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Office Viewing Machines

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Office Viewers or Tape Chewers?
Office viewing machines are one of the biggest mixed blessings of modern TV & Video production. It's great to be able to get your tapes and just view them, without having to ask anyone, book out VT time or even think about it. You just put your broadcast master tape in the machine and press play. What could be simpler. It's just like your home video. The trouble is that office viewing machines are built down to a price. A low price. The lower the better some would say. They don't play to air, so they may not be maintained as much as they could be. They sit in an office with the drinks, paper clips, carpet fluff and all kinds of other stuff too close for comfort, and get forgotten about for as long as the office staff can still get pictures out of them.

The problem with this approach which the engineer sees all too often, and the production person only sees when their luck runs out, is that of tape chewing.

At this point I would like to tell you about the design philosophy of the broadcast VTR deck. (the proper ones in the dubbing and TX areas) These are derived from the early ENG studio decks. The sort of deck do you would use to play a tape of the pictures which the cameraman died getting, which won't chew the tape upbecause it will be the only copy! The deign of these decks assumes that the tape is a priceless unique work of art, which of course it may be!

Now dear reader, before you next shove a tape into a cheap office viewing machine, please consider these questions:-

Just in case you don't know, let me tell you what happens when you put a cassette into any sort of video player. (DAT Machines are similar)
First the cassette is taken from you, the protective cover is opened and a load of metal fingers come in and pull the tape out. If things are working properly the reel tables let the tape come out real easy so it doesn't get stretched. Then a drum starts to rotate. It speeds up till it's doing 25 revolutions every second, and then the metal fingers start to wrap your tape around this spinning drum. Next, when you press play, a rubber roller comes out and squashes the tape against a rotating capstan which pulls the tape past the rotating drum. Most of the time everything is fine and dandy, but you don't want all your work to be the victim of some little mishap do you? Imagine the sticky stuff from someone's jam sandwich getting on the drum. - Ooops!
If the worst happens and your tape gets stuck in the machine, it is best to turn the power off and let an engineer take the tape out.
Make sure the engineer understands how important the tape is! The news might not be good, but there is often a way to get the tape out causing little if any further damage to the tape, and then there is the quick way with a pair of scissors! Engineers tend to save the machine at the expense of the tape! It's not their fault, it's just the way they were trained.

So how can you minimise your chances of disaster?

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