What Is Digital Video Technology

A product of digital video technology

Digital video technology can describe any method of recording, playing, capturing, editing, distributing or projecting of video and audio that uses digital video rather than analog video signals. Digital video’s popularity has led to a variety of technological and artistic innovations. A distinguishing characteristic of digital video is that countless copies can be made of the video footage without altering or deteriorating the quality of the clip.

Term Usage

The term has historically been used to distinguish digital from analog processes in periods where analog was the primary method while relevant industries were experimenting with, developing and refining digital technology. As of 2010, with the government-regulated conversion of television signals to digital and the majority of consumer and professional camcorders recording digitally, the “digital” part of “digital video technology” is often a forgone conclusion.

Technological Specifics

The digital signals are made up of a series of raster graphic images or bitmaps representing an image in binary (ones and zeroes) displayed continuously at a rapid, constant rate. The digital video signal’s binary numbers “describe a finite set of colours and luminance levels” and instruct the receiving playback equipment (television, computer, digital camera) correctly display the image. Each image in the series is called a frame, measured in frames per second (FPS.) The frames are grouped in a collection of pixels, which govern the video’s color depth (CD) that allows subtlety of colors in the final product.


Digital video technology was first introduced as a way to refine or enhance an analog signal in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Using machines such as digital video effect (DVE) units, technicians would internally convert the analog signals to digital ones, manipulate the footage and then convert it to analog again for standard playback.

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Recording, Playback and Distribution

The first prototypes for digital camcorders began in the 1970s from several manufacturers. Sony was the first to get a successful version to the market in 1986 with their Sony D-1 format cameras. The first digital footage playback software was PACo: The PICS Animation Compiler released in 1991. The invention of digital playback standards (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, etc.) helped to pave way for improvements in digital video technology. Important advancements were the popularization of Digital Video Disks (DVDs) and online streaming as a major form of distribution. High-quality digital projectors were popularized and made consumer-affordable starting in 2005. Digital television broadcast signals enable digital video recording (DVR) technology.

DV Format, Editing and Capturing

The Digital Video (DV) tape format first allowed users to record directly onto digital tape, forgoing the conversion that was previously necessary. The birth of DV encouraged the creation of many digital non-linear editing systems that let the users randomly access any portion of the digital footage to be edited. Specialty capturing programs allow the users to get digital footage into non-linear systems for editing.