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At the June 24, 2003 meeting...
Four Retrospectives And A Peek Into The Future
Our Annual End-Of-The-Season Barbecue

This year's annual SMPTE barbecue/retrospective on June 24 was a night to remember: Collector and technology historian Allen Weiner of Kennebunkport, ME, showed one of the oldest TV cameras in existence: a military-issue progressive-scan 350-line/40fps ATK Iconoscope camera.

This camera was an aerial device, which provided its own internal sync generator and integral RF double-sideband AM 10-watt 320MHz transmitter. No audio signal, just video. It was intended for combat situations for plane-to-plane or plane-to-ground observations.

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It works! Alan Weiner adjusts iconoscope lens.







All photos by Phil Ozek

He turned it on and It still works! But it took an awful lot of light. It barely registered an image of a ladder lit sizzling under a high-intensity light. Allan mentioned that early TV studios were so brightly lit that actors had to take breaks just to recover from the heat.

Then, Tom Sprague of National/Boston brought out an original-format videotape recorder - a larger-than-refrigerator-sized machine machine that takes 1-hour reels of videotape that are about a foot across and two inches wide! Tom and his staff had lovingly restored it to working order and even had some footage from the era to play! The machine was highly unique because Tom had cobined the RCA machine to a processor made by competitor Ampex. It worked extremely well.

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Tom Sprague, National Boston Video Center, is about to turn this baby (2" VTR) on.

Then Peter Fasciano from Avid Technology showed a Powerpoint presentation about the history of test patterns. Not only did he show how the 'Indian Head' pattern evolved, he also showed that the favorite subject of most male engineers seems to be - - - women!

This was followed by Paul Beck, a video historian who is also an expert on videotape restoration. He demonstrated how historic industrial-format tapes (such as the 1/2" reel-reel tapes common in the 1960's and 70's) can be restored for playback. Time has caused the chemicals holding these tapes together to deteriorate, but Paul has developed a simple but effective treatment to make these tapes playable. He has also put together a set of decks that have not only been restored, but also modified with custom devices for drop-out restoration and signal processing to optimize these playbacks.

Click on pictures to see enlargements...
Paul Beck is about to rescue those old 1/2" tapes on the left.

Finally, Tom Sprague returned to present the new Sony HDTV Production Switcher and FlyPack package which National has recently developed for the evolving High-Definition production market. This very nice 'studio in a box' can be configured for full-blown HD Field Productions as well as A-B Roll post-production, also in HD.

This was a really ambitious meeting! SMPTE will is taking their usual summer break: the next meeting will be in September. These are open to the general public - you don't need to be a member to attend. Info is posted at www.v-site.net/smpte-ne.

Posted: 7 October 2003
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
blamm@cync.com