Magazine article American Cinematographer

Cinema Workshop

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Cinema Workshop

Article excerpt

THE VIDEO RECORDER

A television camera and video recorder must be chosen as a system. Ideally each should have the same calibre of quality, as the final video product can only be as good as the weakest link. As with film, there are different VTR formats or types and some definitely deliver superior quality over others. However, the situation is not quite as cut-and-dried as it is with film, such as: "65mm is superior to 35mm which is better than 16mm." Before delving into the technical workings of the VTR, a brief familiarization of the more popular VTR types may prove helpful.

The first acceptable broadcast quality VTR was the 2'' quad. Introduced back in the mid 1950's, it is still the backbone of most broadcast television operations. The 2'' quad machine has been, and still is, the standard of VTR quality and not until very recently have there appeared new VTR formats to challenge the superiority of the 2'' quad. The term "quad" comes from the fact that the video signal is put onto the tape by a highspeed rotating head assembly containing four video recording heads. It was this rotating head concept that was the major technological breakthrough enabling quality video recording. The tape is two inches wide and travels through the machine at 15 inches per second, which requires about a 10-inch reel of tape for a full hour's program. Broadcasters were pleased with the professional quality of the 2'' quad and were willing to overlook the extreme size, weight and cost of these machines. Outside of the broadcasting industry, however, these undesirable aspects and the exorbitant costs for maintenance and tape proved prohibitive.

Recorder manufacturers thus developed the Helical Scan VTR. The low price and relative compact size of these helical machines were designed to fill the rapidly growing demand for VTR's among industrial, commercial and educational institutions. The helical scan machines come in all sizes and shapes and use tape widths of ½'', 3/4'' and 1''. While all helical machines operate on the same basic principles, the method and quality of construction, number of heads, tape paths and recording electronics can vary so widely that the cheapest ½'' helical machines are considered consumer electronics while the best 1'' machines are considered close to broadcast standards. The U-matic format, which is basically a 3/4'' Helical VTR in a cassette, has achieved a great popularity among industrial producers and ENG units of virtually every TV station in the country. The U-matic format was originally developed for industrial applications and in no way can be considered even near broadcast quality. However, its compact portable size and ease of operation and editing made it ideal for ENG applications. It was the development of the "time base corrector" that enabled the U-matic machines to be used in broadcast applications. While the quality is still inferior by broadcast standards, the extreme portability and efficiency of the U-matic system is attractive enough to make it the first choice of most broadcast ENG operations.

The latest development in VTR's is the "broadcast quality" high-band 1" helical scan recorders. Recent technological advancements in the field of servo mechanisms and micro electronics have resulted in this new generation of ultrasophisticated broadcast machines that exhibit quality equal to, and in most cases superior to, the long-revered 2" quad machines. …

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