Tag Archives: Ampex

Happy 59th Anniversary of the CBS use of Quad videotape for broadcast

It was 59 years ago November 30 that viewers of the dozen CBS Television Network Pacific Coast stations saw the first widely documented on-air use of Quad videotape for presentation of a regularly scheduled program: The playback of the CBS flagship news broadcast, “Douglas Edwards with the News” as recorded live off the transcontinental network line  from New York at 4:15 p.m. Pacific time, 7:15 p.m. in the East.
Engineer John Radis monitors operation of Ampex VRX-1000 at CBS Television City in Hollywood as Douglas Edwards reports the news in New York.
Engineer John Radis monitors operation of Ampex VRX-1000 at CBS Television City in Hollywood as Douglas Edwards reports the news in New York.
Did Edwards report the first use of videotape by the network?
I say “widely documented” because this is the event Ampex promoted world-wide.
Whether there were other un-announced uses is likely known to only engineers and network officials who may have passed on without documenting those unannounced playbacks. (IE:  “Let’s briefly switch from the kinescope to the videotape to see what difference it makes in Seattle.”)
This delayed broadcast at 6:15 p.m. on November 30, 1956 originated from CBS Television City in Hollywood from one of the two handbuilt Ampex VRX-1000 Quad recorders supplied to CBS.  Both machines were recording the network feed from New York and while the Dec., 1956 edition of the “Ampex Playback” newsletter doesn’t say so, it’s likely that both machines were playing back their respective recordings as protection from a fault on the “On-Air” machine.
The on-air use followed the unveiling of Ampex’s “Mark IV” prototype at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (NARTB, now NAB) in April of 1956, and ushered in the beginning of “Time Zone Delay” for West Coast television broadcasts, and the development of other uses for videotape in production of programs.
Ampex reported orders for 80 machines representing $4-million, according to the April 18, 1956 Billboard magazine.
CBS and NBC were to be the first recipients of the Ampex VTRs as noted in this Billboard graphic accompanying the story:
 Ampex VTR Orders-Graphic-Billboard-April-28-1956
CBS and NBC made big use of Videotape during (and after) President Dwight Eisenhower’s public second inauguration on Monday, January 21, 1957.  They replayed the ceremony several times, and “heralded the first use of videotape” according to Television Histories: Shaping Collective Memory in the Media Age, edited by Gary R. Edgerton and Peter C. Rollins.
In this way, Eisenhower became the first US President to be videotaped, and would become the first President to be videotaped in Color a little over a year later during the dedication of NBC’s then-new facility housing WRC-TV/AM/FM/NBC News, Washington, DC.
Editors Edgerton and Rollins note that CBS used videotape to pre-record “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” in late February, 1957 so the show remained on the network’s highly rated Monday night schedule while Godfrey was in Africa “on safari.”
By early 1958, CBS was operating a million-dollar videotape facility at its Grand Central Terminal technical center.  Billed as the largest of its kind, the NY center and TVC in Hollywood soon were serving recorded programs to more than half the CBS viewers, according to papers on the IEEE website.
CBS New York VR-1000 Video Tape Recorder, 1957
A CBS Engineer monitors an Ampex VR-1000 video tape recorder, one of 14 installed in the CBS-TV Grand Central Terminal facilities in 1957.  Likely CBS or Ampex photo that appears in James O’Neal’s 2006 TV Tecnology Article, “The Videotape Recorder turns 50
 CBS’s “Playhouse 90” anthology series would be one of the programs magnetically recorded for both time zone delay, and for production.
The program debuted in October, 1956 just before CBS began delaying the Edwards’ broadcast.
By 1957, the show was being time-zoned delayed on videotape instead of kinescope, and videotape was being used in production.
By the start of the 1958 television season, ad agencies were moving live TV commercials to videotape.
Ad and program production initially centered at network facilities.  In New York, CBS had 14 Ampex VTRs on line at Grand Central, NBC had two RCA Color and two Ampex monochrome recorders in Rockefeller Center and a dozen Ampex units in Burbank. ABC had six Ampex units in New York, six in Chicago and six in Hollywood.
CBS lays claim to (some of?) the first edited videotape productions, beginning with the April 19, 1958 intended colorcast of “The Red Mill,” an adaptation of Victor Herbert’s 1906 play.  Delbert Mann directed the “DuPont Show of the Month” but I can’t find any editor or editors credited.
Television historian Albert Abramson’s “History of Television, 1942-2000,” has a footnote for Chapter 5 (#52) which states that CBS Television executive Joseph Flaherty, Jr., “claims that CBS did “The Red Mill” in 1957 with 168 edits in the 90- minute program.” I haven’t found corroborating information, yet.
Connecticut newspaper “The Bridgeport Post” reported a day before the broadcast: “TAKING NO CHANCE CBS-TV is taking the unusual step of putting “The Red Mill” on videotape. It will be the first major production taped-in-advance. This will necessitate a shift from color to black and white. The move comes because of the current strike of IBEW technicians. The program is scheduled for tomorrow night and if the strike should be settled by that time the show will reach the home screens live as originally planned.”
The September 29, 1958 issue of Broadcasting Magazine explains more, in a feature about ad agencies moving live commercials to tape.
BBDO ad agency executive Al Cantwell told Broadcasting that the production was much too complicated to be handled live by network executives who suddenly found themselves manning cameras, booms and lights.  So it was taped in pieces and then edited together, a “thing never done before or since,” according to Cantwell.
