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Kinescope ( ) – kine for short, also known as telerecording, is a recording of a television program made by filming the picture from a video monitor.

Typically, the term can refer to the process itself, the equipment used for the procedure (a 16 mm or 35 mm movie camera mounted in front of a video monitor, and synchronized to the monitor's scanning rate), or a film made using the process. Kinescopes were the only practical way to preserve live television broadcasts prior to the introduction of videotape in 1956.

The term originally referred to the cathode ray tube used in television receivers, as named by inventor Vladimir K. Zworykin in 1929. Hence, the recordings were known in full as kinescope films.

How a kinescope works

NTSC television images are scanned at 60 Hz, or with two fields creating one frame, 30 frames/second, respectively.

A kinescope must be able to:
  1. Convert the 30 frame/s image to 24 frame/s, the standard sound speed of film cameras,
  2. Do so in a way so that the image is clear enough to then re-broadcast by means of a film chain back to 30 frame/s.


In kinescoping an NTSC signal, 525 lines are broadcast in one frame. A 35 mm or 16 mm camera exposes one frame of film for every one frame of television (525 lines), and moving a new frame of film into place during the time equivalent of one field of television (131.25 lines). In the British 405-line television system, television ran at 25 frames - or more correctly, 50 fields - per second, so the film camera would be run at 25 frames per second rather than the cinematic film standard of 24 frames.

Therefore, in order to maintain successful kinescope photography, a camera must expose one frame of film for exactly 1/30 or 1/25th of a second, the time of which one frame of video is transmitted, and move to another frame of film within the small interval of 1/120 of a second. In some instances, this was accomplished through means of an electronic shutter which cuts off the TV image at the end of every set of visible lines.

Most U.S. kinescope situations, however, utilized a mechanical shutter, revolving at 24 revolutions per second. This shutter had a closed angle of 72° and an open angle of 288°, yielding the necessary closed time of 1/120 of a second and 1/30 of a second. Using this shutter, in 1 second of video (60 fields equaling 30 frames), 48 television fields (totaling to 24 frames of video) would be captured on 24 frames of film, and 12 additional fields would be omitted as the shutter closed and the film advanced.

Because television is a field rather than frame-based system, however, not all the information in the picture can be retained on film in the same way as it can on videotape. The time taken physically to move the film on by one frame and stop it so that the gate can be opened to expose a new frame of film to the two fields of television picture is much longer than the vertical blanking interval between these fields - so the film is still moving when the start of the next field is being displayed on the television screen. It is not possible to accelerate the film fast enough to get it there in time without destroying the perforations in the film stock - and the larger the film gauge used, the worse the problem becomes.

The problem of adapting the way the image is either displayed or captured on film, to get around the above, was solved in various different ways as time went on - improving the quality of the image.

Shutter bar and banding problems

Due to the 72°/288° shutter, and the systematic loss of 12 fields per second was not without its side effects. In going from 30 frame/s to 24 frame/s, the camera photographed part of some fields. The juncture on the film frame where these part-fields met was called a "splice".

If the timing was accurate, the splice was invisible. However, if the camera and television were out of phase, phenomenon known as "shutter bar" or "banding" took place. If the shutter was slow in closing, overexposure resulted where the part-fields joined and the "shutter bar" took the form of a white line. If the shutter closed too soon, underexposure took place and the line was black. The term "banding" referred to the phenomenon occurring on the screen as two bars.

This obstacle could be overcome by brushing a thin coat of lacquer on the edge of the shutter according to the phasing between the camera shutter and the television impulses.

Suppressed field

A simpler system less prone to breakdown was to suppress one of the two fields in displaying the television picture. This left the time in which the second field was displayed for the film camera to advance the film by one frame, which proved enough. This method was also called 'Skip field' recording.

This method had several disadvantages. In missing out every second field of video, half the information of the picture was lost on such recordings. The resulting film consisted of fewer than 200 lines of picture information and as a result the line structure was very apparent; the missing field information also made movement look very 'jerky'.

Stored field

A development on the suppressed field system was to display the image from one of the fields at a much higher intensity on the television screen during the time when the film gate was closed, and then capture the image as the second field was being displayed. By adjusting the intensity of the first field, it was possible to arrange it so that the luminosity of the phosphor had decayed to exactly match that of the second field, so that the two appeared to be at the same level and the film camera captured both.This method came to be preferred.

