Sony MicroMV & Sony Betamax

By | 9th February 2016


Pictured left is a MicroMV cassette – the world’s smallest digital video tape. On the right is a Betamax cassette – the analogue video tape format which lost out to VHS.

MicroMV explained and why it failed

MircoMV used MPEG2 at 12mb/s – basically a digital tape recording at around double the data rate of the average DVD. Digital transfer was possible using Sony’s bespoke software. The format was short lived and quickly overtaken by digital video cameras recording to hard drive or memory card.

MicroMV camcorders were expensive and only a handful of different models were produced. Although the tiny tapes ensured that the cameras were much smaller than MiniDV models the high price and emergence of non-tape digital recording formats meant that very few MIcroMV devices were sold. It’s fair to say that MicroMV cameras are the rarest digital video tape devices ever produced.

Betamax failure and success

Betamax competed with VHS for a place under the TV but was beaten due to the VHS camp winning the rental and movie market. Although it didn’t take off in the home video market the physical cassette design survived with better and improved tape formulations as recording technology progressed.

The Betamax cassette design was used in successive broadcast formats for several decades. Betacam and Betacam SP were the main analogue broadcast camera tape followed by BetacamSX (MPEG2 based recording) and Digital Betacam (2:1 compressed). High Definition tapes using the same basic cassette shell as Betamax included HDCAM and then HDCAM SR.

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