Each point where sequences were spliced together had seven seconds of black. The alternate to the black was “roll over” on home screens. Although ways were found to shorten the black somewhat, it was decided to eliminate the black and take the roll over.
Larry Weiland’s November, 1986 American Cinematographer article “The CMX 600 Belongs to History” reports that, “Even while Ampex was developing its electro-mechanical splicing system, CBS engineers were experimenting with tape editing by shooting program segments with fades at each end, and splicing the tape in the “black,” hoping the VTR would re-synchronize during the fade up for the next scene. The first show, a drama called “The Red Mill,” was edited and recorded on two separate reels, one with splices in black, the other in picture. The two VR1000’s were run back-to-back. If the splice in picture went through the VTR without a serious image breakup, it stayed on the air. …
Playhouse 90 director John Frankenheimer was beginning to use the new magnetic medium for production.
As the Wisconsin Center for Fim and Theater Research notes in webpages about the anthology seriesPlayhouse 90’s stories often called for special effects-heavy sequences that made great demands on the technology of live television. The show quietly began using the new technology of videotape, first for individual scenes but eventually for entire shows. Indeed, nearly half of the episodes were in fact broadcast “live-on-tape” rather than truly “live.”
Frankenheimer had used videotape inserts rolled into two previous Playhouse 90’s:  “Bomber’s Moon” and “The Days of Wine and Roses,” according to Bobby Elerbee’s “Eyes of a Generation” television history pages.
But the director saw editing videotape as the only way to bring together one of most difficult Playhouse 90 productions: A November, 1958 adaptation of William Faulkner’s “Old Man.”
The production involved creating a flood in TVC studios for the flood scenes, and was the first use of editing video tape to assemble a broadcast whose segments were shot at different times. See these CBS photos on the CBS Television City website:
The razor-bladed results aired on November 20, 1958, directed by John Frankenheimer (seated) and edited by Ross Murray (standing at the Ampex VR-1000 preparing an edit using a splicer.) CBS Photo (by Art Garza, according to Albert Abramson’s “ History of Television, 1942-2000,” which has another shot from the same angle showing Murray playing back an edit for Frankenheimer.)
Ross Murray Edits CBS Playhouse 90-Old Man-Nov-1958
Ross Murray slices and splices eight hours of videotape into less than 90 minutes for the CBS-TV Playhouse 90 broadcast of Faulkner’s “Old Man” in November, 1958. CBS Photo/Art Garza. This was the first use of videotape splicing to assemble material shot at separate times.
Murray was at one time or another, an extra, dancer and stand in in movies before World War II, then a pilot and bombardier trainer before joining CBS Radio editing sound effects and later writing mysteries for radio.
An unplanned move to a 6 a.m. television show led to concentrating on developing the editing department at Television City with three other engineers. That led to the collaboration with Frankenheimer on “The Old Man.”
Abramson’s book notes that “Murray volunteered to cut the show together, even though such a job had never been done before and he had nothing but the Ampex Edit Block and a can of (Edivue) to show where the edit points were.”
The show contained 61 edits, and pulled together a 90-minute broadcast from eight hours of content videotaped over four days at Television City.
Murray turned 97 on Sept. 16, 2015, and is living in the small California Coast Range town of Boonville, between Ukiah and the coastal town of Elk.
Frankenheimer talks about directing Playhouse 90 in this clip from the Archive of American Television:
The clip and other Playhouse 90 information is found here: http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/shows/playhouse-90#
While CBS was developing uses for videotape beyond Time Zone Delay, NBC was also building on videotape technology to bring business into its Burbank “Color City” studios, and by 1959, had elevated production technology and techniques to include keyed titling, chroma-key and the development of a process to allow razor-blade editing of shows to be as precise as film.
That process using a combination of videotapes transferred to 16mm kinescopes, sprocketed magnetic sound, and a talking clock called “Editor’s Sync Guide.”
The “ESG” process resulted in a lot of work for NBC Burbank, and awards for the editors who crafted the shows, first on film, and then by rolling through Quad videotapes to match the video edits to the film cuts. One might call it the television version of “Negative matching.”  Examples of the end product range from 1959’s “An Evening with Fred Astaire” to “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” which made a staple of many quick cuts between short clips, often just long enough for someone to say, “Sock it to me!”
In about five months, the 60th anniversary of the unveiling of Quad videotape will have just passed as the NAB Show opens in Las Vegas April 18, 2016.
A vintage surprise may show up if restoration is successful.  Stay tuned for details as they become available.
Elsewhere, a well-regarded videotape equipment refurbisher anticipates having a restored Ampex AVR-2 working in Lower South Hall.
Other examples of the range of videotape—analog and digital—will be showcased among the increasingly smaller and higher resolution recording devices being exhibited.  Long-time NAB attendees will either fawn over the older gear (or recall favorite curses) while newer generations may ask, “What the heck is that?”
Search the NAB Show website for “Videotape” or “Museum” as NAB gets closer.
Free exhibit pass code LV3654 can now be used for registration.
The Ninth Annual Quad Videotape Group Lunch at NAB will happen at 12:30pm, Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at a location to be determined.  Last year’s venue has been eaten up by a sea of booths in Upper South.
Cheers from Chilly northern California.

