VHS Poster Collection by Xavier Esclusa Trias

Xavier Esclusa Trias is the founder and creative director of Twopots and one of their latest projects is this VHS-inspired poster collection.

I grew up in the 90s and used VHS tapes predominately until the late 00s (although I still have a VCR which I watch tapes on when I can be bothered to plug it in). As a fan of Swiss Style posters as well, this is a combined nostalgic delight. Look at the vibrant colours!

VHS related: The Toronto bar turning itself into a VHS rental store, 5 retro videos from The VHS Vault, and the history of Walt Disney home video.

(via abdz.)

The history of Walt Disney Home Video

An illustration of Mickey Mouse opening the Walt Disney vault and letting lots of cash out

This year, I’ve noticed more and more the billions Disney has lost due to terrible business ventures. The only reason why they’ve been allowed to do it is because they’ve made many billions more and… it’s Disney.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot thanks to Yesterworld Entertainment, a YouTube channel that “exists outside of the tangible reality of the present where we explore and investigate theme parks, movies, video games & Entertainment stories of the past”.

In this episode, they examined the history of Walt Disney Home Video and the infamous Disney vault, a collection of Disney films used by Walt Disney Animation Studios for home video releases. The convoluted but lucrative process is explained in the video but in a nutshell, Disney released movies on VHS for a limited time, then put them “in the vault” for a number of years before re-releasing them, therefore controlling the availability—and scarcity—of its media property.

But as Yesterworld shows, it was a confusing and frustrating ideology.

Stream the episode below and become a patron if you enjoy it.

Yesterworld: The History of Walt Disney Home Video and the Infamous Disney Vault

Video/Disney related: 20th Century Flicks: the last video rental shop and an interview with Jim Cummings.

Farside: the Toronto bar turning into a VHS rental store

Farside in East Chinatown, Toronto, is known for its love of VHS and now the Toronto bar is taking it to the next level—by offering VHS rentals.

“We’ve managed to accrue 5,000-plus tapes from donations and thrifting. We’re always playing something on the bar’s projector, and used to have movie screenings on Monday nights. Essentially, we had more than enough stock to start renting tapes, so it felt natural.”

Co-owner Mike Reynolds talking to blogTO

Besides films you’d find on Netflix, you can also grab Wrestlemania box sets, rare Star Wars videos, and cult classics like Troll II and Encino Man.

According to photographs from Farside, the pricing is as follows (in Canadian dollars):

  • Membership: $10
  • One tape, one night: $5
  • One tape, two nights: $8
  • Three tapes + VCR for two nights: $40
  • One tapes + VCR for one night: $20

If you had to read those last two offers twice, I don’t blame you. Farside does offer a VCR (HDMI-compatible) and free popcorn.

Head to Farside and grab a piece of nostalgia with a pint or two (if it’s safe to do so). And if you like VHS, check out the last video rental shop in the world although I’m not sure if it can retain that name now.

Contact details

20th Century Flicks: the last video rental shop

Nestled in an alleyway in Bristol is 20th Century Flicks, the world’s last video rental shop. Arthur Cauty directed a short documentary film about the shop, which has been open since 1982, featuring the owners and its employees talking about what it means to them and the community.

It’s an ode to the video shop experience and a bygone way of watching movies. With studios like Disney launching their own streaming services and joining industry kingpins such as Netflix and Hulu, we have an almost endless flow of entertainment available at the click of a button. It’s amazing to me that a little independent video store can survive the Netflix cull and even outlive Blockbuster. Drop into the shop next time you’re in Bristol for a dose of movie nostalgia, have a chat about film and go home with a VHS rarity and a bag of popcorn.

And if you’re wondering how 20th Century Flicks is doing during the pandemic, the shop isn’t open but a reduced service is underway:

We are currently on lockdown to keep the shop, staff and stock healthy. We are still able to post movies out to you (3 at a time for £12) including a clean prepaid envelope to return them. We’d like them back a couple of weeks after you’ve received them. For details and instructions, click here!

Imagine getting a late fee in 2020 from the oldest video rental shop in the world. I’d be so embarrassed.

Stream the documentary below and for more VHS nostalgia, check out the guy who made a fake video store in his basement.

