FORWARD by the AUTHOR Don Kershaw

It’s now 10 years since I retired from the BBC, having been in “Tel Rec” since I joined in May 1955. I always intended to write a history of the development of Video Recording in the BBC, and the positions I held, never far from the coal face, will hopefully add authority to the story as it unfolds.

As a Telecine engineer in 1955, we had to transmit Television Recordings that were made on Film. Despite all the efforts of the many experts and judicious use of the “Bode equaliser” and spot wobble, the results were not very pleasing, and often quite terrible.
Machines to record the TV signal magnetically were being developed, including the BBC’s Research Dept. “VERA” (Video Electronic Recording Apparatus). This was first demonstrated live on Panorama with the late Richard Dimbleby on 14 th April 1958.
To cut a long story short, because details of VERA, and other devices have been described elsewhere, the clear winner in the race to achieve a practical recording system was the AMPEX 2” Quadruplex system which became universally used, holding its own with its developments, until the 1” recording formats emerged in the late 70’s.
The BBC bought one machine which was evaluated by Engineering Designs Dept. after being modified by Cintel from 525/30 to 405/25 line working. It was moved to Lime Grove Studios in August 1958, and my story begins.


The Telecine Area at Lime Grove was situated adjacent to “Smith’s Yard” at the southern end of the Studio Block. All Telecine machines were called TKs. In the basement, the Film Recording channels were called TRs.
The Ampex VR 1000 VTR was installed in the old Music room between the Gramophone Library and Studio G, not very far from the EMI Telecine channels TK 1 & 2. The VTR was called TR/TK 11 which stuck for a long time before VT became the universal replacement title. Input signals were obtained by plugging in the Film TR area and the Output was routed to CAR or Studios via the TK router (“The Brain”).
Operational trials were so successful that the BBC decided to buy three more. The second was installed during April ‘59 in the same room as the first and called TR/TK 12 and the others were put in an adjacent room during September ’59 being called TR/TK 5a & 5b. Unfortunately, there is no record of the first use of a 2” vtr for programme transmission.


The machines were difficult to set up “lengthy, tortuous and critical”. The engineers operating the machines were highly skilled and dedicated, but unused to television operational practices. Dicky Meakin the Senior Television Engineer responsible for Telecine and now VTR decided to recruit new staff with experience in magnetic recording in Radio and engineers familiar with TV operations. I was asked if I was interested in working with the new toys and I agreed.


The machines were certainly temperamental and presented many operational difficulties. No video erase heads meant that tapes had to bulk erased by placing them inside the coil of an electro magnet whilst slowly rotating the reel and withdrawing it gently. The tapes were only of 60 minutes duration, on 12” diameter spools and weighing some 15 pounds.
There was no tape counter, so finding the beginning of a programme meant running the tape at normal speed of course (no pictures whilst spooling) stopping it and marking the back of the tape gently with a wax pencil. When starting the tape, it was some 5 seconds before pictures appeared (if you were lucky) and final adjustments had to be made before the picture was satisfactory. So we had to start the tape 10 seconds before the required piece of programme by measuring a 10 second length using the distance between the tape transport rollers as a guide. If there were several cue points required for programme inserts, we stuck pieces of paper between the layers of tape to assist in looking for the wax pencil marks! We were once asked to rerun the last four minutes of a horse race. This was achieved by stopping the tape at the end of the race, taking it off the machine turning it over and playing it backwards for four minutes, stopping it, turning it over again and relacing it correctly.
Fortunately, erase heads and tape timers were eventually supplied and very welcome they were despite the fact that the tape timers were not very accurate.
A major difficulty in the operation of VTR’s was connected with the fact that the television field repetition rate was tied to the frequency of the National Electricity grid. The frequency (nominally 50Hz) would drift from 48 to 52Hz and this would necessitate making continual adjustments to the many frequency sensitive circuits in the machine. Mainly a playback problem, ignoring the changes would result in several white streaks on the picture and/or serious picture break up. Recording during mains frequency variations could result in the loss of the edit pulse recorded on the control track without which the tape could not be edited satisfactorily.


