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Die Story über Ampex (6) von 12

Video Recording, Wachstum und Zukunft

The Brltish Broadcastmg Company's decision in 1962 to change its broadcasting Standard from 405 lines to the 625 lines used in most of Europe was to trigger an event in Ampex history which provided a proper encore to the introduction of the VR-1000, the world's first practical videotape recorder. The BBC sought a videotape recorder that would provide more detail at the new broadcasting Standard (the more lines the more detailed the picture; the U.S. Standard is 525 lines).

 

In response to the BBC contract to develop a black and white videotape recorder capable of meeting high picture fidelity, Ampex engineers equipped two VR-1000 recorders with transistorized components of a completely new design. The recorders demonstrated measurable improvement in picture quality and satisfied the BBC requirement for test vehicles. Known as VR-1000Ds, the two recorders were shipped to England in 1963. They were the only two Ds ever produced, but they set in motion one of the most important products in Ampex history, the high-band VR-2000.

 

Stimulated by the quality improvements embodied in the Ds, the video engineering staff continued work toward a new series of recorders and later in 1963, a complete design project was outlined. It called for a recorder with unprecedented reproduction fidelity. Building on the series of accessories developed over the years to improve the quality and flexibility of the VR-1000, the engineers planned a second generation recorder with a new high-band standard. Among other advances, it would be capable of producing second and third generation color dubs superior in quality to previous master recordings.

 

In 1963, as the Company was still recovering from the difficulties of 1961, a project of this scope required considerable soul-searching before it could be undertaken. Most of the world's television stations had only recently acquired VR-1000 recorders, and it was difficult to see how even a superior product like the one proposed could stimulate a major reequipment cycle at this point. Color broadcasting, where the new recorder's merits would be of major importance, had not yet reached full maturity.

 

Nevertheless, after careful evaluation, the decision to proceed was made. Ampex management was willing to bet substantial engineering dollars, that a truly superior recorder would find its market. The engineering team headed by Grant Smith moved rapidly and by the spring of 1954 the VR-2000 was ready for unveiling at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Chicago. As usual, the Ampex booth was active at the 1964 show, and the transistorized high band VR-2000 was a magnet for station managers and engineers. First orders came from the BBC which had followed the continuation of the VR-1000D effort with great interest. In fact, the first six VR-2000S were destined for the British Network even before the NAB show.

Color Boom Arrives

Late in 1964, the color boom began. Along with the VR-2000, the Philips Plumbicon* tube had emerged to guarantee greatly improved color camera fidelity. The tools seemed to be at hand to make color broadcasting successful. First NBC, and then the other U.S. networks committed themselves to virtually complete colorcasting by the following fall season.

 

At the 1965 NAB show, the VR-2000 was no longer just a great engineering achievement. it was a vital necessity to stations throughout the United States to handle network color and local production. The high-band VR-2000 was the only videotape recorder on the market capable of the kind of color fidelity needed to make good quality color broadcasting feasible.

 

For the next several years, Ampex couldn't produce VR-2000s fast enough to keep up with the demands, first in the U.S., then in Canada. The U.S. television industry acknowledged the VR-2000's contribution by awarding Ampex its second "Emmy" on June 4, 1967 in Los Angeles. Tom Davis, then Vice President-General Manager, Audio/ Video communications division, accepted on behalf of the many Ampex people who contributed to its success.

 

By mid-1969, 1.000 Ampex VR-2000 high band recorders had been delivered.The VR-2000, and a second highband recorder, the VR-1200, continued to be the preferred recorders for color and monochrome broadcast use throughout the world. Safes are particularly brisk today in Europe and Japan, where the switch to color is taking place as it did earlier in the United States.

 

The years between the showing of the Mark IV videotape recorder (the first recorder Ampex demonstrated) and VR-2000 were not without their drama, achievement and anxiety. Returning from the momentous showing of the Mark IV in 1956, Ampex engineers had their work cut out for them. Before a single recorder could be delivered, some additional design and development work had to be done. Most notably, a new processing amplifier was added to the system. The requirements for the design were identified in conferences with the Columbia Broadcasting System engineering staff and design development was a one-man show performed by Ray Dolby.

 

The heads on the VRX-1000 (the first 12 recorders to be delivered) were not interchangeable, and therefore a tape recorded on one unit could be played back only on the same unit. Video tape recordings were so much better than kinescope replays that early problems were tolerated with reasonable equanimity by customers, but video engineers, with visions of a system capable of even greater performance, continued work on the recorder.