The Last Video Store | a documentary on the World's oldest VHS & DVD rental store

(via Kottke.org)

5 retro videos from The VHS Vault

xena: warrior princess

VHS might be old hat now but that doesn’t stop people from collecting them or keeping them around. Check your attic, I bet you’ll find boxes of tapes. My love of VHS is more overt as I have two VCRs in my house (although one is broken so that’ll need replacing) and a humble collection of tapes, some recorded, some official.

I could digitise them but that costs money on equipment and I don’t care enough to do it. Fortunately, some people did and uploaded their works to The Internet Archive’s VHS Vault. It’s a treasure trove of nostalgia with over 25,000 uploaded videos covering all kinds of genres.

I’ve picked 5 to look through:

1. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout

(Content warning: contains nudity from the offset)

If the horror part is watching a naked woman not wash her legs in the shower, consider this a scarefest. In fact, why did it even start with a sultry shower scene when it’s not a porno? Here’s the synopsis from IMDB:

After a nice shower, Linnea does some warm-up stretches and then goes for a run. She encounters some flabby zombies who follow her back to the house, where she leads them in some poolside aerobic routines. Later she unwinds by inviting some girlfriends over for a slumber party and some exercise. When something goes bump in the house, her friends begin experiencing an attrition problem.

What’s the point in weight loss for the undead? Fatphobia is truly boundless.

2. Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide

This is still pretty famous now and back in 1995, it was a masterstroke having two famous actors demonstrate how to use Windows 95, if a little peculiar.

The video guide was split into three sections:

Our guide is separated into three sections.

  • Section one presented the world’s first “Cyber-Sitcom”, starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry set in the Bill Gates’s office.
  • Section two gives a step-by-step review of all the Windows 95 components demonstrated in section one.
  • Section three answers the 20 most asked questions about Windows 95.

I’m sure this wonderfully hilarious 25 years ago but it just seems very cheesy and outdated.

3. Power Rangers In Space Psycho Ranger Saga

AJ Brown is a Power Rangers fan so I’m sure he’d appreciate this and correct me if I’ve got anything wrong in this description.

This video appears to be an episode from the “Psycho Ranger” story arc where the evil Astronema creates a team of Psycho Rangers to gain more power. I only ever watched Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers but I did notice Zordon and Bulk & Skull in the credits so that was pleasant to see.

4. VHS 1987 – 1998 – ThunderCats, DuckTales, Pooh, Donald Duck, ScoobyDoo, Ghostbusters, Flintstones

That’s right—it’s a collection of 5 videos featuring episodes of:

  • ThunderCats
  • Duck Tales
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Donald Duck
  • Scooby Doo
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Flintstones

It’s a childhood dream for any millennial. There are some tracking issues (when the picture gets distorted and those lines wipe down the screen) but that adds to the charm.

5. The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape

To complete the 90’s fest, here’s “The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape” starring an intro with Lucy Lawless, loads of bloopers, and interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

For any Xena fans, this will be a dream come true.

The Guy Who Built A Video Store In His Basement

Nostalgia Video basement

In June last year, Kevin Cortez from AV Club wrote about Nick Collins aka Nostalgia Video, a man who built a video rental store in his basement. People still miss Blockbusters in its original form—shelves filled with VHS tapes, diabetes-inducing candy on sale, and awesome movie posters on the wall—and Collins has recreated that aesthetic with “two months of labor and roughly $1,200″.

The results are impressive: Huge boxes of candy; old toys, posters, and promotional cardboard cutouts; enough old magazines to make your local dentist blush; a foam board ceiling; and an ugly, slightly dizzying ’90s carpet. As you’ll see in the below tour, the videos are sorted by genre—from horror to comedy to old professional wrestling pay-per-views.

While I could find better uses for a basement if I had one (that I owned anyway), I admire the dedication to detail and 90s VHS culture. I still own and covet my VHS tapes and understand where Collins is coming from, at least on a basic level.

Unfortunately(?), this faux-video store is only for show so you can’t visit or purchase anything because nobody should voluntarily go to a stranger’s basement for any reason.

Follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube.