Tapes were responsible for many problems. Any mechanical damage to the tape and particularly its surface would result in white streaks on the picture. In the early days, all tapes had to be “polished” by running the tapes through the machine in real time letting the recording heads burnish the surface.
Each tape was evaluated again in real time and rejected for excessive “drop outs” causing the white streaks - a very time consuming business. Sometimes, especially if the humidity was high, loose particles of tape would clog one or more of the four rotating heads making a recording useless and producing broad horizontal bands across the picture if it happened whilst playing back. Cleaning with a cotton bud was possible and often tried whilst on transmission, but touching a headwheel rotating at 100 miles per hour even with a cotton bud is not everyone’s cup of tea!
Tapes were in short supply because of the difficulties in manufacture, The cost of a 60 min tape at that time was around £100 (over £1000 in today's money!)
A system was set up whereby after a tape had been transmitted, it went into a 24 hour delay cupboard and was then wiped for re-use unless special instructions had been issued. Without this arrangement, we would have been without tapes to record. For some time we only had 60 tapes.


Another problem was the mechanical compatibility of headwheel units. Each head had to be adjusted to be precisely 90 degrees from its neighbour. This was normally done in the factory, but often had to be adjusted on site by turning tapered screws on the headwheel. It was a case of making an adjustment and seeing its effect by playing a known good tape. If incorrect, horizontal bands on the picture were offset.
The tape was held in position as it passed by the video recording/replay headwheel by a curved guide assisted by vacuum. If the guide was not at the correct height and position to match the curvature of the headwheel then vertical lines on the picture became jagged like the teeth on a saw.
Fortunately, devices were produced on later machines to eliminate timing errors resulting from these head related mechanical problems and will be described later.
There were problems associated with heads having different electrical characteristics. This again formed itself into horizontal bands some having sharper pictures than the others. Equalisers were provided to manually reduce this effect.


Editing was possible by cutting and rejoining with splicing tape using a special jig. The “Smith” splicer was the favourite choice, but that came later. Initially, the only available jig was an overgrown version of an audio tape splicer. The first problem was to locate where the cut should take place from the programme point of view. If the cut was dependant on picture content, this could only be determined by running the tape until the appropriate point was reached, hitting the stop button and marking the tape with wax pencil. The tape was then played to the director and the editor would watch for the mark to pass the head, clicking his fingers at it did. The director could then assess whether the correct point had been reached. If the cut was dependant on audio, then the same techniques used in audio tape editing could be used i.e. rocking the tape back and forth whilst listening to the audio signal.
Then came the tricky bit. Each video frame was recorded on forty successive tracks transversely across the tape. Each track was 10 thousandth of an inch wide and separated from its neighbour by 5 thousandth of an inch (the “guard band”). The aim was to cut the tape in the middle of the guard band before track one and join it to the next bit of tape which was cut in a similar manner, bearing in mind that mis-handling the tape could damage the recording for ever.
The magnetic tracks could only be seen through a microscope after the surface of the tape had been coated with a suspension of iron filings in a volatile liquid (Edivue). Identifying track one could be done by looking for the edit pulse which was recorded on the control track at the bottom edge of the tape and counting eight tracks to one side. Having cut both ends of the tape with a razor blade in the right place, the iron filings had to be cleaned off and the ends butt joined with sticky tape.
If the edit was technically successful, then the tape would play back correctly. If not, white flashes, and or picture break up were evident, and the editor had to try again.
For many years, until electronic editing became the norm, this was the only way of editing 2” video tape and the remarkable fact was that excellent results were usually obtained.
The Smith's splicer when it became available had a light and microscope mounted above the cutting edge of a guillotine. The position of the tape could be moved by knobs operating rubber rollers and lifters were provided to move the ends of the tape clear whilst the sticky tape was being pulled off the roll.
Another design of splicer (EMT) used a special replay head to read the edit pulse and eliminated the necessity to use iron filings.
Editing was frowned upon because it shortened the tape available for re-use and was likely to have increased unacceptable dropout due to damage where edits had been made. Because of this, Production Departments were charged a high premium when they needed to edit a tape.


