Quantcast U-Matic 3/4-inch tapes? - digitalFAQ Forum
  #1  
04-13-2020, 11:13 AM
LorettaTX LorettaTX is offline
Premium Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2020
Posts: 3
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Good morning, I'm curious about u-matic tape. What is it used for? Is it worth purchasing a machine to transfer it?

- Loretta
Reply With Quote
Someday, 12:01 PM
admin's Avatar
Ads / Sponsors
 
Join Date: ∞
Posts: 42
Thanks: ∞
Thanked 42 Times in 42 Posts
  #2  
04-13-2020, 12:56 PM
keaton keaton is offline
Premium Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 110
Thanked 44 Times in 32 Posts
Hello! Thanks for being a premium member!

I'm not an expert, but the type of content you are likely to find on U-matic tapes is from those who were in video production. So things like TV news, media press kits, and other things made for broadcast. The format does predate Betamax. So it may be possible you could find some home made off-air recordings. But I would guess that was mostly done in the early to mid 70s before Betamax and VHS came along for the home video recording market. U-matic interestingly had a long life in the video production industry. I think it lasted well into the 90s (it first came to market in 1971). I've seen occasional appearances on ebay of U-matic tapes. It has always been something from either an old TV studio or promotional video for a movie release. The wikipedia page on U-matic would indicate that it was primarily an industry format.

I've seen some youtubers show the guts of a U-matic player and repair them. I'd suspect if you were to get one you would need a good mechanical and electrical background to repair or maintain, unless you could get a serviced one from a reputable source. The weight of them alone may be cost prohibitive from a shipping standpoint.
Reply With Quote
The following users thank keaton for this useful post: LorettaTX (04-13-2020)
  #3  
04-13-2020, 08:41 PM
Ralpphilz Ralpphilz is offline
Premium Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 31
Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Hi Loretta,
I've been using U-Matic tapes for over a year. If you have U-Matic tapes, you definitely want to get them digitalized since they will soon become unstable due to sticky shed syndrome found in memorex (a lot of time) tapes.
Speaking of the U-Matic player, you may want to stay away from the BVU-950. This unit is a broadcasting device with its complicated boards. The video heads are difficult to find for replacement. I'm sure if you purchase a used on from anyone right now, you would be more than likely to get a new head replaced for stable playback. Not to mention the fact that you'd also need an internal TBC which is optional for this unit. The Noise Reduction card is optional too, but the Noise Reduction is a "son" of the Internal TBC card, and won't function without the TBC. These two cards are extremely hard to locate, and they are really expensive.
The model that I strongly recommend is the VO-9850 which is an industrial unit and came into existence a decade later compared to BUV-950. This unit is easier to maintain and parts are relatively easy to find. Same, you would also need to have it serviced completely for a stable playback because most of the time the front loading belts, and the square section belts dried off, which renders them feasible and gets broken if the tapes being played is a bit sticky.
For the best quality, you'd want to use the DUB out cables in order to get the highest frequency for color that is 668 kHz (separately chroma and luminance), the dub-out cables Are challenging to find. But if you use the BNC converter to get the composite video out, you'd lose a chunk of quality in the pictures. I hope this helps.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
04-15-2020, 01:02 AM
cbehr91 cbehr91 is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 70
Thanked 5 Times in 5 Posts
U-matic was the first video tape cassette format (and if it wasn't the first it was certainly the first that was widely accepted). Sony intended for it to be a consumer format, but the price and size of the machines was too steep for regular consumers. However, it was found to be suitable for industrial applications and for television news gathering in the middle to late 1970s. It quickly replaced 16mm for news gathering beginning in the mid 1970s. If you see old news footage shot out in the field on videotape from the 70s or 80s I can almost guarantee you it was shot on U-matic (or 3/4" as it was known within the industry -- the physical width of the tape is 3/4").

I'm probably getting beyond the scope of the question, but despite a high-band refinement of the media coming out in the 80s 3/4" was pretty quickly replaced by BetacamSP (an offshoot of the Betamax format) in the late 1980s for news gathering.

Most 3/4" tapes ran 20 or 30 minutes although I think eventually 60 and even 90 minutes of tape was stuffed into the cassette.

I work at a TV station. We have rooms full of U-matic tapes that should have been digitized 20 years ago, but they weren't. Our players don't work and many of the engineers industry-wide who knew and worked on the machines are quickly retiring. They were very sophisticated machines with alot of moving parts to keep the tape transport silky smooth to meet broadcast standards. The tapes being 30-40 years old seize up easily and won't play and need to be carefully ejected by hand.

Unless you have tapes you need digitized I'd pass. If you're wanting to get into the format for nostalgia sake I'd definitely pass.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
04-15-2020, 11:10 PM
tryagain tryagain is offline
Premium Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Posts: 16
Thanked 6 Times in 4 Posts
I agree with the above posters, and will add that the quality was better than VHS, particularly when going down a few generations.

