Extinct. According to Webster’s Dictionary, it is defined as no longer active or no longer existing. Industry experts will tell you that VHS/time lapse recorders are just that—on the way toward becoming extinct. A dying breed. With the efficiencies of digital, VHS is not long for the security world.

Not so fast, not yet, anyway.

According to Frank Abram, general manager of Panasonic Digital Communications & Security Company, Security & Vision Systems Group, “Analog based VHS

and SVHS time lapse recorders are still effective for the same reasons they were prior to non-linear digital recorders. They provide high quality images, are a reliable proven technology and are more cost effective than ever due to manufacturing efficiencies. Demand for VHS and SVHS remains high because the technology has proven to be effective over the years. Although we foresee a gradual transition to digital disk recorders across the spectrum of applications, VHS and SVHS are still very popular recording devices.” At a recent congressional hearing, Abram testified before the United States Congress on new technologies available to help secure Federal buildings and facilities. Digital disk recorders were the focus of the section on recording technologies since they represent the newest and most advanced form of recording for security applications. In the written submission, it was very important to include mention of analog-based time lapse recorders because of their popularity and continued utility. “Although the advent of digital hard drive recorders represents a new plateau in recording technology for the security industry, numerous applications still exist for conventional tape-based VHS and SVHS format time-lapse recorders, which have been the mainstay recording technologies for security professionals,” an excerpt of the written testimony stated.

Outdated Equipment?

Driving home the fact that resolution is extremely important, Charlie Pierce, president, L.R.C. Electronics, asks, what is our job? Security is a five-fold job. 1. Prevention 2. Deterrence 3. Detection and annunciation 4. Response 5. Production of evidence. The position of the police is changing: The jobs of police are to respond, gather and produce evidence, apprehend and present a case. “If we do our job right, their job becomes that much easier. The police are getting more involved on the production of evidence from the perspective of prevention and deterrence, and they are getting security companies more involved in their actions. If we are going to produce evidence, then what are we going to need to do that? The smaller the image is, the harder it is to blow them up. So the better the resolution has to be on the playback. VHS and analog recorders don’t have the greatest playbacks, but they are far better than our digital cousins,” says Pierce. “Our job in security is to produce evidence, be it to prove somebody guilty or innocent. The majority of the time we prove people innocent. It is hard to prove somebody guilty or innocent if you can’t tell who the hell they are—if you haven’t enough resolution.” Analog is not antique at this point. “It’s a little slower and not

as cool, but it’s not outdated by

any means.”

Supply and Demand

“According to our sales figures, the demand is still there and it is directly related to the price. Digital is still priced relatively high and the VCR is a piece of equipment that the installer and dealers are familiar with. There is a high comfort level in selling and installing VHS. They will go into a job knowing exactly what the outcome is and how long it takes to install,” says Cheryl Bard, product marketing manager, Philips.

John Kaloukian, senior marketing manager, Sony Electronics, Visual Imaging & Security Systems Division is in agreement, “During this transition period, analog recorders still have a place in the market. One key reason is the lack of understanding by dealers as to the digital technology. This education process and comfort factor for the dealers will take some time. For the time being, dealers/users of product are comfortable with VHS recorders. In addition to this, VHS recorders still have a cost advantage.”

The demand for the VCR is still going to continue to be rather high within the near future, although the number show the shift is moving toward digital. Larger companies that depend on networks use digital more. “Low market segments are still using the VCRs. Our statistics show price is a key issue,” says Bard.

On the Other Hand...

“I don’t think there is any major buyer out there of analog technology today. Everybody that is making a major decision on the next buy round—if their VCRs are wiring out and they are about to go into another purchase— is seriously considering digital and not thinking analog. Its place is in smaller applications where people are willing to deal with the pace of things. For major conversions, people will be going to a digital solution,” offers Ken Maughan, product manager, DVR product line, March Networks, Ottawa, Canada.