Ampex VRX-1000 Time Machine

by Charles
(SF Bay Area)

RCA TCR-100 at KRON 1980

RCA TCR-100 at KRON 1980

The Ampex QUADs, from the VR-1000 to the AVRs and VPRs were time machines. They allowed time-shifting of network programs originating from East Coast time to West Coast time. In 1974, I worked at ABC (LA) at 4151 Prospect Ave. There were, as I recall, 36 VR-2000s and a half dozen or so VR-1200s along with the ACR-25 commercial playback machines for KABC. That was the year 'Good Morning, America' started.

Building 24 (videotape) was manned 24/7 by engineers who recorded shows from studios as well as the east coast soap opera feeds. There was even one RCA TR-22 (low-band) Quad left from the older generation of machines. ABC sold the old RCA that year for around $4,000 to get rid of it. New Quads were $150,000 to $200,000 each! Don Kettlehut was in charge of videotape operations at that time. Jack Neitlich was in charge of the VRT maintenance group. I think Jack became Chief Engineer or V.P. of Engineering before he retired.

We videotaped programs - like Barney Miller - weeks in advance of east coast playback and made second generation copies for local playback (thus negating the need to tape delay that particular program). Barney Miller was the only program I recall 'sweetening' in 24.

Besides 'tape delay' (as time-shifting was called) we did some post-production, audio sweetening (adding laughter and applause) and screenings for 'standards and practices' (network censorship). At that time, engineers were not button pushers. We were expected to make whatever adjustments to the machine that were necessary to optimize the performance of playback - make the recording and playback process transparent. Second generation recordings looked very close to the first generation.

There was also an off-line edit room. SMPTE time-code was a big deal! You see quite a bit of 'burned time code' videos on youtube videos. 3/4" - with time code burned into the video - was used to make edit decision lists in the off-line environment - saving the Quads for premium use only. 1" C Format replaced most Quads in the 1980s. By 1980, I moved to San Francisco.

With Digital Recording in the 1990s, real transparency became a reality. Now, the twentieth generation recording is 99.9987% identical to the first generation (a few errors do occur). The first digital videotape recorders were $140,000! Several flavors of time code (tape run time, absolute time code, time-of-day time code) and 8 channels of audio are typical of modern video recording environments. Tape operators no longer needed to be engineers.

The tsunami in Sendai effectively brought videotape to an early demise. google - The Sendai Tsunami March 11 2011. The Sony Video Tape Factory was right in the path of that wave!


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