Formats : Betamax-1975-2015(16)


According to the Verge website, Betamax is getting the final nail in its coffin when Sony announced the end of Betamax. Here is the link for the article:

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

Looks dead already, according to the article. Not an auspicious ending for the company that pioneered color under recording in 1970, but failed to grasp the significance of feature-length films in the process. A name now only "remembered" by the occasional Internet poseur who associates the brand with mostly imagined betterness. Present company excluded, of course.

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

To their credit, they outlasted Laserdisc and HD-DVD, even though they have only Japanese consumers to thank for that.

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

I read the picture quality of Betamax was only slightly better than VHS, and Sony was greedy and kept the patent rights from other consumer electronics manufacturers, whereas JVC who invented VHS allowed everyone to manufacture a VHS VCR, which is one reason VHS succeeded, coupled with the fact that movie studios all embraced VHS.

Thankfully, BetaCAM survived in the broadcast world for a long time, is probably still being used in some markets. 30-minute or less Betacam tapes look just like their Betamax counterparts, same-sized cassette shell, but Betacam records at I believe 5x the speed of Betamax, so the picture quality, in the standard-definition age, was very high. Betacam was followed by Betacam SP, which I believe added metal-evaporated (ME) tape, then Digital Betacam and now HDCam, which I believe uses a similar-sized cassette.

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

Thankfully, BetaCAM survived in the broadcast world for a long time, is probably still being used in some markets.

I doubt that there's a single broadcast engineer on earth who is thankful to have worked with Betacam, aside from being done with it! Betacam was a horrendous kludge, and prone to failure on-air. Both Betacam and MII used more record heads in place of color under heterodyne recording, effectively doubling the number of tape tracks per field, and requiring elaborate and extremely fussy delay lines for time compressing and restoring the asynchronous color signal. Tasks like this are easy as pie in the digital domain, but a gigantic headache for analog recording.

My memories of the Betacam/MII days are mostly of dead air, or unviewable video images that happened all too often when a head clog of the C heads or some other technical breakdown caused the pseudo-component signal to go to hell. News anchors and reporters had to vamp a lot when their tape spots quit playing, and angry customers would call when their commercial spots played from automated cassette systems lost video halfway through. Any TV program that mattered was still shot on film or direct color videotape because the analog "component" formats were so unreliable.

Sure, Betacam and MII fixed the inherent limitations of color under recording. But they created far more problems in the process. It made things cheaper, not better. I don't envy the people who worked in shops that bought big into Betacam instead of just waiting for the various digital tape formats.

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

Yes, I remember Betacam well, Speed. I worked in a broadcast post-production facility from 1995-2000 that specialized in commercials and infomercials. Betacam was used almost exclusively during that time for shooting/acquisition, due to its relatively higher quality, with component color, compared to 3/4" U-Matic, a composite color format, and Betacam's portability. 1" was reel-to-reel, the VTR machines were extremely big and heavy, and thus 1" was impractical for shooting in the field, so Betacam was all there was for shooting/field acquisition, until digital tape formats like DVC and Digital Betacam came along. Betacam tapes from shooting were brought to me to make burned-in timecode VHS copies, from which producers would then create edit decision lists, which shots to use, for the final edits. The final edits would then be done in online suites using D-2 or Digital Betacam tape. Then those master tapes would be sent to me to make the air dubs, which would be Betacam, 1" and/or 3/4" U-matic, as well as VHS client viewing copies. Yes, Betacam had its share of clogged heads, dropouts and sometimes the machine would eat the tape. Yep, I don't miss Betacam one bit. U-Matic had more dropouts, creases and grain, but the machines didn't eat the tapes as often.

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

Mike, one of my fondest memories as a TV viewer was seeing that shot of Biff Henderson with a massive Ampex Type C "luggable" VTR slung around his neck, sitting on someone's bed in summer heat during one of the location tapings that the NBC Letterman show did way back when. He looked miserable. I never worked in a shop with portable 1" machines, but saw my share of 2-man ENG shooting crews, with the shooter carrying the full-sized ENG cam and a 50 lb. battery belt for the light and/or camera, and a tape/sound guy carrying a luggable BVU deck (the kind that took the smaller 20 minute cassettes) on one hip and a Shure mixer on the other. Betacam and MII, combined with smaller (later CCD) camera heads changed that equation, and allowed a single shooter to do what used to take 2 or three strong guys to do before--that's the real benefit that Betacam brought! The small cassettes merged with the tape carousel that was already a familiar sight in data processing back then became popular in TV broadcasting for automation of commercial spots. It was all about size, and ironically smaller was better for Betacam.

Both Betacam and MII used color time-compression schemes that made a head clog in any one of the 4 video heads (2 for Y, 2 for C) pretty much fatal to the entire video signal. While a head clog in a BVU deck wiped out one field of video, a good TBC-frame buffer could soldier on by writing out the one good field in place of the lost one. With time-compressed color, lose one head and there simply wasn't enough information there to make a viewable color frame. Betacam looked great when it worked, but when it failed, it failed spectacularly! For a maintenance engineer it was complex and fussy, like an exotic sports car that had 6 carbs needing to be synced in order to work properly. The performance of a thoroughbred, and the weakness of one too. Digital tape ended that by eliminating the fussy analog circuitry and all those helical scan heads.

Today I'm working with camcorders with no moving parts to speak of. And it's so sweet for a guy who had to keep 3 tube cameras registered, tape heads cleaned and all the other mechanical things that were the bugaboo of live and near-live TV.

Re: Betamax-1975-2015(16)

JVC who invented VHS allowed everyone to manufacture a VHS VCR, which is one reason VHS succeeded, coupled with the fact that movie studios all embraced VHS.

The studio embrace of VHS was a consequence of the market environment created by those licencing agreements. Prices were falling and more VCR's were being purchased. Studio preference for VHS wasn't tangential to that point.