 

The small group of engineers responsible for the development of the videotape recorder now settled down to adding new capability to the VR-1000. It was a year before engineering turned the VR-1000 over to manufacturing, with reasonable assurance that it would offer excellent performance in any broadcasting application. In the next few years a series of accessories was developed which greatiy improved the quality of video recording.

 

The color kit was first in 1958. For the first time, broadcasters had color recording capability which far surpassed kinescope reproduction. Of major importance was Intersync**, a high stability head and capstan servo. This allowed the recorder to be fully locked to local sync while switching from tape to film or vice versa in programming, previously the engineer would manually fade to black and make a cut into or out of the tape. The viewer would see a rolling picture on his home screen at the point of the cut.

 

In March 1962, the Electronic Editor was offered to broadcasters by Ampex. This accessory allowed video tapes to be edited without cutting and splicing. The following year, a time element control system called Editec was added to the Electronic Editor, which made possible programming of precise and automatic editing of video tapes with an accuracy good to a single frame.

As evidence of the eager acceptance of Ampex products, salesmen manning the booths in which the products were shown for the first time, would never fail to sell the demonstration units. With Intersync engineering was convinced that it was going to get its prototypes back after NAB in 1960 and took radical steps to insure their return. The first Intersync units went to NAB with fire engine red chassis.

 

The smug engineers, satisfied that they had finally thwarted the salesmen, sat back to await the reaction. They waited in vain. Attempting to track down the Intersync prototypes almost a week after they were shown, a salesman was pinned down and forced to admit that he, indeed, had sold them in spite of their color - "The customer didn't seem to mind."

 

While Intersync was being developed at Ampex, Ginsburg, Lawrence Weiland (now Vice President-General Manager, Video Products Division), and Chuck Anderson (a member of the original videotape recorder team) visited WBBM in Chicago to meet one of the station's engineers and take a look at a project he had underway. This was 1959 and the engineer, Charles Coleman, had developed a device which he called Coletec, which corrected geometric distortion in videotape recordings. Virtually any geometric error was eliminated by his invention, thus ridding the home screen of distorted flag poles, wavy buildings, etc.

 

Seeing the Potential of Coletec, an agreement was quickly concluded with CBS, and Charles Coleman joined Ampex. In March, 1961, Ampex introduced the Amtec time element compensator to broadcasters and couldn't fill orders fast enough to satisfy customers. Within months after the introduction of Amtec, another contribution to the video accessories line, Colortec, was credited to Charles Coleman assisted by Pete Jensen. Colortec offered such high time base stability, that broadcasters could for the first time meet high FCC-NTSC Standards for color broadcasting. Predictions that this unit would stimulate the boom in color telecasting were premature, however.

 

Ampex Faces Competition

It was at this time, 1961, that RCA introduced its TR-22, the first fully transistorized broadcast videotape recorder. As soon as the wraps were taken off, the new unit at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention, Ampex knew it faced powerful competition. Rising to meet the challenge, work was pushed on a new recorder (the VR-1100) which was to meet and even surpass all the attractions of the new RCA unit.

 

The following year, NAB delegates were introduced to the new Ampex VR-1100 recorder, which was less expensive than anything on the market, fully transistorized and destined to draw customers from previously untapped markets. From the beginning, videotape recording had intrigued users of closed circuit television in education, industrial and government communities. With the Iower-priced early VR-1100 some significant installations took place. A particularly unusual new application was developed around the new recorder for the U.S. Navy. The recorders were installed in a closed circuit television system aboard aircraft carriers. The program, known as Pilot Landing Aid Television, is still being used to increase pilot proficiency in landing aboard carriers, and Ampex continues to sell the VR-1100. Rapidly on the heels of the VR-1100 came the VR-2000 and there was no doubt of Ampex leader-ship in the broadeast videotape field.

 

The VR-2000 and its acceptance in the broadcasting industry again posed the question, "What next?" The industry had color recording of a quality which would satisfy the most discriminating viewer. Where would Ampex go from here?

The next move was toward increased mobility. Work was begun on the miniaturization of recording equipment for broadcasters. The first result of this effort was introduced in March 1967 - a 50 pound battery-operated portable videotape recorder and camera combination; the smallest standard broadcast recorder ever built. Called the VR-3000, the new package was designed for use in taping remote news and sports events. For the first time, reporters could take videotape recording equipment directiy to the site of newsworthy events without need for a complete mobile teleproduction van. Later that year, Ampex introduced the BC-100, the first color handheld broadcast camera.

