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article number 389
article date 10-23-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Our TV Commercials Change, Part 1 … Video Tape Recording, Late 1950’s
by Harry McMahan

From the 1960 book TV Tape Commercials.


When the 1960s rolled in, there were 516 TV tape recorders in service, all over the world.

More than a quarter-of-a-million miles of magic picture-and-sound on tape had been recorded. And another forty-four million feet were passing through the recording heads every month.

Tape was being used for “space age” missile reconnaissance, the secret “scrambled” transfer of military information, for radar recording, for photographing medical operations in color, for educational and research purposes.

But for most people, tape meant television.

This book tells of the TV tape revolution in terms of the television commercial. It studies live TV and film TV techniques and shows how the tape commercial can combine the best of both.

And how this will make the television advertising message even more effective—and more creative—than it is today.

It predicts the effects on all who participate in TV advertising: management and creative, advertiser and agency, writer and producer, network and local station. It probes the impact on marketing strategy, research, shifting creative manpower and the new role of decision-makers.

Different chapters have varying interest to each concerned in the various facets of the business:
- Chapter 1 tells of the revolution and hints at the future;
- Chapter 2 gives examples of new tape commercials in action;
- Chapter 3 describes a dozen of the advantages and pitfalls of tape.

The next two chapters may be skipped by many. Only the writers will find prime interest in Chapter 4 and format analysts in Chapter 5.

Nuts-and-bolts information on tape and how it works is held until Chapter 6, which then goes into a more pointed discussion of the two basic types of commercial production with TV tape.

Chapter 7 then describes “big time” multi-recorder production and editing techniques, while the next chapter concerns itself with the small station and 1-recorder production operations.

Chapter 9, the last, takes “A Look at the Future.”

So pick and choose your own points of interest. Or spend an hour with the entire book and get the full picture of how TV tape commercials will affect your life and livelihood.

The revolution is upon us . . . . Harry Wayne McMahan

“EMMY” FOR TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT. A graceful “Emmy” holds her electronic world symbol over the first successful TV tape recorder. Engraved: “Ampex Corporation—Outstanding Technical Achievement 1956—Development of Videotape Recorder—Academy of Television Arts and Sciences,” the award was made at a time when few in the industry realized that both creative and technical revolutionary developments were implied.

Two years later the Academy was to give, for the first time, 9 top awards to a single television program: “An Evening with Fred Astaire”—recorded on tape—in color.




TV blew out the ten candles on its birthday cake . . . and the crazy wish came true . . .

This new television tape recorder had been too fantastic a prediction for Nostradamus or Jules Verne. Yet that first decade of commercial television had so conditioned the industry to miracles that, by 1956, it took this new electronic device almost too much in stride. The introduction was surprisingly quiet.

“It’s sorta like instant film,” commented one Hollywood wag.


Commercial TV started its first full year of operation in the United States in 1946.

Just ten years later—in April, 1956—the first Ampex Videotape* Recorder was demonstrated at the NAB convention in Chicago.

*This book recognizes that ‘Videotape’ is a trademark of Ampex Corporation. In most references to the machine or the process, a variation of the term will be used, such as TV tape, television tape, TV recorder, tape or recorder.

And, in less than another year, the first production models were actually doing a job “like instant film” for the three networks: replacing kinescopes to solve Daylight Savings Time and time zone scheduling problems. At last Hollywood now had a chance to view the big Eastern “live” shows re-broadcast exactly like the original showing.

Up until this time only a handful of men had seen the far-reaching effects of tape on the entire industry. Everyone who had seen the Ampex VTR in action knew they were looking at an engineering miracle. But few had guessed all that was to lie ahead.

Then, slowly, by year’s end the revolution started simmering.


In 1958, all hell broke loose. The television tape era began in earnest. Networks canceled plans to build more live studios—tape made them unnecessary. Parking lots were added instead.

Program packagers flipped with new ideas, most of them bad.

Agencies began a slow shuffle of their TV departments.

Stations got a gleam in their eyes for this new strength on the local sales and programming scene.

Film fretted. The cost of tape raw stock dropped to less than the equivalent 35mm film raw stock.

Unions jockeyed for jurisdictional authority. Jobs were outmoded as automation revealed anew Hollywood’s high-priced feather-bedding.