Because the video head played back the tape before the audio head, when a splice was made, the audio edit was always after the video. This was usually the opposite way round to what was required
To get round this, the new audio had to be copied on to a ¼” audio tape recorder and re-recorded on to outgoing piece of tape before the splice was made. Alternatively it could be copied back after the splice was made, and “carded out” a dubious practice to lift the audio edge of the tape away from the erase head to prevent a gap in the audio when the recording was stopped. Audio tape recorders were a necessity for most editing operations and continued to be when elecronic editing techniques were employed later.


Granada TV bought their first VR 1000 about the same time as the BBC and other commercial companies followed. Two more VR 1000s were purchased and went initially to BBC Bristol and Glasgow after more tests at Designs and Research Departments. One of the machines in Lime Grove (TR/TK 5b) was given to Belfast.

THE VR 1000B

Four of these machines were bought during the winter of 59/60. One went into a vehicle to become the first London Mobile. Another went to Designs Dept for tests and then to MR and two were installed temporarily in what eventually became the Presentation Area for BBC2 on the 4 th Floor of Television Centre.
During the recording and editing of a segment for the Perry Como show, the American Editor came to edit on the 4 th Floor machines (VTR 9/10). He introduced us to the use of “Magic Marker” felt tip pens for marking tape instead of yellow wax pencil. This was an excellent development!
The VR 1000B machine was very similar to the VR 1000 but was capable of working on 525 and 625 TV standards. Switching was accomplished by putting all the standards sensitive components into sets of little metal boxes which could be plugged in as required.


Planning and building TV Centre was well underway when the first VTRs were purchased but the Television Service grossly underestimated the future growth of VT Recording and the space it would require. The Basement underneath the fountain was allocated for recording on film and tape and it eventually became known as Recording Area 1. Initially, only the first eight cubicles were built, The first two for 16mm Marconi quick pulldown Film Recorders and the next six for VTRs.
VT 5 & 6 were the first operational machines in the new area (March ’61), with record and replay routing being done in CAR. These were the first VR 1000C machines.

THE VR 1000C

These machines did not look much different from their predecessor the VR 1000B. A new design of FM modulator was the main improvement. An optional accessory purchased for VT6 was a variable delay line unit which improved compatibility by allowing a manual adjustment to reduce “cogging” caused by head timing misalignment.
An automatic device called AMTEC was eventually fitted to VT 5, and this became the standard unit on AMPEX vtrs including the VR 2000 series. Invented by an engineer in CBS it measured the timing of each replayed line synchronising pulse and corrected errors using a variable delay line employing voltage controlled capacitors.
VT 8 was the next machine to be installed in December ‘61, and the first machine to be routed in the VTR Control Room. Plug and sockets were used for the record and replay routing with direct circuits to and from TC Studios as well as CAR.
VT 8 had a new type of head wheel servo control called INTERSYNC. This allowed, for the first time, the replayed signal to be synchronised with studio outputs for dissolves and superimpositions. Prior to this, these effects could only be achieved by genlocking the studio to the vtr, and in so doing impressing all the vtr timing defects on to the studio cameras. INTERSYNC in conjunction with AMTEC was a powerful combination.
VT 8 also had an electronic editor which allowed new recordings to be inserted into and assembled onto previous recordings with no picture disturbance. This was operationally impossible to use until control systems to initiate the record functions were made available.
Nine VR 1000C machines were purchased allowing BM and TV News at AP to join the vtr club. The 4 th TVC machine went into VT 7 in June ’62 which until then had been the Tape Store.
By the autumn of 1962 the 4 th Floor machines had been moved to VT 3 and 4 using up all the space in the first half of Recording Area 1, and Recording Area 2 was being developed in the basement between Studio 4 and 5 for Film Recording.