 

The camera development work conducted at Ampex moved the company into new professional video product areas. Beginning with a studio camera introduced in 1965, this diversification of interests in the video market set a pattern for the coming years. The VR-3000 portable highband recorder was teamed with a new monochrome camera, the BC-300, in 1967. The next year Ampex offered its first color broadcast television camera, the BC-210, for Studio and remote use.

 

In 1969, the acquisition of Bogner Antenna Systems Corporation and Electromagnetic Radiation Laboratories and the purchase of the design and patent rights to AMP Inc. switchers enabled Ampex to offer complete products for a television studio from cameras to antenna output. In four years, Ampex moved from simply a supplier of video tape recording equipment to a producer of most of the major equipment required by broadcasters.

 

Video Recording on Disc

Meanwhile, video engineering was continuing longrange product development using the videotape recording concept. In 1966, ABC had tapped Ampex with a request that it develop a system for slow speed instant replay of important moments in sports action for their acclaimed "Wide World of Sports". It was decided, that magnetic tape could not reliably handle slow motion because repetitive scans would cause the tape to deteriorate. Instead, the development team headed by John Poole, decided to attempt a new medium - the magnetic metal disc. Poole had managed the initial development of a magnetic metal disc buffer for the company's Videofile Information System before the Videofile Systems development was established as a separate corporate entity (more on this in a future chapter).

 

The medium was selected for this application because it could stand limitless head exposure and appeared to be an obvious choice for a slow motion recorder. ABC went on the air with the Ampex-developed disc recorder, the HS-100, in March, 1967. The success of this first use of a magnetic disc for color video recording triggered a new family of Ampex products: the HS-200 recording system for teleproduction and, most recently, products for use in educational Systems, x-ray technology and scientific experimentation.

 

Meanwhile, once the VR-1000 had been turned over to manufacturing, Charles Ginsburg formed and managed an advanced development laboratory which was responsible for developing new products and long range product plans using videotape recording. Out of the laboratory came a new videotape recording concept which was to spawn an entirely new product line for Ampex.

 

Ginsburg and his group of engineers had refined helical scan recording to the point that it was ready to be used in a marketable product. The helical system reduced the number of heads required for video recording from four to one or two, making the System easier to manufacture and therefore far less expensive to produce. Wedding transistor technology with the helical scan prinpicle, Ampex introduced the VR-1500 portable television recorder in December 1962. The VR-1500 was specifically designed for closed circuit applications in education, training, industry, medicine and sports. It offered the closed circuit field a videotape recorder for only $12,000; approximately one-third the cost of the VR-1100. The VR-660 which permits monochrome broadcast as well as closed circuit use succeeded the VR-1500. These two recorders had an important role in developing instructional television. A later "C" version of the VR-660 is still being sold. Reliability and five hour playing time per reel of tape have impressed and satisfied users. Recorders like the VR-1500 and VR-660, priced dramatically lower than earlier broadcast recorders, whetted appetites for even Iower-priced recorders for the closed circuit television field.

 

By 1964, new developments in helical recording were taking place rapidly in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, at the Consumer and Educational Products Division. Here engineers under Rein Narma and the late William Boyian with the counsel of Redwood City engineers had made rapid progress on a simplified helical system using one-inch-wide tape, rather than the two-inch tape used on the VR-660.

 

CCTV Comes of Age

Since the introduction of the VR-7000 series of helical recorders by the Consumer and Educational Products Division in 1965 and 1966, the major part of Ampex closed circuit television activity has been in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Here a succession of improved products has extended Ampex leadership in the closed circuit field. In addition to recorders ranging from $1100 to $21,000, camera and other accessories are offered. More than 16,000 Ampex one-inch video recorders for closed circuit use were sold between 1965 and mid-1969.

 

The lower cost, one-inch machines pioneered a host of new applications in education, industrial training and communications. Today the Educational and Industrial Products Division markets color and monochrome closed circuit helical scan recorders and accessories through a world-wide distribution system. The division also operates a videotape duplication laboratory to enable educators to build their tape instruction libraries and a closed circuit audio-video workshop which trains non-technical operators in production techniques and equipment service.