Every branch of the industry was to feel the change: network and station, syndication structures, talent, unions, program and commercial operations. The hectic months were here . . .


Commercials were the last to catch the full impact. At first, tape was considered just a wonderful way to foolproof the live commercial. Networks offered to tape commercials—but reluctantly, as a service to clients.

Then independent studios opened the competition. Film studios dabbled nervously. Local stations began aggressive action.

But the biggest part of the revolution was looming ahead.

Two to five years may be needed for some of the deep and far-reaching changes that lie in store for agencies and production houses but already they are more than a little aware.

USING MINIATURE SETS AND BACKGROUNDS ON TAPE. Here is a chart of how Tube #2 blocks out the background for the picture on Tube #1. Then this can be superimposed without “ghost” on any background which is picked up by another camera. Result: a perfectly combined scene.
For the Ed Sullivan show, CBS demonstrated the use of miniature sets as “full scale” backgrounds. Here the set is being dressed with props that give a dimensional perspective (although a flat postcard could be used).
Meanwhile, the live performer rehearses on a set so conceived that it will work perfectly with the miniature. Note the black background in front of the performer must match exactly the bridge contour and proportions.
Now: the combined scene. As the main camera picks up the performer, a “slave” camera (which pans and tilts in sync) picks up the miniature background. The electronic matting amplifier combines the two components. CBS calls this “VideoScene.”


It will blend the best of live and film techniques. And, to produce it best, new kinds of writers and producers will develop.

The “old-fashioned” live TV commercial, produced on camera with start-to-finish recording, may be expected to continue with some salutary modifications.

The “old-fashioned” film commercial, with each scene shot separately and then edited into sequence, may be expected to adapt many techniques to tape.

The trend toward tape will encompass all forms of the live action film—even including a surprising amount of animation and stop motion. Engineers already anticipate how to lick even the problems of single-frame animation and “slow motion” on tape.

Film of course will not disappear from the field but its most significant use may well be as a component of the tape commercial. This offers interesting speculation.




You just press the button . . . The TV tape recorder is so simple in operation you almost forget to marvel at its miracle.

Technically, it is a device for storing information on magnetic tape. In one version, it can record the entire spectrum of radio broadcasting—every channel simultaneously. This permits later re-checking of any single channel on the air—domestic or foreign.

In the version we know in television, it can record both the picture and sound for telecast (or monitor review). Even as live television cameras photograph 30 pictures a second (which, presented in sequence, give the illusion of a continuously moving picture) so the magnetic tape stores this information.

The tape is a continuous ribbon 2 inches wide (as against 1/4-inch tape for sound-only recording in radio and home recorders).

It is made of a tough, highly flexible plastic base, coated on one side with magnetic iron particles. These particles are infinitely small metallic “needles” that stand upright on the tape until magnetically rearranged.

(more detail shown in following pictures) THIS IS A HALF-SECOND OF TELECAST—15 FRAMES OF TELEVISION PICTURE. This diagram shows how the electronic information is recorded on the 2-inch magnetic tape.
(left third of drawing) VIDEO TRACKS run cross-wise (slanting a trifle) on the wide center section of the tape. Four thin recording heads, mounted on a single revolving disc, sweep up-to-down across the width of the tape at high speed—14,000 r.p.m.—to magnetize the picture information in these successive tracks.

The 7 1/2 inches of tape diagrammed here would speed by in telecast in just half a second of time. Almost a mile of tape (all on a single reel) speeds by in an hour’s telecast.
(middle third of drawing)
(right third of drawing)
- AUDIO TRACK is recorded at the top. It is the same high-fidelity sound quality of regular 1/4-inch magnetic tape recording. Stereo sound—dual tracks—may be recorded in this area, if desired.
- CONTROL TRACK is recorded at the bottom. This controls the speed of tape during playback and keeps the various picture and sound tracks in synchronization at all times.
- CUE TRACK is just above the bottom track. In a TV commercial it can record electronic tone impulses to control re-editing or telecasting equipment, automatically. It also can be used to record voice comments or instructions during playback review.

The tape travels at 15 inches a second in recording 80 frames of television picture a second (as against 35mm movie film’s 18 inches a second in recording the 24 frames projected a second).

