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*Bix* 04-07-2011 08:51 PM

Who is Vidicraft, Studio 1 Productions, Sign Video?
During one of my eBay gearhead phases, I bought a Vidicraft Detailer (not sure which version). I believe it was new old stock but it crapped out pretty quickly, no longer powering on Thankfully, I didn't pay much for it. Anyway, it just looked and felt cheap and I don't think I kept it around at all after it broke.

So I was wondering: What can the fine folks here tell me about Vidicraft? I know that people from Vidicraft started Sign Video to make pro level equipment. Where was Vidicraft stuff sold, in what price range, etc? Was it marketed as high end professional equipment? Generally, how solidly built were their products? All like this, good with a handful of outliers, or all over the place?

I find it weird that the guys who went on to form the well respected Sign Video made equipment that sometimes looked and felt like a "video clarifier" out of the Heartland America catalog. Some of the stuff I've seen on eBay is a lot more solid looking, though.

Anyway, I figured one of you might know. I might crosspost this at VideoHelp too for the heck of it.


lordsmurf 04-12-2011 04:13 AM

I purposely waited until the "working day" week to answer this. You'll see why in by the end of my post...

Vidicraft gear was invented, patented and sold starting the early 1980s, and through into at least the late 1980s. Because the company was long gone by the time the Internet became mainstream (late 1990s), it's pretty much devoid of any information on this entity. The original address was at 3311 N.E. 35th Ave in Portland Oregon, which appears to be a residential area in Google Maps (street view).

Most of what I know about this company comes from memories of broadcasters, from people who worked at TV stations or cable companies, and were involved in any sort of hands-on analog video editing. So given that source, there are bound to be inaccuracies. However, the general information on costs and timelines is always consistent -- there's never widely divergent histories. (It was the early 2000s before I really became aware of the older Vidicraft gear, and that was largely due to the growth of eBay in those first few years of the current century. Having started in the 1990s, I was more used to seeing other brands in small studio workflows, or integrated proc amp + TBC on racks.)

Vidicraft made several successive models of "detailers" (video sharpeners), proc amps (a.k.a. color processor/amplifier), switchers, and audio controls. I have an original pamphlet in the file cabinet, which came with my first still-in-box Vidicraft proc amp some 8 or so years ago.

Based on open patent documents online (using the same patent numbers now claimed by Sign Video), you can see that Vidicraft is really the Vidicraft Acquisition Corp currently based in San Antonio, Texas. Maybe they are/were an investment group? Sounds like it. Maybe they financed the early days of what would become Sign Video?

In 1993, Vidicraft sold the TV/video products back to the workers or interests that were always behind the product. Same address in Portland. That new company was Studio 1 Productions, and they still exist. I have a Studio 1 Production DR-1000 "image enhancer", which is essentially an s-video version of the Vidicraft Detailer II.

At some point in the early 2000s (likely 2002, based on the domain whois), that company split up, with Studio 1 Productions moving solely into pre-post (a.k.a. "production") workflows, now selling shooting hardware/accessories and instructional videos. Studio 1 is now in Florida, on the coast outside Orlando.

Now, among those broadcasters I've spoken to in the past, there is some doubt as to whether the current Studio 1 is related to the Vidicraft-lineage Studio 1, but the dates match up (1993 founding), and then Studio 1's current site carries a disclaimer in a few places that they "no longer" carry certain products -- products once sold by Vidicraft and Studio 1, now sold by Sign Video.

The other half of the break-up became Sign Video Ltd, which still carries products that are based on patents of the 1980s Vidicraft gear. These documents are easily found online. Sign Video is still in Portland, although now using a P.O. Box as the official address, as well as an address to a boring sign-less office building (again, as seen from Google Maps, via street view)

Further than that, the original 1982 patent names James A. Karlock, and he's still in Portland -- and still at 3311 N.E. 35th Ave, as of December 2009! As recent as December 2010, he's been seen posting online concerning Portland government issues, and I have two email addresses for him. I waited until the "work week" to write this, because I'm also going to write him, requesting he either confirm or correct any information we have -- if he would be kind enough to do so.

As far as pricing goes, it's always been several hundred dollars per device. SignVideo was as low as $300 pre-recession, with much of their gear now closer to $450. But I believe $200-400 was about right for the earlier days. (By comparision, Radio Shack's Archer gear was available for $99 back in 1984. Not very good, either -- not even close to Vidicraft quality. Aside from the lack of s-video connections, most Vidicraft gear has stood the test of time.)