Ted

Quad History: From the Debut in 1956 Through the Third Generation of Machines

In the Beginning…

Wildly successful at introducing a line of high quality audiotape recorders, Ampex Corporation had been working on and off getting much wider-bandwidth, broadcast video signal onto magnetic tape.

After trying audio recorder-like “run the tape across the record/play head” designs like RCA, Bing Crosby Enterprises, the BBC and several others were attempting, Ampex engineers tried running the head across the tape.

Early trials with three heads on a spinning disc, then further thinking and experimentation lead to mounting  four heads on a disc, rotating them vertically across the two-inch tape, as the tape moved horizontally past the spinning head.

Ampex Mark X Video head showing curved headwheel and one of four head tips.
Ampex Mark X Video head showing curved headwheel and one of four head tips.

The story of the development of “transverse” scanning is outlined by Fred Pfost, one of the six engineers working on the project.

By March of 1955, results from this approach and improved signal systems were good enough for the team to tell executives they could have a working system in a year.

By April of 1956, there were two prototypes ready for a public debut:

  • The Mark III was an engineering model, in a functional housing.
  • The Mark IV was the “presentation” model, housed in a sleek console with its two racks of tube-type circuitry nearby.

The Mark IV was shipped to Chicago for a surprise showing to CBS network and affiliated station personnel.

The Ampex Mark IV prototype Quad Videotape Recorder is demonstrated to CBS television network affiliate representatives at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, Chicago, April 1956
The Ampex MarkIV 2″ Quadruplex recorder prorotype as it was unveiled to a select group of CBS network people and affiliates and during a private showing at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Chicago in April of 1956. A thunderous round of applause from convention goers several days later greeted the machine’s public debut.

 

Fred Pfost was one of the Ampex Engineers sent with the machine to set up and operate it.

