Project type: video reel-to-reel

2 inch quadruplex

Large gold-coloured spool with 2 inch wide dark brown Quadruplex video tape

2" quad video tape on Scotch 400 14" spool with NAB hub

introduction to 2 inch quad video tape transfer

2 inch quadruplex video tape was the first practical and commercially successful analogue tape format for recording video. It was developed and released for the broadcast television industry in 1956 by Ampex.

At Greatbear we now able to transfer 2" quadruplex (aka quad) video tape (PAL, SECAM & NTSC) to digital formats.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. We use the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, delivering FFV1 lossless files or 10-bit uncompressed video files in .mkv or .mov containers. We create viewing files as H264 encoded .mp4 files or DVD. We can deliver any other digital video files,  according to your needs. 

We can provide the appropriately-sized usb media for your files, or use media supplied by you, or deliver your files online. Files delivered on hard drive can be for any operating system MacOS, Windows or GNU/Linux and filesystems (HFS+, NTFS or EXT3).

Due to varying tape durations and their gradual physical degradation, it’s not always appropriate to create fixed prices for our services. We’ve found that assessing tapes prior to confirming costs a more accurate and fair method.

We offer free assessments please contact us to discuss your project.

2 inch quad machines

2 inch quad format variation

brown magnetic side of 2 inch quad video tape

2" quad tape

Large reel-to-reel quadruplex video machine with with scopes and monitor

Ampex AVR-2 VTR quadruplex 2" machine

Large gold-coloured 14 inch spool with 2 inch wide dark brown quadruplex video tape and rulers indicating dimensions

2" quad video tape on 14" diameter spool with NAB hub

2 inch quad tape risks & vulnerabilities

2 inch quad recording history

2” quad was a popular broadcast analogue video tape format whose halcyon period ran from the late 1950s to the 1970s. The first quad videotape recorder made by AMPEX in 1956 cost a modest $45,000 (that’s c.£325,880 in today’s money).

2” quad revolutionised TV broadcasting which previously had been reliant on film-based formats, known in the industry as ‘kinescope‘ recordings. Kinescope film required significant amounts of skilled labour as well as time to develop, and within the USA, which has six different time zones, it was difficult to transport the film in a timely fashion to ensure broadcasts were aired on schedule.

To counter these problems, broadcasters sought to develop magnetic recording methods, that had proved so successful for audio, for use in the television industry.

The first experiments directly adapted the longitudinal recording method used to record analogue audio. This however was not successful because video recordings require more bandwidth than audio. Recording a video signal with stationary tape heads (as they are in the longitudinal method), meant that the tape had to be recorded at a very high speed in order accommodate sufficient bandwidth to reproduce a good quality video image. A lot of tape was used!

Ampex, who at the time owned the trademark marketing name for ‘videotape’, then developed a method where the tape heads moved quickly across the tape, rather than the other way round. On the 2” quad machine, four magnetic record/reproduce heads are mounted on a headwheel spinning transversely (width-wise) across the tape, striking the tape at a 90° angle. The recording method was not without problems because, the Toshiba Science Museum write, it ‘combined the signal segments from these four heads into a single video image’ which meant that ‘some colour distortion arose from the characteristics of the individual heads, and joints were visible between signal segments.’

1 inch type A / type B / type C

large gold-coloured tape spool with dark brown / black one inch video tape labelled: "Scotch, with exclusive protective back treatment"

1" type A video tape on Scotch spool with NAB hub

introduction to 1 inch video tape type A, B & C transfer

At Greatbear we transfer multiple variations of 1 inch analogue video tape on open reels - from the rare type A format (Ampex, 1965), to type B (Bosch 1976) which was standard in Europe, and type C video tape (Ampex / Sony 1976), which was widely adopted by the professional video and broadcast television industries, particularly in the US & UK between the mid '70s to early '90s.

We are able to digitise all standards of 1 inch type A, B and C open reel video tape from the US (NTSC), UK (PAL) and (SECAM) with appropriate noise reduction. 1" type A video is commonly monochrome, while types B and C are colour. We now have access to a machine uniquely modified to play very rare type A colour tapes.

