Older TV shows preserved on tape and their resolution

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by sampsoninc916, Aug 2, 2014.

  1. sampsoninc916

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    Since I'm a 90s kid through and through, most of the shows I'm talking about will come from the 1980s and 1990s, not from the Baby Boomer era or the 1970s. Yet a lot of shows from the late 1950s to the mid 2000s are largely going to be stuck at standard definition, or 480p DVD quality, regardless of how well a professional preserves and migrates the original tapes to new masters. For example, older sitcoms such as All in the Family, Three's Company, Family Ties, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons were shot on tape. Cartoons I often enjoyed as a kid, such as those that ran and re-ran on Cartoon Network like Batman: The Animated Series, are preserved primarily on tape. I don't know what they did with the original elements, but I'm led to believe that after they put the shows on tape, they disposed of the original elements. Even shows that Jim Henson worked on such as much of the older Sesame Street shows, the Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock were all shot on tape. Even though all of these shows are preserved for future generations to watch and love, they will probably never being in HD or Blu-ray because tape is a medium that is stuck at a resolution of 720x480 (NTSC) or 720x576 (PAL). Even though methods exist to upscale and enhance the original standard definition image, such as the Teranex processor from Blackmagic Design, what it usually does is keep the original picture quality at a higher resolution. It does not gain any new pixels from the process. Regardless, the look of these old shows on video tape probably enhances the nostalgic touch that these old shows provide. I honestly love watching old commercials on YouTube, and as a video editor, I love piecing the commercials together with the original show to watch them all like it was a TV broadcast. I even did it with Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too, a show that aired on ABC in 1991. The benefit is that it puts me directly in the era that they originally aired and make me feel like a kid again.
     
  2. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Screenwriter

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    What you're thinking of here is two different things.

    70s and early 80s shows that were videotaped were shot to videotape. End of discussion. There were no original elements to dispose of.

    Now, starting in the mid-80s (with Twilight Zone '85, so its producer says), you had shows that were filmed on 35mm film, but edited on videotape, which means that a final cut of the episode with music, effects, and all that jazz only exists on videotape, but the footage used to create that episode may still exist on film and could possibly be re-edited and restored and made HD, as CBS is doing with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    But, that's still an expensive process, and only shows with a huge and profitable following, like Star Trek, would probably ever get that treatment. And even then, it's a toss-up as to whether we'll even get Deep Space Nine because the cost of re-doing the CGI effects from later seasons could be too expensive.

    /there may be more options than these two, of course. The BBC, for example, wiped a lot of original Doctor Who masters but still preserved the shows either through kinescopes, or a different video format (or sometimes not at all). I'm sure someone can come along with more information soon.
     
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  3. jimmyjet

    jimmyjet Producer

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    hi om,

    i guess that means that most of the stuff i like was at least originally on 35mm film

    you say "70s and early 80s shows that were videotaped" - any guess as to what percentage we are talking about ?
     
  4. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Cinematographer

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    There are some shows where remastering probably wouldn't help much. Tales From The Darkside was the first film-to-tape show from 1983 and the stock they were using looked pretty awful even in those noisy 480 telecines.
     
  5. AndyMcKinney

    AndyMcKinney Cinematographer

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    HBO's The Hitchhiker was also edited on tape in '83. Are we certain all filmed series were edited on film up to 1983?

    Just a guess on my part, but I wonder if Dakside was perhaps shot on 16mm rather than 35mm.
     
  6. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    I was surprised to find out that Liza With a "Z", part of Bob Fosse's trifecta 1972 when he won the Oscar, Emmy and Tony Awards for Best Director (never happened before or since), was shot on 16mm. So was the pilot for Law & Order, which was broadcast as Episode 6 ("Everybody's Favorite Bagman") of the original series.
     
  7. jcroy

    jcroy Screenwriter

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    Good question.

    On another message board, some posters compared the picture quality of the original Dallas from season to season.

    http://soapchat.net/index.php?threads/dallas-dvd-picture-quality-is-terrible-from-season-9.111030/

    After around the 1985-1986 season 9 (by dvd count), the picture quality deteriorates quite noticeably. (Season 9 by dvd count, was the notorious "it was all a dream" season).

    Going through my Dallas dvds, I would agree the picture quality is definitely inferior by the 1986-1987 season 10 (by dvd count), as well as subsequent seasons.


    Without any insider information, I suspect the changeover to editing on tape happened around season 9 or 10 (both by dvd count).


    (The hardcore Dallas fans have a slightly different numbering system for the seasons, than how the seasons were numbered for the dvd releases. It's a neverending nitpick that one has to take account of, when talking about Dallas).
     
