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Anyone still using Beta SP?

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Sarah Memily
Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jun 23, 2007 at 4:38:41 am

Hi there,

I work at a tiny TV station that uses Beta SP (mostly BVW-70s) for archiving and airing our local productions. But I'm wondering, in this age of digital and HD wonders: what are other stations using? Is anyone else still using Beta SP?
We have a good-sized fleet of decks (though many are out of service for one reason or another and I worry that the others will soon fail as well) and all of our stock video is archived on Beta SP, as well as our library of completed programs. However, upon asking if we can repair the broken decks, the higher-ups tell me that they don't want to dump money into an obsolete system...so they want me to come up with an inexpensive, logical alternative to transition to. Personally, I think that if we had a dedicated engineer who enjoyed working on these sorts of things, we could maintain our functional decks, canibalize our existing broken decks as needed, and get at least another five years out of them without any real cost, but perhaps I'm naive.
We shoot on Ikegami Editcams (the digital irony doesn't escape me), but since they're tapeless, I feel that having a tape-based means of archiving is all the more important (am I wrong not to trust a hard-drive-based system?).

While I'm researching...what do you think?

Thanks a bunch for any input you care to provide!

Sarah


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bwalkerii
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jun 25, 2007 at 1:45:22 am

Hello Sarah...

Beta SP is still the main format for the majority of us TV stations out there. DV isn't quite up to snuff and their are too many higher DV formats, including HD formats for just one to stand out. Therefore Beta is still running along and will be for I would guess at least another 5 years until one new digital format can take over the majority.

As for archiving, right now our station, and the others in my region all still go to tape, but we also back up to CD/DVD. We'll continue to archive to tape as long as we have decks and SONY's prices for repair parts don't become to prohibitive...(the price of a head and drum have gone up 3x in just over a year or so)...

Unfortunately it seems most of the camera companies want us out of tape and to digital (more money for them for more new equipment) but I'm having a tough time convincing the corporate heads that I need money for new gear after they've just spent a few million per station on getting us Digital Television ready.

It's really a tough call, but like 3/4" tape, I think Beta SP will be around for quite a while yet, but to hedge, I'd be archiving to either hardrives or Discs. Hope this helps!

bobby walker ii

bobby walker ii
Broadcast Video


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Mike Cohen
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jun 25, 2007 at 4:51:16 pm

So this while transition to Digital TV has to do with the broadcast signal, not the content, right?

In other words you can be a digital st station broadcasting stuff off BetaSP or U-Matic for that matter. Digital TV and HDTV are two different things.


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epontius
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jun 25, 2007 at 11:56:19 pm

Yes and no. DTV is the means of transmission...a digital signal over certain frequencies versus analog. HDTV is a subset of the DTV signals in ATSC...the higher ones.
DTV can still be SD, as the majority of content current going over DTV off the air antennas is still SD material.

Erik



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Mike Cohen
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jul 1, 2007 at 2:03:45 am

funny considering the resources governments have put into phasing out SD transmission. Apparently American government wants the SD spectrum for other purposes.
The best example of the public not being quite ready for DTV is when you visit a Best Buy, and they have an over the air snowy SD signal of the football game going into the $5000 Sony HDTV.

Mike


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cowcowcowcowcow
Mark Suszko
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jul 5, 2007 at 4:52:10 am

Our situation is much like yours. We were umatic linear ABC-roll to one-inch for mastering in the 80's, beta linear to 1-inch in the early 90's, then A/B beta to beta until the beginning of this decade, when we also got NLE's of various makes, but we still do linear editing at least once a week, for some kinds of work, that still makes the best sense for us... Some time about three years back, I fnally sent out our last spot reel on one-inch. Now those impressive air-threading wonders sit silent except to replay or transfer occasional archival material.

We now master to Beta SP or DVC pro, and we have a temp who is playing all our old umatics and betas off in real time onto 2-hour DVD-R's using one of the few decrepit decks still functioning. We did this to conserve dwindling library shelf space and to archive the really old stuff before we could no longer have the technical means to play it. It is scary to watch three banker boxes full of tapes go in one end of this process on Monday and see a shoebox full of DVD-R's come out the other end on Friday. As it is, I still got a couple quad tapes that didn't get transferred in time and are now effectively doorstops. Well, the hubs make nifty hi-tech clock faces, but that's all...

Yes, if you look in the back of TV Technology or Broadcasting magazine and places like that, there are companies that sell refurbished head assemblies and the other hard-wearing bits to keep your SP deck going. But at some point, you have to look at the ROI and make a jump in technology. Umatic came out roughly the same year as Sgt. Pepper did. I got some betaSP tapes older than our college interns now. Let it die with dignity, it served nobly and with distinction.

