The U-matic format has many features which are not available on the domestic formats. If you are not acquainted with the terminology then the jargon can be difficult to understand. This page is intended to explain the most important features in a straight forward manner.

U-matic high band
U-matic superior quality

Low-band, high-band & SP (superior performance)

These are variations of the basic U-matic format. The original U-matic format is known as Lo-Band. The Hi-band system uses increased frequency carriers for improved picture quality and was the very first cassette based broadcast video format. SP, which stands for Superior Performance, is a further enhanced variation on the format which uses chrome tape for better video response and lower noise. This range is exemplified by units such as the BVU-950

Today, with the exception of a few African broadcasters, the SP variant is all but dead. The Low and Hi Band versions live on though. Hi Band is still used in studios as a companion to Betacam and Lo Band is firmly established amongst advertisement agencies and corporate establishments as the industry standard presentation format because of its reliability when compared to domestic alternatives.

Low and Hi-band formats are not interchangeable. Whilst they use the same size tapes a Hi-band recording will play back in black & white on a Lo-band machine.

Audio level controls

Audio levels

These meters and controls are for monitoring and setting audio levels during playback and recording respectively. The Audio limiter, if enabled, ensures high audio signals are automatically reduced to avoid distortion during recording.

Later models also have a noise reduction switch which allows the noise reduction circuits to be switched in and out as needed.

Video Level and Tracking

Video Level and Tracking Controls

This meter shows the amplitude of the video level. During record it is used in conjunction with the video level control to enable the operator to adjust the video level for optimum picture quality. During playback the meter shows the video RF level and allows the tracking control to be set to ensure the maximum signal for best playback results.
Audio mode selection

Audio monitor section

These controls determine which audio tracks are made available to the headphone jacks and monitor outputs on the VTR. The three positions available are Audio Channel 1, Channel 2 and MIX ( like stereo ).
Edit mode

Edit mode selectors

These controls perform edit functions which allow the video and audio tracks to be over dubbed.
Sync and input selectors

Sync mode and input selectors

The mode selector allows the VTR to be synchronized to an external machine, as is required for editing, or a Time Base Corrector to give the picture stability required for broadcast quality.

The input selector switches the VTR input between TV input (8-pin connector), line input (BNC connector) and DUB connector (8-pin din connector).

Dynamic tracking control

DT - Dynamic Tracking

This feature provides noise free pictures during pause and slow speed search modes by moving the video heads to follow the varying angles of the video tracks. When used on a VTR with a Time Base Corrector it gives broadcast quality variable speed playback effects such as slow motion.
Search control

Search control

This control provides tape transport control. Later models have both jog and shuttle functions enabling frame accurate tape control at speeds up to 40 times normal.
Dub connectors

Dub connector

This is a Y/C video connector, very much like the S-Video connector we have today. It is the preferred way to connect two machines together to ensure minimum picture degradation during editing or duplication.

The Y component is the same as a standard "S Video" connector but the C part differs in that it contains the Chrominance but on the colour-under converted sub-carrier 685.991 (Lo-band) 983.803 (Hi-band). To interface Dub to S-Video you will need to modulate C on to a 4.43MHZ (PAL) carrier.


External Sync, Sub-carrier and RF connectors

These connectors are used for connection to external equipment such as a second VTR for editing or a Time Base Corrector. The colour sub-carrier and video sync enable the VTR to lock up to the external device while the video RF signal provides feedback about tape levels and any drop out which might effect playback.
Colour lock and framing controls

Colour lock and colour framing

These controls affect how the VTR reproduces colour. The Colour Framing switch should normally be set to ON but if a shorter pre-roll editing time is needed. E.G, if you can't wait ten seconds for the recorder to lock up the the source machine then you will need to turn the Colour Lock off.

The Colour Lock switch on the other hand should be set to NORMAL unless there is a problem with hues during playback in which case try the upper/lower positions and the colour should correct itself.

Standby control


When this button is pressed it stops the video drum rotating. It is used to put the machine in Standby mode when no functions are required.
Remote / local switch

Remote Control Switch

This switch determines from where the machine is controlled. If set to LOCAL then all functions are operated by the controls on the front panel. When set to REMOTE, the VTR, is controlled by an external device, such as an edit controller, connected through the rear panel.
remote connector 2

Remote Control Connectors / 36-Pin Parallel

This is a remote control port which allows the VTR to be connected to and controlled by any external device with the same interface such as the RM440 edit controller.
RS-422 connector


This is a 9 pin serial control port. It has superseded the 36-pin interface and has become the industry standard interface for connecting video equipment together.

See also Wikipedia - 9-Pin Protocol

System selector

System Select

 This switch is found on models which are capable of operating in more than just the PAL system. Use the switch to select the required system.
Skew control

Tape Skew Control

This control is said to adjust the tape tension. Slide the control to the right or left to obtain a normal picture when picture 'hooking' distortion occurs in the upper part of the screen.
Picture hooking
Picture hooking

The control is normally set to the central position and it will automatically return to the centre position whenever record or edit mode is used.