Industry veteran gives new life to obsolete broadcast video technology

Looking for a way to transfer video material stored on 2in Quad or a 1in Type C videotape? How about a refurbished Quantel Paintbox compositing system?

C. Park Seward, a veteran broadcast video engineer — who recently served as senior video engineer for an ESPN/ABC college football game telecast live from Oregon State University and as tech manager for KABC-TV’s “On The Red Carpet at the Academy Awards”— and former successful video production and post facility owner of Video Park might have just what you are looking for. He’s set up to offer a variety of video and audio transfer services, using vintage equipment, to help preserve history.

A self-professed “gear head” who can’t get enough of the technology of yesteryear, Seward has set up a museum-type 3000ft converted garage in his back yard in Grants Pass, OR, that features a variety of working systems. He’s been collecting them for years and says he can't help himself when he sees a sale for used equipment on the Internet.

He owned production and post-production facilities in Baton Rouge and New Orleans for many years, and later freelanced in Los Angeles for 12 years. He’s a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and the Association of Imaging Technology and Sound. In his Oregon shop, he can support such formats as: Digital Betacam (Sony DVW-A500), 1in Type "C" (Ampex VPR-3) and Zeus time base corrector, 2in Quadruplex (Ampex 1200B with Merlin Digital TBC updates), D-2 (Sony DVR-28), Betacam and Betacam SP (Sony BVW-60), 3/4in U-Matic (Sony BVU-800 and VO-5850), Hi-8, Digital 8 video, Mimi DV, DVCAM, micro MV, Panasonic D-3, DVD and HD-DVD, among others.

As a freelance video engineer, Seward is still active with ESPN/ABC football telecasts, having worked for the past five years as the senior video engineer for the “G” Crew, spending every weekend at a football stadium, from Michigan to Oregon to Oklahoma.

He can also transfer uncompressed material to hard drive and offers video compression services to MPEG-2, miniDV, Quicktime or H.264 NTSC to/from PAL. Aging audio material is restored using Digidesign's Pro Tools audio editing and mixing software.

Seward said he started out with an interest in restoring old radio station equipment. He found a Gates Diplomat analog audio mixing console, saying it is “one of the nicest designs of all the 70s boards,” and completely restored it. Then he moved on to turntables and cart machines. Later, he acquired several Ampex reel-to-reel machines.

He found the mother lode of old gear when he came across a mail listing about a storage room full of old video equipment from an estate. “The family just wanted to get rid of the stuff so I made them an offer and they took it. It cost more to ship than to buy!”

Included were four Ampex quad VTRs (model# 1200 B), one with an NEC digital TBC, which, he said, “makes great pictures.”

So he’s collected and restored all of this gear with the idea of offering a dub service for people that still have material on the historic quad format.

“I have been amazed at how well the quad tape has held up over the years,” he said. “Out of hundreds of tapes, only one didn’t play — due to extensive ‘shedding.’ (Sticky shed is a problem with mid-70s tapes, but baking makes the tapes playable.) However, those tapes will not last forever and I recommend transferring to hard drive, uncompressed at 10 bits. For long-term storage, LTO tape is recommended.”

Seward said you could find some “neat” equipment at auctions and on eBay for a fraction of the cost of when it was new. In his studio, he’s set up a quad signal workflow that first goes to a Grass Valley Group proc amp (he bought it for $100), then to a Hedco router (free) to an Accom decoder ($200) to an Accom video noise reducer ($150) to an AJA Video I/O box ($175) to the hard drive. Ikegami HD monitors ($50 each) with Tektronix waveform monitors/vectorscopes ensure a perfect dub.

Recently he "rescued" some Quantel gear, some HALs, an Editbox and some Paintboxes. The Editbox/HAL will help with video restoration, allowing him to repair damaged frames. A Los Angeles TV station was discarding the still usable gear.

“I just hate to see what I consider ‘historic’ technology in the trash bin,” Seward said. “I hope to restore some of it and donate to some TV museums.”

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