I know, the DVD-R's and MPEG-2 are not as high a quality as we'd like for archival, but for our budget this is the most practical and effective way to go, and a slight compromise in quality due to compression beats having no material to play at all... As far as distribution, we polled a lot of our statewide stations that take our stuff last year, and all but a handful said they now also accept programming on a DVD. At $29 for a player at the local CVS store these days, we could afford to give all our biggest users a free player with our dubs on disk and STILL come out ahead on postage ALONE, never mind the tape stock, over shipping betas or umatics. The cost of a single 2-hour DVD-R dub, a cardboard mailer and postage is something like $3 compared to something like $20 for a 12-minute beta SP in a quality shipper case. That's $17 a pop that could be spent better elsewhere. Like an Aeron chair for my edit bay:-)

Consider too that many stations are now IT/server-based, or going that way, and if you hand them an analog Beta SP tape, they're likely just going to play it into their hard drives of whatever old SP machine is still working at THEIR shop, and use the encoded media files for air, not your tape in most cases. Station automation is all trending this way. So it could be that you actually get better air quality just handing them mpeg2 files on a disk that YOU polished and perfected, than trusting their encoding guy, who is probably an underpaid intern or a surly and indifferent old "sparky" near retirement. (no offense meant, just that guys like that probably resent scutwork like analog to digital transfers after working on much bigger things over the years. I think I would.)

One of the big questions for us and other producers these days is how do we affordably get HD programming out to stations? Priced HD decks lately!?!?! And how many differnet format HD decks will you need to service all the clients???

However, you can put HD programming on DVD's as DATA,or use one of everal HD quality codecs, and you get (comparatively) a very inexpensive way to put stuff out, assuming your stations getting it know what to do with it and have the right IT infrastructure. More IT departments can handle a DVD data disk right now than a Blue Ray or whatever other flavor of the month format HD is coming out on, IMO. So my own conservative opinion is to explore that for short-form stuff like spots and half-hour shows, DVD Data disks or An HD codec. Yeah, you'll likely have to span across two or more disks for something longer than spot work. I didn't say it was perfect, I said it was cheap and relatively easy to work with.

We got into the DVD distribution thing in an incremental, experimental fashion, first using stand-alone DVD recorders from Panasonic as drop-in replacements for some of our old S-VHS dubbers, and for archiving off older footage before it was lost completely. We got the models that also have a hard drive in them and moderate DVR capability. This wound up being handy for other things, as having one in the control room gave us the same tivo-like pause and replay while-still-recording capability that home users have. We could also record an archive of the live show in realtime, and store shows or elements that get lots of use in the DVD recorder's hard drive for quick one-off dubs, playback thru the switcher or to a mass dubbing rack. Setting up repeating loop playbacks is not too hard either; we used to have to male long loops on VHS or S-VHS tape in SLP mode and the quality stank. With DVD's this is now cake.

Our next step was to get a Bravo Primera Pro DVD duplicating robot: we can drop one of the DVD-R's from the Panasonic into the Bravo, and walk away to do other things while it spits out 100 tested copies in 90 minutes, with color inkjet printing on them. VERY slick. I would name my next son for this machine.

We standardized on Panasonic's DVCPro25 soon after it came out, (Would have considered Sony, but they were two years behind on shipping a product at the time) to replace our aging beta SP decks and cameras, and sending out dubs on that format is also very cheap, as is archiving: you get something like half a week's worth of play hours in the same shelf space one, hour-long, type-c one-inch tape used to take up. While it is only SD, this format is widely compatible on a number of machines, our decks can read DVC pro, DVCAm, and consumer mini-dv. The new HD DVC pro decks are also backwards-compatable to play the legacy Dv25 material. A Dv25 signal also takes up minimal space on hard drives, and since our flow is all SDI in and out for editing, we keep everything looking essentially first-generation. Yes, even umatic may have had better color resolution, but in side by side quality comparisons betwen the DVD and Beta SP, no contest, the disk is better, and will STAY better longer. No worries about mangled, de-magged, or flaking tapes.

We can even directly ingest our DVD's into our final cut editing systems, with a handy ripper from Square-5. The hardware encoding of the Panasonic stand-alone DVD decks actually is said to be a better quality than encoding using Apple's Compressor. It is definitely faster, that's for sure.

Anyway, that's one perspective from a roughly similar situation to yours, I think you're just a year or two behind making some of the same choices we were faced with. With luck, you'll have even more and better options facing you when it's your turn.


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Bob Zelin
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jul 10, 2007 at 6:50:57 pm

this is a funny thread. Most TV stations still demand Beta or Digi Beta delivery, even though that at NAB2007, there was almost so standard def gear shown. Viacom will not accept an HD master. Sony hasn't made a Beta VTR in 2 years. Most "HD stations" simply have a Teranex or similar up converter on their HD transmitter. I look in great jealousy when I see magazines like Broadcast Engineering Magazine, and see these "full HD installation" stations. Where are these places - certainly not in Orlando, FL - and not at WMFE Orlando, which is a "featured HD station" that is not truly HD thruout the facility. I work with the FAA Safety Foundation studios in Lakeland Florida. Ask them what they work with - HD of course ! It's HDV, going DV25 into an AVID Xpress Mojo. - they master in VHS for their safety training videos.

So is Beta dead ? Not yet - but don't tell anyone - because "everyone" is doing HD, except you.

Bob Zelin


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Peterd
Re: Anyone still using Beta SP?
on Jul 27, 2007 at 9:32:38 pm

Everyone is "doing" HD then down converting to Beta Sp or DigiBeta to deliever thier content anyway. That's the part they don't like to tell ya. :)


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