Storage of video tape was an ever increasing problem. Cubicle 7 soon became full. Early 1962 saw the building work to open up the second half of Area 1 including a new tape store in what eventually was developed into a dedicated transmission area. An even bigger store was built under Studio 1 with moveable racking to stack more and more tapes. After that, basement dressing rooms all round the vt area were requisitioned to store the ever increasing mountain of tapes. Eventually, long term storage of tape was moved to the Film and Tape Library at Brentford.


Three of the machines were used by Research and Designs Depts to develop special facilities.
Having been modified by Research Dept, one of them could be switched to play back at half speed, producing a picture of 405 lines at half the normal frame rate. The displayed picture was then optically converted using a vidicon camera pointing at a specially modified monitor. This was used to transmit the first “Slow Motion” playbacks for sporting events around June ’64. (Grand National)
Another, was severely modified by Designs Dept to produce the notorious Slow Motion machine which eventually was installed at Lime Grove. The tape transport was modified to play one field of a picture normally, store it on a very large diameter floppy disk, playing back from it a repeat whilst the tape was moved back using mechanically reciprocating arms ready to play the next field. Thus, half speed playback was obtained without the quality loss of optical conversion. This was used around July ’66 until July’68 when it was replaced by the HS 100.
The third machine was used by Research and Designs to develop the 625 line High Band recording system in conjunction with AMPEX which allowed, eventually, successful direct colour recording. The machine was never used operationally, but led to the production of the AMPEX VR 2000 machine.


RCA were also developing VTRs working to the same format and compatible with the Ampex vtrs. A TRT 1a was evaluated by Designs Dept. in early 1960, but not purchased by the BBC. The whole machine was mounted on three full size bays including the tape deck.
The first RCA machine to be bought was the TR 22 in February ’62. This was an innovative machine almost totally transistorised and compressed into a housing resembling a large upright piano. The tape deck and control panels were angled backwards to assist tape loading.
Initially working on the same FM standards as Ampex, it had the possibility of High Band working, and this was implemented later. Highband was considered necessary for 625 line working and certainly required for colour.
Five TR 22 machines were purchased and were installed during ‘62 and ’63 in VTs 14, 15, 16, News at AP, and a mobile for BM.

RCA TR 22a

The TR 22 was followed by the TR22a in December ’63 which came with Highband and the six purchased were initially installed two each in CF and London Mobiles, one in VT 13 and one in News at AP. All the TR 22 machines had problems with coping with Highband recording standards “bearding” and the servo mechanisms were very intolerant. A TR 22B went to News.


The Japanese made vtrs to the 2” quadruplex standard but weren’t allowed to export due to patent problems. At the time, they were very sophisticated and operated automatically from an automated Network Control designed by NHK.
Fernseh also made 2” quadruplex vtr’s, like an overgrown TR 22 to look at but none were purchased by the BBC.
Rank Cintel also made a protype which apparently worked quite well. The project was however scrapped, I think because of patent problems.
The Russians also made quadruplex vtr’s starting with a 3” machine and later 2”. They were not used outside of the communist block.

AMPEX VR 2000 prototype

The first transistorised machine from Ampex, similar in size to the TR22 without the monitoring bridge was purchased in 1965. Six prototype machines were purchased, but alas, there were many initial problems with wear on the video heads and it was some months before they were put into service. All the machines except one were installed in either TC or LG, the sixth going to Designs Dept where it stayed until 1986.


