1" SMPTE Type A Helical Video Format
1" SMPTE Type A Information:
Videotape Format: 1” SMPTE Type A
In use: 1963-1977 approx.
Recording mode: Analog audio/video. Helical scan, non-segmented picture. One head rotation per field of video.
Features: Less costly than the Quad. Provided a means of video recording for many purposes. Had major problems interchanging recordings with other machines and maintenance issues.
Existing machine longevity: Extremely rare.
Videotape longevity: Very low.
Prior usage: Primarily industrial and educational institutions, although the last machines (VPR-1) were placed on air as the quality was very good at times. Early machines were black and white only. Later models had both low band and high band color.
Notes on the 1" SMPTE Type A... Ampex introduced this machine in 1965. Other manufactures made machines as well, earning a SMPTE designation as “type A”. It was marketed mainly for industrial and educational purposes (as a cheaper alternative to expensive 2” quad recorders), although this author clearly remembers seeing a model for sale at Neiman Marcus Department Stores and at Radio Shack in 1967 in Fort Worth, clearly aimed at the local, affluent consumer. Several models were manufactured throughout the years, mostly from Ampex. Linear tape speed was 9.6 inches per second. Each rotation of the video head scanned one field of video. Two tracks of audio were available. Early machines were low band only, with later machines both low band black and white, and high band color. We have received low band color recordings (unusual), which surprisingly could, at times, achieve good quality. But, this format had major interchange problems. It was not till 1976, when the VPR-1 (a good quality high band machine with a low-band option) was introduced, that most of the earlier electronic and mechanical problems had mostly been solved. At that time, SMPTE had convened a working group to achieve a common recording standard between Ampex and rival Sony, which bore the designation of Type C, in 1977. So, the type A standard was last manufactured in 1977, when the VPR-1’s were then converted to VPR-1 C’s (for the C format standard).
Tape stock used on these machines was generally very poor, and prone to a heavy amount of stress during the operation of the VR machines. Any surviving format videotapes from the sixties through the early to mid seventies should be considered at risk and very fragile.
Any A format recording made prior to the VPR-1 series is an extremely difficult and time-consuming process to reproduce and recover.This author used a very early VPR-1 production machine in 1978 in the Northwest Video remote truck, for a golf tournament from Palm Springs, televised nationally on P.B.S. The machine was just sitting there as no one took it (this new VPR-1) seriously. However, during the tournament, I pieced together, using the built-in editor, a back plate of shots for closing credits, cut to music. Both the production personnel, and the Northwest Video employees, were impressed with the quality of one-inch A format from the VPR-1.