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Everyone can recall their favourite film to watch on tape. That square-cropped version you remember rewinding just as much as playing forward. There was an easiness to watching VHS tapes: the tape always remembered where you stopped; you could skip parts to your heart’s content; and no need to find a remote to select play on the menu. You may have even mastered the skill of skipping all the adverts when fast-forwarding the beginning.
We’ve put together a top ten list of classic films we all loved to watch on VHS. Find out whether your favourite movie made the cut:
Have you really seen Star Wars if you didn’t watch (one of) the original versions on VHS?
George Lucas paved the way for capitalising on films through home videos. His production company’s insistence on revamping Star Wars by issuing new releases with improved audio, screen ratios and even edits of the movies delighted (and annoyed) fans to no end.
Everyone had their version of Star Wars on tape that they believed to be the best way to watch the film. Each new release came with unique, stunning artwork covering the boxes and sometimes collectable items if you invested in the trilogy. Disney+’s version will never compare to the original Star Wars releases on tape.
The Wizard of Oz is infamous for bringing technicolour to the screen. Although it was not the first video to be watched on home televisions in colour, it was still a film to marvel at when colour TV’s became popular in England through the 1980s.
Not only was it a fun history lesson to teach children about the wonders of colour television. But, the poor special effects of monkeys tied to string flying through the sky and painted backdrops made it perfect for watching on a standard definition tape. Who would want to see that in Ultra High Definition?
One of the later releases on this list, Jurassic Park earnt a place in everyone’s households for its high-quality production and epic storyline. In addition, the combination of science fiction with horror gave the film an edge that other family-friendly films at the time didn’t have. In fact, the movie ranked as the 5th most popular film ever bought on tape.
Jurassic Park answered everyone’s question about what would happen if dinosaurs were to walk on Earth again.
That’s the answer. The special effects and realistic T-Rex saturated everyone’s need to visualise what it would look like to walk next to dinosaurs—a fantastic film for every dinosaur lover out there and one to watch again.
It goes without saying that E.T. would be on this list alongside Jurassic Park. Spielberg’s classics ruled the eighties and nineties because of their family-centric storylines and revolutionary special effects. Likewise, E.T. touched many of our hearts as the film focused on a dysfunctional family home where the siblings learn to work together to ensure that the alien makes it home safely.
A pop-culture phenomenon, E.T. had a special edition VHS release in 2002 with higher quality effects and never seen before footage to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Did anyone actually enjoy watching Sound of Music?
It didn’t matter. The musical tracks composed by Robert Wise and sung by Julie Andrews meant it was ideal for any parent wanting to catch a kip whilst entertaining the kids. The Sound of Music was a comfort film through and through. Although not as popular today, it will always be in our hearts as the tape to watch on a rainy day.
I’m going to be honest with you if this list matched the top 10 favourite films watched on VHS, then it would have been a top 10 of Disney animated films. Of course, there were many popular choices for us to choose from, such as The Lion King. But, The Little Mermaid is one many of us fondly remember only watching on tape.
Let’s not forget the controversial artwork on the original VHS release that banned the tape in shops and caused a new cover released in 1990. The original artwork looked very similar to the one kept in many of our houses. But, if you looked closely at the golden castle in the background, you would see that one of the spires resembled a not-so child-friendly male body part. This rare but naughty version of The Little Mermaid now sells for up to £200 on eBay.
A film smeared in our minds for its ghostly horror. Bill Murray earnt this tape’s place on our shelves as we fell for his sardonic Dr Peter Venkman. Ghostbusters‘ infamous theme tune and logo have left a lasting memory in everyone’s minds. But, sadly, we will only remember the VHS edition for its poor aspect ratio that cropped Ernie Hudson out of so many scenes.
Loved by all, Grease is still watched on repeat today. The film encompasses the rollercoaster of young love with some of the best musical hits ever written. And, let’s not forget the eye candy of John Travolta.
Grease stood the test of time when released for home viewing. The film’s 20th Anniversary Edition release made an extra $28 million from cinema and home movie viewings in 1998. To make you feel really old, Grease has recently been released on Blur-ray in 4K Ultra HD for its 40th Anniversary in 2018. Please take me back to the days of tapes!
Okay. I never said that this list was for the best films ever released on VHS. Jumanji may never be a cult classic – but people did love to watch it on tape.
Ever thought you could hear the drumbeats too?
Finding a dusty covered tape of Jumanji on your brother’s shelf added a whole new layer of meaning after watching this film. The fear of participating in this game lingered over any child watching it at too young of an age. The fear of participating in the game was not helped by physically pushing this tape into the VCR player, making any tape viewer feel involved with the game.