Another technique developed by the BBC known as 'spot wobble' involved the addition of an extremely high frequency but low voltage sine wave to the vertical deflection plate of the television screen, which changed the moving 'spot' through which the television picture was displayed into an elongated oval. While this made the image slightly blurred, it removed the visible line structure and resulted in a better image. It also prevented moiré patterns appearing when the resulting film was re-broadcast on television and the lines of the recording did not match the scan lines.

Moye-Mechau film recording

The first successful procedure was to use the Mechau film projector mechanism in reverse. The Mechau system used a synchronised rotating mirror to display each frame of a film in sequence without the need for a gate. When reversed, a high-quality television monitor was set up in place of the projection screen, and unexposed film stock is run through at the point where the lamp was illuminating the film.

This procedure had the advantage of capturing both fields of the frame on a film, but it was difficult to keep the mirrors running at the right speed and all the equipment adjusted correctly, which often resulted in poor quality output. An additional problem was that the whole procedure took place in an open room and it was known for insects to settle on the screen which were then permanently present on the film recording. The Mechau film magazine only held enough for nine minutes so two recorders were needed to run in sequence in order to record anything longer.

Lenses for kinescoping

Lenses did not need a great depth of field, but had to be capable both of producing a very sharp image with high resolution of a flat surface and of doing so at high speed. In order to keep from light fall-off on the perimeter of the lens, a coated lens was preferable. 40 mm or 50 mm lenses were usually used with 16mm in calibrated mounts. Focus was checked by examining a print yielded under a microscope.

Magazines and film length

In order to record half-hour programs without interruption, magazines were designed which accommodated a load of 1,200 feet for 16 mm film. Stations recording on 35 mm utilized 6,000 foot magazines for one hour of continuous recording.

Sound recording

The camera could be equipped with sound recording to place the soundtrack and picture on the same film for single system sound recording. More commonly, the alternative system of a double system, whereby the soundtrack was recorded on an optical recorder or magnetic dubber in sync with the camera, yielded a better quality sound track and greatly facilitated editing.

The kinescope image

Kinescope tubes intended for photographic use were coated with phosphors rich in blue and ultra-violet radiations. This permitted the use of positive type emulsions for photographing in spite of their slow film speeds. The brightness range of kinescope tubes were about 1 to 30.

Kinescope images were capable of great flexibility. The operator could make the image brighter or darker, adjust contrast, width and height, turn left, right or upside down, and positive or negative.

Since kinescopes were able to produce a negative picture, direct positive recordings could be made by simply photographing a negative image on the kinescope tube. When making a negative film, in order for final prints to be in the correct emulsion position, the direction of the is image was reversed on the television. This applied only when double system sound was used.

Film stock used

For kinescopes, 16 mm film was the common choice by most studios because of the lower cost of stock and film processing, but in the larger network markets, it was not uncommon to see 35 mm kinescopes, particularly for national rebroadcast. By law, all film supplied to TV stations, both 16 mm and 35 mm had to be on a non-flammable, safety film base.

For U.S. video recording, fine grain positive stock was the most common used because of its low cost and high resolution yield. Of the fine grain stocks, the following were recommended by film manufacturers:
  • Ansco - Fine Grain Positive for Television Purposes, for making direct positive recordings with 16 mm kinescope cameras.
  • DuPont - Fine Grain Master Positive Film Type 628A (16 mm) and 628B (35 mm). Difference in contrast can be controlled in development.
  • Eastman Kodak - Eastman Fine Grain Sound Recording Film, Type 5373 (low-contrast) for negative stock where other prints would be made. Fine Grain Release Positive Film, Type 7302 (high-contrast) for direct positive recordings and single system sound recordings using variable area sound.


Other common issues with kinescopes

Videotape engineer Frederick M. Remley wrote of kinescope recordings,
Because of the many variables in the combined electronic/photographic process, the quality of such recordings often leaves much to be desired. Defects often encountered in photographic recording include relatively poor image resolution; a compressed brightness range often limited by kinescope display technology to a brightness ratio of about 40:1; nonlinearity of recordings, as exemplified by lack of gradation in both the near-white and near-black portions of the reproduced pictures; and excessive image noise due to film grain and video processing artifacts. The final signal-to-noise ratio is often less than 40 dB, especially in the case of 16 mm film.


