What Is An HDCAM?


The HDCAM Tape is a digital videocassette designed to capture HDCAM format media which are shorter in wavelength than that of the Betacam. This HD-based tape format can be considered as an upgrade to the pioneering Betacam Technology. A result of Sony’s collaboration with media groups, HDCAM was developed for improved media performance and optimized recording.

Providing a 140 Mbps stream or 40-minute maximum record time (in 60i mode), this videocassette offers crisp, high-definition images and high quality recording, playback and archiving . It uses ultra-fine magnetic particles which are far smaller than that of the Betacam and other data tapes. These densely packed particles create high quality inputs in low noise. HD inputs use square pixels producing finer and higher quality images compared to the rectangular pixels yielded by the likes of betacam. HDCAM tapes come in small and large videocassettes fit for HD camcorders and Video Tape Recorders (VTR).

In 2003, the HDCAM SR was released which offered a larger bitrate of 600 Mbit/s compared to the HDCAM. It is also 40% shorter than HDCAM. However, no camcorders utilizing the HDCAM SR have been developed up to this day, but they are widely used in VTRs.

Digital Betacam Technology – HDCAM is a high-definition version of Digital Betacam (DigiBeta). Introduced in 1993 by Sony, it was launched to replace its predecessor the analog Betacam SP format. This technology took audio/video recording to a notch higher with its 10-bit YUV 4:2:2 compression, 720×576 PAL resolution and 720×480 NTSC resolution. DigiBeta can encode data at a 90 Mbit/s bitrate while its successors record data at the faster bitrates of 144 Mbit/s for HDCAM and 880 Mbit/s for HDCAM SR.

It was fairly used by many media due to its cost effectiveness. However, it did not receive the recognition as the new standard for video and sound recording formats. It was not until 1997 that HDCAM was launched which became the industry’s new standard like the breakthrough Betacam SP.

Proprietary Super Calendering technology – This new technology is employed on videocassettes to smoothen the magnetic layer and also to achieve high N/C ration as well as consistent head-to-tape contact which lessens the possibility of recording errors even after heavy and repeated playbacks.


An HDCAM and HDCAM SR have a storage life of 30 years – this is if the items are properly stored, cared for and handled. Adjustment in temperature is required depending on how long one intends to store the videocassettes. There are also protective layers applied on the magnetic surface such as anti-oxidant materials to prevent the videocassettes from deteriorating and shrinking due to long-term storage. Some HD-based cassettes also come with anti-static resins over its lids to prevent the build up of dust particles.

HDCAM/ HDCAM SR Storage Requirements:

  • For storage of less than 10 years – Room humidity should be at least 30%-40% and 59F – 73F (15C – 23C) temperature.
  • For storage of more than 10 years – Room humidity should be at least 30% +/- 5% and 54F – 59F (12C – 15C) temperature.
  • Store the videocassettes in an upright position inside its album box, sleeve and rewound.


HDCAM format is specifically made from high quality and professional audio/ video recording. It is widely used in broadcasting because of the filmy image quality, progressive modes, internal conversions and recording modes. Videocassettes are utilized in the various stages of production and filming; from pre-production, production and hugely during post-production.

HDTV – High-definition television (HDTV) refers to a higher resolution in television broadcasting compared to Standard-definition television. It can convert images to 1080 to 720 resolution even during playback. The launching of HDTV fueled excitement for television watchers – and for all the good reasons. HDTV pioneered the playback of movies in widescreen format but without the black bars.

Digital Cinematography – Digital Cinematography is the capturing of motion pictures in digital form. HDCAMs offer resolution of 1920×1080 pixels which provide movie makers with high quality digital images whether recorded in full or partial digital quality. What’s more is that this technology has allowed the seamless integration of these kinds of shots in recent Sci-fi and 3D format movies.

VTR/VCR – Video recording has never been easy. HDCAM has improved the quality of video recording and made it even user-friendly. Unlike the analog reel-to-reel system, the use of videocassettes eliminated the need for touching the tape before and after the filming. Camcorders have their own shell for videocassettes which makes the task much easier. In addition, it has expedited video editing, archiving and playback. Using VTRs and VCR players, users are now able to choose the part they want to watch and even do so repeatedly.

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