But tape requires no laboratory or processing work. It can be played back immediately. Or it can be stored indefinitely. Or the magnetic patterns of recorded information on the tape can be “erased” and the tape re-recorded again and again.

The tape can be edited and spliced in much the same manner as quarter-inch audio tape. Portions can be deleted, segments rejoined and entire sequences rearranged.

Color can be recorded on TV tape as easily as black-and-white—the same tape, the same stock cost.

One hour of telecast can be recorded on 4,500 feet of the thin, tough, plastic ribbon—a single reel slightly larger than 12 inches in diameter. Ninety minutes—more than a mile and a third of tape—goes on a 14-inch reel.


Ampex Corporation of Redwood City, California, succeeded in developing the first practical TV tape recorder, called the Ampex “Videotape” Recorder. It was first publicly demonstrated in 1956, the climax to nearly a decade of industry-wide search and research.

Howard Meighan, then an executive of CBS, probably is the one man who most stimulated the physicists and engineers in the project. The biggest companies in electronics had commanded their laboratories to put their genius to the problem.

Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company, pioneers in the field of 1/4-inch audio magnetic tape, took a prime interest and with General Electric made a secret demonstration in 1950.

Bing Crosby Enterprises, Hollywood, made the first demonstration of a 1/2-thch tape device in 1951.

Brigadier General Sarnoff and the David Sarnoff Research Laboratories of RCA, in Princeton, N. J., demonstrated early experiments in 1953. These experiments were in color on 1/2-inch tape.

GENERAL SARNOFF DEMONSTRATES FIRST COLOR TAPE. RCA’s first demonstration of tape was back in 1953. Here Brigadier General David Sarnoff holds the half-inch tape which transmitted the first color experiments. In 1955, by closed circuit, a demonstration was carried from NBC, New York, to the dedication ceremonies of the new research center of Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company, tape manufacturers, in St. Paul, Minn.

By 1955 RCA had experimentally sent tape over closed circuit from NBC’s New York studios to St. Paul, Minn., for the dedication of the new research center of MMM.

Armour Research Institute did continuing research and development work on basic magnetic recording patents. The earliest principles of magnetic sound recording actually go back to Vladimar Poulsen, a Danish engineer, who won a prize at the Paris Exposition in 1900 for his experimental device.

But the problem in all the early experiments at that time was the speed of the tape required to record all the picture information, magnetically. For example, 1/4-inch tape would have had to travel at 1,500 inches a second—more than 100 miles an hour—to record accurately.

Even the 3-inch tape experiments required a reel the size of a bicycle tire to record 15 minutes of program.

Ampex engineers solved the problem in two ways: 2-inch tape was used with 4 thin recording heads mounted on a single disc rotating at high speed—14,400 rpm—and recording the picture information cross-wise on the tape.

Eureka! This cut tape travel time to 15 inches per second (the same speed as professional audio recording).

In April, 1956, Ampex demonstrated this new VR-1000 Video tape Recorder to the CBS affiliates and the NAB convention in Chicago. With a spontaneous ovation, the industry clamored for the new device.

The first 3 recorders went at a premium price of $75,000 to CBS, with more than a hundred back-ordered by the other networks and stations at a fraction less than $50,000 each.

CBS, Hollywood, received the first Ampex Videotape Recorder and went on the air with the first regular network use of television tape recordings in November, 1956.

Meanwhile, NBC had scored a “first” with a one-time network broadcast of the “Jonathan Winters Show” on October 23, 1956. For this, RCA’s 3-inch tape device was used.

Early in 1957 NBC and ABC began network use of 2-inch tape, using Ampex equipment, but tape was still in short supply.

Extreme precision in manufacture—to the 30-millionth of an inch—was required and only a fraction of the total output was usable. Sometimes only 3 in a 100 reels passed final network tests. Minnesota Mining’s Dr. W. W. Wetzel called it “a tape almost impossible to make.”

By April only 50 reels of usable tape were on hand in the industry. It was as though fine cars had been invented and there was no gasoline to run them. Critical days existed and TV tape’s future almost hung in the balance but soon the good tape came through. MMM had the “gasoline” on the production line.

Two years later, in April, 1959, RCA’s tape recorder was ready for demonstration at the NAB convention in Chicago. Announced plans were for delivering production models at the rate of one a week before the end of the year.