Standard U-matic was 280 lines of rez to VHS's 240. A newer U-matic SP format was 330 lines, decent, but below the 400 lines of Hi-8 or SVHS.

I had a couple of early 80s U-matics in the mid 90s. They weren't the SP. Had an edit controller and aforementioned dub cable. Edited programs for a local cable access channel. I was constantly working on them to keep them alive. I used them because that was the format required of the cable channel.

Not sure I would do that again. Non-linear editing was becoming affordable at that time, so my last few productions were done on the computer and dumped to U-matic. It was fun at the time, but became stressful when under a deadline.

If you had a few tapes of valuable footage, you could have a dupe house transfer them to digital. Vice versa if you needed to dump a program to U-matic for broadcast, if cable access still uses them.


Attached Images
File Type: jpg Rez Chart.JPG (73.0 KB, 9 downloads)
Reply With Quote
  #6  
04-19-2020, 03:38 AM
lordsmurf's Avatar
lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
Site Staff | Video
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 9,319
Thanked 1,558 Times in 1,359 Posts
I would not get anywhere near U-matic. It's a can of worms. Even worse than Betamax. It will be a money pit that makes the AG-1980P deck look cheap to maintain. A newbie should stay far away from this.

U-matic is a different beast entirely, VHS knowledge will be minimally useful.

People that can do U-matic are both heroes for salvaging history and gluttons for punishment.

I've dealt with post-capture U-matic conversion, which still need a lot of cleanup/restoration. Those projects are always a PITA, often requiring me to write new scripts, come up with new restoration methods. Not fast, not cheap.

- Did my advice help you? Then become a Premium Member and support this site.
- Find television shows, cartoons, DVDs and Blu-ray releases at the TVPast forums.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
04-19-2020, 02:54 PM
latreche34 latreche34 is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 803
Thanked 92 Times in 90 Posts
Yes, the U-matic format is a giant rabbit hole, Without the technical knowledge of the format there is no need to dive in, You would have to maintain the player yourself, fabricate parts yourself and be able to do all the adjustment without needing calibration tools that you will never find obviously.

Some with good knowledge of the format succeeded in getting the best out of it by using some SP machines with piezoelectric heads for automatic azimuth angle adjustment for best RF signal from the tape. They also modified some machines to tap into the Y/C signal recorded on tape bypassing the awful composite output circuit inside the machine.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
04-21-2020, 04:56 PM
Qaenos Qaenos is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 2
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Do any of these tapes contain professional wrestling? What city / area is this tv station located?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
04-22-2020, 12:41 AM
cbehr91 cbehr91 is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 70
Thanked 5 Times in 5 Posts
I don't know what's on them. Our machines don't work. This station never aired any pro wrestling anyway.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
04-28-2020, 10:22 PM
sevarre sevarre is offline
Premium Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 31
Thanked 9 Times in 6 Posts
A friend of mine picked up a free Sony VP-7000 at his job a couple weeks ago and it works pretty well still. Think it was just sitting around forever and wasn't used very much. Could probably use some servicing simply due to it's age, but I've played a couple tapes and it seems to work surprisingly well. Haven't had the time to delve in to format other than that.

If you can find a free/low cost machine somewhere locally then I'd say go for it if you are up for a challenge. I've also heard the VO-9850 is a good machine for transfers, but like lordsmurf and latreche34 warn it will probably be a serious challenge.

Here's a link to an interesting pdf going over the format. There's a section on the preservation issues presented by the format. https://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservati...UmaticTape.pdf


Quote:
Originally Posted by cbehr91 View Post
I work at a TV station. We have rooms full of U-matic tapes that should have been digitized 20 years ago, but they weren't. Our players don't work and many of the engineers industry-wide who knew and worked on the machines are quickly retiring. They were very sophisticated machines with alot of moving parts to keep the tape transport silky smooth to meet broadcast standards. The tapes being 30-40 years old seize up easily and won't play and need to be carefully ejected by hand.
Dang that makes me sad. Almost inspires me to try and get deep into the format just to help convert these tapes (and who knows how many other hundreds of other local TV stations). Do you have any open reel video stuff left at your TV station? Looking for old Ampex parts and maybe I should be asking my local TV stations in case they have anything lying around.

Last edited by sevarre; 04-28-2020 at 10:24 PM. Reason: spelling
Reply With Quote
  #11  
05-05-2020, 04:05 AM
latreche34 latreche34 is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 803
Thanked 92 Times in 90 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralpphilz View Post
For the best quality, you'd want to use the DUB out cables in order to get the highest frequency for color that is 668 kHz (separately chroma and luminance), the dub-out cables Are challenging to find. But if you use the BNC converter to get the composite video out, you'd lose a chunk of quality in the pictures. I hope this helps.
It's not as easy as you may think, DUB proprietary standard pre dated the S-Video standard for both PAL and NTSC, For instance for PAL, DUB outputs the exact downconverted chroma recorded on tape @ 686Khz for low band recordings and @ 984Khz for high band recordings, this chroma signal cannot be captured by any capture device out there, it has to be up converted to a normal 4.43Mhz signal to be recognized, Such converters are not cheap, This is one of them.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
05-20-2020, 01:28 AM
nosticker nosticker is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 4
Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
I have a VO-5600. Over the years, I did bring home shows from my TV job(sshhh) on 3/4", but that was it. I plan on transferring a lot of my tapes to computer and getting rid of them. It's a relic format in an HD world. Lots of tapes are no longer playable. It's worth noting that the first ever CD master tapes were PCM digital recordings made on 3/4" (1630 format, I think) and these are also notorious for not playing properly.


