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Sony Betacam SP BVV-5 VTR, docked to a JVC KY-D29 camera head. Sony Betacam SP PVW-2800 Editing VTR. Sony Betacam SP BVW-65 Editing VTP. Sony Betacam SP UVW-1800 Editing VTR. BVW-75, PVW-2800, and UVW-1800 Betacam SP VTRs. Betacam” singly is often used to refer to a Betacam camcorder, a Betacam tape, a Betacam video recorder or the format itself.
The cassette shell and case for each Betacam cassette is colored differently depending on the format, allowing for easy visual identification. There is also a mechanical key that allows a video tape recorder to identify which format has been inserted. Sony had introduced in 1971. 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. However, in later years Sony discouraged this practice, suggesting that the internal tape transport of a domestic Betamax cassette was not well suited to the faster tape transport of Betacam. In particular, the guide rollers tend to be noisy. Although there is a superficial similarity between Betamax and Betacam in that they use the same tape cassette, they are really quite different formats.
Betamax records relatively low resolution video using a heterodyne color recording system and only two recording heads, while Betacam uses four heads to record in component format, at a much higher linear tape speed of 10. Another common point between Betamax and Betacam is the placement of the stereo linear audio tracks. Also, some Betacam and Betamax portables share the same batteries. Betacam was initially introduced as a camera line along with a video cassette player. BVP1, which used a single tri-stripe Trinicon tube. The only transport controls on the deck were Eject and Rewind.
The docked camera’s VTR button started and paused the tape recorder. Sony then came out with the Play Adapter, a separate portable unit that connected via a multi-pin cable and had a composite video out jack for color playback. At first color playback required the studio source deck, the BVW-10, which could not record, only play back. B roll edit systems, usually for editing to a one-inch Type C or three-quarter-inch U-matic cassette edit master tape. There was also the BVW-20 field playback deck, which was a portable unit with DC power and a handle, that was used to verify color playback of tapes in the field.
Unlike the BVW-10, it did not have a built in Time Base Corrector, or TBC. With the popular success of the Betacam system as a news acquisition format, the line was soon extended to include the BVW-15 studio player, and the BVW-40 Studio Edit Recorder. The BVW-15 added Dynamic Tracking, which enabled clear still frame and jog playback, something the BVW-10 could not deliver. The BVW-40 enabled for the first time editing to a Betacam master, and if set up and wired correctly, true component video editing. 15 and BVW-40 without an edit controller—a single serial cable between the units was all that was required to control the player from the recorder in performing simple assemble and insert editing. Additionally there were two field models introduced, the field recorder BVW-25, and the BVW-21 play only portable field deck.
At its introduction, many insisted that Betacam remained inferior to the bulkier one-inch Type C and B recording, the standard broadcast production format of the late 1970s to mid-1980s. Additionally, the maximum record time for both the cameras and studio recorders was only half an hour, a severe limitation in television production. There was also the limitation that high quality recording was only possible if the original component signals were available, as they were in a Betacam camcorder. While the quality improvement of the format itself was minor, the improvement to the VTRs was enormous, in quality, features, and particularly, the new larger cassette with 90 minutes of recording time. Despite the format’s age Betacam SP remained a common standard for standard definition video post-production into the 2000s.
The recording time is the same as for Betacam, 30 and 90 minutes for S and L, respectively. 50 format, increasing tape duration of one minute for every five minutes of run time. Betacam SP is able to achieve its namesake “Superior Performance” over Betacam in the fact that it uses metal-formulated tape as opposed to Betacam’s ferric oxide tape. Betacam SP-branded tapes cannot be used for recording in consumer Betamax VCRs like oxide Betacam tapes, due to Betacam SP’s metal-formulation tape causing the video heads in a Betamax deck to wear prematurely, which are made of a softer material than the heads in a standard Betacam deck. VCRs, since the ED Beta format uses metal-formulated tape as well. Edit Recorders: the BVW-70, and the Dynamic Tracking model, the BVW-75.
The BVV-5 was the Betacam SP dockable camera back, which could play back in color if its companion playback adapter was used. A new SP field recorder, the BVW-35, possessed the added benefit of a standard RS422 serial control port that enabled it to be used as an edit feeder deck. Though the four new studio decks could utilize the full 90-minute Betacam SP cassettes, the BVW-35 remained limited to the original Betacam small 30-minute cassette shells. Answering a need for a basic office player, Sony also introduced the BVW-22, a much less expensive desktop model that could be used for viewing and logging 90-minute cassettes, but could not be configured into an edit system. Sony followed up the SP Field Recorder with the BVW-50, that could record and play the large-size 90 minute cassettes. Until the introduction of the BVW-200 camera though, the camera and recorder configuration was a docking system. The BVW-200 was an integrated camera recorder system.
It sacrificed the flexibility of a docking camera in order to lose a substantial amount of weight. Eventually, non-docking camcorders became the most popular design by the mid-1990s. In 1991, the less-expensive, “Professional”, PV line of Betacam SP decks was introduced. These high quality machines were similar to the original BV series machines, but lacked the third and fourth audio channels. In 1993, the far less expensive UVW series debuted. These machines were considerably simpler, somewhat lower quality, and were designed primarily to be used as companions to computer systems, for industrial video, and other low-cost, yet high-quality, uses.
UVW-1400 VTR, and UVW-1200 VTP. Betacam and Betacam SP tape cassette shells varied in color depending on the manufacturer. Many companies sold Betacam tapes, sometimes of their own manufacture, sometimes re-branded. OEM versions of some of the Sony VTRs and camcorders at various times in the 1980s and 1990s.