Common brands / models of 1 inch video tape include: 3M/Scotch 480; 3M/Scotch 480 XST; Ampex 196; BASF VT26; Fuji H621; Fuji H261E; Kodak EVT-1000; Sony V-16 SP and Sony V1-K.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. We use the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, delivering FFV1 lossless files or 10-bit uncompressed video files in .mkv or .mov containers. We create viewing files as H264 encoded .mp4 files or DVD. We can deliver any other digital video files,  according to your needs. 

We can provide the appropriately-sized usb media for your files, or use media supplied by you, or deliver your files online. Files delivered on hard drive can be for any operating system MacOS, Windows or GNU/Linux and filesystems (HFS+, NTFS or EXT3).

Due to varying tape durations and their gradual physical degradation, it’s not always appropriate to create fixed prices for our services. We’ve found that assessing tapes prior to confirming costs is a more accurate and fair method.

We offer free assessments please contact us to discuss your project.

1 inch type A, B & C VTR machines

Ampex VR 5103 - A Format / PAL

Sony BVH 2000 x 2 - C Format / PAL & SECAM

Sony BVH 2000 - C Format / NTSC

Sony BVH 3100 P x 2 - C Format / PAL & SECAM

1 inch type A, B & C format variation

1” formatvideo standardaudio channels supportedDolby A noise reductionTelcom C4 noise reductionDolby SR noise reductionPCM digital audio14” / 3 hour spools
APAL1n/an/an/an/an/a
BPAL2n/an/an/a
CPAL4n/a
CNTSC4n/a
dark brown / black 1 inch video tape on aluminium spool in green plastic case with inbuilt handle

Fuji type C 1 inch video tape in green carry case

large upright Sony 1 inch video tape recorder with spools spinning

Sony BVH-3100 PS 1 inch video recorder

gold-coloured tape spool with dark brown / black one inch video tape, with rulers indicating 9¾ inch (24.8 cm) spool diameter

1 inch type A video tape on 9¾ inch (24.8 cm) spool with NAB hub

1 inch type A, B & C video tape risks & vulnerabilities

One inch open reel video tape is especially susceptible to risks associated with age, hardware, and equipment obsolescence. It is also prone to risks common to other types of magnetic media, such as mould growth, binder deterioration, physical damage, and signal drop-outs.

A significant problem for the transfer of 1 inch type A, type B and type C tape, is the rarity of machines capable of playing these formats. Their considerable weight (70 - 80 kg) made 1" video machines more difficult to transport and preserve than subsequent, smaller cassette-based machines.

Our 1" machines are arguably some of the more complex electro-mechanical machines we have at Greatbear, when compared with other professional broadcast formats.To fully recalibrate a 1 inch type C machine, for example, can take a few days because of its size and complexity.

Recalibration is complicated by machines having multiple components which all need to be aligned in a very careful way for the best quality transfer – it is not a simple case of adjusting the machine as a whole and everything works fine. Each separate transport mechanism requires attention. This is then checked against the other parts to ensure that the machine operates, and after that, the electronics. The recalibration process is complete when a machine plays back the tape in such a way that reflects the quality of the recording, rather inconsistencies in the machine.

Another major threat to the future of such analogue transfers is that the highly-skilled people who know how to maintain and fix these machines are disappearing, as are the spare parts needed to do so.

1 inch type A, B & C VTR history

The Ampex Corporation introduced 1” (SMPTE) type A videotape in 1965. It was one of the first standardised helical scan open reel video tape formats in the 1” width. It was mainly used in industrial and institutional contexts because it did not conform to existing broadcast standards.

A significant problem was that the type A system did not record the vertical blanking interval, i.e. the time between the end of the final line of a frame or field and the beginning of the first line of the next frame. It was also restricted to 350 lines, while the NTSC standard was 525 and PAL / SECAM were 625 lines. The compromised quality of type A video led ultimately to the development by Ampex & Sony of the SMPTE approved type C format in 1976.