Six machines followed by 23 VR 2000Bs purchased from June ’68 were very popular models with engineers and operators, and probably produced the best quality pictures than any of the quadruplex family. AMTEC and COLOURTEC took care of head and servo timing errors present at the beginning of a line and a VELOCITY COMPENSATOR took care of errors during the line. Dropout compensators obscured dropouts by repeating picture information from the previous line.
Many of the machines were equipped with EDITEC editing controllers, which were instrumental in developing electronic editing techniques replacing physical splicing as a post production tool.
One had a trip to Mexico in May ’70 for coverage of the World Cup in Guadalajara (Stan Pow & Geoff Higgs).


The VR 2000 machines had a new type of head assembly which replaced the slip ring transfer of RF to and from the rotating heads by a rotary transformer. The head bearing was lubricated with compressed air which required storage in a high pressure tank fed by a noisy compressor located in the base of the machines. The compressors were moved to the power switch room to reduce noise.
Eventually these were replaced by a communal system involving three large compressors in Wedge “M” in the outer services ring and piped to each cubicle via a comprehensive monitoring system in Area 1 Apparatus room.


The first requirement of colour recording was to record staff training programs using the 525 line NTSC standards from experimental cameras in Studio H Lime Grove.
Later, we could record and replay in 625 PAL using a 625 NTSC colourtec and a DD box to do the PAL switch. Finally the UNIVERSAL COLOURTEC became available for use on both colour TV standards.
Segmentation errors suddenly became very important where slight differences in response between heads and during the track across the tape became noticeable. AUTO CHROMA averaging the colour signal automatically helped, but a better device from BBC Engineering Designs Dept corrected the signal line by line.
A major problem resulting in picture disturbance caused by physical and often electronic editing was solved by Brian Jenkinson by modifications to the head servo. Also, he modified the Colour Bar Generator with a red patch which showed up segmentation velocity errors much more than on other colours. These were exciting times with many problems to be solved.


Transmissions started on 20th April 64 after an unforgettable false start when TV Centre lost all power. Colour transmissions started in July 67 (first in Europe) leading up to a full service in December. Colour transmissions on BBC 1 and ITV 1 commenced in November ‘69


Dedicated Areas for Transmission were installed in 1969, February for BBC2 and June for BBC1
Until that time, transmissions were played from any of the VTRs that were available. This initially had two VR 2000s for each Network with remote transport commands from control rooms between the two suites.
Like other cubicles, the machines could be started from the network Control Rooms on the 4th Floor.


As mentioned earlier, the VR 1000C in VT 8 had an electronic editor which was little use without some way of predicting when it should go into record. I was instrumental in designing a simple but workable system to solve this problem EDITSURE employed an electronic counter to switch the machine to record after 10 seconds. (the command to the machine was actually given 0.7 secs earlier because of an inbuilt delay in the machine). There was a rehearse facility which switched the monitoring to simulate the edit. Operation was simple, first find the point where the edit should be, recue 10 seconds, and rehearse the edit. If OK, make the edit, if not trim the recue point and try again.
The edit could be to programme from a studio, and they were given a bleep 0.7sec before the edit to cue the artists.
Alternatively, the edit could be to programme from another tape which was started simultaneously with the editing machine from a 10 sec preroll.
Audio edits could be made earlier or later than the picture edit using a manual push button. The accuracy of this system was limited to a few frames due to the variations in lock up time of the machines, but the system was used on many programmes.
AMPEX came up with a controller called EDITEC. Two versions were produced which involved recording a blip of tone on the tape cue track. whilst playing back at the point where the edit should take place. The edit could be rehearsed as before and if incorrect could be adjusted using a frame calibrated knob until correct.. The Mark1 version also had an animation facility. The Mark2 version used a variable knob to adjust the cue and didn’t have animation.
Both systems would reliably edit where they were told, but if the programme source was another tape, the accuracy was limited by the lock up variation of the source machine. EDITEC could only be used on 625 and 525 line programmes because the cue track was not available on 405 lines.
What was needed was a reliable system of synchronising the lock up routine of the two machines and this came about with TIMECODE.