 

In 1966, another new trend further broadened Ampex video activities. In the 10 years following the introduction of the VR-1000, Ampex had been, for the most part, a supplier of this crucial com-ponent for systems developed by others.

 

The Special Products Division was organized to develop new product directions using existing technology, and to design and equip mobile video-tape recording vans and complete television stations. In other words, to give Ampex the ability to sell complete systems consisting of Ampex and other companies' components.

 

One of the first major contracts handled by the Special Products Development Department was a full scale training system using broadcast video recorders for the United States Continental Army Command (CONARC). The first order covered five video vans and playback equipment which was installed at training centers in the CONARC System. For the first time, recruits had a taped instructor who never tired of taking them through the interior of Army vehicles or instructing them on the proper way to break down a rifle. The installation was so successful that in July, 1967, the Army awarded Ampex $3.7 million for additions to the videotape recording system.

 

The next major assignment came for the Special Products Development Department when UHF stations began to go on the air throughout the U.S. Businessmen entering broadcasting for the first time preferred to turn over the planning of their studios to experts. The Ampex name in the broadcast business plus the SPDD organization which had developed experience in combining Ampex products with purchased components to result in complete packages attracted orders from many of the new UHF broadcasters.

 

 

New Directions for the Special Products Development (SPD)

Because of the department's broad charter and its work with CONARC, it received an inquiry from the Oak Park and River Forest High School in late 1966, about the design of a random access instructional system to be used by students to augment classroom studies. At this time, no true random access teaching System existed, which would allow instantaneous response to simultaneous requests for the same lesson. Existing Systems served only the first request from beginning to end forcing second and later requests to receive the lesson already  in  progress.

 

Plotting out the school's needs and examining Ampex technology of the moment, SPD proposed an initial audio system using a recorder capable of responding to two or more requests within a minute and high speed duplication equipment which would deliver the taped lesson to student carrels. The result is the maximum time any stu­dent would wait to receive a lesson is 59 seconds.

 

After the successful completion of this $385,000 contract in March 1968, the high school placed two subsequent orders for expansion of the system; first adding additional student carrels and then video capability. Rapid random access to video material was made possible through newly devel­oped magnetic disc technology combined with Computer response.

 

The Oak Park System (now called Pyramid) launched Ampex into still another business. In May 1969, a second order for instructional equip­ment similar to the Oak Park installation was received from Pima College, which was under construction in Tucson, Arizona. The Special Products Division (it attained divisional Status in May 1968) now actively seeks contracts for its Pyramid ran­dom access instructional System and views tech­nology in education as one of the answers to the current problem of developing individual instruction plans for each student. Through use of in­structional systems, teachers could tailor study plans for each student by drawing from tape libraries and free themselves from repetitive class­room instruction in order to provide the counselling the student vitally needs to plan his overall edu­cation goals.

 

In spite of the overwhelming emphasis the development of the Pyramid System demanded, SPD never lost sight of its original missions. It continues to serve customers with specially modified standard products and plans and equips mobile recording studios and complete stations. Of particular significance was an order received from a recording Company in 1967 for a multi-channel audio recorder which would allow the company to tape up to 16 Channels of sound separately. The recording studio was looking for a device which would ease production problems by allowing them to record performers and any group of instruments separately to create special effects in the finished products. Special products responded with a 16-channel recorder, using a videotape console as its base. The unit pleased the customer and stimulated a flood of requests from other recording companies, particularly those that specialize in rock releases. Rock music, which is largely improvisational and depends heavily on "manufactured" sound, found multi-channel recorders a boon to creativity and control.

 

Eventually, the interest in the recorder prompted the company to move its manufacture and marketing to the Professional Audio Division, where it would be offered as a standard product. Called the MM-1000, the recorder can be constructed with up to 24 Channels and has found homes in most major record studios and in virtually all of the new recording houses, which serve the rock market.

 

The original development of the videotape-re­corder has led Ampex into a number of new businesses in the last decade. Beyond the initial needs of the broadcast field it has moved to instrumentation for wide-band data recording, to closed circuit recording for education and industry, to disc re­cording for instant replay for teleproduction and closed circuit monitoring to the Videofile Infor­mation Systems and most recently into digital recording.

These achievements alone distinguish the video recording concept as one of the important developments of the century and its full promise has yet to be fulfilled.

 

* Trademark-Philips ** Trademark-Ampex Corporation

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