Ampex announced its advanced VR-1000B recorder in May, 1959, with deliveries being made at the rate of ten a week.

By the end of 1959, more than 500 video tape recorders were in use. More than 90% of America’s television viewers had been covered and network programming on tape began to out-distance film for the first time.

BING CROSBY TRIES THE NEW TAPE FOR KCOP. Bing Crosby, the “Old Groaner” who revolutionized radio with his use of the first Ampex audio tape recorders, tries out the 2-inch picture-and-sound video version. Bing, now a part owner of KCOP, Los Angeles, was one of the first purchasers of video tape recording equipment.

Strangely enough, his Bing Crosby Enterprises had worked at developing just such a device. In 1951 Bing’s engineers gave a test demonstration that did much to stir early discussion of the TV tape potential.


Commercials began experimenting on tape in 1957, largely at CBS. Pioneer spectacular success was credited to Hooper White of Earle Ludgin who pre-recorded 8 1/2 minutes of tape commercials in 12 hours (film producers had estimated 4 days shooting time for the same job).

The sponsor was Easy Washer, the show the Pebble Beach Golf Tournament. ‘Variety’ reviewed the commercials as “live”—unaware this portion of the show was on tape . . .

The early problem of interchangeability of tape between machines was soon solved and in April, 1958, commercials for Florists’ Telegraph Delivery recorded at Telestudios were telecast over CBS, New York.

Kellogg’s is credited with the first use of electronic matting in tape commercials, adding a miniature song-and-dance team to a Dennis James spot for “What’s My Line?” Kellogg also became the first national sponsor using tape on a regular weekly basis.

Color accessory equipment was available for tape recorders early in 1958, and by July Lux Soap scored a first with color tape commercials piped across the country for transcontinental cut-in on “The Price is Right.”

In September, 1958, NBC activated separate TV tape commercial departments, both in New York and Hollywood.

Chrysler Corporation, which made the first remote tape recording of commercials for “Climax!” on CBS in 1957, followed with full color tape commercials on its NBC spectacular “An Evening with Fred Astaire.”

An expenditure of $56,000 for the six minutes of color commercials on tape set a new high. That was October, 1958.

By then the commercial milestones were coming so fast no one bothered to keep track of them. Tape commercials no longer were a novelty.

AMPEX VR-1000B MOUNTS MONITOR ABOVE CONSOLE. Changes made in the VR-1000 Ampex Videotape Recorder are shown in this photograph of the VR-1000B, introduced in May, 1959, after three years of experience with the earlier model. Important physical change was the mounting of the monitor above the console.

Engineering advancements included improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio (improving duplication quality and the free use of complex pre-recorded material with live, in production), a new tape timing device and faster up-to-speed recording (cut from :05 to :02). Most of the improvements in the VR-1000B were also made available to the more than 300 VR-1000s in service.

Stereo sound is a new accessory for the Ampex Videotape Recorders. This permits the recording of dual sound tracks on the videotape. Hoffman already has announced a stereo TV receiving set and Philco and Zenith, among others, have indicated dual track reception soon.


It’s as simple in operation as those five buttons: Record . . . Stop . . . Rewind . . . Fast Forward . . . Play . . .

“RECORD. . . STOP . . . REWIND . . . FAST FORWARD . . . PLAY . . .” The Ampex Videotape Recorder is smaller than an office desk—and only slightly more than twice as large as the Ampex audio recorder which revolutionized radio back in 1946.

In operation the same five push-buttons of audio days do the job: “Record . . . Stop . . . Rewind . . . Fast Forward . . . Play . . .” “Record” is the center button of three in upper left. “Stop” is the bar in upper right center. Just below it are the other three: “Rewind,” “Fast Forward,” “Play.” No other buttons are touched during normal operation.

The TV tape recorder, once set for operation, is as simple a push-button device—on the surface—as the sound-only tape recorder.

You might say that only a television camera has been added to the microphone. In their conversion to electronic signals, picture and sound are of course mathematically related, although on different wave lengths.

The conversion of the picture to an electronic signal is done by the television camera. The signal then can be sent through the air and picked up by the TV receiving set which converts it back to a picture. The tape recorder simply acts as a go-between, storing the electronic signals on permanent-until-erased magnetic tape for playback or telecast as desired.

