Did Syndication Prints really look this bad?

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

  1. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    Philly's WKBS always looked the best in terms of film chain of the three independent UHFs that appeared in the 60s. And it had a great signal compared to the other two, at least initially. I remember that through the 70s, WKBS (Kaiser) ran the STAR TREK series. It wasn't exactly network quality, but it was pretty good for syndication prints. The colors at least looked fairly normal on our old CRTs.

    STAR TREK was dropped after a decade and was picked up by WPHL 17. I never saw such a miserable example of syndication television as those prints of STAR TREK on that channel. Of course, that was just about the time that I got a VHS recorder, and that was my only source of recording STAR TREK. I would have loved to have gotten them recorded from when they were on WKBS 48.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. antoniod

    antoniod Forum Resident

    I remember GONE WITH THE WIND and NATIONAL VELVET looking really bad on CBS in the early 80s.
     
  3. W.B.

    W.B. Senior Member

    Location:
    New York, NY, USA
    Their PE-240's must've been nearing the end of their useful life at that point; the way slides looked wasn't all that much to write home about either.
     
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  4. PaulKTF

    PaulKTF Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    He was half-right- most over-the-air stations show very few or no movies except for one or two specialty sub-channels. Most of the movies are on standard cable or (mostly) Pay channels.
     
  5. antoniod

    antoniod Forum Resident

    Of course it didn't help that the prints of GWTW, VELVET, and WIZARD OF OZ were the cheesy "Metrocolor" rather than Technicolor.
     
  6. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Actually, Metrocolor Eastman prints in the 1980s were better-quality than Technicolor Eastman prints in that same era. Don't confuse those with original Tech IB prints, which were in a class by themselves. But Metrocolor actually did very, very good work and was one of the best film labs in LA.
     
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  7. James Slattery

    James Slattery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Long Island
    Unfortunately, once stations chucked out their telecines and syndicators ceased to make 16mm prints available, then all of the shows which were never transferred to tape no longer were available. Where once any show could be bought by a station or network, now all of the shows which do not have tape transfers are not accessible or else only if a potential buyer is willing to foot the bill for transfers, like ME TV did with Our Miss Brooks.
     
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  8. MarkTheShark

    MarkTheShark Forum Resident

    Each station had their own look, or not quite sure how to phrase it, maybe having to do with the film chain equipment involved or how it technically worked. I remember WGN-Channel 9 had their breaks set on some kind of an automated timer, and if it was off by a few seconds (as it often was) there were a lot of abrupt cuts from a show to a break.

    WFLD-Channel 32 had an annoying tendency to prematurely "fade out" a scene when going to a break. I remember when they switched from film to tape for "Batman" they almost always faded down the theme song a little early before going to a commercial break. When I got those so-called "Mark Hammill dubs" of the shows I could see why: on a lot of them the old "place commercial here" graphic pops up within frames of the end of the theme song.

    Both stations left a lot to be desired when trying to tape a clean, complete copy of anything.
     
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  9. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    CBS/Viacom/Paramount owns Our Miss Brooks and they paid for the transfer. I wouldn't doubt that ME TV paid a fee to air the show beyond that, even though it's technically in the public domain (as are quite a few 1950s TV shows that have some copyright issues and/or have legal issues). That's a good example of a show that -- for whatever reason -- did not survive well in 1960s syndication, most likely because it was perceived as too dated.

    All the way through the 1970s, most local commercial breaks were done by a human operator, but automation crept in to the point where they were almost 100% done by computer starting in the 1980s. Sometimes the breaks still had to be "assisted" by a human operator to step in when things got complicated or the equipment failed.

    WGN was one of the very rare local stations that actually had a 35mm film chain and did use it for their bigger films, in cases where the distributor would loan them a 35mm print for air. And they looked good a lot of the time, at least for that era. But by the mid-1980s, most studios believed they could get better picture quality by mastering their film and TV libraries to tape and then syndicating the tape. At least that way, everybody could see a color-corrected 35mm source, usually with mag audio tracks, instead of the crappy 16mm prints normally used for syndication.
     
  10. Remurmur

    Remurmur Music is THE BEST!

    Location:
    Ohio
    Oh yeah ! I remember when the newly mastered copies of Star Trek:TOS first appeared, I just found them stunningly beautiful, newly revealed set flaws and all ! :D
     
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  11. chicofishhead

    chicofishhead Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chico, California
    The station I was at in the early 90s had a large movie library on 3/4 inch, and most had been recently transferred from 16mm using our own chain. The studios were right, they looked crappy compared to the ones they sent us on video.

    We got a computer-automated system to play the breaks (from tapes) called the Alamar around 1992. It had some advantages, but it crashed a lot and was a lot of trouble in general. The previous system, the DC-8, involved simple automation but no computer. It wasn't fool-proof, but it was much less hassle. In this market, there were still human operators triggering the breaks until five-or-so years ago.
     