Dan
Reply With Quote
  #13  
05-20-2020, 01:35 AM
cbehr91 cbehr91 is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 70
Thanked 5 Times in 5 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by sevarre View Post


Dang that makes me sad. Almost inspires me to try and get deep into the format just to help convert these tapes (and who knows how many other hundreds of other local TV stations). Do you have any open reel video stuff left at your TV station? Looking for old Ampex parts and maybe I should be asking my local TV stations in case they have anything lying around.
We have a few 1" and 2" tapes but no VTRs for those formats.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
06-04-2020, 02:03 PM
Ralpphilz Ralpphilz is offline
Premium Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Posts: 31
Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Quote:
Originally Posted by latreche34 View Post
It's not as easy as you may think, DUB proprietary standard pre-dated the S-Video standard for both PAL and NTSC, For instance for PAL, DUB outputs the exact downconverted chroma recorded on tape @ 686Khz for low band recordings and @ 984Khz for high band recordings, this chroma signal cannot be captured by any capture device out there, it has to be upconverted to a normal 4.43Mhz signal to be recognized, Such converters are not cheap, This is one of them.
The information you quoted is absolutely correct.
I actually own 2 sets of the Dub-optimiser manufactured by Keystrobe. I must say it's a very nice device, and it does exactly what it's meant to. However, the use of this Dub-optimiser in conjunction with BVU-950 is strongly DISCOURAGED. The BVU950 is an excellent machine but is not the best to use with the Dub-Optimiser. The reason is that when the TBC is enabled, there is a timing difference between the Dub-out and Composite-out signals. It is best to be paired with VO-9850. In particular, U-Matic machines used some very primitive noise-reduction circuitry that is indeed lossy. The effect is to reduce noise but the detail is also lost. The pictures look rather “plastic” and smears. Fortunately, the Dub output bypasses this. Where necessary, noise reduction can be carried out later in the digital domain with modern algorithms that are not lossy.

It is important to realize that recording quality has improved immensely in the years since U-Matic. Nowadays, on any good system, it’s impossible to discern any difference from the original. Therefore when engaging with legacy systems it’s necessary to manage expectations. By using the U-Matic Dub output there is a significant improvement in quality but nothing like today’s picture quality standards. For more details, I recommend reading the technical description on the website.


Attached Images
File Type: jpg DUB OPTIMISER 02.jpg (170.6 KB, 5 downloads)
Reply With Quote
  #15  
06-04-2020, 02:30 PM
latreche34 latreche34 is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 803
Thanked 92 Times in 90 Posts
The way the designer of that product explained it to me is that they take the luma signal (Y) from the dub connector and the chroma signal from the composite output, That's why it has tow connectors. Chroma out of the source inside the machine is the best but requires custom modifications to the machine based on the model so they used composite to extract chroma signal so the device can be used with any machine without modification vs slight loss in chroma quality.

Take a look at post #5
Reply With Quote
  #16  
06-05-2020, 11:31 AM
JustinC JustinC is offline
Free Member
 
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 14
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
U-matic tapes were also used for easy transport of filmed scenes for dailies in the days before VHS, DVD, and portable hard drives. Several movies have surviving copies in this form.
For synchronisation to broadcast or post-production editing house genlock systems, U-Matic VCRs required a time base corrector (TBC). Some TBCs had a drop-out compensation (DOC) circuit which would hold lines of video in temporary digital memory to compensate for oxide drop-out or wrinkle flaws in the videotape, however the DOC circuits required several cables and expert calibration for use.
Audio quality was compromised due the use of longitudinal audio tape heads in combination with slow tape speed. Sony eventually implemented Dolby noise reduction circuitry (using Dolby C) to improve audio fidelity.
Reply With Quote
Reply




Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Only audio on some U-matic tapes? Winsordawson Capture, Record, Transfer 2 07-25-2014 08:30 AM
Is our Sony 32 inch tube TV dying? (Best new HDTV replacement in 2011?) Sossity Videography: Cameras, TVs and Players 6 09-30-2011 10:36 AM
DVD cases: How many mm in an inch ? battle7 Blank Media 4 04-01-2009 08:05 AM
Looking for a good 20 inch flat screen tv. MOTUfan Videography: Cameras, TVs and Players 0 08-25-2005 12:47 PM

Thread Tools



 
All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:50 AM