The first system using a time signal recorded on the tape cue track to control editing functions was provided by ONTIME and installed on VT 11 in June 1967. It worked OK but had many operational drawbacks, most importantly the timecode signal used was unlikely to end up as an international standard. It was not used operationally.


Standardised by the SMPTE and later by the EBU in 1970 it became universal in its use for control and synchronisation of video and audio tape transports, and it is still in use with adaptations today.


Peripheral equipment to aid the introduction of Time Code into the vtr operation such as generators, readers and character generators to insert time code into a picture, was either expensive or not what ideally we required. Ray Taylor, a senior engineer in Designs Dept did a superb job in designing a whole range of equipment to our specification. The pieces of equipment mentioned above became standard units throughout the BBC.
Two TIME CODE COMPARITOR UNITS were made to display the time codes from two machines and the difference between them. These were invaluable for manually synchronising two machines.


Low quality helical scan vtrs, fore-runners of VHS were purchased to enable producers to view programme material in their offices and choose how they wanted it edited. Shibaden made a reel to reel machine with a built in monitor ideal for this purpose and with time code “burnt” into picture they could produce an edit log and come to edit the programme proper with many of the edit decisions already made. Helical scan recorders had the advantage of being able to display a picture whilst spooling and also still frames.
Recordings were made in Recording Area 2 in what became known as the “SHIB SHED” where the half inch machines recorded automatically following the broadcast quality vtr.


A development of “Off Line Viewing” (as the Shibaden operation became known) was OFF LINE EDITING Using cheap SONY Umatics, with a simple edit controller made by the Convergence Corporation, a trial edit of the programme would be made by the VT Editor to show the producer before moving to the expensive “ON LINE” edit suite and editing the programme for real.
Off Line suites were built in the unused supervisory rooms built for film recording in Recording Area 2, also in Hi-jacked viewing rooms close to Recording Area 1.

SYPHER (SYnchronous Playback of Helical scan and Eight track Recorders)

Equipment for this operation enabled a major breakthrough in handling the sound associated with video tape edited television productions. Video Tape Editors did a wonderful job of editing the sound, but quite often, additional work was required to “Sweeten” the sound to satisfy the production requirement in a similar way to sound activities in Film Production.
We needed equipment for an operation which copied the edited video and audio using a cheap Helical Scan recorder for the video and a professional quality multi track recorder for the audio. Time code would be recorded on both, and the two tapes taken to a specialised dubbing suite where the two tapes would be played back in synchronism using the time code. Using the spare tracks on the multitrack recorder, the sound would be modified and re-recorded onto the final track.
Finally the audio tape would be synchronised to the edited video tape and copied to its audio track.
A Sony Umatic recorder with the time code “Burnt” into the picture was used for the video, and a Studer Eight Track A 80 recorder was used for the audio. Unfortunately a suitable synchroniser was not available commercially and Ray designed one for us. We were adamant that the system should be automatic with time offsets applied when required. The sound supervisor controlled the Sony Umatic and the synchroniser needed to control the A 80 such that it “chased” the Umatic through all its transport modes, spooling back and forth and in playback completely automatically. The same rules applied to the operations involved in recording the tapes and re-recording back the audio at the vtr end of the operation.
The whole project involved much innovation and was a huge success.
Before the synchroniser was complete we took a gamble and recorded a number of big band concerts using an A80 for multitrack audio. We crossed our fingers that the synchroniser would be finished in time to put the completed sound on video tape.


This editing control system was chosen for our first time code edit suite because it was far more flexible than any other system at the time. Installed in VT 15 and 16 during June ’72 with a simple vision mixer (our first) it worked well, the main problem being associated with the need to distribute “Time of Day” EBU time code to all the machines which were likely to make recordings to be edited in this way. It enabled the editor to control and monitor the machines at a small desk away from the noisy vtr’s.



Just for the record, this vtr was the first helical scan vtr evaluated by the BBC, recording one complete field on a single diagonal track across one inch tape. The tape was wrapped round the recording head drum in a helix. Not considered good enough for broadcast purposes.