Because each field is sequential in time to the next, a kinescope film frame that captured two interlaced fields at once often showed a ghostly fringe around the edges of moving objects, an artifact not as visible when watching television directly at 50 or 60 fields per second.

Some kinescopes filmed the television pictures at the same frame rate of 30 full frames per second, resulting in more faithful picture quality than those that recorded at 24 frames per second. The standard was later changed for color TV to 59.94 fields/s. or 29.97 frame/s. when color TV was invented.

In the era of early color TV, the chroma information included in the video signal filmed could cause visible artifacts. It was possible to filter the chroma out, but this was not always done. Consequently, the color information was included (but not in color) in the black & white film image. Using modern computing techniques, the color may now be recovered, a process known as color recovery.

In recent years, the BBC has introduced a video process called VidFIRE, which can restore kinescope recordings to their original frame rate by interpolating video fields between the film frames.

History

The General Electric laboratories in Schenectady, New Yorkmarker experimented with making still and motion picture records of television images in 1931.

There is some evidence to suggest that the BBC experimented with filming the output of the television monitor before the television service was placed on hiatus in 1939. BBC executive Cecil Madden later recalled filming a production of The Scarlet Pimpernel in this way, only for film director Alexander Korda to order the burning of the negative as he owned the film rights to the book, which he felt had been infringed. However, the evidence for this is purely anecdotal, and indeed there is no written record of any BBC Television production of The Scarlet Pimpernel during the 1936–1939 period.

According to a 1949 film produced by RCA, silent films had been made of early experimental telecasts during the 1930s. The films were shot off television monitors at a speed of eight frames per second, resulting in somewhat jerky reproductions of the images. By the mid 1940s, RCA and NBC were refining the filming process and including sound; the images were less jerky but still somewhat fuzzy.

During World War II, television cameras were attached to American and German guided missiles to aid in their remote steering. Films were made of the television images they transmitted for further evaluation of the target and the missile's performance.

The first known surviving example of the telerecording process in Britainmarker is from October 1947, showing the singer Adelaide Hall performing at the RadiOlympia event. The wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip also survives, as do various early 1950s productions such as It is Midnight, Dr Schweitzer and the opening two episodes of The Quatermass Experiment, although in varying degrees of quality. A complete 7-hour set of telerecordings of Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation also exists.

Eastman Television Recording Camera

In September 1947, Kodak introduced the Eastman Television Recording Camera, in cooperation with DuMont Laboratories, Inc. and NBC, for recording images from a television screen under the trademark "Kinephoto". Prior to the introduction of videotape in 1956, kinescopes were the only way to record television broadcasts, or to distribute network programs that were broadcast live from New Yorkmarker or other originating cities, to stations not connected to the network, or to stations that wished to show a program at a different time than the network broadcast. Although the quality was less than desirable, television programs of all types from prestigious dramas to regular news shows were handled in this manner.

NBC, CBS, and DuMont set up their main kinescope recording facilities in New York City, while ABC chose Chicagomarker. By 1951, NBC and CBS were each shipping out some 1,000 16mm kinescope prints each week to their affiliates across the United States, and by 1955 that number had increased to 2,500 per week for CBS. By 1954 the television industry’s film consumption surpassed that of all of the Hollywood studios combined.

"Hot kinescope"

After the network of coaxial cable and microwave relay carrying programs to the west coast was completed in September 1951, CBS and NBC in 1952 instituted a "hot kinescope" process in which shows being performed in New York were transmitted west, filmed on two kinescope machines in 35 mm negative and 16 mm reversal film (the latter for backup protection) in Los Angeles, rushed to film processing, and then transmitted from Los Angeles three hours later for broadcast in the Pacific Time Zone.

In September 1956, NBC began making color "hot kines" of some of its color programs using a lenticular film process which, unlike color negative film, could be processed rapidly using standard black and white methods.