Despite being a composite video format like U-matic or VHS, (where video information is encoded on one channel), 1 inch type C has very high video quality. It approaches the quality of component video formats (where the video signal has been split into two or more component channels), as used in Betacam videotapes and the Panasonic MII.

The quality and reliability of 1 inch type C made it a mainstay in television and video production in television studios for almost 20 years, before being supplanted by more compact videocassette formats like Betacam, DVCAM, D-1, D-2 and DVCPro.

½ inch Sony / EIAJ reel-to-reel

black half inch video tape on plastic spool, labelled Sony High Density Video Tape

Sony ½ inch video tape on 7 inch original spool

introduction to ½ inch Sony CV-2000 / CV-2100 / EIAJ video transfer

Before Betamax and VHS, the main consumer video recording formats used half inch reel-to-reel tape with small suitcase-sized recorders. The relative affordability of the Sony Portapak (1967) camera plus VTR system, made it a popular tool for artists, experimenters, and social commentators.

The EIAJ format in type 1, black and white was the most common format and will account for the majority of recordings. Type 2, colour specification also exists, and we are able to transfer both types, having Sony CV machines, Shibaden and Hitachi EIAJ models and even a Panasonic time lapse machine.

We are able to transfer all standards of ½ inch (EIAJ & CV-2000 series) / Portapak open reel video from the UK (PAL) and US (NTSC).

The commonly-used Sony V30, V60, V30H, V60H or V62 tapes often suffer from sticky shed syndrome and require careful treatment before it’s safe to replay them. We can also digitise Panasonic EIAJ video cartridges that are usually labelled NV-xxxx

At Greatbear, we offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. We use the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, delivering FFV1 lossless files or 10 bit uncompressed video files in .mkv or .mov containers. We create viewing files as H264 encoded .mp4 files or DVD. We can deliver any other digital video files,  according to your needs. 

We can provide the appropriately-sized usb media for your files, or use media supplied by you, or deliver your files online. Files delivered on hard drive can be for any operating system MacOS, Windows or GNU/Linux and filesystems (HFS+, NTFS or EXT3).

Due to varying tape durations and their gradual physical degradation, it’s not always appropriate to create fixed prices for our services. We’ve found that assessing tapes prior to confirming costs a more accurate and fair method.

We offer free assessments please contact us to discuss your project.

½ inch CV-2000 / CV-2100 / EIAJ video machines

  • Sony CV-2100 ACE x 2 (PAL CV format)
  • Sony AV-3620 CE x 3
  • Sony AV-3670
  • Hitachi SV 610 (PAL EIAJ)
  • Shibaden (Hitachi) SV620D (PAL Colour EIAJ)
  • National NV-8030 (PAL EIAJ)

½ inch CV-2000 / CV-2100 / EIAJ video format variation

½" formatvideo standardSony High Density 'sticky shed'
tapes treated
colour recordings supported405 lines supported
EIAJPALn/a
EIAJNTSCn/a
CV2100PALn/an/a
CV2000PALn/an/a
5" diameter spool of ½ inch video tape resting on 2 boxes, one larger

½ inch video tape on 5" spool, with boxes for 5" and 7" spools

Sony AV-3670 CE ½ inch machine, labelled "Solid State Videocorder" with 2 spools

Sony AV-3670 CE ½ inch reel-to-reel video recorder

half inch video tape on spool with rulers indicating diameter 7 inches (17.8 cm)

½ inch video tape on 7 inch (17.8 cm) diameter spool

½ inch CV-2000 / CV-2100 / EIAJ tape risks & vulnerabilities

These ½ inch open reel video tapes can be particularly tricky to transfer well, due to the often deteriorated state the tapes can get into, the age and lack of availability of spares for the machines themselves and the inherent lack of tape interchangeability that this early non-broadcast format has.

In addition to the rarity of working machines and lack of spares, many of these ½ inch tapes have physically degraded over the years as they can be over 40 years old. Tapes which have binder problems, shedding oxide or tapes with mould growth must be treated before a successful transfer can be made. These types of problem are common with this format and Sony branded V60H, V62 and V30H Helical Scan tapes can sometimes be the worst. We have successfully restored and digitised a range of tapes, including part of a batch found at Bristol City Football Club.