Now, this machine (mono only) purchased in February ’67 was used, for sports action replays. It recorded 20 seconds of video on a large diameter 12”? hard disk. After 20 seconds it reset to the beginning (with a continuity gap) and started again. It could also produce still frames. It was superseded by the AMPEX HS 100.


The “Video Disk” purchased in July ’68 was the AMPEX answer to slow motion, stop motion and instant replays. Using the four sides of two 16” cobalt coated aluminium hard disks it could record continuously and could replay the last 60 seconds after stopping the recording. Colour capable using similar signal circuitry to the VR 2000 it remained the answer to sports producers prayers until superseded in 1” helical vtrs which replaced 2” vtrs as the professional video recording format.


Video tape editing as a production tool was making huge demands on recording departments resources.VR2000Bs were expensive to produce and not getting any cheaper. Also, electronic editing, which was becoming popular because the edited tape was a copy and the original remained intact, used two machines to edit as opposed to one when mechanical splicing was employed.
Ampex produced a cheaper machine the VR 1200B which was nearly as good as the VR 2000B.
Electronic editing did not need both machines to be equipped with all the replay correcting devices, so the concept of Record/Edit Pairs was formulated in the BBC. These Pairs of machines could make two copies of a programme, main and backing, and by switching the replay correcting equipment from one transport to the other all the functions of editing could be accomplished with lower capital cost. Designs Dept made a unit to generate required signals that would otherwise be produced by the replay correctors.
Seventeen 1200Bs were purchased from June ’69 of which 4 were the cut down version for the eight machines installed as Record/Edit pairs in VT’s 5, 6, 7 & 8. Other fully equipped machines went to News (four) when they moved to the Spur at TC. Four ended up in Mobiles and the last eventually went to CF.


This was the first attempt at producing a portable 2” machine. It was designed as a back pack, battery operated, but needed a very strong back. OBs had one from July ’69. I took it to Plymouth to record the coming home of Robin Knox Johnson from his sailing trip.


This was the Flagship of the Ampex quad machines, bigger than the 2000, but boasted a very quick lockup time and fast tape spooling enabled by a very sophisticated method of supporting a loop of tape either side of the recording heads in vacuum columns and very powerful reel motors.
It also used a wide range colour timing corrector based on varicap diodes.
The BBC bought one for VT 14 in May ’71 which was later exchanged for another in October ‘71. An acoustically noisy beast and too expensive for general use in the BBC.

IVC 961

A cheaper machine was desired to replace old quad machines which had been dumped in the English Regions after service elsewhere.
These IVC 1” Helical Scan vtr’s looked a possibility and were purchased from October ’71 for NC, NT, PY, LS and SO. They used a colour under system similar to VHS and were barely acceptable for broadcast purposes.


The decision to begin a colour service around 1965 spelled the beginning of the end for Film recording. The film recording area had been expensively equipped with 35 mm recording channels on the right hand side cubicles and 16 mm channels on the left.
Television Service Policy had been to record Studio Output requiring a lot of editing on 35mm
Archive recording was put on 16mm. Archive policy was to transfer Video Tape to film and then Erase the Tape after it’s second transmission.
The reason for this was to conserve tape acquisition costs and storage space.
Talent Union agreements generally provided for two showings of a programme and then the fees had to be re negotiated usually at the full cost. In the fullness of time, this policy has been shown to be short sighted.
Colour Film Recording was very expensive and poor quality so when colour origination came along , the only practical way of recording it was on Video Tape. The erase policy remained intact for many years to come.
A sequence in a feature film “Girl on a motor cycle” (not a BBC programme) was successfully transferred to film using the Technicolour process of separation negatives. The 625 PAL video which included special electronic effects was transferred to monochrome 35mm film in three passes recording separately the Red Green and Blue outputs of a colour decoder. The sequence ended up on the “Big Screen” and proved that colour recording could be done at a price.
The 35 mm equipment was sold to Technicolour and the cubicles were used for VT development.
The requirement for 16 mm recording declined and vtrs appeared in the left hand cubicles, after moving two remaining Marconi’s back to Lime Grove.


