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How Many Audio Channels Are Available On Betacam Cassettes?

October 11, 2022

If you’re converting Betacam cassettes to digital formats, you may need to remove audio, particularly if you’re working with broadcast media with musical cues or sound effects. 

Here’s an overview of the audio channels of different BetaCam formats:

  • Standard Betacam – 2  linear audio channels. Linear audio is time dependent, which means that editing must occur in sequence (during the playback of the tape). 
  • Betacam SP – 2 linear audio channels and 2 Audio Frequency Modulation (AFM) audio channels (Channels 3 and 4). 
  • Digital Betacam (DigiBeta) and Betacam SX – 4 independent audio channels. In DigiBeta, a fifth analog audio track can be used for cueing.

For Betacam SP, the FM channels are recorded with video, while Channel 1 and Channel 2 can be recorded separately. Read more about converting Betacam SP to digital formats.

For standard Betacam, dialogue usually appears on Track 1, while Track 2 has music, sound effects, and other cues. 

How are DigitBeta audio channels allocated?

Technically, producers can allocate DigiBeta audio channels in any way that they’d like — but in professional productions, consistent allocation is important.

The typical layout for DigiBeta audio channels is: 

  • Channels 1 and 2 – Stereo mixdown.
  • Channel 3 – Live-recorded vocals (or vocal stem).
  • Channel 4 – Music and sound effects stem.

Different applications may allocate DigiBeta audio tracks in other ways, but this is the most consistent allocation format. 

Related: Betacam to Digital Conversion: Planning Your Project

When digitizing Betacam cassettes, don’t forget to optimize audio quality.

One common digitization mistake: Focusing on the fidelity of the video while ignoring audio fidelity. The best practice is to use a lossless format (such as WAV, or if storage space is a consideration, FLAC). Avoid using MP3 or other “lossy” formats if you’re digitizing for archival purposes or for potential rebroadcasts.

Overcompression might not be noticeable when reviewing digitized video, but audio artifacts can be just as unpleasant as video artifacts — in some cases, more disruptive for viewers. 

Other considerations to keep in mind:

  • If you intend to edit the digitized video in the future — or if editing could possibly be necessary — make sure to separately digitize each audio track. While this can be time-consuming, it’s much easier than returning to the analog tape in the future.
  • Some Betacam decks may not output audio at a broadcast-ready volume for various reasons. You may need to amplify the audio signal.
  • Have a process in place for organizing the digitized video. This is especially important for archival projects. Read about’s content management system for digital video conversion.

If you’re converting Betacam cassettes to digital formats, working with digitization experts can help you manage the project at scale. specializes in Betacam digitization and content management. 

By maintaining a library of Betacam hardware — and building custom content management databases for every client — we offer robust resources for broadcasters, churches, schools, and video production professionals. 

To learn more, schedule a video conversion quote online or call us at 1-800-237-4200 to discuss your next project.