BETACAM

Digital BetacamBetacam

Betacam

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Betacam is family of half-inch professional video tape products. It was developed by Sony in 1982. All Betacam variants from (plain) Betacam to BetacamSP and Digital Betacam (and additionally, HDCAM & HDCAMSR), use the same shape cassettes.

Betacam / Betacam SP

The original Betacam format was launched on August 7, 1982. It is an analog component video format, storing the luminance, “Y”, in one track and the chrominance, on another as alternating segments of the R-Y and B-Y components performing Compressed Time Division Multiplex, or CTDM.

This splitting of channels allows true broadcast quality recording with 300 lines of horizontal luminance resolution and 120 lines chrominance resolution (versus ≈30 for Betamax/VHS), on a relatively inexpensive cassette based format.

Digital Betacam

Digital Betacam (commonly referred to as Digibeta) was launched in 1993. It supersedes both Betacam and BetacamSP, while costing significantly less than the D1 format. S tapes are available with up to 40 minutes running time, and L tapes with up to 124 minutes.

The Digital Betacam format records a lossless 2 to 1 DCT-compressed component video signal at 10-bit YUV 4:2:2 sampling in NTSC (720×486) or PAL (720×576) resolutions at a bitrate of 90 Mbit/s plus four channels of uncompressed 48 kHz / 20 bit PCM-encoded audio. A fifth analog audio track is available for cueing, and a linear timecode track is also used on the tape. It is a popular digital video cassette format for broadcast use.

Another key element which aided adoption was Sony’s implementation of the SDI coaxial digital connection on Digital Betacam decks. Facilities could begin using digital signals on their existing coaxial wiring without having to commit to an expensive re-installation.

HDCAM

HDCAM, introduced in 1997, was the first HD format available in Betacam form-factor, using an 8-bit DCT compressed 3:1:1 recording, in 1080i-compatible downsampled resolution of 1440×1080, and adding 24p and 23.976 PsF modes to later models. The HDCAM codec uses non-square pixels and as such the recorded 1440×1080 content is upsampled to 1920×1080 on playback. The recorded video bitrate is 144 Mbit/s. There are four channels of AES/EBU 20-bit/48 kHz digital audio.

It is used for some of Sony’s cinema-targeted CineAlta range of products (other CineAlta devices use flash storage).

HDCAM SR, introduced in 2003, uses a higher particle density tape and is capable of recording in 10 bits 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 RGB with a bitrate of 440 Mbit/s. The “SR” stands for “Superior Resolution”. The increased bitrate (over HDCAM) allows HDCAM SR to capture much more of the full bandwidth of the HDSDI signal (1920×1080). Some HDCAM SR VTRs can also use a 2× mode with an even higher bitrate of 880 Mbit/s, allowing for a 4:4:4 RGB stream at a lower compression. HDCAM SR uses the new MPEG-4 Part 2 Studio Profile for compression, and expands the number of audio channels up to 12 at 48 kHz/24 bit.

HDCAM SR is used commonly for HDTV television production.