Through the TV chain, also, tape can record magnetically from previously photographed film and cartoon as well as slides, balops and still photographs. This recorded and stored information may be used in later commercial assembly.

This is the procedure of using the tape recorder as a source of information—a factor in one of the two basic methods in tape commercial production.

DIAGRAM OF SIMPLE THREAD-UP FOR TAPE RECORDING. Here is the thread-up of the Ampex Videotape Recorder. Feed reel is on the left side. Left center, front, is the video recording head (head cover is removed to show travel path).

Audio head is at center front while the “tape puller” on its right maintains the constant speed required. Take-up reel is at right. Tape travels at the rate of 15 inches per second.

Two Basic Production Procedures

The tape commercial can be produced and edited in either of two ways:

1. Production can follow standard live TV commercial techniques. Script is rehearsed and produced in sequence from start to finish exactly as it would be on the air.

2. Production can record on tape the various scenes and sequences, not necessarily in order. This is much as film does it. Then, using the pre-recorded material (and other tape recorders playing back as sources of information) it can re-edit or assemble the scenes into the final, correct script form.

The first procedure obviously is faster but sometimes must make compromises in quality, even as live TV commercials often do. It can be accomplished with a single tape recorder.

The second procedure, like film, strives to get each individual scene to satisfaction—as far as performance, lighting, camera work and overall quality is concerned—before going on to another scene. To re-record these scenes on a final tape requires two or more tape recorders.

Of course, the single tape recorder can record one scene at a time and edit these together with straight cuts. But if wipes and optical transitions are desired, the playback from other recorders is necessary.

By either procedure, all the instantaneous optical tricks and special effects of live TV can be utilized. Required for this is a special effects generator.

Between the two production methods, many variations may be chosen. The best of live and the best of film can be combined according to the facilities available—and the ingenuity of the writer in taking advantage of these facilities.

Writers of course must see this potential and develop it in the scripts, but let’s see what can come from other creative production factors:

TAPE RECORDER AT CHICAGO CONVENTION. RCA’s television tape recorder was introduced in March, 1959, at the Chicago convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. Shown here with the production prototype are C. H. Colledge (right), general manager of RCA Broadcast and Television Equipment Division, and E. C. Tracy, manager of RCA’s Broadcast Equipment Marketing Department.
COLOR AND BLACK-AND-WHITE PLAY BACK SIMULTANEOUSLY. Color can be recorded as readily as black-and-white on tape. Here the magnetically recorded picture is played back in color on the large monitor while the black-and-white is seen simultaneously on the right.

Color tape costs no more than black-and-white, identical raw stock being used. Against this, film raw stock and processing costs rise considerably in color. Special effects and “wipes” especially are expensive and require many time-consuming editing and laboratory steps. On tape, color opticals cost no more; play back immediately.


The lighting techniques of live and film commercials differ. A television camera works with less overall light than a film camera—a considerable advantage for depth of focus—and it traditionally uses a flat type of lighting.

Film with its scene-by-scene set-ups has taken greater pains with lighting and uses more dimensional lighting effects—side light, back light—with more careful placement of modeling lights. There is much to be said for film commercial lighting in focusing interest on the product or demonstration. Also, lighting may be changed from scene-to-scene where camera angles or other factors require. Whatever film can do, tape can do.

Scene-by-scene lighting is expensive and it is not always indicated for commercials, but where budgets and time permit, it offers opportunities for worthwhile experimentation on tape.

Tape also gives the chance to spend more time on camera work, improving the composition and camera movement, concentrating on the visual story-telling factors.


Television’s commercials always have suffered from a shortage of competent art directors. Few TV commercial art directors have anything near the status of TV program art directors. In the agency world, it would be hard to name a half dozen who are of the same caliber and status of their equivalents in print advertising.

Even major agencies are sometimes inclined to make the mistake of thinking of TV commercial art direction only as the bull-pen execution of a story board.

In truth, TV commercial art direction cries for more artistic skill and taste and knowledge than a magazine ad. It needs more experienced, more competent—and more appreciated—art directors.

To earn their rightful niche, these men must acquire the mature experience and imagination of good film art direction, coupled with the fresh inventiveness of good live TV art direction.

