This is the Ampex TV Equipment Section of
The Broadcast Archive
Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
With the kind assistance of Xen Scott
Latest Update 11/2/05
Xen Scott recalls: The Ampex VR-2000 and its less
expensive cousin, the Ampex VR-1200, were the second generation of Ampex two
inch broadcast videotape machines.
The VR-2000 came after the pioneer generation of the VR-1000
series which featured much experimentation and field modification. The VR-2000
used all solid state electronics except for some tubes in the video record head
driver. It was designed for high-band video recording for better quality, but
could be switched to low-band color or b&w when desired. Most of the
electronics were on modular printed circuit cards which made servicing much
easier. The VR-1200 was the economy version of the VR-2000 with slightly less
performance specifications due to simplified circuits.
Xen says: From my experience, the VR-2000 was a very
durable machine that would perform under the most difficult of conditions. In
conditions where other videotape machines would fail, the VR-2000 kept on
I remember two examples. One night I was preparing to record
a Mike Douglas Show at KYW-TV in Philadelphia. At the time the KYW-TV videotape
room had four VR-2000's and three third generation Ampex machines, an AVR-1 and
two ACR-25 videotape cartridge machines. It was about 730pm. I had two of the
VR-2000's set up to record the show from the control room. One of the remaining
VR-2000's was playing a syndicated show to KYW's air. I had a tape cued up in
the AVR-1 to be played into the Douglas Show.
On one of the ACR-25's, I had my usual assortment of carts of
production material for the Douglas Show starting with the opening animation.
The other ACR-25 was full of commercials for air on KYW-TV. Suddenly, there was
a power hit. It was the kind where power drops to zero for a second and then
comes right back. Much of the technical area turned to chaos. The ACR-25 with my
tapes went into the confused mode and froze. The other ACR-25 with commercials
for KYW air, went beserk and sheared a bakelite latch pin used to hold the
position of the carousel full of carts. This, of course, disabled the machine.
The AVR-1, with my tape cued, went into the video head optimize mode, wiping out
the beginning of the tape I planned to playback.
What did the VR-2000's do? The two
VR-2000's I had ready to record, just sat there ready to go with no problem. The
VR-2000 that was playing to KYW air, kept on playing. That gave those of us in
the tape room time to reset the one working ACR-25 and load it with commercials.
The start of the Douglas Show was delayed for a bit while I reset the AVR-1 and
reorganized all of my playback tapes into the remaining working videotape
Then there were the times when I worked for Unitel, a
television production company. Unitel couldn't afford a real mobile unit, so
when it was necessary to go out on location to make videotape recordings, I had
to wheel one or both of their 1400 pound Ampex VR-2000B's out of the tape room
and into a U-Haul truck. We would strap them to the side wall and drive to the
location of the shoot. Sometimes it was several hundred miles. The VR-2000B's
would work in the most challenging of conditions. One day in New York City, we
were doing a commercial in an apartment on 79th. St. There was no
air-conditioning in the truck. The temperature was in the high 90's with very
high humidity. It was raining so hard on the aluminum body of the U-Haul truck
that I had great difficulty hearing the director on the headset. Nevertheless,
the Ampex VR-2000B continued to record faithfully, even when the power line
voltage got so low that the waveform monitor display faded out.
After a while, the video erase driver died, but because I was
using blank tape, we got through the shoot. If you needed a dependable videotape
machine, the Ampex VR-2000 was the one to use.
There was a VR2000B that came to us at KYW-TV from the Group W
dub center in Pittsburgh that was delivered from Ampex as
a b&w machine and field upgraded to color. I can't explain why this was done
as it made no sense to me to buy a b&w VR-2000B, even if its initial use was
to make b&w dubs. It may have been an engineering bean-counter decision.
They saved money by leaving out all the color playback processing and time base
correction. But it caused subsequent compatibility problems because the original
capstan motor was designed for b&w and never replaced when the machine was
finally converted to color.
Lytle Hoover remembers: "One of the best
invention that came out of the VR2000 was it ability to intersync its video with
the house video. As a director this became a production Boom to me because I was
able to create all kinds of new production techniques. The one I amazed the
management, sales department, and clients with was the B-roll commercial.
Instead of having to do real-time shooting or electronic editing of complex
setups I could use our 2 color cameras to shoot half the shots in the script
first doing shots 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. on VTR 1 and then playback those recording on
VTR 2 and dissolving to live shots on the 2 cameras to add in shots 2, 4, 6,
Since the ad agency usually sent over only one product (i.e. a riding
lawnmower) they couldn't figure out how the announcer was sitting on it and I
dissolved to a shot of a second one in a different set with the price then back
to it again in a 3rd setup. Using this technique I was able to invent the quad
split screen before it was invented in the video switcher's special effects
If you have any old photos of Ampex equipment that operated at your TV
facility which you would like to have in our Virtual Museum, please send
them along, so we might add them to these pages.