Engineer John Radis monitors operation of Ampex VRX-1000 at CBS Television City in Hollywood as Douglas Edwards reports the news in New York.
Engineer John Radis monitors operation of Ampex VRX-1000 at CBS Television City in Hollywood as Douglas Edwards reports the news in New York. Did Edwards report the first use of videotape by the network?

CBS was the first on-air user of the machine, to tape-delay the evening CBS News broadcast with Douglas Edwards on Nov. 30, 1956.The historic recording and playback happened inside CBS Television City in Hollywood, which figures into some significant Quad tape restorations.

Click here to see more about CBS’s early use of videotape.

RCA owned NBC had ordered three of the Ampex machines. Two went to NBC, Burbank.  One was sent to RCA Labs in Camden, New Jersey, where RCA engineers designed a method of recording and playing color, an important aspect of RCA’s drive to sell color sets.

RCA’s demonstration of the “colorized” Ampex to Ampex engineers and executives led to a patent cross-licensing deal, which enabled RCA to use Ampex’s technology and make its own video recorders.

NBC Burbank's eight Ampex VR-1000 Quad VTRs
Eight Ampex VR-1000 series machines were modified to record and play color using RCA Labs color electronics.

NBC’s Videotape Central debuted on Tuesday, April 28, 1958 inside NBC’s “Color City” at 3000 West Alameda (at Olive Ave.) in Burbank.  The $1.5 Million facility sported eight RCA modified Ampex VR-1000 recorders and one RCA TRT-1C color recorder.

RCA TRT1-01-B
RCA TRT-1-C Television Tape recorders at NBC Burbank, performing time-zone delay

By 1959, there were more RCA machines in place, and NBC Burbank was pioneering the art of videotape editing, making it a “go-to” location for television production.

Click here to see more about the RCA Television Tape installations in Burbank, New York and WBTV.

Another Quad Tape milestone:

President Eisenhower at WRC-TV Dedication. This is the oldest COLOR Quad recording known to exist.
Restored RCA Labs Color Tape playback of President Dwight Eisenhower during 1958 dedication of WRC-TV/NBC Studios in Washington, DC. This is the oldest COLOR Quad recording known to exist. It was recorded at NBC, Burbank during the live broadcast on the NBC television network. Monitor photo from Ed Reitan’s D-2 Digital Master, at CBS Television City, July, 2006. Photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

May 22, 1958, President Eisenhower became the first president to be recorded in color on videotape.  The president helped dedicate NBC’s brand-new Washington, D.C. facilities housing NBC network and WRC-TV television studios.

A recording given by RCA to the Library of Congress and a perhaps never played Quad tape of this event was located at the Eisenhower Library in Kansas, and is the earliest known color recording discovered to date.

Learn more about the recovery and restoration, here:

http://www.quadvideotapegroup.com/restoring-the-earliest-known-color-quad-tape-the-dedication-of-wrc-tvnbc-washington-dc/

 

RCA TRT-1 Production recorder.  RCA photo: Presentation to NAB, 1958
RCA TRT-1 Production recorder. RCA photo: Presentation to NAB, 1958

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years, the equipment shrank from the six racks used by the RCA TRT-1s (three of the racks shown here)…

 

 

 

Ampex VR-2000B brochure
Ampex VR-2000 introduced High Band recording in 1964. This set a new standard for recording quality, allowing more generations of videotape copying without significant degradation. This brochure details the 1967 introduction of the VR-200B

… to three-rack wide self contained systems, with rollers for ease of maintenance or mobility.

The newer recorders offered High Band recording, electronic editing and a host of electronic circuits to record and play the highest quality pictures possible.

Machines like these second generation recorders, and

Don Kent operates Ampex AVR-1 donated to UCLA by KTLA, Los Angeles during 1988 transfer of very early color videotapes recorded at NBC, Burbank in 1958-1960 with the RCA Labs color process. These Quad Tapes were transferred to D-2 digital tapes and then edited into digital master tapes. Image capture via Don Kent from KTLA News videotape.
Don Kent operates Ampex AVR-1 donated to UCLA by KTLA, Los Angeles during 1988 transfer of very early color videotapes recorded at NBC, Burbank in 1958-1960 with the RCA Labs color process. These Quad Tapes were transferred to D-2 digital tapes and then edited into digital master tapes. Image capture via Don Kent from KTLA News videotape.

the third-generation units—like this AVR-1 that was used in 1987-88 to recover the earliest color Quad tapes from 1958 and 1959— continue to be used on a daily basis for transfer of Quad video recordings to other media.

