The Betacam VTR format has many new features which if you are not acquainted with the terminology then the jargon can be difficult to understand. This page is intended to explain the most important features in a straight forward manner.


SP (superior performance)

SP stands for Superior Performance, it is a variant of the Betacam format which has become the de-facto standard. The original Betacam format used oxide tapes whereas the SP variety uses metal oxide tapes which allows for increased frequency carriers and improved picture quality. While there were many non-SP models on the market in the USA very few made it to the European sector. One excepion is the BVW-40. Today, the non-SP variant is all but obsolete in Europe.

Digital and SX Betacam

These are further variants of the Betacam format. Both use digital technology to store the video and audio signals on tape. The SX format is the most recent and uses MPEG encoding techniques for extended recording lengths.
Time Base Corrector

Time Base Corrector

This is a piece of electronics which takes out the line jitter from the replayed video signal of the VTR. All VTR outputs have an inherent jitter due to fluctuations in tape and head drum velocities and the Time Base corrector eliminates these to ensure that the video output is stable and can be used in a broadcast environment to interface to other equipment.
Audio level controls

Audio levels

These meters and controls are for monitoring and setting audio levels during playback and recording respectively. The Audio limiter, if enabled, ensures high audio signals are automatically reduced to avoid distortion during recording.

Most models also have a noise reduction switch which allows the noise reduction circuits to be switched in and out. It is standard practice to leave Noise reduction in place.

Audio monitor selection

Audio monitor section

These controls determine which audio tracks are made available to the headphone jacks and monitor outputs on the VTR.
Linear Time Code

Linear Time Code (LTC)

This is the time code information stored on a separate linear track on the tape. It can be read during tape fast forward and reverse winding operations which make it idea for locating the required positions of the programme material. However, because the LTC, is read from a linear track, it can not be read when the tape it at rest or during JOG operations.
Video Interleave Time Code

Video Interleave Time Code (VITC)

This is time code information when stored in the video frame. It can not be read during tape fast forward and reverse winding operations but it can be read during still and JOG modes which mean that it is ideal for allowing frame accurate positioning of the tape during these editing procedures.
Time Code input & outputs

Time Code input and & outputs

These connectors are usually BNC types and carry the Linear Time Code signals.

DT - Dynamic Tracking

This feature provides noise free pictures during pause and slow speed search modes by moving the video heads to follow the varying angles of the video tracks. When used on a VTR with a Time Base Corrector it gives broadcast quality variable speed playback effects such as slow motion.
Search control

Search/JOG control

This control provides tape transport control. Later models have both jog and shuttle functions enabling frame accurate tape control at speeds up to 40 times normal.

S-Video Connectors

These connectors are similar to the DUB connector and carry the input/output video signal as two signals Y (Luminance) and C (Chrominance).
Dub connectors

Dub connector

This is a Y/C video connector, very much like the S-Video connector we have today. It is the preferred way to connect two machines together to ensure minimum picture degradation during editing or duplication.

The Y component is the same as a standard "S Video" connector but the C part differs in that it contains the Chrominance but on a different sub-carrier. 983.803MHz for Hi-band. This type of output is not widely implemented and is used mainly for backwards compatibility with U-matic format machines.


Y-R,B Component Connectors

These connectors are used for connection to external equipment such as a second VTR for editing or an effects unit. The video signal is carried by three separate cables, one for Luminance Y, and two for Chrominance R-Y and B-Y (here R stands for the Blue colour signal and R the Red).
Remote / local switch

Remote Control Switch

This switch determines from where the machine is controlled. If set to LOCAL then all functions are operated by the controls on the front panel. When set to REMOTE, the VTR, is controlled by an external device, such as an edit controller, connected through the rear panel.
RS-422 connector


This is a 9 pin serial control port. It has superseded the 36-pin interface and has become the industry standard interface for connecting video equipment together.

Editing Functions

These controls are only present on Edit capable machines and control the editing functions of the VTR.
This selects assemble edit mode where the Time Code and Control tracks are not over written during the edit operation.
Insert buttons
These buttons, one for the Video track and one each for the Linear Audio Tracks, control which tracks are overwritten during the edit operation.
This allows the edit points to be changed by one frame at a time. By pressing either the + or - together with the IN or OUT buttons the edit In point or Out point can be advanced or retarded respectively.
This button enables the recorder to go through the programmed edit operations in Preview mode without actually erasing or recording onto the destination tape. It is therefore used to view the results of an edit before committing the changes.
Auto Edit
This button begins the automatic editing procedure. If an IN point is not set when this button is pressed, then the current tape position is used.
This allows the finished edit to be reviewed.
This is used to erase a programmed IN out OUT edit point.
These buttons and the corresponding AUDIO IN/OUT buttons allow edit entry or IN points and exit or OUT points to be set when pressed in conjunction with the Entry button.
This is used to set edit IN/OUT points when pressed together with the IN/OUT buttons.
Edit mode

Time Code/Counter buttons

These controls are used to initialise the built-in Time code reader generator and counter display. They work slightly differently on each model but are used to hold, set and reset the time code generator and display counter.
Time Code switches

Time Code Generator switches

These controls are used to control the built-in Time code reader generator. A brief description:
Switches between External and Internal generation of Time Code
Switched between REGEN (regenerate) where the initial setting of the timecode generator is read by the built-in Time Code reader and PRESET where the initial setting is taken from the front control panel or the external 9-pin Remote connector.
In REC RUN the time code generator advances only during recording. It only applies if the unit is set to use internally generated preset Time Code. In FREE RUN mode the time code advances regardless.