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How to Make Movies on VHS

For anyone who came of age in a certain era, the idea of recorded video inextricably links with VHS. The unique flickering look that everyone associates with video recording comes largely from the popularity of that format.

How Does a Camcorder Work?

Unlike a movie camera, which exposes film, a camcorder records on video. In order to do that, it relies on three main subsystems:

  • Lens: The lens system is the eye of the camera; it directs light onto the sensor and also handles features like zoom and auto-focus. Behind the lens sits the diaphragm, which controls the amount of light going into the sensor.
  • Sensor: Most camcorders use a charge coupled device, or CCD sensor. This takes incoming light waves and converts the photons into electrical impulses. Entry-level camcorders use a single sensor for all colors, while a professional grade model uses three independent ones; one for each color.
  • Recorder: Every Sharp VHS camcorder uses the same recording system as a home VCR, just somewhat smaller. It transfers the electrical impulses from the sensor and lays down an analog video and audio track.

What Types of Camcorder are There?

Different types of camcorder generally categorize by the type of cassette and tape they use. There are three main formats:

  • Eight Millimeter: This format, along with the later Hi8 and Digital8 formats all used the same 8 mm tape. It was popular with many home users because of the small size of the tapes. The only catch was that it wasn't directly compatible with most peoples' VCRs.
  • VHS: Camcorders using the same format as the VHS VCR in peoples' homes were popular for compatibility reasons but were also larger and heavier than compact alternatives. However, the same size did make for a more stable picture. Some models such as the Sharp Slimcam are as light as five pounds and reasonably portable.
  • VHS-C: VHS-C used the same tape as regular VHS, just in smaller packages. This allowed for smaller camcorders without losing compatibility. Once you were done, you could just put the tape in an adapter and watch it on your regular TV.

Using A Full-Size Camcorder

Apart from the various advantages of VHS tape, the larger size of a full-size camcorder does have a number of advantages. Not only is it a more stable platform, but you can get much longer recordings; at least as long as the battery holds out. Bring a charger along and your VHS camcorder can tape all day. You can also look into S-VHS, which features a higher resolution format with 400 lines as opposed to the 240 lines of VHS. Still, nothing beats the flexibility of being able to pop the videocassette in your existing player.

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