Format Wars: Did Betamax Deserve to Die?

Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we specialise in converting tons of different formats, from Mini DV to Digital 8; VHS to Betamax. Ah, Betamax – once heralded as the thinking man’s video format of choice, and now the punchline to a thousand tech jokes. But does Betamax deserve its reputation, and did it deserve to so comprehensively lose out to VHS?

No Peace in Our Time

When folks think of the major wars of the 1980’s, the Falklands and the Cold War are generally top of that list – and maybe we should include shoulder pads vs. not wearing shoulder pads too. But while all that was going on, another battle raged: the Format Wars.

It all kicked off in 1975, when Sony’s Betamax hit the streets and aroused the interest of… not that many people, to be fair. A year later VHS, produced by JVC, captured the imagination of the public. War was declared.

Ask those in the know and they’ll often tell you that Betamax should’ve won out. Better sound quality, better video quality and smaller size are often brought up as factors which prove the better format didn’t win.


And sure, Betamax had a whole lot of things going for it, including APS – a system which electronically bookmarked positions on the tape, so users could fast-forward or rewind to specific points without having to stop, play the tape and see how close you were to the desired position. The colour was slightly better than its rival, and functions like fast-forward were quicker due to the tape being in constant contact with the play head.

But Betamax never received the support of the major players of the industry, so it became too expensive to produce. If you ever rented a Betamax from a video store back in the day, that’s winning the lottery; the supply was that small and the odds were against you.

Ultimately there was one major factor which killed Betamax. The 60-Minute Battle. Ok, Betamax were neater and more compact, but that wasn’t just a selling point, it was detrimental to the format. Betamax could only record for an hour; VHS could record for two. And for those recording programmes and films on the TV, only having 60 precious minutes makes about as much sense as Max Headroom.

If you have any Betamax stashed away, don’t simply lament the format’s downfall. Whether it’s VHS or Betamax, we can convert video to DVD and let you relive those memories. Except the hair. No-one needs reminding of 1980’s hair. For more information about our services, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0800 592433 or email us at and our staff will be more than happy to help.