Then, and only then, will the TV commercial in America approach the art form of the advertising film as it exists in Europe.

PUTNAM TAPES WEEK’S COMMERCIALS AT ONE SESSION. George Putnam, Los Angeles’ news commentator, prefers to do all his week’s commercials at one session, in advance, for his daily Pan American news show. Tape recording makes this easy.

Then, on the air, the interval of the tape commercial gives George a brief respite during his live news telecast. KTTV, Hollywood, a pioneer in tape for television, handles the commercial taping as well as the program.


Film and live TV commercials have grown up with different systems of work responsibilities. The film cameraman, for instance, is responsible for his lighting. The live TV cameraman has a lighting director for this, while the technical director in the control room guides his camera composition and movement and the video shader constantly rides control over his picture quality.

The editor of film is completely replaced in live TV by the producer-director in the control room who “edits” as he goes. This pre-production editing was taught by the inexorable hands of the clock in television’s earlier days.

On the set, many of film’s non-creative workmen suddenly find themselves ousted from their feather beds in this new technique. As one more rabid critic put it, “Horses are no longer needed on this new electric buggy—especially the part of the horse that has no head. . .”

Union leaders recognize this deep-seated problem, but they must move cautiously in negotiations. Many months of wage and jurisdictional battle may be involved.

A complete reappraisal of non-creative job functions and Hollywood’s somewhat unrealistic wage scales is at stake.

Mechanics has given way to Electronics.

The activity that once centered around the camera on the film stage now has moved to the control room.

This is a vital change. It may even frighten away some film commercial craftsmen who are sorely needed in the tape commercial business.

But the change will come. And a will go easiest with those who have open minds toward the advantages of both techniques. Strong producer-directors are needed most.

23 COMMERCIALS ON LOCATION IN DEPARTMENT STORE—IN 5 HOURS. Department stores have found it difficult to develop a “library” of good visual commercials for television. Film is too expensive. Live TV—for a single location trip—too inefficient. Video tape, remote, was the answer for Barker Bros., Hollywood, and Station KTTV.

In a 5 hour session, 23 commercials were photographed on location in the actual store settings, with Steve Martin as Barker’s commercial announcer. Tape library then made it possible to schedule spots seasonally or in keeping with special sales as desired. Voice-over closing tracks, price changes, etc., were handled by erasing portions of the sound track and re-recording to meet the situation.


The key man to success, once the script is written, is the producer-director. His title may vary according to the operation, but on his strength, experience, imagination, taste and good judgment depend his qualifications for the job.

He must know talent and know how to direct a commercial approach. He must know crews and how to get easy teamwork under the pressures of the business. He must understand commercial lighting, art direction and sound treatment.

He must think fast and be decisive—with diplomacy.

Actually, in many respects his job is tougher than the producer-director of a program. The commercial has a scant 60 seconds with small margin for errors and far more rigid time requirements. He has some tough task-masters to please in the advertising business.

Always there is the problem of authority to go with his responsibility. Agency producers too often give him the responsibility, but reserve the authority for themselves. Other agency personnel or even the advertiser may get into the act. Or he may be second-guessed by some ad man he never sees. It happens!

So his life isn’t easy. His best insurance is pre-production planning. Careful pre-planning and question-asking can prevent many of the problems that arise on the set. Often he must tie down conflicting viewpoints that the agency itself has delayed resolving.

And, regardless of whether the producer-director comes from live TV or film, he must have a creative flair for interpretation of this sight-sound-action advertising medium. He must have an avid enthusiasm in searching for the potentials in TV tape.

The next two chapters will get into specifics of these potentials: first, some of the things that can be accomplished with major 3-recorder installations; then, what can be done successfully with a typical 1-recorder operation.

“PIXIE” PEOPLE IN ELECTRONIC MATTING. First television tape commercial to take advantage of electronic matting with “pixie”-sized people was this Kellogg’s Corn Flakes production aired in mid-1958 on “What’s My Line.”