Double system method of editing

Even after the introduction of Quadruplex videotape machines in 1956 removed the need for "hot kines", the television networks continued to use kinescopes in the "double system" method of videotape editing. It was impossible to slow or freeze frame a videotape at that time, so the unedited tape would be copied to a kinescope, and edited conventionally. The edited kinescope print was then used to conform the videotape master. More than 300 videotaped network series and specials used this method over a 12-year period, including the fast-paced Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

Alternatives to kinescoping

With the variable quality of Kinescopes, networks looked towards alternative methods to replace them with a higher degree of quality.

Change to 35 mm film broadcasts

Filmed programs were also used in television’s early years, although they were generally considered inferior to the big-production "live" programs because of their lower budgets and loss of immediacy. This, however, was about to change.

In 1951, the stars and producers of the Hollywood-based I Love Lucy, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, decided to shoot their show directly onto 35 mm film using the three-camera system, instead of broadcasting it live. Normally, a live program originating from Los Angeles (for example, The Frank Sinatra Show) would be performed live in the late afternoon for the Eastern Time Zone, and seen on a kinescope three hours later in the Pacific Time Zone. But as an article in American Cinematographer explained,
In the beginning there was a very definite reason for the decision of Desilu Productions to put I Love Lucy on film instead of doing it live and having kinescope recordings carry it to affiliate outlets of the network. The company was not satisfied with the quality of kinescopes. It saw that film, produced especially for television, was the only means of insuring top quality pictures on the home receiver as well as insuring a flawless show.


The I Love Lucy decision introduced reruns to most of the American television audience, and set a pattern for the syndication of TV shows after their network runs (and later, for first-run airings via syndication) that continues to this day.

Electronicam

The program director of the short-lived DuMont Television Network, James L. Caddigan, devised an alternative — the Electronicam. In this system, all the studio TV cameras had built-in 35 mm film cameras which shared the same optical path. An Electronicam technician threw switches to mark the film footage electronically, identifying the camera "takes" called by the director. The corresponding film segments from the various cameras then were combined by a film editor to duplicate the live program. The 39 syndicated episodes of The Honeymooners were filmed using Electronicam (as well as the daily five minute syndicated series Les Paul & Mary Ford At Home in 1954–55), but with the introduction of a practical videotape recorder only one year away, the Electronicam system never saw widespread use. The DuMont network did not survive into the era of videotape, and in order to gain clearances for its programs, was heavily dependent on kinescopes, which it called teletranscriptions.

Videotape

In 1951, singer Bing Crosby’s company Bing Crosby Enterprises made the first experimental magnetic video recordings; however, the poor picture quality and very high tape speed meant it would be impractical to use. In 1956, Ampex introduced the first commercial Quadruplex videotape recorder, followed in 1958 by a color model. Offering high quality and instant playback at a much lower cost, Quadruplex tape quickly replaced kinescope as the primary means of recording television broadcasts.

The last years of the kinescopes

The U.S. networks continued to make kinescopes of their daytime dramas (many of which still aired live into the late 1960s) available as late as 1969 for their smaller network affiliates that did not yet have videotape capability but wished to time-shift the network programming. Some of these programs aired up to two weeks after their original dates, particularly in Alaskamarker and Hawaiimarker. Many episodes of programs from the 1960s survive only through kinescoped copies. The last 16 mm kinescopes of television programs ended in the late 1970s, as video tape recorders became more affordable.

In Australia, kinescopes were still being made of some evening news programs as late as 1977, if they were recorded at all.

In later years, film and television producers were often reluctant to include kinescope footage in anthologies, because of the "inferior" quality. While it is true that kinescopes did look inferior to live transmissions in the 1950s, it was due to the industry's technical limitations at that time. Even the best live transmission could look contrasty or hazy by the time it reached the home viewer. Advances in broadcast technology soon allowed for a wider gray scale in black-and-white, and a fuller spectrum of colors, making kinescopes a perfectly viable commodity. This was demonstrated in the feature film Ten from Your Show of Shows, a compilation of Sid Caesar kinescopes released to theaters. Reviewers were astonished at how good the kinescoped image looked on a large screen. Kinescopes have since lost their stigma of inferiority, and are commonly consulted today for archival purposes.

