Tag Archives: Broadcast Technology

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:


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.