tape collections

Digitising Betacam SP video tapes

We have recently been digitising Betacam SP (‘superior performance’) video recordings, a cassette based component analogue format that is used extensively in the broadcast world. Betacam SP offered fantastic video and audio quality from its introduction in 1986, and a very similar digital cassette,  Digital Betacam, is still used now.

Betacam SP was commonly used throughout the ’90s and ’00s and was not threatened with obsolescence as many older formats are. However Betacam VTR machines will soon become very hard to find spares for, thus becoming another threatened video tape format. Luckily at Greatbear we have every type of Betacam machine (PAL and NTSC) available, as well as spare parts (such as head drums), so we are able to migrate analogue formats to digital so they can be utilised by current media practitioners.

A Betacam SP tape in its case with the case open so you can see the contents.

The tapes that have inspired this post are public domain tapes from the National Archives in the USA. They feature the tension filled politics of the Cold War, including footage of President John F. Kennedy, missile silos, Stalin, B29s taking off, graphics of the Iron Curtain, air raid warnings and people running into shelters. Collectively they give a powerful impression of Cold War international relations from the perspective of the American government.

The tapes were sent to us by renowned investigative journalist Paul Lashmar and were the raw material for his BBC Timewatch programme Baiting the Bear: How the real life Doctor Strangelove brought us close to Armageddon, aired in 1996.

Paul has covered many of the main news stories of the past 30 years related to terrorism, intelligence, organised crime, offshore crime, business fraud and the Cold War. He has written for newspapers such as the Independent on Sunday, the Guardian and the Evening Standard, is a regular TV and radio broadcaster and a lecturer in journalism at Brunel University.



Posted by greatbear in video tape, 1 comment

Sony High Density V-60H video tape digitised for Comhaltas

We were recently contacted by Frank Whelan of the Comhaltas Regional Resource Centre who wanted us to digitise a recording of the Fleadh Cheoil traditional music festival in Buncranna, Co. Donegal in 1975.

Frank sent us an EIAJ ½ inch video that was recorded on a Sony High Density V-60H video tape for Helican Scan Video Tape Recorder. The tape was suffering from binder hydrolysis (often referred to as sticky shed syndrome), so needed treatment before it could be played. The tape was incubated and cleaned before the digitisation process.

A Sony V-60H high density video tape

The recording contains fascinating footage of solo and group performers from the biggest traditional Irish musical festival in the world. The first Fleadh Cheoil took place in 1951 and has happened every year since. Comhaltas are currently collecting archive material for every year the festival was held in order to create a document for future generations. The digitised film will go towards an exhibition and will be stored in a research facility focused on Irish traditional music.

This is an excerpt of the film that Frank kindly said we could use on our site.

Posted by greatbear in video tape, 3 comments

Cassette tape, reel to reel and vinyl transfer support Bristol Archive Records

bristolarchiverecords.com website screen grab

We’ve recently been proud to be regularly involved in the transfer of a range of rare and often unique recordings of great but often forgotten Bristol bands from the late 1970s onwards.

Bristol Archive Records

“… aims to showcase music from the diverse Bristol Music scene and provide a historical account / document of all things Bristol that should never be forgotten. Many of the artists and releases are rare, unknown or never before released. The material has been lovingly digitally remastered from vinyl, ¼ inch tape, dat or cassette. The original vinyl releases would generally have been limited to runs of 1000 copies or less.”

Many of the recordings have survived well over the years and sound great, a testament to the bands and the engineers that recorded them.

Listen to them here…

Posted by greatbear in audio tape, 2 comments