Early Ampex and RCA Quads at NBC Burbank and RCA TRT-1s at WBTV, Charlotte

Quad History at NBC, Burbank

NBC Burbank Television Studios-Postcard

Postcard: Hubert A. Lowman photo #LS-110 in a Series
Mirro-Krome Card by H.S. Crocker Co., Inc., San Francisco Manufactured for Longshaw Card Co., Los Angeles.

NBC Burbank was dedicated on March 27, 1955. It was completed in 1962. It is scheduled to be replaced by facilities the NBC Universal is building on the Universal lot. The Olive Ave. property will be sold.

Tuesday, April 28, 1958 is the anniversary of the dedication of Videotape Central at NBC Burbank. The tape facility inside 3000 West Alameda (at Olive Ave.) cost $1.5 million when it was started.

The first recorders were a pair of Ampex VRX-1000’s, two of three units ordered for NBC in 1956 after Ampex unveiled the Mark IV prototype at the NAB convention in April.

The third was shipped to RCA’s labs in New Jersey, taken apart to see how it worked, and used as the basis for a successful color recording system.

NBC began time-zone delay from the Burbank tape facility when Daylight Savings Time began in 1958.

RCA:Leftmost of three racks for NBC, Burbank pre-production VTRXRCA-TRT-1AC-smalelrRCA: Rightmost racks of Burbank’s pre-production VTRX
From A. H. Lind presentation at NAB Convention, April 28, 1958, Los Angeles

At that time, the facility included one RCA “VTRX” Color Video Tape Recorder, pictured here.

This pre-production model was laid out differently than production models due to Burbank’s plant needs, according to RCA’s A. H. Lind in a 1958 NAB presentation.

In the top photo, the left-most rack had power supplies. Second from left had head wheel servos, motor driver amps and capstan driver amps. The third from left had the capstan servo control chassis, tone wheel amp and 240 cycle refference signal.

Partially pictured in both photos is a rack with monochrome picture monitor, Cathode Ray Oscilloscope, and selector panel for both monitors.

The bottom picture, left rack has the color signal processing equipment.

Center rack has a video frequency modulator, four channel RF recording amp, four channel RF playback amp, four channel RF equalizer, channel combining amp, frequency demod and master control panel.

The right had rack had the transport, erase power source and audio amps.

NBC Burbank's eight Ampex VR-1000 Quad VTRs
Eight Ampex VR-1000 series machines were modified to record and play color using RCA Labs color electronics.

Burbank had eight Ampex black-and-white machines that could record color using with RCA Labs electronics.

Soon, three more RCA Recorders were at work.

March-1959 RCA Cover In March of 1959, RCA profiled the NBC and WBTV installations in its widely circulated “RCA Broadcast News.”Click on the pages for readable size pages in a new window.

RCA Production Recorders

Click here for larger photo of equipment.

NBC and WBTV Installations

Click here to see larger photo of NBC, Burbank installation at top.

Click here to see larger photo of NBC, New York installation at center.

Click here to see larger photo of WBTV, Charlotte installation at bottom.
How the TRT-1AC works

Click here to see larger photo of Control Panel.

Click here to see larger photo of Track Layout.

Click here to see larger photo of Tape Erase Head area.
Click here to see larger photo of the Monitoring Panel.
Click here to see larger photo of the control panel.

Click here to see larger photo of Quadurature control panels

Click here to see larger photo of the tonewheel assembly.

Another Quad TapeMilestone:

PresEisenhowerOnRCAColorVideotape-May22-1958-WRC-TV-NBC-Wash-DC

Monitor Photo of dgital tape restoration by Ed Reitan, Don Kent, Dan Einstien
Photos by Ted Langdell, July 17, 2006 visit to CBS Television City-Special Tour for Telecine Internet Group

May 22, 1958, President Eisenhower becomes the first president to be recorded in color on videotape.

The president helped dedicate NBC’s brand-new Washington, D.C. facilities housing network and WRC-TV television studios.

