Amoeblog

Would You Like A Cheese Puff?: The Art Of The RCA SelectaVision Videodisc CED

Posted by Mark Beaver, January 13, 2015 04:20pm | Post a Comment
 For a brief moment in time (1981-1986, to be exact) there existed a film delivery system based on needle/groove technology, just like a record player.



Launched by RCA and dubbed the CAPACITANCE ELECTRONIC DISC (CED), it was quickly supplanted by both commercially available VHS tapes and Laserdiscs, the precursor to the DVD, which read the information with light beams.

Ultimately, it was a clunky, inelegant technology prone to problems and RCA lost about $600 million on it, but there was a curious upside to its brief arc through the collective consciousness...the cover art.

For many of the CED packages, promotional artwork was commissioned for the face of the cartridge that was singular for the release of the RCA SelectaVision format. 

Below I have displayed a gallery of some of the cover art from that time, in most cases, different images than were ever seen on the more popular VHS, Laserdisc or DVD releases of the same films. 

Enjoy the beauty!








    
































































































































































































































































































































VideoDisc Day -- An introduction to the Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 19, 2014 10:30am | Post a Comment


On 22 March, 1981RCA introduced  a brand new but curiously retro analog video format, the SelectaVision CED VideoDisc system. Today the CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) is all but forgotten but even at its most popular it wasn't well-known and was much widely-adopted than contemporaneous video formats like Betamax, VHS, and LaserDiscs


CED collection, Ron Treverton of Brantford, Canada (source: Personal Computer Museum)





In early 1981, shortly before the VideoDisc (as it was "commonly" known) hit the shelves of roughly 5,000 dealers across the USA, the first stainless steel, gull-wing doored DeLorean DMC-12 automobile rolled off of an assembly line in Northern Ireland whilst nearby, in Her Majesty's Prison MazeBobby Sands embarked on what would soon prove to be a fatal hunger strike. Meanwhile in America, I was entertained by Joel Schumacher's film, The Incredible Shrinking Woman... a film which would ultimately be released on LD, VHS, and (in edited form) on DVD-R  -- but never VideoDisc



Although doubtfully part of the plan, with the release of VideoDiscs RCA seemed to inadvertently anticipate the vinyl revival of the future by rejecting the use of lasers to read information (technology used by LDs and Compact Discs, which would be released commercially the following year) in favor of a stylus -- a technology developed in the 1870s to play wax cylinders. The result was a format that was neither recordable (unlike magnetic tape formats) nor possessing of superior image quality (unlike LaserDiscs). 

The reason the CED was so anachronistic was because the technology was originally conceived seventeen years earlier, in 1964. Back then, it represented in a significant increase in the recording density of vinyl LPs and was therefore a not insignificant technological advance. Unfortunately for the product's viability, behind-the-scenes bickering and other obstacles held up its release for the next decade and a half.


 

By the time of the CED's release, the home video consumer already had several recordable analog videocassette options (e.g. U-matic, Cartrivision, Betamax, and VHS) and the playback-only but higher end LaserDisc from DiscoVision to choose from. The only real advantage of CEDs offered were their relative inexpensiveness -- both to produce and purchase. 


 

Originally there were only about fifty titles available on VideoDisc. By the time of the format's demise that number had grown to about 1,700 -- a really small number for all but the least-discriminating film-lover. With the limited selection and few superiorities over its rival formats, it's almost inconceivable that any well-informed consumer would adopt the technology unless they were a magpie (the discs are shiny) or that even less-intelligent species, the brand loyalist. I doubt it but perhaps dancing twins or a 45 minute spiel from a friendly salesperson could change the methaqualone-addled mind.




Sales of the "brand new, you're retro" format were bad from the get go. In
1986, after having lost a reported $600 million on the VideoDisc, RCA finally performed a mercy killing on the format. 

Today when VideoDiscs are encountered, it's usually at thrift stores (hello Goodwill), yard sales, and occasionally on Amoeba Hollywood's mezzanine. That's where I first saw one -- although I didn't know what it was. Artist Wayne Shellabarger had to educate me. If you don't see any VideoDiscs at Amoeba, it may because there are none in stock. However, ask at the information counter and you may be pleasantly surprised as they've been known not to make it to the sales floor. 

19 April is Record Store Day and 7 September is Cassette Store Day but as far as I know, there's neither a holiday for videodisc stores nor has there ever been such a thing as a videodisc store. VideoDiscs are honored online with an appropriately retro-looking website, CED Magic. It's actually quite a thorough and loving look at the sometimes-maligned and even more often- forgotten video format. Happy hunting!


37 Years! Celebrating (or at least thinking about) VHS

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 25, 2013 06:37pm | Post a Comment
The inaugural Cassette Store Day took place this past 7 September. On that day, over 50 audio cassettes were released by major musical acts like The Pastels, The Flaming Lips, and Suicidal Tendencies. Unfortunately for video cassette fans, Cassette Day was a strictly audio observance. For whatever reason, Cassette Culture (or the cassette underground), which lovingly embraces audio cassettes for whatever reason treats the word “cassette” as if it only applies to the audio variety. As if that weren’t offensive enough, just two days after Cassette Store Day was the 37th birthday of the VHS VCR. Now that a couple of weeks have passed and the sting has subsided a little, perhaps we can do a bit of reflecting on the video format that dominated the 1980s and '90s (but was born in the '70s). 