  8. jimmyjet

    jimmyjet Producer

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    if no one wants to guess at the percentage, any guess if it was over or under 50% ?
     
  9. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Screenwriter

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    I have no clue about a percentage, but videotape in the 70s and early 80s seemed to be more a sitcom thing than drama.

    About half of the major 70s sitcoms were taped... anything by Norman Lear, Three's Company, WKRP, Kotter... but Paramount's stuff (Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Taxi), MASH, and Mary Tyler Moore were filmed.

    I can't think of any taped 70s dramas, though they're probably out there and I'm just forgetting them.
     
  10. David Rain

    David Rain Screenwriter

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    Does mean that shows like Laverne, MASH & Mary Tyler exist in a quality high enough to be shown or released in HD?
     
  11. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    If any film elements exist on the episodes, it's doable.
     
  12. jcroy

    jcroy Screenwriter

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    Were daytime soap operas done on film or video back in the 1970's?
     
  13. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    That is the question...If there was film...Can it be found?Usuable?Sellable?
     
  14. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Tape. Those shows whose producers didn't erase them to save money were the lucky ones.
     
  15. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Screenwriter

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    If CBS or Fox were of a mind to remaster them for HD, yeah, they would be ready to go. I mean, look at how they're doing Lucy and Andy for blu.

    The only problem there is, look at how badly L&S and Happy Days have (presumably) sold on DVD at this point. L&S took a decade to complete, and Happy Days is stuck at season 5.

    And MASH and MTM are Fox shows, and Fox doesn't seem to be big on doing much with their back catalog. If MASH were owned by, say, CBS, It would probably already have a couple seasons out on blu.

    Oh, and I'm glad someone brought up daytime shows on videotape. I was referring to primetime dramas only, but yeah, daytime TV in the 70s was pretty much all videotape, and mostly wiped from existence. Most Goodson/Todman game shows from the 70s still survive, though there were cases like ABC taping Family Feud over the ABC Password run (IIRC), which means few ABC Password episodes still exist.
     
  16. jimmyjet

    jimmyjet Producer

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    thanks om,

    when i searched videotape, i did not realize this is the same as vhs/beta ?

    the resolution on this format is simply not high enough to get an hd format from it ?

    you mentioned fox not having an interest in older shows, at least not as much as cbs, for example.

    how common is it for studios to sell a catalog item, or swap (such that each studio ends up with something they are more interested in developing and then releasing) ?
     
  17. Mark Y

    Mark Y Supporting Actor

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    Not quite the same. VHS and Beta were/are home-use formats and are 1/2 inch in width. U-matic was 3/4-inch, then there was one-inch, and going back to 2-inch Quad. And that's not even all of them. Home taped stuff isn't good enough quality to master anything -- but unfortunately, in some cases, it's all that might exist on certain shows. Pretty much anything produced by a local TV station for instance, was most likely aired once or twice and then taped over.
     
  18. Frank Soyke

    Frank Soyke Screenwriter

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    I always thought that black and white dramas shot on tape gave a great eearily real feeling to the show. That run on TZ that Serling shot on video have a great real feel to them. Static w/ Dean Jagger is one of my all time faves. I wish more dramas from the B/W era would have taken his cue.
    One the flip side, some of the early BBC b/w stuff, like the Are You Being Served pilot look odd on video. They appear very cheap and unprofessional.
     
  19. The Obsolete Man

    The Obsolete Man Screenwriter

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    Ah, but the Are You Being Served pilot is only a kinescope, as are most surviving BBC B&W programs. That's might be where the problems come from. Doctor Who only looks as good as it does because of Vidfire and having a dedicated restoration team. Unfortunately, there is no Dad's Army Restoration Team out there.

    The TZ videotaped episodes did have an interesting atmosphere to them, however, they were limited by being studio-bound. That was part of the reason those 6 episodes were taped and no more... it would have seriously compromised the series to keep them within the confines of a studio.
     
  20. Lord Dalek

    Lord Dalek Cinematographer

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    The only thing older might be the Jim Terry Force Five anime repackagings from 1980, but that's actually more of a reedit than anything else.

    Its always my personal assumption that Darkside was 16 instead of 35.
    The BBC wiped the bulk of their B/W videotapes in the early 70's due to expense and storage. The reason why they look "odd" is that those are actually kiniscopes made at a different scanning rate with blended frames. Happily restoration technology developed for the release of Doctor Who on dvd has greatly alleviated this problem.

    Also that episode of Are You Being Served was made in color. It only survived in black and white until just recently.

    EDIT: Contrary to what a prior poster has said, Dad's Army has undergone Vidfire treatment, and in the case of one episode, full-gamut color recovery.
     

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