Huge digitisation project successfully completed

1 Jun 2021

We’ve been transferring our content partners’ various types of Betacam cassettes since 2014. Two of our main digitisation projects have focused on Betacam SP, Betacam SX and Digital Betacam, and we’ve successfully transferred almost 170,000 tapes. These two projects have safeguarded large parts of national and regional broadcasters’ cassette collections: a real feat.

The different Betacam formats were popular from the 1990s until 2015, when Digital Betacam and Betacam SP were taken out of production. These were mainly used by broadcasters, but other content partners also have (smaller) collections of these cassettes. Digitising these Betacam carriers enabled us to safeguard the vast majority of our regional broadcasters’ archives.

Betawhat?

Digital Betacam: Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, Miriam Bolliger Cavaglieri, Wikimedia Commons

Betacam refers to various video carrier formats developed by Sony. In digitisation project 1, we digitised Betacam SP cassettes. Betacam SX and Digital Betacam were then dealt with from 2016 in digitisation project 3. Betacam SP differs from the other types because it still uses an analogue signal. Betacam SX and Digital Betacam were some of the first types of video cassettes to use a digital signal. The colour of the cassette indicates which format it is. That is why, instead of digitisation, we speak of the transfer of these cassettes.

Cassettes can show initial signs of wear, in the form of stickiness caused by fluctuations in temperature and humidity, just ten years after they are produced – hardly any time at all. But the condition of the cassettes wasn’t our main challenge, which came instead from our partners’ large quantities of Betacams.

16 years of image content

The biggest collections of Betacam SP, Betacam SX and Digital Betacam in Flanders are in the VRT archive. The national public service broadcaster transferred its Betacam SP and Betacam SX collections itself – some 57,023 carriers. Of the collections transferred by meemoo, the largest were from DPG Media, VRT (Digital Betacam), ATV, SBS and AVS. This first broadcaster had 65,729 Betacam carriers transferred.

Memnon in Brussels was given a total of 169,981 cassettes to transfer from 78 content partners. 168,926 of these were transferred successfully, resulting in 137,046 hours of content. You’d need 5,710 days or nearly 16 years to watch it all! The average duration per tape varies from 42 minutes for Betacam SP to just over an hour for Betacam SX.

The completion of digitisation projects 1 and 3 does not mean that there’s a digital copy of all our content partners’ Betacam tapes, however. Our partners are still adding new content to their archives all the time, and meemoo is also constantly welcoming new content partners. The Betacam tapes that were not included in these two projects are on our radar for a future project on residual amounts (only in Dutch).

Betacam SP and Digital Betacam

Do you have a question?
Contact Lobke Vanden Eynden
Project Manager Digitisation