Digitisation project 3: Digital Betacam and Betacam SX

The third digitisation project is focused on two similar carriers: Digital Betacam and Betacam SX. Whereas the conservation of these carriers did not pose any difficulties, their large numbers formed the main challenge in this digitisation project. Those numbers result from it being mainly the broadcasting sector that used Digital Betacam and Betacam SX.

In 1993, Sony introduced Digital Betacam as a successor to Betacam SP, which is mainly used by professional media. It is not the oldest type of video cassette with a digital signal, but it was the most successful. The image and sound quality of the Digital Betacam were noticeably better than the Betacam SP and the cassettes were cheaper than the digital D1 cassettes.

Betacam cassettes stand the test of time well, although they sometimes become sticky. So the challenge was posed not by the condition of the carriers but by the quantity. Only professional media use(d) the Digital Betacam, so the carriers contain a wealth of television programmes by VRT and various commercial broadcasters.

In 2015, the production of Digital Betacam players stopped and meemoo began digitising these carriers. Although the playback equipment is still in circulation, it is at risk of disappearing in the near future, together with the recorded material. Between September 2015 and March 2021, Memnon, selected through a European tendering process, is digitising 44,300 Digital Betacam cassettes from 34 cultural heritage institutions and three broadcasters. Memnon also handled the digitisation of the U-Matic and Betacam SP cassettes in our very first digitisation project, and now takes up the digitisation of DV-formats.

The Betacam SX was/is also used exclusively by professionals in the world of television, as the cheaper successor to the Digital Betacam. The Betacam SX is exposed to the same risks as the Digital Betacam. Between June 2016 and March 2021, Memnon, selected through a European tendering process, will digitise 46,100 Betacam SX cassettes from 15 cultural heritage institutions and six broadcasters.

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