This photograph made directly from the monitor tube shows Dennis James with the miniature song-and-dance team who appeared from behind the package to sing the Kellogg “Good Morning” song. Couple were picked up by another camera which pre-planned them in the relative size and position desired. George Gould of NTA Telestudios in New York directed the production.
SIXTY-FIVE WEEKS LATER—ON LOCATION. Dennis James and Kellogg’s, after pioneering in tape’s early electronic matting commercials, also were among the first on remote location—65 weeks later! Here, this exterior scene was shot in New Jersey, before an actual Kellogg’s billboard, by NTA Telestudios’ mobile equipment.

Ampex Videotape Recorder equipment was carried on location so Dennis was able to see and approve takes immediately. Eight commercials were shot in two days on location.

* * *




It is interesting to speculate on the future of tape. In its first three years the engineering facets outdistanced the creative, by all odds.

This of course is the problem in the tape commercial field. How rapidly will writers and producer-directors learn how to develop and explore these new horizons?

How soon will creative catch up?

Many more engineering feats are on the way, as this chapter intends to speculate. And creative will have to play a fast game of leapfrog from here on.

Everyone in the business of television advertising is going to be affected in some way by the revolution of tape. As this book earlier pointed out:

Agencies will find it more necessary to re-train, re-group and in many cases reorganize their commercial departments. Manpower may be severely dislocated.

Production houses for commercials will evolve in a succession of patterns through the next few years and few will be recognizable then as they are now. The Hollywood-to-New York commercial trend may be expected to accelerate. Especially on a national level, production will move closer to the decision-makers.

At the local station level, creativity in sales will hit a new high. Tape makes practical the re-entry into TV of the local advertiser. The new business potential expands.

Busy times are ahead . . .

“VIDEOTAPE CRUISER” TAKES FULL RECORDING EQUIPMENT ON ROAD. This “Videotape Cruiser” covered the country from coast to coast to show how self-contained mobile tape recording equipment would work on location. Programs, commercials and demonstrations were made to prove the feasibility of “on-the-spot” remote work.
Interior of cruiser with Ampex VR-1000 set up for action.


Tape is ready for action now. Already it has proved its practicality and advantages in commercials.

But a continuing series of advancements may be expected from the inventive engineers. Stereo sound is ready, for instance. A new still-frame editor-viewer is in work.

Here are some other method improvements due:

- 1. Better kinescoping methods. Although kines from tape were satisfactory enough for spot broadcast usage in mid-1959, still better quality can be anticipated.
- 2. High-speed duplication of tape. Engineers may solve this one even before you read this book. It would supersede one-to-one re-recording with a high-speed “contact” system. For the spot field this means faster, cheaper duplicates.
- 3. Simpler splicing methods. Improvements in 1959 cut this operation down to a 30-second procedure, but still simpler techniques may be anticipated.
- 4. Variable speed “reading” of picture in editing. The sound track can now be read down to a fraction of a syllable. While it isn’t essential, it would be desirable to read the ‘picture’ down to such a relative fine point.

None of these four things need hold up the parade—it just would be nice to have ‘em!

THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE. But three L & M popular “They said it couldn’t be done . . .“ commercials and a billboard were taped from start to finish in just three hours at NBC, New York. Jack Lescoulie, L & M’s spokesman, was featured in the commercials which were taped for use on “Gunsmoke” and “The Jimmy Rogers Show.”

Notice the pattern of the background used for the set—it was extremely effective in tape’s reproduction.


It seems fairly certain that every useful trick of film eventually will be accomplished on tape. Special equipment will be required for some of the more intricate operations.

This suggests that there will emerge in the industry some special supply houses to handle such optical work for commercial producers, even as similar optical and trick shot suppliers now exist in the film industry.

They would provide, for instance:

- 5. “Slow motion” photography. In 1959, engineers had this blueprinted down to half speed. This makes it possible, for instance, to repeat the finish of a horse race—with the normal speed tape at a slower-than-normal viewing speed of 50%. Further “slowing” of the picture action through special equipment seems feasible.
- 6. Animation single-frame photography. (Steve Bosustow of UPA has patents in work on this.) This might be the principle: the tape travels forward at regular speed, then an iris opens to capture a single frame of picture; the tape rewinds, then travels forward to catch the next frame, etc.
- 7. “Faster-than-normal” photography. The Bosustow patent or other single-frame photography method would open the way for many intricate opticals, re-recording from normal tape. Film’s trick of under-cranking to get faster-than-normal effects could then be obtained by re-recording every second frame, for instance, of the original.
- 8. “Freeze frame” photography. The stopping of motion to a still frame already has been solved. It remains only to get the equipment into the field.