In terms of build quality, I never had an issue with Vidicraft products. Excluding the Detailer IV and end-of-life (for the brand) products, they were built from blue/black metal cases and strong plastic knobs. The Detailer II could be thrown at a wall, and the wall would be the only object in danger of damage. That's also true of Studio 1 and Sign Video gear. Built like mini tanks.

Now cross your fingers that Mr. Karlock is kind enough to post here. :)

*Bix* 04-12-2011 08:55 AM

Thanks, that was exactly what I was looking for.

So I would presume I had a Detailer IV. Was the late in life stuff like that targeted towards consumers and specialty catalogs instead of professionals or was there a big quality downswing for some other reason? Everything from the packaging to the build quality to the design screamed cheap Heartland America et al type stuff.

lordsmurf 04-12-2011 09:10 AM

I received a preliminary response via email, in the wee a.m. hours. Here's an edited portion of it:

see the following:More later.
Studio 1 was a dealer of Sign Video products.
I'm hoping he'll register for the forum, and respond in this thread. This should clear up speculation, and provide an informative look at some of the gear many of us have come to rely on through the years.

I look forward to the full official history. :)

It seems Studio 1 was just a reseller, putting Sign Video under a private label. That's very similar to what TVOne and AVToolbox do with the Cypress Technologies CTB-100 TBC. TVOne and AVToolbox have re-branded it as the AVT-8710.

Bix, to be fair, I can't say that the Cypress CTB-100 is any better, in terms of build quality. It plastic, yes. But it's also well respected, and works quite nicely. Same for a lot of older JVC, Sony and Sima gear -- which was pretty decent, if not completely made of plastic. I can't say that plastic vs metal makes much difference on gear like this.

On the other hand, I take issue with cheap Canon Rebel film SLR and DSLR cameras, because they have plastic parts -- including the mounts! THE LENS MOUNTS ARE PLASTIC! (That is simply asinine.) My new $25 iron from Walmart is made better. This is an example of when plastic matters.

*Bix* 04-12-2011 09:23 AM

2 Attachment(s)
I don't mean that being plastic was the problem as much as that everything about it looked and felt cheap in general, plus it bricked fast in spite of being previously unused.

I know that they're not factors that I should be weighing, but even the box design and cardboard quality felt like it was being skimped on. Again, it reminded me way too much of a Heartland America video clarifier. If the blue/black metal stuff is build like a tank then maybe I'll see if anything interesting shoes up cheap on eBay.

-- merged --

Ok, I just saw a Detailer IV on eBay and that's not what I had:

Mine came in a lightish blue box and the device itself was completely different. I think it had dials instead of sliders and I'm sure it had none of the added colors.

Looking around for other pics, it wasn't the Detailer I, II, or II, either. So now I'm very confused. I don't think there was a Detailer V, so what the heck did I buy years ago? A knockoff?

It might be time to dig around some closets and see if I kept it around...

-- merged --

Finally found my Vidicraft Detailer. Model # is DET-101. Date of manufacturing is 2/17/89.

Plugged it in to remind myself what happened to it: The input is loose and not really working.


Attachment 1932

Attachment 1933

lordsmurf 10-09-2011 07:40 PM

Loose inputs are often just a solder fix away! :)

That's a piece I've never seen.
I've had a Detailer II, but that was years ago before I upgraded to SignVideo (Studio1) gear for the s-video inputs.

*Bix* 10-09-2011 07:58 PM


So from googling around, the different address on my Detailer was the registered business address fo Vidicraft. It looks like the type of building would've worked for their business. It's about an hour away from the residential address,

Now...where did my Detailer come from? I can find only one reference to it online and it doesn't really have any information. It doesn't seem like it's necessarily meant to be professional equipment. Maybe I'll call/email Sign Video and see if they might know something?

lordsmurf 10-09-2011 08:03 PM

It was intended for use with VHS videotapes, which have never been considered "professional" formats as such. These were relatively low cost boxes sold to the advanced hobby crowd. It's not too dissimilar from owners of Atari and Commodore computers (not the video games systems -- the computers). It's the same black-box type crowd that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs belonged to, back in that era. Except for video, not computers.

There was a video on Youtube, posted about on this forum some months ago, that dealt with Archer gear. Archer was similar, though lower cost. If you worked with VHS tapes -- worked, not played -- then these were essentially your professional tools, regardless of how they may have been labeled by others. That's similar to the "prosumer" S-VHS decks, which are supposedly consumer gear, but heavily used by video professionals.

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