The Quad recording was made 3,000 miles away on one of the recorders in Burbank, using the RCA Labs color recording method.

The Quad tape of this event was located at the Eisenhower Library in Kansas, and is the earliest known color recording discovered to date.

The story of its restoration can be found here:


Capture by Don Kent from KTLA Videotape

Pre-recording programs in Burbank happened later. http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/rca-nbc_firsts.html


Capture by Don Kent from KTLA Videotape

During the process of trying to recover some of the earliest entertainment programs recorded at NBC Burbank—programs that used the RCA Labs heterodyne color method—the technology to also recover the Eisenhower tape was developed.


Capture by Don Kent from KTLA Videotape
There was a lot of dancing going on in order to recover those early entertainment tapes.But that’s another story, to be described on the “Fred Astaire” pages, yet to come.

Early Quad Videotape at CBS

Quad Videotape at CBS

Ampex photo: Demo at Conrad Hilton Hotel, Chicago

The Ampex Mark IV 2″ Quadruplex recorder as it was unveiled to a select group of CBS network people and affiliates and during a private showing at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Chicago in April of 1956.

A thunderous round of applause from convention goers several days later greeted the machine’s public debut.

CBS-TVC-Engineer-John_Radis-At-VTR.jpg

Ampex photo at CBS, Television City, Hollywood

CBS was the first on-air user of the machine, to tape-delay the evening CBS News broadcast with Douglas Edwards on Nov. 30, 1956.

In this photo, CBS Engineer John Radis inspects playback of an evening news broadcast from an Ampex quadruplex videotape recorder at CBS Television City in Hollywood.

Jim Morrison is on the phone to the right of VRX-1000 transport, one of only 16 hand-built machines. The two racks of tube equipment to the left contain the electronics for the recorder.

CBS Television City-Tape Room-Photo on wall of TVC

Photo on CBS-TVC wall

The CBS Television City tape room was responsible for recording network shows “off the line” and replaying them three hours later for West Coast broadcast by the twelve CBS affiliates on that leg of the network.
  By early 1958, CBS was operating a million-dollar videotape facility at its Grand Central Terminal technical center.  Billed as the largest of its kind, the NY center and TVC in Hollywood soon were serving recorded programs to more than half the CBS viewers, according to papers on the IEEE website.

“Jurassic Park” is the lower-level facilty at TVC that houses multiple 2″ Quadruplex machines, 1″ Type C, BetacamSP, Digital Betacam, D-1, D-2 and machines for other broadcast tape formats.

This picture shows the interformat racks with rack-mountable analog and digital decks, routing and patch facilities, picture and QC monitoring.

Tapes can be fed world-wide from here, and there’s at least one in a deck about to hit a bird.

Thousands of hours of Goodson-Todman game show Quad tapes were re-mastered here for use on the Game Show Network.

Come back to see the rest of our TVC tour… and see the reel with the oldest known entertainment program still preserved on Quad… along with the head that recorded the program.

Restoring the Earliest Known Color Quad Tape: The Dedication of WRC-TV/NBC Washington DC

The “Eisenhower Tape” or what is more accurately, The Dedication of WRC-TV/NBC Washington DC

January 6, 2015:  We’ve been advised this morning of the overnight passing of color television historian and engineer Ed Reitan, whose research and modification of an Ampex AVR-1 enabled recovery of this recording and others made using the RCA Labs color system.

PresEisenhowerOnRCAColorVideotape-May22-1958-WRC-TV-NBC-Wash-DC

Monitor Photo of Quad tape restoration to D-2 dgital tape by Ed Reitan, Don Kent, Dan Einstien, made during a July 17, 2006 visit to CBS Television City-Special Tour for Telecine Internet Group
Photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

May 22, 1958, President Eisenhower becomes the first president to be recorded in color on videotape.

The president helped dedicate NBC’s brand-new Washington, D.C. facilities housing network and WRC-TV television studios in a live afternoon broadcast fed to the NBC Television network.

Recordings were made 3,000 miles away in the new NBC Burbank Videotape Central, according to Don Kent, who helped restore the tape in 1988.

Kent’s restoration collaborator Ed Reitan believes they were recorded on Ampex VR-1000 series recorders that RCA modified to use the RCA Labs hetrodyne color method.

