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Video cassettes and Colour TV

Video clip synopsis – Tim Bowden recalls the technical difficulties of getting programs to air in the early days of news and current affairs.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 4min 44sec
Tags - audiences, broadcasting, change and continuity, media and society, technological change, technology, television, see all tags


Video cassettes and Colour TV

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About the Video Clip


This interview with Tim Bowden was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Tim Bowden is a broadcaster, radio and delivision documentary maker, oral historian and author. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


Area of study 2. Technologies of representation

This area of study focuses on the production of representations by students in two or more media forms. Students then compare how the application of the different media technologies affects the meanings that can be created in the representations. The implications for the distribution and/or consumption of these representations are also discussed.

Different media technologies represent the world in different ways. Each, through its technology, materials, techniques, applications and processes, produces a particular representation of the world. While the different forms of media (for example, television, radio and the internet) have practices that are common, they also have features that result in the production of media products with characteristics that are unique. The use of codes and conventions to convey ideas and meaning in the representations is considered in the context of the media forms in which the technologies were applied and with reference to the specific forms and characteristics of the representations produced.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


Video Cassettes
In 1971 Sony introduced their U-Matic concept to the world. Replacing the half-inch helical – or reel-to-reel – videotape system, the U-Matic featured a single video-cassette with three-quarter inch tape, which made loading tape much easier. At first the units were large table-top machines, but quickly the technology improved and soon they were small enough to be carried about by a production crew.

Both Sony and JVC worked on smaller half-inch video cassette formats for home users, relying on video cassettes. Sony’s format was Betamax, and JVC’s was VHS. Videotape and VCRs made 'filmmaking’ available to the masses because they were relatively cheap and easy to use. Ultimately the VHS system dominated the market because it was cheaper than the Sony format, and was compatible with many more video recorders.

Colour TV
Australian television stations converted to colour on 1 March 1975. Three years later, over half the populations of Sydney and Melbourne owned colour television sets, giving Australia one of the fastest changeovers to colour in the world.

Classroom Activities


Answer the following questions from the Video Clip Context and the video clip itself:

  1. While video may have been cumbersome, what do you think might have been its advantages?
  2. What were the limits placed on production by the technology? How did they work around technological difficulties? What impact do you think video technology has had on:
    1. television broadcasters; and
    2. home users?
  3. Incidents such as the one described by Tim Bowden seem to occur less often as the technology improves. Describe a technological limitation or disaster that you have seen or been involved with either on television or in your own work.

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.