  12. James Slattery

    James Slattery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Long Island
    Okay, so the nice, color corrected tapes got sent out. But what was lost was the ability to get a show from a station which ran shows in syndication uncut. In the late 70s to mid 80s, it was still very possible to find markets which did not cut shows up to pieces and would run them either complete or almost complete. Living in NY, which was always a horrible syndication market to begin with, our Indy stations, WNEW, WOR and WPIX, always hacked shows up. I remember we collectors having a rule that you only taped a show from NY if it was either VERY important or VERY unimportant. Anything that fell into the wide range in between, you traded for from someplace else. Anyway, tape syndication changed all that as now shows were sent out pre-cut. At first the hour shows were being sent out around 46:00 to 46:30 and while they may have looked good, you could no longer look to smaller markets to find complete versions airing. Worldvision was one of the early distributors to do it with Combat, The Fugiitive, Ben Casey, etc. Family was only offered as a barter and was cut to 44 minutes and was only ever sent out that way. We used to have a term for that: BBB: butchered beyond belief. Can you imagine reading a book with over 10% of the pages missing? That's what it became like.
     
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  13. James Slattery

    James Slattery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Long Island
    Are you assuming this or speaking from inside knowledge? AFAIK from my sources there, the ME-TV sales paid for the Our Miss Brooks as well as Trackdown transfers. Neither had ever been mastered to tape by CBS and were unavailable for decades. Likewise, The Millionaire was finally transferred for Decades, although it wasn't remastered but just a dirty 16mm transfer with no remastering or cleanup of the prints done.

    The biggest run shows which did not have any cable exposure during the big cable boom era of the 80s were Our Miss Brooks, December Bride, The Lineup aka San Francisco Beat in syndication, and the 50s version of Dragnet. None of them were ever available on anything but 16mm and when the cable networks got away from that, there were no elements to be had. I'm pretty sure that CBN may have been the last network still running shows off film, as they ran series like Farmer's Daughter which never were transferred to tape.
     
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  14. antoniod

    antoniod Forum Resident

    Maybe I posted this before, but I remember being REALLY perturbed that the old STAR TREK looked so much better on New York TV in the 70s than it did in Boston, where I lived. In Boston we were stuck with WLVI-56's crappy tele-cine. I didn't know that New York stations actually ran 35mm prints!
     
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  15. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    That's not what I was told. Paramount wouldn't allow another service to transfer their property, because there's always underlying rights even for public domain works. One letter from their legal department would put the fear of god in anybody.

    Show me a statement where ME TV says they paid for the transfers and find out where it was done. Paramount in LA generally uses Point 360 and Deluxe Video to do most of their remastering work.
     
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  16. James Slattery

    James Slattery Forum Resident

    Location:
    Long Island
    I didn't say that Paramount didn't do the transfers themselves, I said that ME footed the bill. But its not true that they won't allow anyone else to ever transfer anything. The Defenders episodes used for the 1st season DVD release were done elsewhere at reduced costs or else the release never would have happened.
     
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  17. jdicarlo

    jdicarlo Active Member

    Location:
    Nowhere Land
    My dad has been watching a lot of M*A*S*H* lately. The copies that they have on MeTv look like they were transferred from VHS, and several episodes have these flanging issues in the audio. It’s a shame, too, because WGN America and Sundance’s airings look like DVD copies.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2018
  18. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    MeTV's M*A*S*H episodes are bad enough that I often pull out our DVDs and find the two shows they're airing at the 7 PM hour to get better picture AND sound, not to mention being able to see the full episodes - and STILL finish before 8 PM.
     
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  19. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Fountain Inn, SC
    If you're talking about the remastered DVDs of O-R NBC Trek, that's really the only way I've truly been able to enjoy that iconic inaugural Trek.
     
  20. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I solve this by watching Netflix, Hulu, CBS All-Access, HBO, Showtime, and then anything else goes on the DVR and my lightning-fast reflexes get us through the commercial breaks very quickly. Yet I still watch every promo for a new network show, and I'll occasionally (rarely) watch a cool commercial that looks interesting. Syndicated TV has no meaning for me in terms of watching television, not in the last 10-15 years.
     
  21. Benjamin Edge

    Benjamin Edge Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukie, OR, US
    Did you know that certain early B&W syndicated reruns of I Dream of Jeannie actually used the season 3 (1967-68) opening title/theme song (in monochrome)?

    Episodes 2-8 of season 1 (with the live-action intro and Paul Frees' narration) even played the season 3 version of the Hugo Montenegro/Buddy Kaye theme during the narration, and had the same uplifting note play (the part where, lyrically, is "When she goes by/She paints sunshine on every rafter...") when we see the title of the series.

    ~Ben
     
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  22. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Those were official home video master tapes furnished by the studios, so CBS had nothing to do with the look of the films. If they sucked, it's because a lot of video sucked in the 1980s. It got better.
     
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  23. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly...

    Same thing up here in Canada with the two episodes they show per day on the History Channel: "Why am I watching this in crappy quality with syndication cuts and a laugh track when I could be watching it on DVD in great quality with no laugh track and uncut?"
     
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  24. chicofishhead

    chicofishhead Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chico, California
    When I was a kid and didn't know that they sometimes changed openings for syndication, I thought that they did a good job of coloring in that animated sequence when the show went to color.
     
  25. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Fountain Inn, SC
    Glad you feel that way! Some, however, might not be of the same persuasion-- even when a given show is available on DVD in full w/o commercials, they'll still insist on seeing it on regular television with tons of commercials, and I never have understood why.
     
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