems still used for spot playback; best to dub to more FCP-friendly format

Betamax, ED-Beta

Y/C through TBC


Obsolete; best: SL-HF750/900/950/1000 (Betamax); EDV-9500 (ED-Beta)

Fisher-Price Pixelvision, PXL-2000

RF: use ANT input on VCR to decode to baseband, capture via Y/C or composite


Small cropped B&W images

1-Inch Type C

Type C is the most common 1-inch format, though Type B was popular in Europe. Type C defined high-quality video recording for a decade from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, until Betacam SP and MII formats brought the benefits of component recording to the world.

1-inch VTRs are no longer made, nor is 1-inch used for production, but much of the world's television history is stored on 1-inch tape. You may need to capture from 1-inch on occasion, but its doubtful you'll ever record back to it.

Primary Use

1-inch was most often used for studio recording. There were a few portable 1-inch machines, including the fabulous Ampex/Nagra portable, but the bulk and power requirements of 1-inch made it unsuited to field work.

Technical Details

1-inch uses reel-to-reel tape for direct color composite recording with 330 TVl/ph resolution. Reels of up to 3 hours are possible with reel extenders. Timebase correction is required for playback; TBCs are often designed for specific recorders, such as the Ampex Zeus. With TBC, this format is usable for up to 10 generations of dubbing. 1-inch tapes have two channels (sometimes three) of linear analog audio.

The most common machines are the Sony BVH series and the Ampex VPR series. Hitachi and others made Type C VTRs, too.

Best Interface to FCP

Capture composite video through a good TBC. 1-inch is direct composite color; a good composite connection is as good as it gets. Late-model Sonys and Ampexes have RS-422 control.

¾-Inch and ¾-Inch SP (U-matic)

U-matic is a format you may have to capture from, but not output to unless you're involved in a ¾-inch-based postproduction workflow. Its manufacturers have officially discontinued ¾-inch, but it will likely live on for many years due to its widespread acceptance.

¾-inch pictures tend to suffer from multigeneration recording, with timebase errors, color smearing, and noise being common problems.

Primary Use

¾-inch was used for ENG (Electronic News Gathering), professional/industrial video before BetaSP and DV came along, and studio production and postproduction. It's still used for offline dubs in film telecine and video postproduction. ¾-inch portapaks (portable VTRs separate from the camera) were commonly used for field production, but ¾-inch was never a camcorder format.

Technical Details

U-matic uses ¾-inch wide cassette tape for color-under recording at 688 kHz. Three-quarter-inch resolution is about 280 TVl/ph; 340 TVL/ph for ¾-inch SP (Superior Performance). Maximum cassette length is 60 minutes. ¾-inch plays back without TBC, but timebase correction vastly improves the picture. With TBC, it's usable for two to three generations. SP decks can play non-SP tapes, but most early non-SP decks can't play SP successfully.

U-matic has two tracks of linear audio, although one channel is sometimes used for timecode. On lower-end VTRs, only channel 2 audio is dubbable after the tape has been recorded.

Sony machines dominate: you can find the VO-5000 series of industrial level machines (parallel control, no timecode) in every corner of the planet. The broadcast lineup, especially the BVU-800 and BVU-900 (SP) series machines (both with serial control and timecode), were common in broadcast and postproduction up until Betacam came out.

Panasonic and JVC also made U-matic VTRs but never achieved the ubiquity or the reliability of the Sony machines.

Best Interface to FCP

U-matics provide composite video, unless you use a TBC with a U-matic dub (Y/C 688) connector to output Y/C or component, or use the YCPlus YCP-688 adapter to convert the dub signal to Y/C 3.58. Timebase correction helps. Late-model Sony VTRs have RS-422 control and timecode; a BVU-900 series machine is likely your best bet.

Betacam and Betacam SP

Betacam SP has been the de facto standard high-end analog format for nearly 20 years. Beta started off with the broadcast-grade BVW series, then spawned the professional-level PVWs and the industrial UVWs. Generally speaking, BVWs give superior audio and video performance to PVWs, and PVWs are better than UVWs. Beta SP has become the VHS of the professional worldit's everywhereso it will be with us for many years to come, despite the fact that Sony has stopped building Betacam VTRs.

Primary Use

Betacam was introduced as a portable ENG camcorder format, but quickly became the standard format for EFP (electronic field production) and postproduction due to its high performance, convenience, and low cost (comparatively speaking). It superceded 1-inch in studio work and ¾-inch in field production. Only with the coming of Digital Betacam did Beta SP relinquish the high-end laurels, and the DV formats are now displacing it in the rest of its applications, but it is still very common.

Technical Details

Betacam uses a ½-inch cassette tape originally based on Betamax. Beta uses analog component recording with a resolution of 300 TVl/ph for Betacam, and 340 TVL/ph for Beta SP. Small cassettes hold up to 20 minutes; large cassettes hold 90 minutes. Timebase correction is built-in on studio decks, as the color signals are time-compressed 2:1 for storage on tape and require a framestore for playback. (Some field recorders and camcorder backs only play back a monochrome signal unless a separate adapter is used.) Beta SP can go 10 generations.

Betacam has two channels of linear audio; Beta SP adds two channels of AFM audio. Only the linear audio is dubbable after the fact.

BVW SP decks have all four channels of audio; most PVW- and UVW-series VTRs provide access to only the two AFM channels, though there are aftermarket kits to add linear audio to these decks.

Betacam uses metal oxide tape, SP uses metal tape. SP decks play non-SP tapes, but the reverse is not true.

Sony invented the format and built most of the decks, but licensed the design to Ampex for a while. (Ampex Betacams are virtual clones of the Sonys but have different audio circuitry and a CVW model designation.)

