U-matic is the name of a videocassette format first presented by Sony in 1969 and introduced to the market in 1971. The videotape was 3/4" wide, so the format is often known simply as 3/4". It was among the first video formats to contain tape inside a cassette as opposed to the various open-reel formats of the time.
“U”-matic was named after the shape of the tape path when it was threaded around the helical video head drum, which resembled the letter “U.” Unlike most other cassette-based tape formats, the supply and Take-up_Reel" class="linkify">take-up reels in the cassette worked in opposite directions during playback – one reel would run clockwise while the other would run counter-clockwise.
In the early 1980s, Sony introduced the semi backward compatible High-band or BVU (Broadcast Video U-matic) format, and the “original” U-matic format became known as “Low-band.”
Ordinary analog 3/4” videocassettes offer two discreet audio channels with limited headroom and a time code track (it's fairly common to see time code recorded onto channel 2 of the cassette as a safety track as well). The format is typically unsuitable for use as an audio source except in the most extreme of cases.
U-matic would also see use for the storage of digital audio data, however. Most digital audio recordings from the 1980s were digitally mastered to U-matic tape – the PCM 1610/1630.
U-matic is no longer used as a mainstream production format, yet it has had such a lasting appeal as a cheap, hardwearing format that many television facilities around the world still have a U-matic machine for archive playback of material recorded in the 1980s. The Library of Congress facility in Culpeper, VA holds thousands of its titles on U-matic videotape as a means of providing access copies and proof for copyright deposit of old television broadcasts and films.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License found at http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html. It uses material from the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U-matic.
The workhorse of post production.
A 1630 3/4" U-matic tape. Like a superhero, its disguise as a mild-mannered analog videocassette masks its true identity - this tape may in fact be the lost original CD master for a film score!