FAQ – Why do some video tapes play too quickly?

By | 15th September 2017

VHS video tapes were available in various lengths with the most common recording duration being 180 minutes.  In early machines a standard play mode ‘VHS SP’ a 180 minute VHS tape could record for 3 hours. Later on Long Play mode ‘VHS LP’ was introduced. This doubled the available recording time stated on the tape so a 3 hour tape would hold 6 hours in LP mode. There was a trade off in terms of picture quality but it remained acceptable for most people recording TV shows.

LP mode tapes were recorded at half the speed of SP mode. Most VHS recorders that had LP mode could auto-detect its presence and adjust the playback speed so that the tape played at the correct speed.

VHS Super Long Play SLP or Extended Play EP

A later development of the VHS format saw the introduction of Extended Play ‘VHS EP’ or Super Long Play ‘VHS SLP’ recording mode. In SLP mode the recording speed was reduced even further allowing a 3 hour tape to hold 9 hours of recordings. Many VHS players did not support EP/SLP mode tapes. If you try playing an SLP recoding in a non-SLP machine the tape will appear to be playing at high speed with a distorted, unstable picture. The audio may sound like it has been speeded up or may not play at all.

If you have a VHS video tape that’s playing too quickly then it’s very likely that the player you are using does not support either LP or SLP.

VHS remote with SLP button

SLP capable video players should automatically detect the mode and adjust automatically. One way to check which modes your player supports is to look at the remote control or the front panel buttons. The terms EP and SLP were interchangeable and mean the same thing.

Preserving LP, EP and SLP recordings

Analogue VHS videotapes were just about good enough for home video recordings. LP and SLP had a negative impact on the image quality. However, it is possible to recover these recordings at the correct speed and convert them to a modern, digital format such as MP4 for SmartTVs, DVD or any other digital video file format.

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