Betacam is a family of half-inch professional videotape products. It was developed by Sony in 1982. In colloquial use, “Betacam” singly is often used to refer to a Betacam camcorder, a Betacam tape, a Betacam video recorder or the format itself.
All Betacam variants from (plain) Betacam to Betacam SP and Digital Betacam (and additionally, HDCam & HDCamSR), use the same shape cassettes, meaning vaults and other storage facilities do not have to be changed when upgrading to a new format. The cassettes come in two sizes: S and L. Betacam cameras can only load S tapes, while VTRs can play both S and L tapes. 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 tell which format has been inserted.
The format supplanted the three-quarter inch U-Matic format, which Sony had introduced in 1971. In addition to improvements in video quality, the Betacam configuration of an integrated camera/recorder led to its rapid adoption by electronic news gathering organizations.
DigiBeta the common name for Digital Betacam went on to become the single most successful professional broadcast tape format in history.
Even though Betacam remains popular in the field and for archiving, new digital products such as the Multi Access Video Disk Recorder are leading to a phasing out of Betacam products in a studio environment.