Trade name for Helical scan videocassette recorder (VCR) format that uses 3/4 inch videotape. Originally developed by Sony&reg. Now established as the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Type F videotape format.

In November 1969 Sony launched a new U-format VCR known as the “U-matic®” ¾inch (19.05 mm) recorder / player. As the name suggests, U-type video recorders thread the tape in a “U” pattern around the head drum.

This format became standardised in 1970 and other manufacturers soon released machines using the same cassette. U-matic recorders play at a tape transport speed of 3.75 inches per second and the video head drum scans a complete field of video with each head pass. As a result, U type cassette VTRs record in a nonsegmented video format and are capable of slow-motion and still-frame effects. This machine initially had a 250 line resolution but increased as more development was undertaken.

These machines were initially intended for the educational and high end consumer market. This format survived and was accepted by industry as a means for broadcast and industrial video recording.

Electronic News Gathering (ENG) was a growing field in the second half of the 1970s and much engineering effort went into improving the video quality of the U-format VCRs. Sony introduced a ‘High-Band’ version for the 625/50 market. This extended the FM carrier band to 4.8 MHz to 6.4 MHz for better colour rendition.

The SP U-matic format extended the FM Carrier out further to 5.6 MHz to 7.2 MHz with the colour sub carrier at 924 kHz. This further increased the quality obtained from this format.