Right, The MTV strap! What is it?
When MTV first started in Europe on the 1st of August 1987, we were far away from the automatic play-outs used nowadays, which now allow to generate all kinds of on-screen live graphics, thanks to computers.
A simple way of always having titles on music videos without the need of doing it manually was the pre-recording of captions onto the videos.
All music videos were pre-titled and re-recorded on a new tape, which included both the clean and the titled version.
MTV Europe chose a style which is known by insiders as "the MTV strap", which you can see above.
This kind of graphic consisted in a coloured strap where song title and possibly album title were written. Artist name appeared outside the strap, left-top of it. Various combination of colours were used, and these slowly changed through the years, until late 2000 when this way of titling music videos was abandoned.
As the regionalization process of MTV in Europe started to become reality in 1997, not just those graphics were abandoned on the new launched regional channels, but also the pre-recording of titles on videos, in favour of an automatic way of titling the videos, live, thanks to the use of computers. The first local versions of MTV in Europe were MTV Germany (March 1997) and MTV UK (July 1997). The third was MTV Italy (September 1997), which was an exception, as prerecorded videos with the use of the classic "MTV strap" was kept in use until late 2000. After the launch of MTV Italy, we had a total of two different channels using the MTV pre-recorded strap, the other being MTV Europe. It was, however, March 1998 that MTV decided to switch to the new system on MTV Europe too, adopting its own automatic graphics. June 1998 saw the launch of the next local channel, MTV Nordic, which adopted the same graphics of MTV Europe. In the year 1999 spin-off channels were launched by MTV UK, all of them using the new automatic titles. The use of automatic titles gives some advantages, the main being the possibility to change graphics every once in a while in line with a new look for the whole channel, or having different graphics on some special shows, as content (i.e. artist, song, etc.) is feed by a generic data file, such as an Excel page in the MTV computers.
The same system has been applied to the new channels for the year 2000: MTV France, MTV Espaņa and MTV NL. By the end of the year 2000 MTV Italy stopped using pre-recording titles and the MTV strap became history. But...
It has not, however, completely disappeared from our screens. It happens sometimes that pre-recorded videos are mistakenly played out instead of the clean copy, and so, most of the times, what we get is the old MTV strap partially covered by automatic titles. After the year 2000 it was a quite rare event, but it can happen on all of the MTV channels in Europe, and during recent times it has become a little bit less rare, especially on channels such as MTV Adria and VH1 Classic Europe. On MTV Adria it probably happens because it is not based in London, and everytime they need a video they have to ask for it in London. Titled video is the first to appear on the tape - or digital file - and they play the first one, sometimes even both the titled and the clean in a row. On VH1 Classic it is probably due to the fact that since 2007 the channel is produced in Poland, where they have better music programmers, and they are really digging out obscure videos from the library. The channel is still played out from London, and everytime they have to play a video which is not already digitalized, maybe the first and easier to find copy available of that video is the one with pre-recorded titles. Bear in mind that MTV Networks Europe in London has a pre-recorded titles copy of all videos released until the end of the year 2000, hence the library with straps is massive.
Let's take a look at all of the MTV straps that we were able to capture in recent years. You will notice that some of them are covered by automatic graphics.
More on this topic, about fonts and colours, will follow soon!
Now, just click on the channels on the left!