The rise and demise of Betamax

betamax-video-cassettes

I was born after the Betamax came and went. In fact, I heard more about it in terms of its demise than any kind of praise for the technology. VHS was my life right up until 2006 (although I still use it to this day). If I’d been born a few years earlier, I might have seen the shift.

But for many, Betamax was a cult classic and Sony only stopped production and sales of Betamax products in March 2016. So let’s look at the rise, fall, and legacy of this iconic piece of video culture.

What is Betamax?

Sony’s Betamax (also known as Beta) was a video cassette format introduced in Japan on 10th May 1975. It was released as way for consumers to record everything from weddings to their favourite soap operas. The cassettes used a similar format to the U-matic, a Sony prototype cassette from the late 60s. but with a thinner design (0.5 inches vs. the U-matic’s 0.75inch width).

Betamax for professional recording

Betamax had a major influence on news broadcasting and music production for different reasons. Sony released the Betacam in 1982, the professional version of the Betamax, and it quickly became the most-used video format in electronic news-gathering (or ENG for short).

While the Betamax and Betacam formats were very similar, the difference between them was significant for professional recording. Betamax recorded in a lower-quality resolution and audio, using only two recording heads, while Betacam used four recording heads, producing a higher video resolution and audio quality.

In music recording, Sony created a digital recording system known as PCM that connected to Betamax recorders. The Sony PCM-F1 adaptor came with a Betamax VCR SL-2000 as a “portable digital audio recording system” and it became a mainstay for audio engineers when they made their masters.

Betamax for home movies

While Betamax enjoyed a good life in the professional market, it didn’t fare as well at the consumer level. Sony released its first Beta device in the US in November 1975 – the LV-1901 that came with a 19-inch colour monitor. There was also the Sony SL-6200, which came as part of the Sony LV-1901 with its teakwood cabinet, a 24-hour timer and camera input. The set also allowed you to record one channel and watch another which was an incredible feat back then.

But stiff competition in the West from JVC’s VHS format lead to its downfall outside of Japan. Their market share in the US rose to 60% by 1980 and left Sony in the dust. It was also cheaper to make VHS tapes in Europe, which pushed the format even further. That led to a gradual decline in Betamax tapes in the 80s, down to a market share of just 7.5% in 1986.

Higher quality in Japan

Even though Betamax wasn’t as successful in the West, Sony managed to localise its power in the videotape format war and build on it. The company released the SuperBetamax (1985) and Extended Definition Betamax (1988) formats, both offering better resolutions.

SuperBeta, as it was known, offered a horizontal resolution almost identical to live television at the time. However, the chroma resolution remained subpar in comparison.

In 1988, Sony released its ED Beta, or “Extended Definition” Betamax line, with 500 lines of horizontal resolution, matching DVD quality (which wouldn’t come out for another 7 years). Improvements were made to format to reduce the transport to reduce picture abnormalities and produce a better quality picture.

Tape length wars

Besides the general “videotape format war”, there was a subsidiary tape length war instigated by the RCA (Radio Corporation of America). The corporation tried to collaborate with Sony in making a format but wanted a 4-hour tape. Sony didn’t feel the Betamax was up to recording 4-hours of tape and maintaining a high-quality picture.

RCA went to JVC with the same proposal but received the same response although parent company Matsushita eventually gave in. This forced Sony’s hand and it managed to eek out 5 hours of Betamax footage with its Beta-III speed on an ultra-thin L-830 cassette. JVC more than doubled it with 10.5 hours on a T-210 cassette.

Other Beta variants and spin-offs

Here are some non-Sony branded Beta players and related Beta products (thanks to Betamax Collectors and Mr Betamax for the info).

Betamovie

Sony’s range of consumer camcorders for the Betamax format, it was notorious for not including a playback function and it was later abandoned in favour of the Video8.

Beta Hi-Fi

In June 1983, Sony added hi-fi audio to videotape as a way to edge JVC’s VHS format out of the market. However, JVC created its own VHS hi-fi system, about a year after the SL-5200 player was released.

Pioneer VX90

Pioneer’s VX90 was basically a SL-HF900 without the Sony logo on it. It produced high-quality SuperBeta pictures and that Beta Hi-Fi stereo sound.