One source believes a recording may have been made at WRC-TV using equipment sent from RCA Labs in New Jersey.  We have not found any information to corroborate this.

RobtSarnoff-WRC-TV-Monochrome
This and following photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

President Eisenhower, RCA Chairman David Sarnoff and NBC President Robert Sarnoff spoke at the dedication.

It was covered by a combination of RCA Image Orthicon black and white cameras, and in monochrome by the two RCA three-I/O studio color cameras until…

RobtSarnoff-WRC-TV-InColor

 

Photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

Robert Sarnoff hit the big button under his right hand…
signalling an engineer to hit the color burst switch on the colorplexer (encoder) of the RCA TK-40 camera… and color suddenly came to the pictures being sent nationwide during the special broadcast.

A tape of the broadcast ended up in the Library of Congress holdings.

Another was sent to the President.

Don Kent holds the B-Copy of content for part of “An Evening with Fred Astaire,” one of the earliest color videotapes still in existence.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

Fast forward 30 years.  Kent and Reitan are in the middle of trying to restore another early NBC Burbank recording, “An Evening with Fred Astaire.”

“The effort involved historical research into the history of RCA’s development of practical Color Video Tape recording and playback,” Reitan told Quad Videotape Group’s Ted Langdell.

 


RCA Photo: NBC Burbank engineer adjusts tape wind direction on a pre-production RCA model VTRX” Television Tape Recorder, one of four in NBC Burbank’s “Video Tape Central.”
“I use the terminology “RCA Labs Color” for the format of the original Eisenhower, Astaire, and other NBC color tapes used on the modified Ampex machines at Burbank from early 1958 through at least April 1959,” he said.
RCA Photo, from RCA Broadcast News “I suggest the term ‘RCA Broadcast Color’ for the format of the tapes produced by the RCA TRT-1AC, the first color recorder produced by RCA Broadcast of Camden, N.J., and also used by NBC at Burbank starting in April, 1958,” Reitan advised.”These are distinguished from tapes made to the later “Low Band Color“ standard later promulgated by SMPTE.”
Don Kent slides in one of the AVR-1 circuit cards Ed Retian modified so RCA Labs color could be recovered after 30 years.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

Recovering color meant major work on the Ampex AVR-1 they were using.“The machine was the last operable 2″ that KTLA had,” Kent recalled.“Some ten AVR-1 boards were modified and replaced production boards within the standard AVR-1,” Reitan advised.Reitan did the design and mods to a spare set of boards.
All but two of the oldest known color videotapes are lined up on a cart in 1988 during the recovery of content that’s been held on them for 30 years. The tapes are now in the UCLA Archive.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

Testing and adjusting the AVR-1 required the only resources they had… the tapes from 1958.”We actually DID run the original tapes back and forth to set the machine,” Kent says about the early stages of the process.”Their dropouts were sometimes so bad (depending on the tapes we used) that we weren’t really concerned about damaging them any further.””I did do a thorough cleaning of the tape path each time I reloaded a tape, though. Once the correct deemphasis curve was set, the tapes played pretty well.”
Don Kent monitoring a transfer of RCA Labs Color on the KTLA Ampex AVR-1.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

“When Ed modified the de-emphasis curve he had to do an opposite pre-emphasis in another circuit,” Kent advised.The entire process took several weeks.  We wanted to get it right the first time,” Kent said.The AVR1 designer—Al Trost—made a special trip down to help, Kent noted.
Don “Does the Dance” while threading the AVR-2 with another reel.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

Why an AVR-1?Kent said, “…basically it’s because the AVR-1 made a better picture.  It’s AGC circuits meant no-banding.The 1200 had a “non-standard” setting on it’s Colortec, so a heterodyne tape would play from it without assistance, provided that the de-emphasis circuits were modified, but it would still have banding in the picture.  Same for a VR-1000 or VR-2000.  Besides, this is all we had!”
Sony D-2 Serial # 2 records one of the Fred Astaire Quad reels.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

 

NEC NTC-10 TBC supplied by Ken Zin of Merlin Engineering Works, with technical assistance provided by Ken Zin.

