Why One Company Adopted Super-8 Filming for Cost-Effective Television Production

By Fisher, Bob | American Cinematographer, December 1975 | Go to article overview

Why One Company Adopted Super-8 Filming for Cost-Effective Television Production


Fisher, Bob, American Cinematographer


It is discovered that new developments in Super-8 sound film equipment offer a means of generating short color television programs at low cost

For years, people in the audiovisual industry have been pondering the prospects of a happy marriage between the video and film media. Everyone agrees that each format has its own advantages for originating, producing, and distributing information. However, because of the relatively high cost of equipment and trained personnel required for each medium, the producer of industrial and educational audiovisual materials is often forced to choose and live with the advantages, and limitations, of only one format.

At Hewlett-Packard Company's Automatic Measurement Division, in Sunnyvale, Calif., Television Production Manager Ron Murdock reports that new developments in Super-8 sound film equipment have opened the way for effective use of film in quality educational and industrial television productions. Furthermore, the new developments offer a means of generating short, color television programs at a cost significantly below that presently realizable with an all-electronic television production system.

Murdock is originating sales programs at customer locations using two Super-8 cameras, one equipped for recording single-system lip-sync sound. Then, using a Kodak Supermatic film videoplayer VP-1, he transfers the raw film footage to video-tape, using the editing and special effects capabilities of the television equipment to produce an edited, finished videotape for duplication and distribution.

According to Murdock, the direct cost for producing a fully-scripted television program on location using Super-8 film and then editing onto videotape is typically less than $6,000, including travel for script research and location shooting within the continental United States. That's a goal they couldn't hope to approach if they were originating similar programs on tape, Murdock states. Furthermore, all of the work, from script writing through final editing, is being done by himself and one production assistant. Together, they spend about two months to bring a project to fruition.

The Automatic Measurement Division is part of the Data Systems Group at Hewlett-Packard. The division produces minicomputer-based measurement and control systems for a variety of laboratory and industrial applications.

A number of years ago, the corporation, faced with choosing between the film and videotape mediums, opted for television as the standard audiovisual format and rapidly established a position of leadership in industrial television programming. Initially, programming was originated in studios established at the company's corporate offices in PaIo Alto, Calif., but as use of the medium grew, other production facilities were established at key Hewlett-Packard plants. More than* 130 video playback systems are currently in use at the company's worldwide sales offices.

Management at the Automatic Measurement Division decided to establish their own television facility in 1972, and a studio was designed and construction begun. Murdock, who has a background in management, broadcast, advertising copy writing, and industrial film production, was hired in April, 1973, and assigned the responsibility of applying the new facility to meet the division's needs.

"We have what is probably a pretty typical industrial television studio," Murdock relates. "It includes a well-lit sound stage with cyclorama, three Telemation black-and-white cameras, Dage/IVC switching equipment, and Sony one-inch, black-and-white video recorders in the control room."

The studio serves a multipurpose function. For example, many "live" training programs for salesmen, engineers, and customers are originated there. The initial concept was to also use the studio to produce demonstration tapes for the sales force. The idea was that as new equipment was introduced, an early production model could be set up in the studio where a demonstration program showing the new system in operation could be made. …

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