This is the Ampex TV Equipment Section of
The Broadcast Archive

Maintained by:
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 working.

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 machines.

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, etc.

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 unit.


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.


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