Betamax Video Format

Betamax Format Information:

Videotape Format: Betamax

In use: 1975 - Present (in limited use)

Recording mode: Helical scan, two fields per head rotation. Analog video, analog audio (stereo linear tracks and Hi-Fi tracks available on some models). Digital audio on later models.

Tape width: 12.7mm (1/2")

Features: The first widely known home video cassette format. Was the basis for the professional Betacam product line.

Videotape longevity: Unknown.

Notes on the Betamax...Sony Betamax ushered in the widespread use of home video recording in 1975. Previously, the only "consumer" products for video recording were much larger machines, such as ½"reel to reel EIAJ and ¾" umatic models, which were generally considered out of reach due to costs and/or ease of operation. Betamax decks with a built in TV tuner, could record off-the-air programs, even unattended. The one –piece "camcorder" afforded the user to record personal events that previously were relegated to super 8mm film duties.

There were several different manufacturers of Betamax in addition to Sony, such as Sanyo, Toshiba, and Pioneer.

NTSC models basically had three record speeds, although most units had the Beta II and Beta III speeds only to choose from. Beta I ran the fastest, and had the best picture and sound of the original units. Later, Super Beta and Beta ED were introduced for improved picture quality. Beta HI-Fi improved audio performance. There was a PCM (digital audio) adapter to enable multitrack digital audio to be laid down on a Betamax cassette.

Surprisingly, Betamax tapes can be recovered with good to excellent results today, while migrating these vintage recordings to new media.

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