While the quality is not high with this video format - which often has inherent visual issues such as dropouts, skew and head clogs due to shedding - the material recorded is sometimes of a very valuable nature and much less common than recordings made on later and often cheaper domestic equipment.

½ inch Sony CV-2000 / CV-2100 / EIAJ video history

Introduced by Sony (1965), the CV-2000 series were among the earliest video tape recorders. They utilised ½" wide video tape on open reels, with tape being threaded manually around the helical scan video head drum., They were the first fully-transistorised VTRs

The Portapak system arrived in 1967, with the Sony DV-2400 Video Rover: a two-piece battery-powered set, consisting of a black-and-white composite video camera and a separate record-only helical scan ½" portable video tape recorder. It required a Sony CV series VTR (such as the CV-2000) to play back the video.

CV-2000 series machines lacked the capacity for tracking adjustment - meaning tapes were not easily interchangeable between different machines.

In 1969 EIAJ (Electronic Industries Association of Japan) developed standardisation for ½" video tape, which became the norm for many manufacturers, including Sony with their AV series machines (which included tracking adjustability).

The EIAJ standard widened the adoptability of ½" video tape, and as machines became more affordable, the format became popular  the early 1970s for non-broadcast use by businesses, schools, government agencies, hospitals, artists and even some home-consumers.

Portapak became a term for a variety of two-piece camera-plus-recorder systems manufactured by Sony, JVC and others, prior to the advent of camcorders.

½" video tape was superseded by easier-to-use cassette-based formats, such as Sony’s U-matic (1971).

¼ inch Akai b/w reel-to-reel

Plastic tape spool labelled Akai, wound with black quarter inch video tape

Akai quarter inch video tape on 5 inch original spool

introduction to ¼ inch Akai b/w reel-to-reel video transfer

Quarter inch video tape is an unusual format, developed by Akai in 1967 with the aim of producing a light-weight portable VTR and camera system.

We offer a range of delivery formats for our video transfers. We use the International Association of Sound & Audiovisual Archives Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, delivering FFV1 lossless files or 10 bit uncompressed video files in .mkv or .mov containers. We create viewing files as H264 encoded .mp4 files or DVD. We can deliver any other digital video files,  according to your needs. 

We can provide the appropriately-sized usb media for your files, or use media supplied by you, or deliver your files online. Files delivered on hard drive can be for any operating system MacOS, Windows or GNU/Linux and filesystems (HFS+, NTFS or EXT3).

Due to varying tape durations and their gradual physical degradation, it’s not always appropriate to create fixed prices for our services. We’ve found that assessing tapes prior to confirming costs a more accurate and fair method.

We offer free assessments please contact us to discuss your project.

¼ inch Akai b/w reel-to-reel video machines

  • Akai VT 110
  • Akai VT 120

¼ inch Akai b/w reel-to-reel video format variation

very dark brown or black quarter inch magnetic tape on plastic spool

close up of Akai quarter inch video tape

Akai VT-110 video recorder with built in monitor screen and 2 reels of tape

Akai VT-110 portable reel-to-reel ¼ inch video tape recorder

Akai quarter inch video tape on clear plastic spool with rulers indicating diameter 5 inches (12.7 cm)

Akai ¼" video tape on 5" (12.7cm)* diameter spool *maximum spool size for Akai VT machines

¼ inch reel-to-reel video tape risks & vulnerabilities

¼ inch Akai b/w reel-to-reel video history

In 1967, Akai introduced the first (and only) portable open reel video recorders that used ¼" tape. It was the lightest-weight of the all the portable video recording systems, and had a detachable monitor.

Aimed at a domestic market, the narrow width of the tape (all other portable video recorders of the era used ½ inch tape), reduced the quality of the output. It is a rarely-seen format.

See the Akai VT-100 reviewed in Radical Software Vol 1. Nr 3.