The original Betacam format was launched on August 7, 1982.It is an analog component video format, storing the luminance, "Y", in one track and the chrominance, on another as alternating segments of the R-Y and B-Y components performing Compressed Time Division Multiplex, or CTDM. The original Betacam format records on cassettes loaded with ferric oxide–formulated tape, which are theoretically the same as used by its consumer market-oriented predecessor Betamax, introduced seven years earlier by Sony in 1975.
Additionally, the maximum record time for both the cameras and studio recorders was only half an hour, a severe limitation in television production.
There was also the limitation that high quality recording was only possible if the original component signals were available, as they were in a Betacam camcorder.
With the popular success of the Betacam system as a news acquisition format, the line was soon extended to include the BVW-15 studio player, and the BVW-40 Studio Edit Recorder.
The BVW-15 added Dynamic Tracking, which enabled clear still frame and jog playback, something the BVW-10 could not deliver.
Betacam was initially introduced as a camera line along with a video cassette player.
The first cameras were the BVP-3, which utilized three saticon tubes, and the BVP1, which used a single tri-stripe Trinicon tube.
The BVW-40 enabled for the first time editing to a Betacam master, and if set up and wired correctly, true component video editing.
It was also possible to do machine to machine editing between a BVW-10/15 and BVW-40 without an edit controller—a single serial cable between the units was all that was required to control the player from the recorder in performing simple assemble and insert editing.
Both these cameras could be operated standalone, or with their docking companion VTR, the BVV-1 (quickly superseded by the BVV-1A), to form the BVW-1 (BVW-1A) integrated camcorder. The only transport controls on the deck were Eject and Rewind.
The docked camera's VTR button started and paused the tape recorder.
Another common point between Betamax and Betacam is the placement of the stereo linear audio tracks.