VHS vs DVD

VHS is better than DVD. Noone can convince me otherwise. I’m a big supporter of the VHS. Aside from it’s nostalgic quality, you can’t deny it’s connection to the eighties and the way you once watched eighties movies.

For example I use screen captures from Girls Just Want To Have Fun, an eighties teen movie.

VHS

Notice the uneven tint and the color noise. The picture is grainy. The copy used to make this screen cap was most likely an SLP reissue. A perfect example of how an eighties movie is supposed to look when watched (on your console television set).

DVD

Notice the color and tint are evenly balanced. The image is sharp and clear. There is no evidence that this is an eighties movie. This print has been stripped clean of it’s eighties goodness.

Now ask yourself, which do you really prefer when you want to feel like you’re back in the eighties.

Other reasons I prefer the VHS to the DVD.

  • VHS doesn’t pixelate
  • VHS doesn’t skip chapters on it’s own
  • VHS doesn’t freeze frame in the middle of a viewing
  • VHS doesn’t force you to sit through coming attractions at the beginning of a tape
  • VCRs never just stop working
  • VCRs last longer than DVD players

I also believe that VCRs are easier to fix when there is a problem. Which is why I am reading Troubleshooting & Repairing VCRs.

On a more educational note, read this insightful article by someone far more intelligent and superior than I.

Over the past few years, American consumers have been hearing a lot about DVD .. the Digital Versatile Disc that is promising to completely revolutionize how we watch movies at home. We’ve been told that our old and beloved standby, VHS, is Yesterday’s News .. that it is old and decrepit, and that it is no longer capable of delivering the quality that is demanded by modern audiences. As a result of this, there has been an exodus from our analog roots as American families have abandoned their VHS collections for the new technology of DVD.

But is this a wise investment, and is the technology actually worth anything?

You might be surprised.

The truth is that there have been a plethora of unsubstantiated myths and outright lies spread by the DVD industry in order to dupe people into buying their products. Some of these untruths are slight exaggerations, but others are knee-slapping howlers. Let’s take a look at some of the more extravagant ones and debunk them point-by-point:

1. DVD picture quality is better
This is largely a smokescreen. While it’s true that DVD theoretically has double the vertical resolution of VHS, this fact has nothing to do with how the picture is presented. The vertical resolution of your television set is fixed by your local standard (NTSC in the United States and PAL in Europe.) The fact of the matter is that DVD could *quadruple* the vertical resolution of VHS and there would be no visual gain from it! NTSC has a resolution of 648 x 486. PAL is slightly higher at 720 x 486. You can increase output resolution all you want, but as soon as you surpass the resolution of the display standard, it no longer matters.

Evidence about the alleged superiority of DVD picture versus VHS is largely anecdotal and suspicious, given the fact that it mostly originates from the DVD manufacturers themselves. In fact, the actual peer-reviewed evidence tends to point the other direction. In a recent study by Brown University, one hundred students were shown a clip of the movie “Big Momma’s House” on VHS and then were shown the same clip on DVD. The students were not told which clip was which format. They were then asked which of the two clips had better video quality, or if they were about the same. Nearly two-thirds of the students (63%) thought that there was no difference. Of the remaining students, 19% thought that the VHS tape looked better! In other words, the students with a preference (narrowly) favored the image quality of the “inferior” VHS clip!

2. DVD sound quality is better
This might even be a bigger whopper than the picture quality myths. In the movie “The Rock”, a character asks Nicholas Cage why he just spent $500 on an old Beatles LP record. The reply? “Two reasons. Number one, I’m a Beatle maniac. And number two, these sound better.”

Cage could not be more correct. Quite frankly, the digital sound that is employed by DVDs and satellite television is dreadful, and the same is largely true of compact discs. They lack the analog warmth that is present in VHS performances and LPs. When analog is recorded and mastered, the sound undergoes slight alterations from the original intonation. Usually, this is a pleasing effect; it emphasizes the presence of the low end while giving a “sheen” to the upper end of the overall recording. It makes music and dialogue sound real .. as opposed to the cold, mechanical sound of a digital soundtrack. For reproducing sound, analog is the only way to go. Sound waves themselves are analog! Reducing them to a series of zeroes and ones will not make them sound any better.

It gets worse, though. Not only is DVD sound digital, it is compressed digital. Anybody who has ever heard the sound quality of an MP3 file when compared to its original source can tell you that digital compression makes already-bad audio sound even worse. Of course, if the DVD video is compressed, why should the zealots care if the audio is compressed?

