ABOUT VIDEOTAPE & THE FBN VTR ROOM
Pastor Schoch many times referred to technological advances as miracles. This is because God instilled in the minds of the inventors the ideas and ways to bring technology to a reality. He often referred to video recording as the “miracle of videotape.” The spoken word of the gospel could be recorded along with miracles and testimonies and then be replayed for years into the future and transform lives. We dedicate this page to provide a little background on videotape and to give you a look at the FBN tape room, past and present…that is as of the year 2016.
© 2016 Joe Snelson
For background, professional video recording began in 1956 with the introduction of the 2” quadruplex videotape recorder (VTR) by the AMPEX Corporation. This format was utilized by the television industry up to the late 1970’s when smaller tape, and less expensive, formats were introduced. Of course, technology has further advanced since then and recording with a physical tape medium has pretty much been supplanted by the use of video file servers that use hard drives or solid state memory.
2” tape machines haven’t been manufactured for decades and parts availability as well as competent engineers to operate and maintain them is becoming scarce. The original 2” videotape machines (seen in the photos immediately below) at the FBN studio were retired from service in the mid 1990’s. However, there was still a rather large 2” videotape library of programming that had not yet been transferred to a more current archive format. The engineers were able to acquire some 2” machines from various sources such as production companies and networks that were replacing their 2” machines to upgrade to a more current format. Now, the time clock is ticking on the years that any 2” tape machine will be around. And, unless programs are transferred to a current format, someone may end up with a 2” tape and nothing to play it back with.
At the former FBN studio, the 2” tape machines have been running virtually around the clock for years to transfer programs to a more current format. As of September 3, 2016 no more 2” tape exists at the production studio! The entire 2” tape operation was put up for sale. Fortunately, they were able to “beat the clock” before parts are no longer available.
Below is a picture of the videotape room at the production studio taken circa 1976. These particular machines were retired in the mid 1990’s and replaced with those of a later vintage.
The picture above shows 3, AMPEX, VR-1200C VTR’s. On the right Bruce Braun, FBN Producer/Director, is shown operating one of the machines. These machines were purchased at a cost of $100,000 each! The 1200 and 2000 series of VTR’s were the workhorse of the television broadcast industry.
For comparison, we have provided two video clips showing the tape room in 1976, shown on the left, and the tape room as it was in August, 2016, shown on the right. Click on the still frames above to see these machines in action. Both clips are in the MOV video file format. Do be aware that the clip on the right is around 23 MB in size and may take time to download and view depending on your Internet speed and browser you use. So, be patient.
The clip on the right was taped just weeks before the transferring the 2” tape library over to another format was completed. Listen carefully in the background and you will hear the 960 Hz “whirr” of the video heads traversing across the tape. The whirr was caused by 4 video heads mounted on a disc and spinning at 14,400 rpm. While the tape transport pulled the tape at only 15 inches per second, with the rotating heads the effective writing speed was equivalent to pulling tape at almost 2,000 inches per second across a single head similar to that of a reel to reel audio recorder! Technicians got their ears “tuned” to the pitch of the rotating heads and could quickly and audibly detect when a machine was in physical trouble with the tape media.
VIDEOTAPE ACCESSORIES AND FBN MEMORABILIA
Below are some memorabilia from the mid 1970 era at FBN. These are the customized labels that were placed on the videotape reels and their protective boxes. Labels would provide information such as program name, program number, the recorded date, length. Other information might include whether it was a master tape or a duplicate, the recording standard used and machine number used for recording.
Custom FBN label placed on the outside of the tape box.
Not only was AMPEX in the VTR machine manufacturing business, they also manufactured and sold audio and videotape. FBN purchased quite a bit of videotape stock from AMPEX. As an added value, AMPEX provided the labels shown above. Each sheet of labels consisted of reel and box labels.
Above is another custom reel label with the FBN logo.
This label was placed on master tapes to alert the operator not to record over the program on the tape.
If you’re interested in learning more on how programming got delivered to television stations by means of videotape checkout this page on our website, Getting Programs to FBN Stations.
We thank Pastor Melissa Scott of Faith Center for allowing us to post the the recent video clip of the, now, 2” tape less, VTR room.
The picture on the right is a blow-up of the monitor shown above in the right hand photo. On the day that this video clip was taken they were archiving a program hosted by Dr. George Wood. Dr. Wood filled in at times for Dr. Willard Peirce who had a daily bible teaching program on FBN titled, “Christ, The Living Word.” You can see Dr. Wood’s name being superimposed over the video.
With many of the old programs being 30+ years old, they had to literally be “baked” in an oven to prepare them to mount up on the tape machine. Without baking, these old tapes would shed and clog up the video heads, preventing a stable playback. Even then, baking was not always successful in recovering the program recorded on the tape.