Digital Recording

Digital recording

Digital recording is a technique for preserving audio signals and video or visual images as a series of pulses that can be stored on magnetic tapes, optical discs (compact discs), or computer diskettes. These pulses are stored in the form of a series of binary digits (that is, zeros and ones). To make the recording, an analog-to-digital converter transforms the sound signal or visual image into digital information (a complex series of zeros and ones) that is recorded on high- speed magnetic tape or on disc or diskette. The system that plays back or reads out the sound or image translates the binary code back into analog (line like) signals using a digital-to-analog converter. Tape players, compact disc players, video disc players, and CD-ROM (Compact Disc-Read-Only Memory) players in home computers are examples of digital-to-analog converters used to play back audio and video codes in our homes.

Analog versus digital recording

Analog recordings were the only ones made until the digital revolution of the 1970s, and used a variety of methods that are now considered outdated like long-playing (LP) records, eight-track tapes (on either metal or magnetic tape), and home movies. In the history of sound and video recording from early in the twentieth century until the 1970s, the analog system seemed ideally suited to recording because sound and light both have linear properties; however, with the technological revolution that occurred late in the century, high speed and other characteristics of digital processing made digital recording possible, as did steadily falling costs due to mass production of computers, plastic coated discs, laser players, and other devices. The word "digital" means that numbers are used and refers to the encoding of signals as strings of zeros or ones. Digital recording has higher fidelity in sound and video because it provides a wide range of dynamics and low levels of distortion, which make analog recording less like the source sound or image.

Digital recording formats

Digital recording itself produces truer audio and video, and the systems developed for playing them also help eliminate interference. The most familiar audio system, the compact disc, uses a laser beam player to read the digital information coded on the disc. Digital audio tape (DAT) became available in the late 1980s. It uses magnetic tape and a specialized DAT recorder with a microprocessor to convert audio signals to digital data

during recording and to switch the data back to analog signals for playback. DAT systems are available to the average consumer but are used extensively by professionals. Digital compact cassette (DCC) recorders can play both DAT tapes and the analog tape cassettes that are more common.

Video systems parallel the audio methods. Compact discs for video recordings were initially considered impractical because of the complexities of carrying both images and sound, so larger diameter laser discs that also use a laser beam player to decode information on the discs were one system of playing back video. Laser discs (also called videodiscs) store audio information in digital form and video as analog data. Video tapes in Beta and VHS formats (both analog forms) were easier to mass produce at smaller cost. Another portion of the video problem was that video could be recorded on compact discs, but the level of fidelity of the disc was better than any television could reproduce. The video recording industry had to wait for televisions to catch up. In the late 1990s, high-density television (HDTV) became available, and the digital video disc (DVD) and DVD players rapidly became more popular in anticipation of better television technology. The DVD (also called the digital versatile disc) can accommodate all the sound and light needed for a Star Wars movie, for example, because it holds almost five billion bytes of data and may soon hold over eight billion data bytes; a typical CD-ROM for home computer use stores only 650 million bytes. Digital cameras were also introduced in 1997, the same year that DVD players were first widely sold. Improvement of HDTV was given a push by government; a phase-out of nondigital TV signals is to occur over 10 years (beginning in 1998) to be replaced by the digital images from satellites, digital network broadcasts, and DVD sources. Cable systems are also converting to digital signals.

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