Back when they still made them. How were movies on vhs duplicated en mass for home media?


I was watching a YouTuber I watch regularly who shows off and explains both old and new audio and video technology. Mostly vintage though. It got me thinking about when I was a kid watching movies on vhs. Then I started wondering how did they make millions of copies of a movie for home release? I tried googling it, but all I found were old forums where it was explained in very technical terms that i couldn’t wrap my head around. How are vhs tapes duplicated en mass for home release?

In: 5

According to the first video I found on YouTube they make a super high quality master tape then they just copy it over and over on top a long single strand of tape at over 300x the speed at which it would normally play back. Then they cut that single strand into the exact length of the program and stick it inside a cassette.

There are/were equipment made specifically to do this. Basically a tape duplication machine but one that works far faster and is automated.

Tape duplication itself is very straightforward (in a sense). An electrical signal (the video recording), is passed through a recording “head” that creates a magnetic field that replicates that signal. This magnetic field when passed over a moving tape causes the tape (a special tape that contains magnetic particles) to “record” that signal as a semi-permanent magnetic imprint on the tape.

That tape now contains an imprint of the original video signal and can be packaged into a VHS cassette or similar.

If you’re into that kind of thing I would suggest a TV show from the late 90s called The Secret Life of Machines. Tim Hunkin, the host, has a youtube channel and has remastered and uploaded all the old episodes. He has an episode on VCRs,

Also check out Technology Connections,
Make sure to watch Technology Connections with subtitles on, he hides jokes in the subtitles.