Did Syndication Prints really look this bad?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by goodiesguy, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Yeah, there's a magic box made by Snell & Wilcox (now part of Snell Advanced Media) called the Alchemist, and it does an extraordinarily good job at converting NTSC to PAL or PAL to NTSC. When you use a box like that, it covers up all kinds of problems and can make even 1960s or 1970s videotape look even better than it did 40 years ago. Everybody uses this now when they have to convert 25fps -> 29.97fps or similar conversions for European TV shows going to America.

    There was a time in the 1970s when they were doing "optical conversion" for PAL -> NTSC, which basically means shooting a high-res monitor with a TV camera. Not exactly ideal. The old PAL conversions looked really soft and muddy, and once they figured out how to do it digitally, the pictures got a lot sharper with fewer artifacts.
     
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  2. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Member

    Location:
    Fountain Inn, SC
    There is one other show that looks like a million bucks on DVD-- Shout!'s releases (third through fifth seasons, 1981-84) of Hart to Hart. The picture quality on those is incredible, even on the two seasons from Columbia Pictures Television (1982-84).
     
  3. DaleClark

    DaleClark Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bexley, Ohio
    Was Magnum PI shot on film? It looks like it to me
     
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  4. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Member

    Location:
    Fountain Inn, SC
    AFAIK, Magnum was filmed.
     
  5. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Most all dramas were filmed, weren't they? I'd imagine the list of videotaped dramas - at least in the US - is really short compared to the list of filmed dramas.

    In the US at least, tape was typically used for comedies and variety shows that were shot before a live audience.
     
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  6. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Member

    Location:
    Fountain Inn, SC
    Yes, and also for game shows and sports-- the only filmed game show I've heard of was You Bet Your Life w/the great, late Groucho Marx on NBC back in the 50s.
     
  7. antoniod

    antoniod Active Member

    I don't think that the 1974 PYTHON conversions were done optically. I think that they were converted tape-to-tape, but in an analog process where you saw all this broken motion. The US FORSYTHE SAGA tapes may have been optical conversions, though.
     
  8. Tamla Junkie

    Tamla Junkie Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Detroit, Michigan
    The absolute best video standards converter ever built has to be Darryl Hock's Aurora Design model WC-01. I tried the Snell box when trying to feed an Ecko PAL prototype in my vintage television collection, but Darryl's box outperformed it, hands down.

    World Converter WC-01

    I'm not affiliated with Darryl; just an extremely happy customer.
     
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  9. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    That's very cool! I have no doubt there are good alternate designs out there. Snell now has their Alchemist process purely in software as a render process, so it's now resolution independent and can do some interesting things... but it's very costly. CNN uses it to upconvert old 1960s and 1970s news footage for their HD documentaries, and I think it looks absolutely amazing.

    I was told by the guys at Image Transform in 1982 that they did the 1970s conversions on Monty Python's Flying Circus for the North American syndication company, and they were using optical conversion at that time. But I think this show is popular enough that it was done several times during different periods -- this might have been what was used in the early 1970s. Only in the last ten years has it really looked decent.
     
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  10. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Yes, I color-timed the last season for producer Rick Weaver from Universal, and during that period Universal was transferring all their shows from low-contrast 35mm print to standard-def digital video (NTSC and PAL). We typically did three passes: a time-compressed version for network (adjusting run speed when an act was too long or too short), then a normal-speed NTSC version and a normal-speed PAL version for syndication.

    All of Universal's scripted dramatic shows were shot and cut on film until about 1990 when they started transitioning to shooting on film and cutting on tape. Eventually it moved to cutting on computers, and by 2001-2002, it was all shot on digital HD and edited in HD on computers (with some exceptions for shows shooting on film and editing electronically).
     
  11. Benjamin Edge

    Benjamin Edge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukie, OR, US
    For vidiot:

    I remember certain shows syndicated by Viacom continued to be printed on 16mm and 35mm film stock until 1985, even though Viacom had been syndicating shows on videotape since 1977 or 1978; Viacom as far as I know did not start using videotaped stock for such shows as The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and The Wild, Wild West until around 1981, is this correct?

