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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

How was film put on VHS back in the day?

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I'm pretty sure they always used telecine machines, which are basically the same process they use today. Back then they did have another machine, which was a projector with a CRT camera built-in, but they were pretty shitty. I doubt any studio vhs masters were done that way. Maybe for the porn industry or some low budget movies, but not the studio films. The telecine machines automatically did the 3:2 pulldown and outputted 29.97i. 

So basically an IP or IN of the film would be dropped off to a facility with the matching magnetic audio. They would do a scene by scene grade and real-time transfer to a 2" or 1" video tape machine. Then they would transfer the audio separately using "insert" edits on to the videotape.  The final tape would have all of the content that would go onto the VHS tape. 

The duplicating system was quite simple as well, they'd simply had a bunch of VHS machines in a room and load tapes into them. There was a master start button where they would start recording, first black and then it would auto switch to the 2" or 1" master. Over the years, the only major differences is the addition of digital telecine machines and digital video tape machines, which took over in the late 80's/early 90's. High Definition would have come around the same time where they would have made HD masters for SD releases. 

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Telecine to an intermediate format then duplication with VHS copy banks - essentially the same process that existed for the popular life of VHS.

The very earliest telecines would have used specially-struck low-contrast prints. Since these would have been colour-corrected in the same way as a release print, less colour correction would be applied at the telecine stage - ideally just a set up and let it run.

As telecines and the associated technology advanced through the 80s, it became more possible to transfer directly from negative, which produced better pictures but required scene by scene colour correction.

When digital intermediate became commonplace, naturally the VHS would have been derived from files, even on film-originated stuff.

Beyond that it's been basically the same process up to the present day.

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