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Betacam formats

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Betacam is a high-quality analog and digital video format introduced (in analog) by Sony in 1982. Although heavy by today's standards, the first Betacam camcorders were considerably lighter than the video cameras of the era, a welcome breakthrough for cameramen shooting on location. Designed for professional TV recording, time codes are built into its 1/2" helical scan format to support precise editing of the recorded material.

After its introduction in 1981, Sony's Betacam became the standard professional field camera for location video work. Its adoption on an international scale was no small accomplishment given the brutal competition that characterized the "format wars" in television equipment manufacturing--a high-stakes, capital intensive struggle that produced scores of competing and incompatible high-end recording formats in less than a decade. The Panasonic Recam, Bosch QuarterCam, and RCA Hawkeye "alternatives" all proved costly losers to Sony in the race for the first successful broadcast quality "camcorder," a single unit containing both camera and videocassette recorder.

Digital versions of Betacam VTRs can typically play back analog cartridges. In 2001, Sony announced it would no longer make analog camcorders. Following are the Betacam formats.


Format Comparison
Analog Formats Recording Method
Betacam Component Analog
Betacam SP Component Analog (metal tape)
Digital Formats Compression
Digital Betacam 4:2:2 (DCT)
Betacam SX 4:2:2 (MPEG-2)
MPEG IMX 4:2:2 (MPEG-2)
HDCAM 4:2:2 (DCT)
HDCAM SR 4:4:4 (MPEG-4)


See also

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