September ’72 saw the first of eleven 70 Cs, the RCA equivalent of the VR 2000B which could not be manufactured fast enough to meet our demands. Another plus point was the fact that EECo were in bed with RCA which had failed to make a competitive edit control system of their own.
Six of these ended up in EECo controlled edit suites, Two ended up in CF, One in LOBs, one in BE and the other in various cubicles in Area 1 & 2.


Cut down versions of the TR 70, these machines in August ’74 found homes in mobiles for LOBs and BE

AMPEX 7903

In attempt to improve the English Regions vtr quality, this 1” helical scan machine was purchased in July ’73. The servo control was found to be too critical and the machine was returned after 3 months.

IVC 9000

This 2” Slant track vtr was a cross between a helical and transverse track recorder, Slightly smaller than an AVR1, the performance was better than High Band Quad but suffered from minor banding effects. One was purchased for BM in September ’74 and a further three a year later for MR (two) and BS.


The need for three machines in an edit suite operated from a quiet control room with better vision mixing and sound mixing facilities resulted in an EECo based suite being built in the right hand front corner of the Film Recording Area which we could now call Recording Area 2. The vtrs were TR 70C machines and a specially designed Cox vision Mixer was provided. The suite known as Edit Suite 2 was completed in September ’74
More Edit Suites were required but there was no more space left in the basement.
An Area next to News on the 4 th Floor was acquired (News wanted to use it for a snooker hall). This was to be a self contained area just for editing and had room for three three machine suites and control rooms to be known as Edit Suite’s A, B and C.
Edit Suite A was equipped in a similar manner to Edit Suite 2 and was completed in November 75.


The next breed of machine from Ampex was the AVR 2, and twentyfour machines were purchased from October ’75 until May ’79 which heralded the last quadruplex machine. Built in two cabinets of cabin trunk dimensions, one housed the tape deck and the other the main electronics. The tape deck was horizontal but we found operation much easier if it were tilted towards the front. A monitoring bridge was fitted above the deck.
This machine converted the analogue signal from the demodulator into a composite digital signal, time base and colour correction being achieved digitally.
Several machines had the option of working in Super Highband or Quad 2. Also there was an option to split the audio track into two for Stereo operation. A full evaluation was made of the new standard but it was eventually rejected because of the difficulty of handling another format change
All the machines except three (2 to LOB and one to BS) were used either at TVC or LG.
Three of these went into another three machine edit suite (B) and one went to Suite 1 to make that a three machine suite as well. Other machines made up “Super Pairs” or were used generally throughout Area 1 and 2.

DESIGNS DEPT and RAY TAYLOR to the rescue yet again

The use of Shibadens and the success of Time Code controlled Edit Suites led us into thinking of a way to introduce time code into the Editec controlled Pairs.

EDIPLACE (EDIt PLAy in Control Equipment) was born.

Very briefly, if the IN and OUT time codes of a sequence on the play in machine were known, the IN time was dialled in with thumbwheels, transferred to a store and the OUT time dialled up on the thumbwheels.
An Editec cue was placed on the Edit machine for the start of the sequence and it was re-cued manually 10 secs and the tape marked with felt pen. When re-cue was activated the Play In machine re-cued about 14 seconds. Pressing Preview caused the Play In machine to start and 10 seconds before the In point it started the Edit machine which previewed the edit. Trims could be applied to get it right.
When Record was initiated, the edit was made and at the end of the sequence, time coincidence with the thumbwheels caused an Editec Cue to be recorded automatically.
If time codes were not known, the IN time could be entered on the fly.
Audio edits could be set up to be coincident with the video or manually controlled.