Telecine

The main part of most all early TV station -  Now all but forgotten.

Remember the TK-4, TK-20, TK-21, TK-26, TK-27 and TK-28?  All RCA and all gone by now.
Remember the old GE, Telemation, GPL, and other film chains?  How about TP-6 and TP-66?

  

Iconoscope 

circa 1932

Iconoscope

circa 1949

An RCA TK-26 film island

We'd love to have pictures and stories from anyone who'd care to share them.

The follow are some notes sent to us when the folks at the Telecine Interactive Group heard we were going to put up this page on our website.


From: Jeff Kreines

I am staring at a book called "Movies for TV" (MacMillan, 1950) which includes pictures of a GE Film Camera (a roll-around film chain camera, that you placed in front of the projector -- focusing right on the face of the Iconoscope. Also discusses the Synchrolite, a flashtube that pulsed at 60 HZ (these were monochrome days!) and provided 3:2 pull down with a projector that used a claw. I guess the 5-bladed shutter came a bit later.

The oldest film chain I ever used was an RCA TP6 projector with an RCA monochrome vidicon camera (in a multiplexer)... still in service in 1975 at an Alabama TV station that had yet to go color.

The weirdest one I ever used was in 1966, in junior high school -- the  school had an early CCTV setup and ran what little film we got (a 1/2 hour monthly newsreel, mostly) on a B&H 379 projector that had the shutter REMOVED! This went into a hideous rear-projection screen (sort of taut latex, in front of an angled mirror, actually made into a big rollaround device by some manufacturer of AV equipment. We'd aim the old Sylvania (or latter, the better Ampex CC323) vidicon camera at the screen. Ugh! (Best part was the video switcher -- it used relays, and hard-switched video mechanically. Talk about jumpy cuts... but at least each one was flagged by the actual click of the relay itself, since the "switcher" was near the ceiling-mounted (on goosenecks!) Shure Unidyne IIIs.)

Stranger still, Dick Dienhart, now the man to see to buy a Spirit if  you're on the East coast, was studying TV/Film at Northwestern U, and was interning in this very facility... I'm sure he'll be delighted I mentioned it! (Hi, Dick!)

But I digress. I'd love to know more about early Flying spot gear, and other early telecines. We all probably remember TP66s and TK27s and 29s... it's the old stuff that interests me.


John Strung:

I remember hearing about a system that was used during WWII. A film camera in a C-47 shot footage of the enemy from the air. On the plane, it was developed and telecined straight out of the camera, and transmitted to England, where the signal was recorded back to film again. Perhaps someone knows better details and can  verify what I was told.

Dick Hobbs answers:

Yes, that certainly happened. It was a derivation of one of the earliest television techniques. Here in Britain we still believe that television was invented by the mad Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. Only a couple of days ago I was at the wonderful Museum of Film, Photography and Television in Bradford, which has a good collection of Baird's equipment.

Baird cracked most of the problems of television - display and transmission, not to mention recording. He built a high definition colour television disk player in the 1930s. But he could not think of a way to make a camera. He came up with three completely impractical ideas, but two of them use a technique which is very familiar to most of us.

He hit on the flying spot scanning system very quickly, and built something that was essentially no different to a C-Reality. Indeed, the Baird Television Company became the Cinema Television Company, which got shortened to Cintel.

As well as showing pre-recorded films, he used it for what we would now call near real-time broadcasting. This used a 35mm camera, with the film going down a light-proof tube straight into a processor, then into the telecine. Which would have been a reasonable system, were it not for three small problems.

First, to get the film through the bath quickly, it used a cyanide fixer.

Second, because the film could not be dried quickly without streaks, Baird put the telecine in the tank.

Third, because audio delay lines had not been invented, the sound was also recorded on the film. Air bubbles in the sprocket holes caused problems with the audio heads.

I just have this vision of the person employed in Baird's studio to stand next to a tank full of cyanide, containing 25kV electrical devices, kicking it regularly to get the air bubbles out of the film path. Wonder what his long-term career prospects were?

The live film chain took less than a minute from shooting to transmission, which was pretty remarkable. However, Baird recognised the need for real live transmission, so he invented the flying spot studio. This was essentially a black room with a scanning beam of light. Exactly the same as a flying spot telecine, but on a bigger scale. Unfortunately, at that point Baird's ingenuity ran out, so we will never know how the presenter managed to read the script.


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