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that all of these high-end sound formats such as “Dolby Digital 5.1” and “DTS” are pure junk. Scientists have demonstrated that the human brain is not capable of separating out more than four simultaneous sound channels at once. Coincidentally, four channels is what you get with the tried-and-true Dolby Surround technology (an analog technlogy that is available on VHS tapes.) Digital formats that claim to offer five, six, or even seven channels might sound tempting, but remember that your brain cannot process this much information anyway, so the point is moot! (And beyond that, it’s all compressed digital sound, so it’s garbage to begin with.)

3. DVD preserves better than VHS tapes
Again, this is mostly a lie. Any parent who has young children and a collection of Disney VHS movies knows that those things can be watched a dozen times of day for three years straight without showing any appreciable wear. Yes, the digital nature of DVD means that the encoded bits will never “wear out”, but VHS movies rarely “wear out”, either.

In fact, movie damage is a far greater concern with DVD than it is with VHS tapes. A DVD is the same physical size as a compact disc, but a double-layer DVD can fit up to fourteen times the amount of data that a CD can hold. Those of you with CD players will certainly be familiar with the effect that scratches can have on your music. Even the smallest scratch can make your CD skip and generate annoying popping noises during playback. Well, how do you think that same scratch will affect a DVD .. a piece of media that has fourteen times the amount of information on it? A single tiny scratch will destroy a DVD forever. There’s a lot of data on a DVD, but the downside is that the bits must be stored so close together that any imperfection at all will ruin the entire movie. When you take a DVD out of its case and load it into your player, the only way you’re going to give that movie a fighting chance to last more than a month or two is to treat it as a brain surgeon treats a scalpel during a tricky operation. There is no reason that home theater has to be this inconvenient and clumsy.

VHS tapes, on the other hand, are virtually impossible to destroy. If a part of the tape gets dirty or crinkeled, you may have to put up with a few lines of static for a few seconds, but that’s it. Unlike a DVD, it is not possible to easily destroy an entire movie, since doing so would require you to destroy an extended length of magnetic tape. Even in severe cases where defective players “eat” the video tape, all that one needs to do is wind the tape back up into the cartridge. Compared to their fragile digital brothers, VHS tapes are invincible.

4. DVD has lots of “special features”
So? You can put “special features” on a VHS tape, too .. they’re just not as “convenient” to get at. This really isn’t the point, however. The point is that the vast majority of “special features” that are placed on DVDs are 100% crap. They are garbage that some DVD manufacturer threw together at the last minute in order to try to trick you into buying the disc. You’ll watch them once, say “Well, that was worthless”, and you’ll never watch them again.

Case in point: I was at a friend’s house the other night watching the DVD version of the movie “Se7en”, and he switched over to the “audio commentary” track. After about five minutes of listening to Morgan Freeman pontificate about how superior Broadway theater is, I was ready to stab both of my eyes out with a wooden fork. It was excruciating. We watched the rest of the “special features”, and with very few exceptions, they were all embarassingly bad. I felt genuinely sorry for the person who had put this DVD together.

The fact of the matter is that VHS movies have higher-quality special features because there is less room for them, and they must be placed at strategic points (usually, at the beginning of the tape.) This means that VHS movie designers are forced to pick the best features .. the cream of the crop, if you will .. and leave the rest of them behind. When DVD zealots brag about having “more features”, they might as well be bragging about having “more crap.” Any special feature that is worth anything is going to also be included on the VHS version of the movie. The added extras on the DVD are discarded table scraps.

Those are the highlights. The truth is that for all practical purposes, VHS is a better all-around home theater format than DVD. There are many little things that make VHS a better choice; for one, you don’t have to put up with the annoying pause when a DVD player switches between layers on the disc. Additionally, linear searches forward and back are much smoother than they are on a DVD player .. even the most brainwashed DVD junkies admit that searching DVDs is a bit choppy.

The dirty little secret that the DVD industry doesn’t want you to hear is that you can get roughly the same picture and sound quality out of a two-head Technics VCR for $39 at Wal-Mart as you can out of a “high-end” $5,000 Harmon Kardon DVD player ordered from some foo-foo electronics “boutique.” When your friends with DVD players smile at you condescendingly and tell you that you’ll probably buy a DVD player soon, you can smile right back at them and point them at this article. Tell them that they are corporate shills who are living a hateful lie.

Source: DVD Versus VHS: The Surprising Truth

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