Best Interface to FCP

Beta decks have analog component (YPRPB) video and RS-422 control. You can also play back Betacam and Beta SP over SDI using Sony's high-end Digital Betacam and IMX decks.


The ubiquitous VHS format will be with us until the end of time.

VHS is very sensitive to contrasty signals and saturated colors. It often helps when outputting to VHS to do the following: use the Y/C connection on an S-VHS deck, avoid "superwhite" levels (whites above 100 percent) in the video, and keep color saturations low, especially in the reds.

Primary Use

JVC developed VHS as a home video format, but it migrated into the professional world and S-VHS was even used for a short time by some broadcasters. Camcorders are available but bulky. S-VHS-C uses a 20-minute compact cassette, but it requires a cassette adapter for playback in standard decks and is somewhat more prone to playback errors and instability as a result.

VHS is still a very common distribution format, though DVD is starting to erode its dominance.

Technical Details

VHS uses ½-inch cassette tapes for color-under recording at 629 kHz. VHS offers 230 TVl/ph resolution, S-VHS has about 400 TVl/ph, but image stability, color, and noise are poor. The VHS formats seem especially poor at reproducing accurate color. 160-minute maximum tape time at SP speed, but LP and EP speeds allow more time on tape at the expense of picture quality. S-VHS decks play VHS tapes, but most VHS decks cannot play S-VHS tapes.

VHS has one or two channels of linear audio and may have two channels of "Hi Fi" (AFM) audio. It rarely has timecode except on high-end professional S-VHS machines.

Professional S-VHS decks with RS-422 were (and are) made by JVC and Panasonic and even, grudgingly, by Sony. Consumer decks are made by every conceivable manufacturer in the electronics universe.

With integral TBCs and digital noise reduction circuits, top-end S-VHS machines make a very acceptable first-generation picture, but multigeneration performance is poorthree generations at most.

Best Interface to FCP

Use a professional S-VHS deck with RS-422, built-in TBC, and Y/C connections. A consumer deck with Y/C (but without RS-422 and possibly requiring an external TBC) is second best. VHS can be captured via composite if necessary, but even VHS looks better when captured via Y/C.

Video8 and Hi8

8mm systems originated as consumer camcorder formats to reduce the bulk of VHS and Betamax camcorders. They succeeded in that respect, though they brought their own characteristic problems. Video8 and Hi8 tapes are especially subject to wear and tear, and dropouts are a big problem. Try to capture material cleanly on the first pass. It may be worth rewinding and recapturing the same material into a separate clip; dropouts frequently occur in different places on different passes, so you may be able to use the frames in one clip to replace frames in the second.

Primary Use

8mm was a home-video camcorder format, later expanded with some home VCRs and portable "Video Walkman" decks, with and without LCD screens. With some reluctance from Sony, Hi8 was pushed into professional applications due to its small cassettes, long run times, and affordable gear. DV's arrival killed the professional applications of Hi8, but it remains current in low-end consumer camcorders.

Technical Details

Both formats use 8mm tape in small cassettes for color-under recording at 734 kHz; resolution is 240 TVl/ph for Video8 and 400 TVl/ph for Hi8. The 8s have better color accuracy than the VHS formats, generally speaking, but somewhat more timebase instability, and are very prone to dropouts. Tapes record 120 minutes at SP speeds, twice that at LP speeds with a noticeable drop in picture quality. Video8 plays back in Hi8 decks, but not vice versa.

Audio is recorded as mono or stereo AFM sound, not dubbable separately but of very high quality. Some decks and camcorders added two channels of dubbable PCM digital audio: 32 kHz sampling, 8-bit nonlinear recording that sounds surprisingly good.

Pro Hi8 gear has timecode, as does some consumer gear.

Sony is the primary supplier of Video8 and Hi8 equipment, though Kodak, Kyocera, Toshiba, Hitachi, and others made some gear.

Best Interface to FCP

Video8 and Hi8 play back best in an EVO-9000-series VCR with timebase correction, noise reduction, and RS-422 control, using Y/C outputs. An EV-S-Series home VCR with TBC (but with LANC control, not RS-422) is the next best choice for analog capture.

Digital8 camcorders and Video Walkman decks play back Video8 and Hi8 tapes as DV data over FireWire, but without timecode.

Other Formats

You may occasionally encounter tapes in the following formats.

½-Inch EIAJ Type 1

½-inch was a reel-to-reel monochrome and color format before the days of ¾-inch. Capture via composite, preferably with the help of a good TBC. Type 1 decks have no machine control to speak of other than mechanical switches.

2-Inch Quadruplex

Quad is the granddaddy of them all. Quad decks started the videotape revolution, but are almost entirely extinct these days. Quad uses composite video and has no usable machine control as far as FCP is concerned.

Betamax, ED-Beta

Betamax was Sony's ill-fated competitor to VHS, and ED-Beta attempted to counter S-VHS with almost no success outside of school sports recording, medical imaging, and other niche uses. ED-Beta decks have Y/C connections and are controlled via LANC.


MII was Panasonic's response to Betacam, and successor to the original component format, Panasonic's and RCA's Recam. MII is comparable to Beta SP in quality and has RS-422 control, but chroma levels may need tweaking as MII color component levels are slightly different than Beta SP's.

Fisher-Price Pixelvision

A cult favorite among video artists, Pixelvision recorded a grainy, pixellated monochrome image on cassette audiotape. Capture via composite, and don't expect much: a Pixelvision picture occupies only a small portion of the screen and won't win any awards for quality.

Apple Pro Training Series. Optimizing Your Final Cut Pro System. A Technical Guide to Real-World Post-Production
Apple Pro Training Series. Optimizing Your Final Cut Pro System. A Technical Guide to Real-World Post-Production
Year: 2004
Pages: 205 © 2008-2017.
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