For the present all these tricks can be done on film and introduced as a component into the tape commercial. Their potential is merely interesting speculation for the future.

CAROUSEL OF CARS FOR OLDSMOBILE. Oldsmobile, in using tape commercials, found tape effective in perfecting match dissolves. Above, the NBC cameraman lines up on a carousel of miniature cars.
The full scale Olds on a turntable with Florence Henderson and Bill Hayes. In such intricate scene-to-scene transitions, tape permits quick-testing the action, then fool-proofs the final result.


Without question, many advancements in studio production methods will speed up operations. Electronic matting of settings and backgrounds, especially, will increase in usage and many new refinements in working procedures will be applied.

Live TV cameras may see improvements. So, add to the prognostications:

9. New camera advancements. The Marconi camera, made in England, with its greater picture detail, its extended gray scale and its Inter-Switch for recording international work suggests more good things are in store.

And, along that line, engineers hint at another major breakthrough in electronics. It well might be the most exciting advancement in the industry since the introduction of tape:

10. Electronic “wave length” lighting. This is a whole new approach that would revolutionize present concepts.

Interesting? That one could be dynamite . . .

INTERNATIONAL MARCONI TV CAMERA IN U.S. The 1960s will see the marketing in the United States of the new Marconi TV camera, the Mark IV, fourth and latest in this British series. It promises a larger 4 1/2” tube and remote control handling of lens-stop and video quality.

Reportedly, the Marconi’s greater picture detail, extended gray scale and improved signal-to-noise ratio also make possible an additional generation of tape copies.


Automation in telecasting obviously is coming. Radio has shown the way and TV should not be far behind.

For instance, recent radio advancements suggest this item:

11. Tape playback “cartridges”—or tape automation control of other tapes. In the spot field, this will give pushbutton operation to the playing of commercials on the air.

Meanwhile, engineers also are giving attention to other forms of automation in the station. Push-button programming. Push-button commercials. (Next comes the push-button creative man . . .)


Less expensive color receiving sets have been promised. This will give set sales a lift—and larger color TV audiences will in turn boost the needs for color tape. And color commercials.

The home viewer will benefit, it seems obvious, from international interchange of tape programs, dissemination of newsworthy material through “night network” re-recording (on unattended tape recorders!) and many other physical uses of tape recording equipment.

Mural television—with a large, flat picture on the wall—also has been promised the home viewer. But tape’s revolution will extend to the viewer’s own life most with the coming of:

12. Home video recorders. Some engineers believe a 150-pound all-transistor portable is feasible. It may even use 1/2-inch or 1-inch tape, rather than TV’s professional 2-inch.

That home recorder will be expensive and won’t pretend to match professional quality, but its potential is intriguing.

Viewers can then record their favorite TV shows, even if they are not ‘then’ at home. And of course they can “erase” any commercials they don’t like—or if they do like your jingle, cartoon or commercial you’ll get quite a few free repeats . . .


From every standpoint, the future holds exciting promise. The problem we must come back to: Will creative brainpower catch up with the continuing engineering advances of tape and television?

Tape, on the engineering side, has set a fast pace so far. Television’s creative forces have been slow. That goes for program and commercials, writers and producers, as well.

With the exception of Steve Allen and Dinah Shore, few of the major shows have used tape for its tricks as well as its memory. Tape is capable of great imagination in its use—if those on the creative side will explore its techniques and open the unlocked doors.

It’s up to the writers and producers.

The engineers have made their challenge . . .

YOU CAN BE SURE . . . IF IT’S BETTY. Betty Furness, who’s been television’s top sales gal ever since the antenna came in bloom, takes to taping for sure. Never again will an appliance fail to work for her—as it once did in live TV! Below is part of the staging for two of her commercials for Desilu Playhouse.
The two :90 spots were taped in 6 hours at Videotape Center, with George Weber of McCann-Erickson producing. Seventeen refrigerators were used in the two commercials—11 in one scene! The monitors in the top corners of the lower photograph show the familiar animated Westinghouse signature, superimposed on the scene from the film chain.
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