Marantz Stereo VR 200

Sanyo’s Beta player was the first consumer recorder to offer a quality stereo VCR (thanks to enhanced Dolby signal processing).

Toshiba BetaMax V-M40

Toshiba’s model was priced was $379 upon release in 1984. The V-M40 included a 7-day timer, 12 channel selector, a clock, and a moisture detector which shut the system down if moisture was found.

Zenith VR 8510

Produced by Sony for Zenith, the 8510 featured a SpeedSearch picture scan function and SuperScan, allowing users to switch into “fast speed mode” to view where they were in the fast-foward/rewinding process.

Sanyo Betacord VCR 4590

As you might have guessed, it was called Betacord due to its corded remote control.

Failure to adapt – the true demise of Betamax

Despite the sharp decline in sales of Betamax recorders in the late 1980s and subsequent halt in production of new recorders by Sony in 2002, Beta, SuperBeta and EDBeta are still being used by a small number of people. Even though Sony stopped making new cassettes in 2016, new old stocks of Betamax cassettes are still available for purchase at online shops and used recorders (as well as cassettes) are often found at flea markets, thrift stores or on Internet auction sites.

Betacam cassettes are still available in professional circles but generally, Beta is nothing more than a novelty collector’s item. The simple reason why Betamax lost to VHS was Sony’s inability to cater to the general public. They wanted a medium that could record for longer, even if it meant compromising quality. Its legacy now lies in nostalgia and comedic devices.

A curious oddity is that Sony continued to make Beta recorders right up to 2002. But there have been some influential uses of Betamax, as we covered in an article about Marion Stokes.

First Betamax - Salesman Training Video 1977

Marion Stokes: the Black woman who preserved over 30 years of TV history

A still from Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

This is a remarkable story. Atlas Obscura wrote about a woman who had recorded over 30 years of television on roughly 71,000 VHS and Betamax cassettes in Philadelphia. Her name was Marion Stokes.

Marion began her recordings in the 70s all the way until her death in 2012 and passed them around different apartments, family, and storage units, likely due to their quantity. Now, The Internet Archive is aiming to digitize every single tape. Problem is, they aren’t in any kind of order:

They got a little jumbled as they were transferred […] Although no one knew it at the time, the recordings Stokes made from 1975 until her death in 2012 are the only comprehensive collection preserving this period in television media history.

I love VHS tapes. I have two VCRs in my house – one bought for my birthday a few years ago and one inherited from my mum when she moved abroad. My collection is ~0.14% of Marion Stokes’s but they each tape is a gateway to my past. The fact that she recorded 71,000 of them over 4.5 decades is almost unfathomable. Even more so because it’s the best preservation of television history in this period. I follow a lot of YouTube accounts that upload old UK adverts and TV idents from the 80s and 90s for nostalgic purposes. I find those fascinating. This archive is something else.

An award-winning documentary called Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, has been screened at numerous film festivals this year. It chronicles her life and her historical media project. You can follow filmmaker Matt Wolf’s Instagram for news on future screenings.

What if Game of Thrones was aired in the 80s?

Game of Thrones 80s intro

Yes, I’m 5 years late and the series just finished but everyone was unhappy with the last season so let’s remember the good times. And mix them up with late 80s nostalgia.

YouTuber Mikolaj.Birek put together two Game of Thrones videos to make a fantastic 80s VHS intro. The font used for the titles was also used on Diagnosis Murder amongst other things so this is a late 80s/early 90s kinda mix but that synth soundtrack is pure 80s.

Stream it below, dude!

Game of Thrones - VHS Intro (UPDATED music)

GoT related: Original VHS GoT intro by Hunter L Sanders, 80’s style GoT theme remix by Steve Duzz, and Cleganebowl as a lightsaber fight

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are The VHS Guys

Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher

I’m a nostalgia freak. There was a lot in the 90s I only saw but never fully experienced and that decade was the happiest of my life. VHS tapes played a major part of that and I love hearing about collectors, especially ones this quirky.

Friends Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are known as the VHS Guys and they’ve been collecting VHS tapes for over 25 years. But not just any VHS tape. Their collection falls under the “special interests” category or “not meant to be shown in public,” as Prueher put it in an interview with Atlas Obscura. Anything from exercise videos to how-to video guides is up for consideration. The pair take their collective on tour with their Found Footage Festival events in front of live audiences.