“Does anyone know where The Snowman tape is?”
It always felt like a ceremonious occasion when my Mum would finally find The Snowman tape behind the Christmas decorations. The film’s short duration always made it the perfect movie to watch between decorating the Christmas tree. Even the physicality of owning the tape always made the whole occasion feel unique and personal to my family. Unfortunately, this participation in a family tradition of rewatching the one Christmas film you owned will never have the same feeling thanks to the convenience of streaming services.
Is your favourite VHS tape still sitting on your shelf? Bring it back to life by using a film digitisation service like Digital Converters.
A film franchise 28 years in the making; Jurassic Park has reigned success again-and-again with each sequel it makes. With the third instalment of Jurassic World coming this year, we reflect on how the original film captured the public’s attention and became the 5th most popular VHS tape of all time.
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) is a culturally significant film in Hollywood for pioneering new visual effects and reflecting the changing political climate in America. In the opening weekend, Jurassic Park achieved a record-breaking $50 million box office sale. After a year of being played in the cinema, the film had obtained $916 million before being released on VHS. To know that their budget was only £96 million, you get an idea of the magnitude of this film’s achievement.
The success of its box office and VHS sales were driven by the film’s production, marketing, and commodification. Combine this with a family orientated storyline of a group working together to escape the monstrous danger surrounding them – and you’ve got yourself a Spielberg blockbuster.
However, before we can understand Jurassic Park’s success, we first need to delve into America’s politics during the cinematic release.
6 months before Jurassic Park’s release, Bill Clinton was welcomed in as the United States’ new President. Within the first month of his presidency, he had reversed the family planning restrictions prohibiting women from getting an abortion.
6 months after Jurassic Park’s release, the Republicans won most of the seats in Office. There became a focus in American politics to maintain traditional American ideals.
Since the Republicans had won most seats, Clinton signed a bill called the “Defence of Marriage Act”. This act was designed to “protect” the institution of marriage as a union of one man to one woman – the conservative, nuclear ideal—an ideal which was heavily focused on Jurassic Park’s storyline.
“…those stories that become consumable by a large popular audience provide a good guide to the more conservative cultural narratives of the present.” – Laura Briggs and Jodi I. Kelber-Kaye, “There Is No Unauthorized Breeding in Jurassic Park”: Gender and the Uses of Genetics.”
Science fiction films tend to show us a narrative different from the Western cultural norm. Moreover, they highlight the dangers of living in a world different from the political situation that we live in. In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs represent the dangers and uncontrollable nature of experimenting with genetics.
The dinosaurs represent the anxiety around the science of controlled breeding. Through being created in the lab, they represent the mix of being technological and organic. In the film, the dinosaurs were designed by extracting the DNA from a mosquito’s blood found inside an amber stone. The visiting characters learn that they created all the dinosaurs as females to prevent the dinosaurs from breeding and control their test environment.
However, the scientists used frog DNA to fill the genetic make-up needed to clone the animals. Little did they know that the frog’s DNA they had chosen to use was of an ambisexual breed – meaning that they had the capability of changing gender to procreate. The famous words of Ian Malcolm ring true as the female dinosaurs find a way to evolve and represent the uncontrollable danger of meddling with genetics and controlling breeding.
Since Spielberg directed Jurassic Park, there had to be a family-friendly spin on an army of monstrous dinosaurs rampaging around an island. At the beginning of the film, the audience is introduced to Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler: a couple struggling with their differences over having children. Ellie being all for beginning a family, and Alan thoroughly against it. The couple’s arrival to the theme park brought new responsibilities as they (well, Alan) were landed with protecting the owner’s grandchildren from the danger of the dinosaurs.
“It’s like a treehouse. Your dad ever built you one?” – Alan Grant rescuing Tim after their jeep falls over a cliff edge and lands in a tree.
By the end of the film, Ellie and Alan are surrogate parents holding and leading the children to the helicopter to escape the island. The message is clear that their survival is based on the group of characters working together as a nuclear family; with Alan showing his paternal leadership, he puts his arm around the now elderly-appearing Hammond and guides him to safety.
Scientific progression with cloning and manipulating genetics is shown as threatening the natural and traditional family. Like the Republican anxiety about marriage and abortion, Jurassic Park tells us there is safety in tradition.
Without the political agenda, it is hard to deny that Jurassic Park’s attraction was the visual effects. The CGI was an iconic development in Hollywood’s film production. Hence, the original film trailer avoided displaying the CGI dinosaurs to lure film lovers into seeing the cinema’s pioneering technology.
