Transfer 3/4" Tape U-matic

Transfer of 3/4" Tape U-matic :

In use: 1971-Today

Recording mode: Analog audio/video. Helical scan, 2 video heads, one head per field.

Luminance: FM recording.

Color Signal: Converted sub carrier direct recording.

Horizontal Resolution: Monochrome: 320 lines (340 lines in SP mode). Color: 240 lines (260 lines in the SP mode).

Features: Good quality analog video. Color capable. Two audio tracks.

Videotape Longevity: Very low.

Prior usage: Initially introduced to both the home and industrial markets, it quickly became an alternative method for recording both black & white and color programming for display in non-broadcast applications, such as homes, businesses, and schools. In the mid seventies, product development and performance improvement helped usher in era of “E.N.G.” (Electronic News Gathering) for both local and network news departments, providing a workable means of video recording and playback from fast-breaking news events. This was the alternative many stations desired to finally end their use of 16 mm film equipment. Although bulky and heavier than their film counterparts, it did provide a means of instant playback (as opposed to the need of film processing and film chain reproduction).

Notes on 3/4" U-matic...Sony introduced the first machine with the VO 1000 series of decks in 1971. What was unique about this videotape system was that it was the first really workable cassette based recorder/player format, with a color recording time of sixty minutes max. (later expanded to ninety minutes with some brands of thinner based record stock, although these tapes were extremely rare). Neiman Marcus advertised a Sony recorder/player for sale in the spring of 1971 for $1,300.00, intended for home the home market. The ¾" machine did allow for somewhat simple operation for personal use, and some models such as the VO 1800, had a built-in TV tuner. This first series of machines displayed a beautiful (for that time period) color picture on the newly introduced Trinitron television sets, also manufactured by Sony.

During this time of the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were higher quality recording systems that were available, such as 2" quad and later, in 1977, 1" type C. But the price of those machines was prohibitive for most stations wanting to use them for news. 3/4" U-matic provided a less costly method of color recording, albeit at lesser quality than 2" or 1", but at a performance level (barely at times) that met the goals of many who needed this capability. Plus, it was more portable than it’s 2" and 1" counterparts.

In the mid 1970’s Sony introduced the 2000 series of machines, which were the first to include insert and assemble edit functions, and a capstan servo. In conjunction with the newly introduced time base corrector industry, ¾” U-matic recordings could now be edited machine to machine and placed on the air for news usage during the era that stations converted news operations from film to ENG (or EJ-“Electronic Journalism”, an NBC term). A typical ENG newsroom edit system at the start may have consisted of Sony 2800 and 2850 VTRs. ¾” field shoots arrived back at the station either by the hand-carry method, or the feed was micro waved back to the edit room. Around 1979, Sony introduced the BVU series of edit decks and field recorders, which were more rugged and reliable than their predecessors. In the late seventies and into the eighties, NBC local affiliate KNBC, Burbank CA. used four Sony BVU 200’s for air playback of edited stories and features during its news programs.

The BVU 800 series (around 1983) also introduced for the first time the “SP” format, which resulted in an increase in luminance clarity. This was due to the Y-FM carrier frequency being shifted up 1.2 MHz, allowing a wider bandwidth of the Y-FM signal recording. Dolby audio noise reduction was offered for the first time with the BVU 800 series introduction.

Some playback decks, such as the BVU 820 and 870, had a “Dynamic Tracking” video head, providing for the first time, slow motion and flawless freeze frame capability on U-matic playback.

Sony continued the VO series well into the 1990’s, for less rigorous demands than needed for news and program editing. It should also be noted that other manufactures, such as JVC, had a series of ¾” U-matic decks.

It is interesting to note the worldwide usage of ¾” U-matic for decades. In many operations, ¾” was adopted for all broadcast uses, including the airing of programming and commercials. Cable TV was a big user, especially in the local access origination studios. Many universities and industrial applications used ¾” exclusively for all of their recording chores. Some rare network TV programs exist solely on ¾” U-matic (for one reason or another). Such is the case with a series of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson programs from the mid 1970’s. Therefore, ¾’” tapes are respected in many arenas as the one and only surviving entity after decades of sitting on the office shelf (while the other, higher quality masters disappeared).

¾” U-matic was replaced, at least in news operations, by Sony Betacam, Betacam SP, and Panasonic MII. The Betacam and MII series of camera/recorders were self-contained (most models), and eliminated the need for a separate, shoulder-hanging machine (deck). The introduction of Betacam was of much higher quality than ¾” U-matic. By the mid 1980’s, ¾” usage was on the decline for news, although some local stations continued to use ¾” well into the nineties, usually from a budgetary standpoint only. Additionally, ¾” U-matic was the "standard" for off-line editing and office viewings well into the late 1990’s in Hollywood post-production operations, as the decks were well entrenched, were simple to operate, and were considered “good enough” for their intended purposes.

The last model of the BVU series was the 900’s. These were Sony’s finest U-matic products. DC Video has both BVU 900 and VO 9000 series decks to provide the following U-matic recovery services in the highest quality: U-matic and SP 525 NTSC, and U-matic and SP (High and low band) in 625 PAL/SECAM.

Our equipment and procedures in ¾” U-matic recovery offer the best in media migration from this format. Through the use of additional video processing, such as digital noise reduction, the pictures can rival other higher quality formats.

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