BETAMAX - Sony's domestic 1/2 inch format, introduced in 1975 (Japan and US) & 1978 (UK and Europe). The "beta" comes from the Japanese word for quality, and Betamax is a higher quality medium than is VHS. Though Betamax was eventually ousted by VHS as the medium of choice for consumers, Beta is still used as a high-quality video medium in the industry. See the Betamax PALsite for more info.
CSS - [Content Scramble System] is a technology created to control access to the content of DVD/VCDs. It is not copy protection system, but rather an access control system: it prevents the playback of discs on "unauthorized" devices. i.e. those with different regional settings ( See Regional Coding Revealed! ) It was part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which is currently under fire for impinging on access and on "fair use" provisions of the current copyright law (dealing with research, education, scholarship, etc.).
DMCA - [ Digital Millennium Copyright Act ] Passed in 1998, the DMCA is a bill designed to bring copyright law up to date with digital media. Among other things,it outlaws the manufacture of, or "trafficking" in, technologies capable of circumventing "technical protection measures" used to restrict access to copyrighted works.
DVD - [Digital Video Disk] a DVD system delivers a picture with over twice the definition of standard VHS. The high-density technology on the DVD disc stores over two times the number of pixels (720 per horizontal line) compared to standard VHS (320 per horizontal line).
NTSC - [National Television Standards Committee] is the standard format used for televisions in most of North and Central America, and Japan. For a complete list of countries, see this DVD regions page . It was adopted in 1953. It calls for 525 lines of resolution at 60 half frames per second
PAL - [Phase Altering Line] is the standard format used for televisions in most of the world (other than the US, Canada, and Japan). For a complete list of countries, see this DVD regions page . It was adopted in 1967. It calls for 625 lines of resolution at 50 half frames per second. PAL TVs are said to give a more consistent hue than NTSC TVs. Brazil uses PAL-M, which has 525 lines of resolution with 60 half frames per second. PAL is, for all intents and purposes, identical to SEACAM.
Regional codings - The regional coding system breaks the countries of the world up into 8 regions. DVDs and VCDs may be coded to play only on DVD/VCD players programmed for a specific regional code. In this way, the coding system is intended to give producers of films more flexibility in how they manage the distribution of their films. It allows them to control pricing, to stagger the release of films, and to, ostensibly, alter films according to specific regional or cultural sensitivities. Go more information go to the Regional Codings Revealed page.
SEACAM - [Systeme Electronique Couleur Avec Memoire]. Identical to PAL. Also adopted in 1967.
Television Formats (PAL/SEACAM & NTSC) - PAL/SEACAM & NTSC are are two different television formats. These formats precede DVDs and VHS/BETA. Because PAL/NTSC relate to the television, the PAL/NTSC format issue is only relevant for DVDplayers (or VCRs) that hook up to a television set. Computer DVD players hooked up to computer display devices (which are commonly neither NTSC nor PAL/SEACAM) will display the content of the DVD irrespective of the format. The same goes for VCRs.
U-Matic - Sony's professional/industrial 3/4 inch video format. It is/was available in two versions: low band and high band. Though practically obsolete, the quality and stability of this format is reputed to be very good.
VCD - [Video-CD or Video Compact Disk] A VCD looks identical to a DVD. It is playable in most all stand alone DVD players (assuming the correct regional settings and PAL/NTSC format). They are also playable on PCs with a DVD player or those with a CD player and MPEG display software [standard on most machines]. Generally, 2 VCDs are required per film (as only about 70 minutes fits on each VCD). The quality is no better (and sometimes slightly worse) than a new VHS tape. VCDs, however, do not degrade as VHS tapes do.
VCR - [Videocassette Recorder] The first VCR was created in 1972 by Phillips. They became widely commercially available in the 1980s.
VHS - [ Video Home System] VHS was JVC's domestic 1/2 inch format, introduced in 1976 (Japan and US) & 1978 (UK and Europe).