The fascination, adoration, and apprehension created in Jurassic Park are a homage to the monster film. By limiting big spectacular displays of the monster, the audience’s imagination is left to fill in the gaps. The dark setting and stormy weather in the film plays into this as Spielberg purposefully uses partial, close-up shots or shadows of the dinosaurs to build suspense. In fact, by using clever camera angles and lighting, the film only had 14 minutes of visual effects – only four of those minutes were the iconic CGI we remember Jurassic Park for today.
Spielberg captured the public’s attention and left them hungry for more by withholding the spectacular visual display of the dinosaurs.
If there is one thing Jurassic Park satirises, it is our capitalist desire to commodify anything new and exciting. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, it is at the expense of the consumer. Ian Malcolm outlines this problem after Hammond explains his idea to make a dinosaur-themed park:
“Yeah, but John, if Pirates of the breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
The irony being Universal Studios building a water ride simulating the fear and adrenaline rush of being attacked by dinosaurs. This year also welcomes a new Velociraptor rollercoaster ride paying homage to the success of ‘Jurassic World’. It is an inescapable thought that experiencing a dinosaur-filled theme park is (and dare I say it?) sexy.
The commodification of Jurassic Park is the final reason why the film has captured so many people’s hearts. The initial VHS release came with a special edition gift set of a DNA carry case, an educational book on dinosaurs, an InGen security pass, 3D hologram watch and map of Isla Nublar. The gift set toys with the theory of dinosaur cloning being plausible as it mixes the factual with fiction.
“…before you even know what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a lunch box” – Ian Malcolm speaking about the dangers on capitalising on dinosaurs.
The risk, wonder, and adventure: Spielberg’s film captivates us by showing a world we could never live in. The VHS to DVD releases combined with playful commodities has placed Jurassic Park into a staple part of Western film culture. Furthermore, its innovative visual effects and theorisation around the dangers of creating dinosaurs with a capitalist agenda cultivate a world in which Jurassic Park could exist.
Have you found your collection of Jurassic Park VHS tapes at home? At Digital Converters, we can convert your tapes to digital formats. Follow the link here.
It is coming up to Christmas 1995: you are weaving around shops finding presents for your children. That’s when you stumble into the video aisle in Woolworths. There you see it: orange and shining in all its’ Disney glory – The Lion King on VHS.
You know it’s a hit with your children because you were dragged to the cinema to see it (and let’s be honest – you loved it too). So, you buy it. Along with the 32 million other people across the globe who made this film the top-selling VHS tape ever.
26 years after the release of The Lion King, the success of its VHS sales and box office numbers have not been forgotten. Last year, Disney released a photorealistic remake of the film which played with fan’s nostalgia and made Disney over a billion dollars. In fact, it did so well it surpassed the original film’s box office numbers and became the 7th highest grossing film of all time.
But how did the original Lion King gravitate such a huge success?
With the film being released in 1994, it was Disney’s 5th success in their renaissance period. This collection of films brought back Disney’s classic hand drawn animation style and focused on telling well-known stories. Only this time was an exception: The Lion King is the first original story created by Disney.
(Now, I know that anyone who has studied Shakespeare will stand their ground and say that The Lion King was based off Hamlet. And yes, you would be correct for saying that. However, when storyboarding the film Scar was not the brother of Mufasa. It was only when the creators saw the resemblance between their story and Hamlet that they decided to take inspiration from Shakespeare’s tragedy.)
The interesting part is that Disney never expected The Lion King to be such a huge success. Moreover, that it would topple Pocahontas on box office numbers and VHS sales. When Disney decided to split the studio between producing Pocahontas and The Lion King many of the top animators worked on the former believing it was the more prestigious film. This left codirectors, Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, with new animators and the chance to experiment with new 3D effects in the film.
Thankfully, this new opportunity to experiment with new techniques, such as the Rack Focus technique (changing the field of focus of the lens in a continuous shot) in their animation. When comparing the two films, there is a clear difference in how The Lion King pushed to be innovative and use new animation styles. Unlike Pocahontas which reflect the traditional Disney style and darker colour palettes.
In terms of pushing boundaries and changing the sphere of Disney, The Lion King was immediately seen as unique from their first theatrical trailer release. They released the entire four minute opening scene of the song ‘Circle of Life’ which highlighted the films new 3D effect and Rack Focus technique.
More to the point, it advertised the cracking soundtrack composed by Elton John and Tim Rice.
At the time, it was strange for Disney to collaborate with a celebrity musician and it wasn’t easy to organise. Tim Rice had to argue his case against Roy E. Disney (vice-chairman of Disney at the time) for why he believed they should collaborate with a rock star. Unfortunately, a large part of Disney’s grudge was based on him not liking popular music.
