A high-quality videotape technology introduced by Sony in 1982. Initially an analog format with digital following later (see Digital Betacam
), Betacam was designed for professional TV recording. Time codes are built into the Betacam 1/2" helical scan format to support precise editing of the recorded material. Betacam evolved from Sony's Betamax consumer format, but with a large increase in tape speed and using component video signal separation rather than composite video (see component video
and composite video
Betacam SP (Superior Performance) came out in 1986, increasing resolution from 300 to 340 lines and adding improvements to the tape and recorders. Using a larger cassette that increased time from 30 to 90 minutes, Betacam SP was widely used in professional applications until Digital Betacam took over in the late 1990s.
A Boon for Camera Operators
Although heavy by today's standards, the first Betacam camcorders were considerably lighter than the video cameras of the era. Betacam was a welcome breakthrough for cameramen shooting on location.
In 2001, Sony announced end of life for its analog Betacam camcorders; however, digital Betacam VTRs can typically play back analog cassettes, and Sony MultiPlayer VTRs support all the Betacam formats. See Digital Betacam
BETACAM FORMATS (Half-Inch Tape)
Intro. Version Recording Method
1982 Betacam Component Analog
1986 Betacam SP Component Analog
Sampling Rate (n:n:n)
SD DIGITAL (Compression Method)
1994 Digital Betacam 4:2:2 (DCT)
1996 Betacam SX 4:2:2 (MPEG-2)
2000 MPEG IMX 4:2:2 (MPEG-2)
1997 HDCAM 3:1:1 (DCT)
2003 HDCAM SR 4:4:4 (MPEG-4)
Betacam VTR and Cassettes
Betacam videotape recorders (VTRs) are not your ordinary home VCRs. Used in professional studios, they cost up to 100 times that of a consumer VHS machine. Betacam is the de facto broadcast videotape format worldwide, and cassettes come in small and large formats.