    But one peculiar example was The Mary Tyler Moore Show - although it had been transferred from film to 1" U-Matic videotape stock in 1982, unlike the videotaped transfers of The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78) that had came out at roughly the same time, the end logo used on Mary Tyler Moore was still the choppy version of the "V of Doom" (which consequently looks very grainy) whereas Bob Newhart had the cleaner version also seen on the videotaped transfers of such shows as The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

    Hogan's Heroes (1965-71) originally omitted the Bing Crosby Productions (BCP) end logo when Viacom first syndicated the series in 1971, going straight from the end credits to Viacom's logo; the BCP logo, dubbed "Crashing Cars" by logophiles, was still omitted when Viacom upgraded the prints and replaced their "V-IA-COM" aka "Pinball" logo with the infamous "V of Doom" in 1976, but wised up around 1981 and finally kept the BCP logo intact, playing the V of Doom afterward (timing the logo theme to play after the BCP logo theme with no pauses). However, I want to say that the circa 1981 masters with the BCP logo intact were still on film.

    When The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68) was remastered around 1988, some prints inexplicably had the prior V of Doom logo plastered under the 1986 "V of Steel" logo, so that one could faintly hear the latter logo theme.

    (from a 1992 TBS rerun of "The Legend of Barney Fife")

    The Twilight Zone (1959-64) also had some peculiar syndication edits - several episodes had the 1990 Viacom logo, but you could faintly hear the "V of Doom" theme, an example here:
    The Twilight Zone Credits / Viacom "Wigga Wigga" (Muffled V of Doom) / CIC Closing
    (from "Back There" -- this so far has the loudest example of the "V of Doom" trace)

    ~Ben
     
  12. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I have the Python DVDs around here somewhere. I thought they looked OK, but not spectacular.
     
  13. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Man, this company had some crappy, creepy logos over the decades:

     
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  14. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    While I appreciate logo evolution videos, this one is repeating the same ones over and over and over. If there are differences, it's virtually impossible for an average person to notice.
     
  15. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Well don't blame me - I didn't make it. I just skipped thru using the previews looking for when there were obvious changes...
     
  16. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I think the answer is complicated. There were cases where they had long-standing contracts with local stations who had paid X dollars for (say) a 10-year syndication run of some shows, and in return they would get each season of the show in 16mm to run for a certain amount of time, then they'd move on to the next season. The problem was, if the distributor remastered the show from 35mm to videotape, the local station would have to pay for copies of the videotape masters above and beyond what they had already paid for the loaner prints. Some stations balked at this additional fee and just stuck with what they had.

    I don't remember any Viacom film shows being mastered to videotape until the 1980s. In fact, as far as I know, Paramount was the first to do it in 1981-1982 with Star Trek, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and their other hit shows. The only reason Paramount did it was because a reel of 1" videotape cost about $60, but a 60-minute TV show on 16mm film cost about $400 dollars. They could also ship the videotapes cheaper than they could the film, because they fit a smaller amount of space; Paramount also had the flexibility of delivering the shows to local stations via satellite in the middle of the night, so all the station would have to do is punch a button and record it right off the closed-circuit satellite feed. It was purely economical. The improvement in sound & picture quality was totally secondary.

    I have no idea about mistakes with logos and all that stuff, except that Viacom tended to hire cheap companies with inept people doing the work, at least in that era. Mistakes happened. When I was in the position of being able to supervise a group of people all working on the same show, we would use the same main title (from digital videotape) so that we wouldn't have to redo the work, plus it would look consistent and a little more pristine... but we'd make sure there weren't any guest stars or different title elements in the film. I also made sure the audio levels from the mag tracks were set correctly, so every episode would be at more or less the same level. And we established a look so that the familiar sets would look roughly the same in each show. This is hard when you're mastering 200 episodes over a period of 6 months, and 4 or 5 people are working on them at the same time.
     
  17. Benjamin Edge

    Benjamin Edge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukie, OR, US
    Hope this one is less nerve-wracking to you...


    ~Ben
     
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  18. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Looks about the same...
     
  19. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    Agreed. Is there supposed to be differences among these? I look at it and it starts with a black & white: V IA COM (A PRESENTATION wraps around, and synth theme plays. It takes about 5 seconds. Then it repeats identically. What is the point of repeating the exact same logo? The film quality changes, better print, worse print, but it looks the same, over and over. Then we get to a color version of the same. OK, I can understand a color version is different from a black & white. Then there's a series of the same where the background color changes with the rhythm of the synth playing - still the same sounds as the very first.

    Then we finally get to a zillion examples of the V of Doom. First with the old synth sound, later with the boomy logo sound. And over and over.

    As I said before, I love to watch logo evolution videos, but when they just repeat over and over, it gets pointless and boring. (Never nerve-wracking, because I still cannot identify or understand why anyone would possibly be afraid of a TV logo.)
     
  20. Benjamin Edge

    Benjamin Edge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukie, OR, US
    Like you just said, some are higher quality than others, and some are rarer than others...

