Betacam is a series of half-inch professional videotape products developed
by Sony from 1982 onwards. All Betacam variants include the original ‘Betacam’
to Betacam SP and Digital Betacam. They all use the same shape cassettes,
meaning vaults and other storage facilities do not have to be changed
when upgrading to a new format.
Each cassette comes
in two sizes: S and L. Betacam cameras only load S tapes whilst the VTRs
can play both S and L tapes. The cassette shell and case for each Betacam
cassette is coloured differently depending on the format allowing for
easy visual identification.
It is an analog S-video format it stored the luminance (Y) in one track
and the chrominance (C) on another, performing Compressed Time Division
Multiplex, or CTDM. This splitting of channels provides a crisp, true
broadcast quality product with 300 lines of horizontal luma resolution
along with 120 lines of chroma resolution (versus ~30 for Betamax and
The original Betacam
format records on cassettes loaded with oxide-formulated tape, which were
to all intents and purposes theoretically the same as used by its consumer
market-oriented predecessor Betamax. A blank Betamax-branded tape will
work on a Betacam deck and a Betacam-branded tape can be used to record
in a Betamax deck but this practice was discoraged by Sony.
Betacam tapes have a standard play time of 3 hours.