In the UK, telerecordings continued to be made even after the advent of commercial broadcast videotape systems in the mid-1950s as they possessed several distinct advantages, particularly for overseas program sales. Firstly, they were cheaper, easier to transport and more durable than video. Secondly, they could be used in any country regardless of the television broadcasting standard, which was not true of videotape. Thirdly, they could be used to make cheap black and white copies of color programs for sale to television stations who were not yet broadcasting in color.

The telerecording system was actually of a very high quality, easily reproducing the full detail of the television picture. The only slight disadvantage of the system was that it removed the 'fluid' look of interlaced video and 'filmized' the picture, but this would generally not have made a great deal of difference to the viewing audiences.

The system was largely used for black and white reproduction. Although some color telerecordings were made, they were generally in the minority as by the time color programmes were widely needed for sale, video standards conversion was easier and higher quality and the price of videotape had become much reduced. Before videotape became the exclusive transmission format during the early to mid-1980s, any (color) video recordings used in documentaries or filmed program inserts were usually transferred onto film.

Up until the early 1960s, much of the BBC and British television in general's output was broadcast live, and telerecordings would be used to preserve a programme for repeat showings, which had previously required the entire production being performed live for a second time.

In the 1950s a home telerecording kit was introduced in Britain, allowing enthusiasts to make 16 mm film recordings of television programmes. The major drawback, apart from the short duration of a 16 mm film magazine, was that a large opaque frame had to be placed in front of the TV set in order to block out any stray reflections, making it impossible to watch the set normally while filming. It is not known if any recordings made using this equipment still exist.

British broadcasters used telerecordings for domestic purposes well into the 1960s, with 35 mm being the film gauge usually used as it produced a higher quality result. For overseas sales, 16 mm film would be used, as it was cheaper. Although domestic use of telerecording in the UK for repeat broadcasts dropped off sharply after the move to color in the late 1960s, 16 mm black and white film telerecordings were still being offered for sale by British broadcasters well into the 1970s.

Telerecording was still being used internally at the BBC in the 1980s too, to preserve copies for posterity of programmes which were not necessarily of the highest importance, but which nonetheless their producers wanted to be preserved. If there were no videotape machines available on a given day, then a telerecording would be made. There is evidence to suggest that the children's magazine programme Blue Petermarker was occasionally being telerecorded as late as 1985. After this point, however, cheap domestic videotape formats such as VHS could more easily be used to keep a back-up reference copy of a programme.

Another occasional use of telerecording into the late 1980s was by documentary makers working in 16 mm film who wished to include a videotape-sourced excerpt in their work, although such use was again rare.

Legacy

Kinescopes were intended to be used for immediate rebroadcast, or for an occasional repeat of a prerecorded program; thus, only a small fraction of kinescope recordings remain today. Many television shows are represented by only a handful of episodes, such as with the early television work of comedian Ernie Kovacs, and the original version of Jeopardy! hosted by Art Fleming.

Certain performers or production companies would require that a kinescope be made of every television program. Such is the case with performers Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle, for whom nearly complete program archives exist. As Jackie Gleason’s program was broadcast live in New York, the show was kinescoped for later rebroadcast for the West Coast. After these programs were shown, the kinescopes would be returned to Gleason, who kept them in his vault, and only released them to the public (on home video) shortly before his death in 1987.

Milton Berle sued NBC late in his life, believing the kinescopes of a major portion of his programs were lost. However, the programs were later found in a warehouse in Los Angeles.

Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, the producers of such TV game shows as What's My Line?, had a significant portion of their output recorded on both videotape and kinescopes. These programs are rebroadcast on the American cable TV’s Game Show Network.

All of the NBC Symphony Orchestra telecasts with Arturo Toscanini, from 1948 to 1952, were preserved on kinescopes and later released on VHS and laser disc by RCA and on DVD by Testament. The original audio from the kinescopes, however, was replaced with high fidelity sound that had been recorded simultaneously either on transcription discs or magnetic tape.

In the mid-90s, Edie Adams, wife of Ernie Kovacs, claimed that so little value was given to the kinescope recordings of the DuMont Television Network that after the network folded in 1956 its entire archive was dumped into upper New York bay. Today however, efforts are made to preserve the few surviving DuMont kinescopes, with the UCLA Film and Television Archive having collected over 300 for preservation.