    For example:
    The "V of Doom" logo with the "V-IA-COM" logo audio is rare... heard only in the filmed version! Versions exist in both grayscale and color.
    One version of the (filmed) colored "V of Doom" was said to have a pure black "V" instead of it being in dark blue, and was also said to be the earliest version of the logo. Was known to exist with the 1971 logo theme, but not sure if it had also existed with the standard '76 logo theme.
    Some of these logos are "bottomed out," meaning the camera focus was out of bounds.
    On WPIX 11 reruns of The Honeymooners circa 1986, the videotaped version of the "V of Doom" had a yellow "V" instead of the usual dark blue, due to a chroma key error mistaking the dark blue for black.

    ~Ben
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017
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  21. Benjamin Edge

    Benjamin Edge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukie, OR, US
    A new question for vidiot:
    When Paramount Television had remastered a certain number of their older shows and TV movie specials in the 1993-2006 period, I remember many of them had the logo totally silent, later prints had the 1987 theme (that the logo primarily had), and still other prints kept the original respective (pre-1987) logo themes intact.

    I know, because that was the case back in 1996 when I saw both The Odd Couple and Happy Days on Nick at Nite. The practice extended to other older Paramount shows as The Brady Bunch and Laverne & Shirley when N@N acquired those two in 1998, as well as Mannix on TV Land and even on Solid Gold when VH1 reran it. As late as 2001-02, the same practice of muting the logo theme had occurred on shows like Family Ties and Cheers.

    Paramount even blocked out the logo theme with the library of shows once syndicated by Worldvision Enterprises, like The Love Boat.

    What I would like to ask you is: how was that even done?

    Here's a print of Mork & Mindy on Channel 11 (Australia):

    (from episode 2x01 - "Mork in Wonderland" -- the logo is totally silent here!)

    Whereas on this Me-TV rerun of The Brady Bunch...
    Paramount Domestic Television (1995/1974)
    (from episode 5x14 - "Kelly's Kids" -- has the original logo theme intact!)

    ~Ben
     
  22. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    How was it done? A video technician hit the record button on the machine and inserted a new logo over the old logo. More than likely, it was done with digital editing and video files.

    Why it was done goes back to an earlier answer: when new corporations gobble up old corporations -- for example, the musical chairs involved with the managements of Paramount, CBS, and Viacom -- different people make decisions to "standardize" the logos regardless of who originally owned the show. The original logos most likely said "Paramount TV - A Division of Gulf & Western," which no longer exists. I would bet a memo went out and said, "from today's date forward, drop in the current logo for Paramount/Viacom at the very end of the show." To them, it doesn't mean anything -- in fact, most people have changed the channel and don't care.

    I think it took a lot of conversations with Paramount before they kept the Desilu logo at the end of the old Star Trek episodes, and even then, they may have added a Viacom logo after it.
     
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  23. Benjamin Edge

    Benjamin Edge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukie, OR, US
    I see your point: in the case of Desilu, they'd have to ring up Lucie Arnaz for the continued use of the trademark her parents, Desi Arnaz, Sr. and Lucille Ball, had rightly owned. Otherwise, it would have wound up being replaced altogether like how, since the early 1980s, Columbia Pictures Television and its successors had replaced the classic 1950s and '60s Screen Gems logos on every show made by that predecessor company from 1948 to 1974.

    Ever since the mid 1980s, Star Trek always had a Paramount Television logo following that of Desilu's (on all of season 1 and on 17 episodes in season 2). But after 1998, the Desilu logo plastered the first Paramount Television logo (the "Rising Circle") on the remaining nine season 2 episodes as well... they could instead show a title card with the show's name and this copyright:
    STAR TREK
    Created by Gene Roddenberry
    Copyright © MCMLXVIII by Paramount Pictures Corporation
    and Norway Corporation
    All rights reserved
    ... like what CBS did on DVD prints of Mission: Impossible for season 3 and every Mannix episode from "Deadfall" (from season 1) on (though in the case of these two, the Norway Corporation mention would not be present). And then we'd see Paramount's current TV logo afterward.

    ~Ben
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  24. antoniod

    antoniod Active Member

    When you came right down to it, during the old 16mm syndication era, the quality had more to do with what kind of telecine the station was using than the print itself. Some stations' 16mm looked sharp and clear, others as grainy as a "pointillist" painting. I'm curious about how those different telecines worked and why the quality of the transfers varied so.
     
  25. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Florida

    That must be why my memories of Live Sports and Golf were used to show off TV picture quality, back in the day!
     

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