Although video and film are two very different mediums of representation, they overlap in significant ways, and their relationship continues to evolve on many levels. Both technologies combine images and sounds that are projected on screens to be viewed; both are time-based media; both have the capacity to reproduce reality accurately; and both are equally capable of distorting and manipulating reality. The literal and technical similarities might end there, but video and film are increasingly enmeshed and their differences blurred, to the extent that some detractors of video have already mourned the death of cinema, claiming that it has been overtaken and replaced by video. On the other hand, video can be seen as an extension of cinema that has expanded and amplified the possibilities of what was called in the early days "motion pictures." With the introduction of digital technology, the scope of cinema will only continue to expand.

The history of video must take into account its many distinct uses, from entertainment to surveillance, art to home video. Although videotape was available in the mid-1950s, it did not become widely used in television broadcasting until the 1960s, at which time artists also began to experiment with the technology. In the 1980s home video recording became affordable and hugely popular, along with VCRs and the proliferation of films on video. While the former constituted a veritable revolution in terms of access to the means of production, the latter had an equally important impact on the distribution of cinema and the ways that movies are watched. VCRs also made it possible to record television programs, giving TV viewers more control over broadcast schedules.

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