The TK-60

The first cameras used at RTVF were RCA TK-60 models.  They employed a 4 1/2 inch Image Orthicon pick-up tube, and had 4 lenses mounted on a turret. One camera had a Varitol zoom lens. These cameras were built like tanks, and were introduced in 1962. The Image Orthicon tubes had their own “look” that included halos around bright objects, but when properly aligned, they could make nice looking black and white video.  The photo below was taken “early-Bob Swanner.” but “post-flood”.  Bob was instrumental in making physical upgrades to Tech Center, and one of these upgrades was the installation of a suspended ceiling…missing in this shot.  But the photo also shows a 4 inch drain pipe installed in the ceiling.  That puts the photo post-chiller-condenser rupture. (A future post will deal with Tech Center’s affinity for water).

Tech Center before color cameras

Even though the TK-60s were monochrome and turret lens equipped, they did give the students the feel of trucking and dollying a professional-sized camera and pedestal.  By the time we revived a full complement of cameras, we had them sitting on cam-heads which permitted students to experiment with tilt/pan drags and locks.

The TK-60s were a very important camera in the history of RCA broadcast cameras, and incorporated some RCA “advancements” such as Nuvistor tubes in the preamp, and an image orbiter to keep the Image Orthicon from burning-in.  They were used world-wide.

There were quite a few TK 60 cameras locked away in the storage room.  Apparently, WBAL in Baltimore had made some available to the department.  Here’s a station-made camera logo plate (yes…TV stations once had people who did things such as cut stainless steel and build contraptions for various purposes on an as-needed basis.)

WBAL logo on a plate

Prior to the filming of the Barry Levinson film Diner, we were contacted by the production company and asked if they could rent the WBAL cameras for a scene that takes place in the WBAL studio.  The rental never took place, but they did use the actual control room at WBAL.

On a non-RTVF note, I have a personal fascination with the use of TK-60s for “Electronovision”…a process by which live events were recorded direct to film using “high definition” TK-60 cameras.  The French developed a monochrome video standard having 819 lines.  I believe it was 25 frames per second.  I have seen RCA equipment configured for 819 lines, and have to assume that Electronovision used cameras modified to run at 819/24 even though the spec sheet describes only 525/625 operation.  (Have any Electronovision facts?  Let me know).  The TAMI show was recently released on DVD.  If you want to see an important 60s Rock-and-Roll FILM shot with TK-60s, check out the link below.


And if you are interested in the full specifications for a TK-60 camera chain, here is the 1964 RCA Broadcast Catalog layout.   TK60 Technical Specifications

Oh, by the way.  Check the TK-60 price on the last sheet of the tech specs.  You could have purchased 5 Corvettes in 1964 for the price of one TK-60.


Cuts-Only Control Track Editing is New Technology.

The first “editing room”.

Even though one of the TR-22 2 inch VTRs had an “electronic splicer” option installed, the first actual videotape editing done on my watch was in the editing room that Bob Swanner. and I built.  The department already owned a CVS 504 TBC, but it had not been used to any extent.  The editing room project taught me a whole BUNCH of lessons that have stood me in good stead over the years.

I researched the VTR marketplace before purchasing the Panasonic machines. During that brief window of time, Panasonic had 3/4 inch VTRs with framing servos, and the Sony 2850 did not.  I had been hating “whip edits” for years prior to joining RTVF, and selected the machines with the framing servos.

Convergence was marketing the ECS 1 B.  It required both mechanical and electrical modification of the VTRs.  The mechanical modification was extreme.  The intent of the mod was to permit the machine to have variable speed control over the tape speed both forward and in reverse.  The Panasonic VTR had not been designed to do that, so tape guidance problems were frequent.

The capstan belts kept slipping off the flywheels of the machines.  Bob came up with a doozie of a contraption to keep the belts from popping off.

The tape position was determined by counting control track pulses, and of course the back and forth nature of editing guaranteed some slippage of the edit points.

But even with the limitations, the editing room dramatically advanced the capability of the department.  We connected the source deck to the TBC, and at last were able to use 3/4 as a source to the switcher.  Outside productions could be undertaken by renting a “good” camera and shooting on a portable 3/4 machine.  An editing class was added to the curriculum.



The Video Switchers at RTVF

Over the years, Speech/RATV/RTVF progressed through a series of video switchers, each new one having improvements over the last.  The department of 1975-83 was not the first to construct their own equipment.  Remarkably enough, this philosophy was adopted very early in the history of the department.  The year was 1964.  A switcher apparently used for live television courses was already in service, and was being updated to vertical interval switching by a University of Maryland engineer.

switcherThe above article appeared in the Diamondback on February 20, 1964.  By this time, the Speech Department had already been providing live television courses for 5 years.  Clearly, some type of production switcher had been in use prior to 1964.  This was likely some type of “glitch switcher” and may or may not have even had dissolve capability.

In the early 70s, I enrolled in RATV 340, and it was taught in Studio “B”.  I vaguely recall that at least on one occasion, the class could not use the switcher because it was non-operational.  It was a simple control panel, and nearly certainly was one of the switchers mentioned in the Diamondback. It almost surely operated with vacuum tube circuitry.

Studio “A” was equipped with a Richmond Hill switcher.  It had been modified with a front-of-sync-board “burst delete” switch so that it could operate in monochrome mode.  At the time, it had only 4 inputs.

Sometime after 1978, our budget permitted us to purchase a brand new Duca-Richardson switcher.  We purchased a very early model of what would eventually become the Ampex switcher product line.  Only one M/E.  Lots of button pushing and fiddling in order to dissolve to a key.  That became a mantra at RTVF.  Along with “does it make coffee?”, “can it dissolve to a key?” became a staple of short-cut jokes between Bob Mc Cleary and the techs.  (Last but not least…”THERE’s my baloney sandwich!”)  You had to be there.

Jim Duca personally delivered it and set it up.  He made RTVF history in two ways: First, to demonstrate how durable his Fluke digital voltmeter was, he flung his as hard as he could across Tech Center where it hit a wall and came apart into several pieces.  He put them together and it still worked.  Second, he had to come up with diode clippers on all the video inputs to keep spikes from the TR-22s lock-up “hysterics” from punching through to the line output.

After my departure, Bob Swanner. added a GVG 1600 to the Convergence Editor on-line room, and later added a GVG 200 to Studio “A”. Both purchased NEW, and both offering a dramatic improvement to the facility capabilities.

RTVF Leadership

The department that eventually included the division of Radio, Television and Film started out in 1901 as the Department of Public Speaking.  It was renamed the Department of Oratory in 1908, and was again renamed the Department of English and Public Speaking in 1914.  From 1918 to 1936, it reverted to its original “Department of Public Speaking”. 1936 brought with it a name-change to the Department of Speech.  And then, in 1948, the department was renamed the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art, which was the name of the department when I was hired.

The Chairs were Charles Richardson (1901-1940), Raymond Ehrensberger (1940-1953), Warren Strausbaugh (1953-1970), Thomas Aylward (1970-1983)*, Patti Gillespie (1983-1989)*, Edward Fink (1997-2007) and Elizabeth Toth (2007-).

During the periods marked with an asterisk, Irving Linkow, Andrew Wolvin, James Klumpp, and Martha Watson filled the position as “Acting Chair”.

I interviewed with and was hired by Tom Aylward. A contributor to my information search mentions “Dean Aylward” as  heading the department as the first tube-type 2″ quad machines were brought in. Their purpose was to provide pre-recorded classes in English and Math.