Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation


Time Machine: Interstitial Moment, Video Stockholm Syndrome

Our beloved Sony AV8650 EIAJ ½” open reel deck has been repaired by Bob Shuster, alias Midnight Bob.  Up and running, the 8650 is sending both color and soft grey sometimes ghostly moving images to our old and forgiving FOR.A TBC, then to our Snell and Wilcox, completing the transition from CCTV to SDI.  I have run the tape through my gloved fingers making myself a primitive kindred apparatus. Perhaps it is the result of prolonged exposure, but I have true affection for this medium and am heartbroken when people express disappointment at its most obvious flaws.  You love the children that you labor to bring forth even if they are weak and pale and suffer from poor contrast. Think of these recordings as a last faithful carbon copy or an imprinted shroud. 

Sony AV 8650
Sony AV8650 EIAJ 1/2" open reel

There is so much history wound up in these open reels that would not exist in any other form.  The medium became available at a rich time in Dance history.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, Judson Dance Theater artists and countless others employed it. There is ridiculously little existing dance footage of Isadora Duncan.  In the briefest of fragments she orbits a huge tree at a 1920s garden party.  The tree obscures her from the camera for a moment in a clip that is only a few moments in duration. We would be happy to have even an artifact ridden open reel recording of something more.

Frame Grab  from AV 8650
MGZIC 5-455, Marnee Morris, 1975
Produced by Doris Chase

If you’re curious about the Non-EIAJ Sony CV 1/2” open reel format take a look at an earlier Time Machine post.   You might also take a look at Charles Bensinger's Video Guide; it is freely available on line.  It was written at the height of half inch open-reel’s serviceability and an innocent optimism as to how the medium would change television and document us. 

Sony CV Non-EIAJ 1/2"  open reel Marketed  Under the General Electric Brand


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Fran Dougherty blog

A wonderful comment on an important era. The open reels document the artistry of our best dancers and other performers of the time.

Someone from Restoration

Someone from Restoration Hardware is going to see this really cool post and soon we'll see Open-Reel-Machines-as-hipster-side-tables selling for thousands of $$$!

Video Heads Still Be Manufactured for EIAJ Open Reel

I work for AheadTeK in California. We are a video head manufacturer. There are still many libraries/ archivists around the world that are working to transfer their EIAJ open reel tapes to digital. We are contacted several times a year from customers needing their old heads rebuilt so they can successfully play back their tapes one more time.

EIAJ video transfer

Hi: We will hope digitalize some old videotapes contains early documentaries made in the late 70`s and early 80`s by local filmmakers. Because is our desire to recover some materials from a piece of our film history is very important to me if you can do it transfer work. These tapes were recording in Mendoza Province, in Argentina. Originally as an educational public program. Documentary productions of local topics and interviews to local important culture people are the most, but I remember my teacher said “sometimes we use remaining tape to record other records...” Are 40 tapes an only a half of their hare some record script write in the labels. When I was a student in a E.R.C.C. y V. Mendoza Cinema School (almost 20 years ago!) I remember I see the VTR working with a very well image and great sound, an old teacher was the original user of this video set in late 70´s. After he died the equipment was forget in a basement and the reels remains stored in school library. Now I´m a teacher in the same school I was student. I recover the equipment but sadly I found the video head broken on VTR, so I will try to bring this records at digital world. Some information about: Video format PAL or NTSC? : Well I know that videos are black and white, but I don’t know if the material is PAL or NTSC. We have 50 Hz. base video in Argentina, but PAL and NTSC equipment coexist since ever in my country. Obviously I can’t play the tapes to answer the question, but the original NATIONAL studio kit contains 2 cameras, 1 video “special effects” mixer and 1 National NV 3010 VTR. One camera and a mixer still works, so I put the video signal from the camera in a modern monitor and see the video signal is B/W 50 PAL. So I guess the recorded material is also PAL. Reel size?: The reels are 7 inch size. How and where were they store?: There are inside original plastic boxes and stored since ever in a school library in a clean room. Here in Mendoza city we have dry semi desert weather, so humidity is not a problem. I inspected by eye some tapes and don’t show cracking surface, don’t appear sticking, don’t appear emulsion lift, so guess the tapes are in good condition. If you can transfer the tapes I want to initiate a way to make it possible. Maybe is a long way, we are a little public school and need to resolve many miles of distance and dollars of costs, but I believe it is possible. If you are interested in the project we can initiate a possible work together. I wait for your reply. Sorry for my raw English, and thanks again! ANDRÉS FONTANA Coordinador Técnico ERCCyV Escuela Regional Cuyo de Cine y Video

Post new comment