As the film developed, new challenges arose with the soundtrack: one being how ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ should be sung and presented in the film. Initially, it was proposed that the two comedic characters, Timon and Pumbaa. However, Elton was not happy with this exclaiming that it is supposed to be a traditional Disney love ballad and should not be sung by a “big, stinky warthog”. He even had to argue for this song to be kept in the film after watching an early screening of the film and noticing it had been cut. Praise be that he did, because that song earnt The Lion King the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Without Elton John’s involvement the soundtrack would never have been as successful as it was. It is still the best-selling album of an animated film and the success of involving Elton began a new era of collaborating with celebrities on animated soundtracks.
One aspect of marketing which really drove the sale of VHS tapes of The Lion King was through its merchandise. A great perk to selling animated characters is that they are exceptionally adaptable and amenable when creating toys and other commodities. Since the film was aimed at children and based around animated animals, merchandising toys and collectibles became, well, child’s play. For instance, when McDonalds and Burger King included toys from The Lion King in their kid’s meals their sales soared. Children loved collecting those cuddly, cartoon characters.
More so, the reason why VHS sales of The Lion King topped the charts is because it’s a children’s film. Unlike adults, children love to watch films and television shows on repeat. It is comforting for them to re-watch films and an easy way for them to learn new vocabulary and understand the story. Studies have shown that children predicting the plot of a repeatedly watched film is a win for them and a confirmation that they have grasped the story. The Lion King even had musical numbers for children to learn new song lyrics and copy dance movements.
For parents, buying the VHS was an easy option to keep children entertained. The best part being the sturdy, plastic casing of the tape which prevented too many accidents from happening to the film – unlike the fragile DVD which came after.
Have you got a collection of Disney VHS tapes lying around your house? You can transfer all your VHS to digital formats and have all your favourite films on a singular memory stick!
Follow the link here to get started!
Did you film 40 minutes of the bottom of your handbag? Want to create a moving montage of your best moments? By using an editing software, you can tailor your digitised videos exactly how you would like them.
In this article, we will cover the requirements needed to edit your footage – as well as our top recommendations for editing software!
Available on: PC, Mac, iOS and Android.
We thoroughly endorse this software – and for good reason! You’ll be hard-pressed to find an editing software as elegant, intuitive, and feature-packed as Filmora.
Filmora offers all the functionality of any high-end editing software in a simple format. Its user-friendly interface does a good job for any first time editor. If you fancy really pushing the boat out and jazzing up your converted footage: Filmora offers various titles, visual effects, and even a library of royalty-free music to bring your home movies to life!
Unfortunately, there is a cost to Filmora with a lifetime licence priced at $69.99 (£51.14). There is a free trial if you would like to test the waters before buying – or, an annual subscription for those only wanting a short-term answer to editing their videos.
Official Page: https://filmora.wondershare.com/
Available on: PC, Mac, iOS and Android
Another editing software available on multiple platforms, Adobe Premiere Rush is a cheaper alternative to Filmora (at least in the short term) despite carrying the Adobe name.
Adobe Premiere Rush may lack some of the features of Filmora, but this also results in it being less complex and easier to learn quickly. One of the perks of Adobe are there interactive tutorials to help you learn the basics of their programmes.
If you’re looking for a fast, effective editing software for a one-off project or short-term use, the £9.98 per month price tag is more than justified. (Just make sure to cancel your subscription when you’re done!)
Official Page: https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/premiere-rush.html
Available on: Mac, iOS
If you own an Apple computer, chances are you already have iMovie. It comes bundled for free with new Mac purchases – and is easy to download if not installed.
Apple is renowned for their innovative, stylish and simplistic design; and this philosophy is carried over to their software. iMovie’s user interface is very easy on the eye without much of a “form over function” issue. iMovie also includes all the basic editing features, such as: splicing, colour effects and even a green screen feature.
Once your masterpiece is ready to be enjoyed you can easily share your masterpiece on social media with iMovie’s seamless social media integration feature.
Official Page: https://www.apple.com/uk/imovie/
Available on: Windows and Mac
If you’re looking for a free and easy software to do simple edits on your footage, Avidemux could be for you. This software is completely free and offers a few basic features: cutting and connecting different clips, adding subtitles, and cropping/resizing your footage.
Avidemux is a great option if you want to cut together some chosen clips from your footage. It may not be the most flashy (or even the most functional) but it performs the basics well. What’s not to love?
Official Page: https://sourceforge.net/projects/avidemux/