One of the creepiest videos in the VHS Guys collection has to be Rent-A-Friend, where the man in the video will be your “friend” in exchange for nothing (well, however much you initially paid for the VHS but that’s all). It’s an example of an “interactive” video; all the rage in the 80s and 90s. They ask you a question and leave pause for you to “answer”. I remember playing a 90s board game called Atmosfear using this “technology” (sorry for all the quotations but they’re necessary). At 4, it felt like magic because it really WAS talking back to me.

Stream the 5-minute interview below.

Interview: CoolFilmArt

One of my favourite accounts on Twitter has to be @CoolFilmArt. It’s a treasure trove of, well, cool film art with incredible posters from all over the world. We spoke to Robyn, one of the curators of the account about its origins and some of her favourite film posters.

So, how did the @CoolFilmArt account come about?

My pal Jim helps run @CoolBoxArt and I basically ripped the idea off two years ago but for film posters, I also made a list on Letterboxd back in 2013 and thought wow that would be a cool Twitter account. My main basis for choosing a film to watch is 99% what the poster looks like so I thought other people would enjoy them as much as I do. There’s other poster accounts out there but I think we cater to a pretty niche market, like if you were to upturn a stone in between the woodlice you would find our kind of posters, haha.

How do you “curate” the film art you post?

Mostly I find stuff on Google, I like to look for Hollywood posters from other countries (Japan posters are always wild), VHSCollector is a big source for me, loads of hi-res scans of VHS box art! Tumblr also has a good community of poster enthusiasts. If I post fan posters I always try and link back to the original artist, some of them are so good though that you can’t tell if it’s official or not!

Do you have any personal favourites?

My favourite poster ever is this one from a film I haven’t even seen, I’m also a sucker for anything remotely cyberpunk like this. My main aesthetic is pinks/purples/blue colour schemes.

Do you have any ambitions to branch out to other channels like Facebook or with a blog?

I already run a film blog @bimbomoviebash and there are no plans to expand CoolFilmArt out. It was always meant to be this very simple idea of just posting posters, I kind of hate it when you follow an account for one thing and they start bringing all their personal stuff into it so I try and keep that to a minimum. Just posters posters posters!

Would you say creative film posters are a dying breed now?

Back in the 80s film rentals and sales were driven so hard by the poster, like you could take a video off the shelf and it would be the poster that swung it. In the day and age of the internet you can’t disguise a shitty film with flashy artwork anymore so there’s really no need for it. It’s definitely a dying art, which is a shame. I can’t stomach a lot of posters now, the trend of just putting absolutely everything on the poster sucks, like Force Awakens, however if something looks interesting now (like that neon green Thor Ragnarok poster) it definitely stands out. I think artistic posters are making a bit of a comeback now because all these kids who grew up in the 80s are making their own films now, but sadly it’s just not important anymore.

What are some of your favourite films?

This question makes me sweat. Robocop is my favourite film ever but I have a very varied taste. My favourite Disney movie is Robin Hood, my favourite horror is Slumber Party Massacre II.

Favourite director?

Paul Verhoeven. No one rivals his eye for flashy gaudiness or his bite. People are only just starting to GET Showgirls. What a legacy.

Favourite actor/actress?

Jeff Goldblum, I could watch him for hours. Tony Leung, Traci Lords, Divine, Linnea Quigley, Denzel, Jill Schoelen like, the list is never-ending!

Are there any film posters you hate and if so, why?

I’ve never met a Christopher Nolan poster that I’ve liked.

What kind of influence do you think film and film art have on culture in modern times?

I think we’re living in both the worst and best time for movies at the moment. Some days it feels like we’re in a never-ending chasm of superhero reboots that are never ever going to stop, and they all look the same and they swallow up and coming directors into this cycle and then don’t give them the creative freedom to do anything that was the reason they hired them. On the other hand you have stuff like Get Out that swept us all up in a way you wouldn’t think could ever happen anymore, it’s like we all forgot our cynicism and were able to come together to enjoy this truly great movie and things like that make me think we’re going to be okay.