Zin says he provided information to enable correction of both the luminance and chroma time base errors inherent in the RCA Labs color process, along with additional information relating to the pre-emphasis and de-emphasis used by the RCA Labs color scheme.

This information came from from work Zin did to make a previous transfer of the Library of Congress’ copy of the WRC-TV color studio dedication at Merlin.

Zin made a module to play this version of RCA Labs Color for the Library’s Merlinized Ampex VR-2000 and then went to Washington, DC to install the module and made another transfer of the LoC’s tape while there.

The processing was done through an NEC NTC-10 timebase corrector.  It just made a smoother picture.The machine was outputting a fairly decent picture through it’s own “buffer” (before digital timebase correctors came along), but we broke the chain and tapped out of the demod signal to feed the NEC TBC. D-2 copies of the Quad Astaire and other tapes were made.

UCLA Archivist Dan Einstein

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

While this was going on, their other collaborator— UCLA film and television Archivist Dan Einstein— brought in the WRC-TV dedication tape from the Library of Congress.Kent recalled, “It wasn’t in very good shape, though.  We played the thing for them, but that had been attempted MANY times over the years and the tape was just plain ‘messed up.'”
Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, Kansas

 

Photo from Eisenhower Presidential Library Website

The playback of the LoC tape offered an enticing tidbit when Robert Sarnoff said something about presenting a copy of the tape to President Eisenhower.”After some detective work by Einstein  we found the second copy at The Eisenhower Library.  They didn’t even know what it was!” Kent exclaimed.
“Let’s try this again”

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

“They sent it to Dan, who brought it to me.  I broke the original hold-down tape on the reel which had been put there in 1958! “

“There were still some technical difficulties in the tape, though,” Kent detailed.

It was originated in Washington; recorded in Burbank; and had 5-kilocycle (bandwidth) sound that was delivered via telco on a different path than the picture.  Sound wasn’t multiplexed with the picture then. “

Kent and Ed Reitan at work on the AVR-1 at KTLA.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process.

“About two-thirds through the show the audio crapped out.  NBC had the backup telco line, so they switched to it (during David Sarnoff’s speech).  Sounded like a phonecall!

“I ran it through an equalizer and did what I could to match it, but there just wasn’t much there,” Kent says.

“The original sound is on one track of the D-2 and the equalized audio is on another track.”

“There’s also a video dropout in the Eisenhower tape that couldn’t be fixed because of missing frames.  I just left it.”

WRC-TV Dedication plaque as seen on NBC-TV network during the first color telecast of a US President
WRC-TV Dedication plaque as seen on NBC-TV network during the first color telecast of a US President, and also the first time a US President had been recorded on color television tape.  Monitor Photo of Quad tape restoration to D-2 dgital tape by Ed Reitan, Don Kent, Dan Einstien, July 17, 2006 visit to CBS Television City-Special Tour for Telecine Internet Group
Photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

 

 

Click here to watch the complete 29:42 broadcast.

 

Frame capture by Don Kent from 1988 KTLA News videotape story about the recovery process. Einstein (left), Kent (behind Bob Rosen, the Director of the UCLA Film and Televison Archive at podium) and Reitan (right) recieved an Emmy in 1989 for “Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development (for) Restoration of the Fred Astaire Specials.”  
EdReitan-DonWestWatchWRC-TV RestorationEd Reitan (C) and Don Kent(R) at CBS Television City watching Ed’s D-2 copy of the WRC-TV dedication July 17, 2006.

Photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

Reitan, (center) and Kent (right) watch the playback of their digital restoration inside CBS Television City’s “Jurassic Park” during a tour on July 17, 2006 arranged by CBS engineer/colorist David Keleshian for members of the Telecine Internet Group
Photo © 2006 Ted Langdell

“Jurassic Park” is the lower-level facilty at TVC that houses multiple 2″ Quadruplex machines, 1″ Type C, BetacamSP, Digital Betacam, D-1, D-2 and machines for other broadcast tape formats.

This picture shows the interformat racks with rack-mountable analog and digital decks, routing and patch facilities, picture and QC monitoring.

Tapes can be fed world-wide from here, and there’s at least one in a deck about to hit a bird.

Thousands of hours of Goodson-Todman game show Quad tapes were re-mastered here for use on the Game Show Network.