There’s something special about watching a movie at the cinema. The way the sounds and the images work together, the way the light reflects off the freshly washed windows, and, of course, the seats. Sometimes you just want to be able to feel the wind on your cheeks and the seat beneath you digging into your back as you watch the movie.
However, sometimes you want to be able to relive those good old cinema moments even when the lights are off and the theatre’s deserted. That’s where VHS comes in handy. Whether rented or bought, VHS is now a household name with over 80% of households owning a cassette or a DVD player. That’s around 15.9 million American homes alone (statista).
What is VHS?
Well, it’s not a new invention. It stands for Video Home System, which was first released in America in 1975 and then expanded to Europe and Asia in the following years. A lot has changed since those days, but not least VHS’s ability to record and play back movies at a relatively high quality. Thanks to various home theatres that have emerged over the years, watching movies at home has become a whole lot more convenient.
The Evolution Of Home Theatres
The first step towards home entertaining was surely TiVo, which was first released in America in 1999 and then expanded to Europe and Asia later that year. The company’s original motto was “The whole world in your pocket,” which pretty much sums up the device’s functionality. A few years later and a couple of successful series of TV movies, Netflix started to take note and bought the rights to make their own TV shows available for home consumption. Nowadays, with various streaming services and the rise of VR, the home theatre’s evolution has continued.
Why Rent And Own VHS Rather Than Stream Movies
The main reason behind VHS’s popularity is because of all the benefits it brings. First of all, you can rent movies rather than buying them. That way, you can view as many titles as you want without feeling guilty about owning too many DVDs. Second, you can bring your own games and movies to watch at home. Third, it is more convenient to watch movies at home than it is in the cinema. Thanks to all those little devices that allow for a more immersive cinematic experience, such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Multi-Device Synchronization (MDS). Finally, owning VHS gives you the ability to watch movies however and whenever you want. You can upgrade and expand as many times as you want without worrying about running out of room. There are many horror stories surrounding video tapes that break, become unreadable, or are accidentally erased. With VHS, you don’t have to worry about losing a single frame because of a malfunctioning device.
All Those Special Features You Can Find On VHS
When you rent or buy a movie on VHS, you’ll notice a little cart alongside with the movie. This is where all the special features lie, such as:
- bonus materials: short films, music videos, trailers, TV spots, etc.
- commentary by the directors, producers, or cast members (if available)
- making-of or behind-the-scenes material
- cast and crew biographies (if available)
- videographic essays (if available)
Each feature on the VHS cart is usually valued at around $10 to $20 and can add up quickly if you have a lot to watch. Back in 1975, VHS did not yet exist and watching movies on TV was still heavily edited. So, a lot of features were simply non-existent. Nowadays, with the rise of the video blog, almost every single movie comes with a somewhat lengthy review. That’s probably why a lot of people still prefer to rent movies rather than buy them. It’s also the reason why many video stores and rental outlets still exist, despite the fact that VHS is over 40 years old. People are still discovering hidden gems on VHS and sharing their finds online. So, even though VHS is old, it certainly still has a market.
How Many Movies Can You Store On One VHS Cassette?
There are several different sizes for VHS blank cassettes, including:
- 3.5 inches
- 5 inches
- 8 inches
- 11 inches
- 13 inches
The smallest size, which is 3.5 inches, can only hold around 6 minutes of standard definition (SD) video. That’s approximately the length of a TV show. The largest size, 13 inches, can hold around 18 minutes of video. So, you’ll need several cassettes to watch a feature-length film. If you want to store lots of movies on VHS, buy the largest size.
Is Netflix Turning The Cinema Into A Virtual One?
In 2018, Netflix made a big step towards the virtual cinema by releasing The Meyerowitz Romance in America (Tiger Hunt), an 18-hour long movie that was released in two parts and allowed audiences to watch the story of Emily and Greg’s courtship unfold over the course of two evenings.
The experiment was a massive hit and not only did Netflix follow up with The School Nurse (herself a big movie in two parts), but they also released a series of short horror movies titled Jessica Jones on Netflix in December of that year.
With these releases, Netflix started presenting movies in small, bite-sized portions that could be consumed in one sitting. In fact, The School Nurse is now available to stream on Netflix and, as of February 2020, the first two parts of The Meyerowitz Romance are also available to stream. In the future, will we see more TV movies released in two parts and made available for streaming later on? It’s definitely a possibility. After all, Netflix is a business first and a streamer second, and they have to make money somehow. So, if that means catering to our entertainment needs and wants, so be it. But until then, let’s be grateful for the great movies that the studios decide to release in two parts.
What About Those Special Features Available On Blu-Ray And DVD?
While VHS is still around and used today, other formats such as Blu-ray and DVD have completely taken over the film industry. So it’s no surprise that many people have chosen to purchase movies rather than rent them (or stream them). Blu-rays are a higher quality format than VHS and can hold up to 50 minutes of video on a single disc. So if you want to store lots of movies on your shelves, Blu-ray is the way to go. But if you’re looking for a quick and dirty way to watch your favorite movies, VHS has you covered there as well.
Why Should You Avoid VHS Backward Compatibility Issues
If you’re trying to play back VHS content on a different device or system, you’ll want to make sure that those devices are VHS compatible. Otherwise, you could end up with a blurry image, an image that stutters, or even a complete lock-up of the device you’re trying to use.
Even though VHS is over 40 years old, it certainly still has a massive following and remains one of the most popular formats used today. That’s probably because of all the features that it offers and because it is still relatively easy to find and use. Plus, as we’ve established, Netflix is definitely aware of what is popular and wants to cater to the masses. So if you have a device that is VHS compatible, chances are it will also be a device that Netflix wants to support.