The year 1976 was marked by several serious technological milestones. The year of the US' bicentennial saw America land Viking 2 on Mars and introduce the first space shuttle -- the Enterprise OV-101. In the computer world, IBM introduced the first laser printer -- the IBM 3800 -- and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched Apple.



On 9 September, Chairman Mao passed away in China and across the East China Sea in Japan, the first VHS video cassette recorder (or VCR), the JVC HR 3300, was introduced. It wasn’t the first example of magnetic videotape technology -- that had first been demonstrated in 1951. AVCO had introduced the pre-recorded tapes of their Cartrivision system for sale and rental in 1972. In 1975 Sony had launched the Betamax recording system but it would be VHS that would conquer the home video market.



Although I'm not sure how it was chosen for the honor, the first theatrical film to be commercially released on VHS was a South Korean drama, 청춘교사 (aka The Young Teacher), which had been released to theaters in 1972. It was directed by Kim Ki-duk -- the one who made the daikaiju classic, Yonggary, Monster from the Deep as well a less-well-known-outside-Korea adolescent films like Barefooted Youth (1964) and not the Kim Ki-duk who helmed such internationally acclaimed films as Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003), 3-Iron (2004), Address Unknown (2001), and Time (2006).



The VCR wouldn't come to the US until 4 June, 1977, when it was introduced at a press conference before the Consumer Electronics Show starts in Chicago. Despite Betamax having better picture quality than JVC's VHS, Betamax tapes could only hold an hour's worth of recorded material whereas the capacity of JVC's standard T-120 doubled that. Furthermore, whilst Sony maintained tight control of the Betamax format, JVC immediately licensed out its technology to companies like Sharp and RCA. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, JVC embraced porn, which Sony shunned. By the end its first year, VHS had eroded 40% of Betamax's market share.




When my father bought our family's VCR in 1978, he chose RCA's SelectaVision. Its heft and fake wood grain paneling matched the aesthetics of our living room TV. It didn’t quite have a remote control -- there was a portable control panel connected by maybe a ten foot long cable. The machine also had a dew indicator because supposedly humidity could make it stop working although I don't remember that ever happening even in the swampiest Missouri summers of my childhood.




VHS surpassed Betamax in sales in 1981 -- the same year the doomed, phonograph-like CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) was released after fifteen years of delay. Other rival technologies would follow. VCD (Video Compact Disc) debuted in 1993 and quickly became the format of film producers and consumers in the developing world. In 1997, a popular weather drama, Twister, was the first Hollywood film made available on DVD. The awful and evil DIVX (Digital Video Express) was introduced in 1998 (and had its plug pulled none-too-soon the following year). All of these formats boasted potentially superior image and sound quality to that of magnetic tapes (although VCDs often looked worse and LDs (LaserDisc) often trumped all other contemporaneous formats).




VHS still had at least one major leg up on the competition – the ease with which it allowed users to record (and re-record) content from their video cameras and televisions. Who among those alive back then didn’t amass a collection of home movies, soap operas, episodes of Manimal, and collections of music videos? My music promo compilations – laboriously culled from programs like MuchMusic’s City Limits and RapCity, BET’s Rap City, and MTV’s 120 Minutes and Yo! MTV Raps (and interspersed with selected TV ads) remained among my prize collections for many years. Digital Video Recorders like TiVo were introduced to the market in 1999 but were slow to catch on. By 2006 were still only present in 1.2% of households.




And, as with audio cassettes vs CDs, there are still thousands (maybe millions if you consider porn) of films that have never been released on digital formats – classics like Captain Eo (1986) and Walk Proud (1979) (which, of course, can both easily be watched online as can most others). Finally, if it weren’t for VHS, there would probably be no TV Carnage, no Future Schlock, and no Everything is Terrible!, and no Tim and Eric Awesome Show ...no Nam June Paik!



HD DVDs and Blu-Ray hit the markets in 2006, pleasing people who felt that the problem with movies was that their resolution wasn't high enough -- but far more ground-breaking and detrimental to the popularity all physical was the Internet and the launch of YouTube and Dailymotion in 2005. Although in their early days, shared video content was regularly taken down as quickly as it was put up, over time they and other video-sharing websites were part of the rise of online streaming. In 2006, advertising-supported free porn hosting service websites based on the YouTube appeared.




In 2006 the Canadian film History of Violence was the last “Hollywood” film to be released on VHS. In 2008, JVC produced its last standalone VHS VCR. Then, signaling that there was at least nostalgia for the format, promo copies of the independent House of the Dead (2009) were released on VHS to giddy response. So how about it Cassette Store Day people? Maybe next year exclusive video cassette releases!

*****

The Art of the 12 Inch Die Cut Pt. 4

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, July 10, 2011 09:55pm | Post a Comment

Check out last year's gallery here.