Telerecordings form an important part of British television heritage, preserving what would otherwise have been lost. Nearly every pre-1960s British television programme in the archives is in the form of a telerecording, along with the vast majority of existing 1960s output. Videotape was expensive and could be wiped and re-used; film was cheaper, smaller, and in practice more durable. Only a very small proportion of British television from the black and white era survives at all; perhaps 5% from the 1953-58 period and 8-10% from the 1960s.

Many recovered programmes, particularly those made by the BBC, have been returned as telerecordings by foreign broadcasters or private film collectors from the 1980s onwards, as the BBC has taken stock of the large gaps in its archive and sought to recover as much of the missing material as possible. Many of these surviving telerecorded programmes, such as episodes of Doctor Who, Steptoe and Son and Till Death Us Do Part continue to be transmitted on satellite television stations such as UKTV Gold, and many such programmes have been released on VHS and DVD.

In late 2008 the BBC transmitted an episode of Dad's Army after the original color had been restored to the only surviving monochrome film recording of Room at the Bottom.

Because videotape records at fifty interlaced fields per second and telerecordings at twenty-five progressive frames per second, videotaped programmes that exist now only as telerecordings look more "jerky" than the originals. One solution to this problem is VidFIRE, an electronic process to restore video-type motion.

References

  1. The Phonovision and the similar Silvatone systems, which recorded to phonographic discs, saw some use with John Logie Baird's 30-line broadcasts in the 1920s and 1930s. Baird's intermediate film system, which produced film as a byproduct of live transmissions, saw brief use in 1936 and 1937.
  2. Albert Abramson, Zworykin, Pioneer of Television, University of Illinois Press, 1995, p. 84. ISBN 0252021045.
  3. Papers of Frederick M. Remley, University of Maryland Libraries.
  4. In Magnetic Recording: The First Hundred Years, IEEE Press, 1998, p. 128. ISBN 9780780347090.
  5. Illustration of interlace fringing.
  6. If electrical interference was present in the old 30 frame/s, 60 fields/s black-and-white format, a shutter bar would appear horizontally across the screen and not move due to U.S. electrical standards having the same Hertz rate as the fields refresh rate in the picture. When color TV was standardized, the frame rate was shifted to 29.97 and the field rate shifted to 59.94 to allow a frequency shift not only to introduce the luminence/chrominance delay needed to share the information on the screen, but also to move the hum bar from a stationary position.
  7. "Schenectady-to-Leipzig Television a Success; Movie Also Made of Images Sent by Radio", The New York Times, Feb. 13, 1931, p. 15.
  8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC-g-eB6Rjs
  9. James L. H. Peck, " Doom on the Wing", Popular Science, February 1946, p. 84, 86.
  10. Transatlantic Roller Coaster Designed to Bomb U.S.A., Popular Science, October 1947, p. 111.
  11. Albert Abramson, The History of Television, 1942 to 2000, McFarland, 2003, p. 9. ISBN 978-0786412204.
  12. Wesley S. Griswold, " Why TV Is Going Movie-Mad", Popular Science, February 1955, p. 118.
  13. Wolpin, Stewart. " The Race to Video". Invention & Technology, Fall 1994.
  14. " Coast to Coast", Time, August 13, 1951.
  15. Arthur Schneider, Jump Cut!: Memoirs of a Pioneer Television Editor, McFarland, 1997, p. 23–32. ISBN 0786403454. To save the time to make a print, the 35 mm negative was broadcast, and electronically converted to a positive image. The soundtrack for the 35 mm film was recorded on a separate 16 mm filmstrip, and synchronized at playback. The soundtrack for the 16 mm reversal film version was recorded on the same filmstrip as the image.
  16. Albert Abramson, The History of Television, 1942 to 2000, McFarland, 2003, p. 48. ISBN 0786412208.
  17. Showcase Productions, Inc.: Producers' Showcase, Technical Considerations.
  18. Abramson, The History of Television, 1942 to 2000, p. 67.
  19. Arthur Schneider, Jump Cut!: Memoirs of a Pioneer Television Editor, McFarland, 1997, p. 105–106, 134–135. ISBN 0786403454.
  20. Leigh Allen, " Filming the 'I Love Lucy' Show", American Cinematographer, January 1952.


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