Sic transit gloria TV

giantandtinyThis photo appeared on a web site I visit daily. Petapixel www.petapixel.com. It’s a TV camera zoom with a modern digital camera attached – the bit to the left of the green ring.

I decided to add some comments which might be of interest:

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A relatively modest TV lens, only a 17x zoom ratio.

“I used to work at a broadcast commercial TV station. They decided to move to new, smaller premises recently and lenses like that were junked. I mean literally tossed out in dumper bins. They were old, dating from the early 1970s, but … One was an Angenieux 42:1. They were designed for 1″ (diameter) Plumbicon camera tubes. We had about 15 cameras, so there were 15 lenses valued at about $15,000 each. Each camera cost about $60,000 plus the cost of the lens. (Of course, as technology moved on to CCDs, the cost of replacing the tubes in Plumbicon cameras became prohibitive and they became unavailable. The cost to renew the tubes would have been greater than the cost of a new smaller CCD camera and lens, so those beautiful cameras, Philips and Sonys, were simply left on the shelf to gather dust and eventually junked. Sic transit gloria TV.)

The old station had three big studios plus a 6 camera OB van. All these had huge complex control rooms, plus 24 or 32 channel audio desks. It sat on about 10 acres of land and we had a helicopter pad for the station’s chopper. We had an engineering staff of about 25 techs and engineers.

The new place occupies a couple of rooms at a newspaper’s premises. All it has is a small news set which uses an electronic background. All the programming comes in on fibre from the east coast (of Australia) and the engineering staff is now down to five guys. No VTRs any more, it’s all hard disks.

Digital technology has decimated the TV broadcast game. Thank goodness I retired before the axe fell.”

“Here’s a Fujinon 55×9.5mm lens on a Hitachi CCD camera. Now junked. This was from a reunion in 2009 where we had an old equipment display.”

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Fuji 55x zoom lens on Hitachi CCD camera

“Here’s the first zoom we got, a Varatol 10:1 mounted on a PYE 4 1/2″ image orthicon camera. Note the zoom and focus cables. That Vinten pedestal alone would have cost $10.000 in the early 70s.”

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British made Varatol zoom lens on PYE 4.5″ image orthicon B/W TV camera.

“I forgot to mention – these monster zoom lenses with ratios of 55:1 were all f1.8 or better. How could they make such amazing lenses? Because the resolution of TV cameras was and still is crap. In 625 line PAL SD, that’s about 585 active lines x 3/4 = 0.256Mp in today’s terms. For an HD camera, it’s 1920×1080 = 2.073Mp. That still applies. Full HD is only 2Mp!

That meant the lenses could be designed with very low optical specs and still look acceptable, hence the f1.8 on monster zoom ratios. If we could accept 2Mp sensors on our still cameras, we too could have 50:1 zooms. Look at camcorders. They have amazing zoom ratio lenses of f1.8 or f1.4, in a tiny package at a tiny cost. That’s because they only have to cover a tiny sensor of 2Mp resolution. It’s all relative.”

“Now I’ve got a Panasonic FZ200 with a 20mm – 1200mm 60x zoom! It’s f3.5-f5.6 onto a 1/1.7” sensor. Lovely pictures in good light. I like it. It’s not the long end so much as that 20mm wide end that I like so much. Very versatile camera which I use for travel. Full HD video too. I love it.

“NB. Even more amazing – lenses are now compensated for in the camera – lens distortions and CA are removed in the jpg output. Add in image stabilisation and a ~$450 price and we’re getting absolute bargains.”

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Those Vinten gas pedestals alone cost $10,000 or more, and there were usually four per studio. As you can see, they were designed to support camera/lens combinations weighing 50Kg or more. Being gas filled, they could be adjusted to balance the weight of the camera and the cameraman could lift or lower the camera with one hand, silently, and glide around the floor. Notice the lead weights above the steering ring.

Everything about TV station gear was expensive. Cameras cost $50,000 upwards each, without lens. Add a lens at around $30,000. When they used tubes, which gradually “wore out” and had to be replaced, each tube cost about $5,000 and there were three, Red, Green, Blue.

So camera = $80,000, pedestal $10,000, vision switching desk about $100,000, 24 channel or 32 channel audio mixer at about $30,000, monitor speakers at about $3,000 each. Lighting control panel another $50,000. Add videotape recorders at around $70,000 each. That’s just one studio, and we had three. Broadcast TV equipment cost BIG money. Plus we had a big Outside Broadcast truck fitted out for up to six cameras with all the audio as well, probably $1m.

Now, it’s all junked. Literally sold for scrap value or thrown into dumper bins. I’m not kidding – it’s been happening at Channel 7 and the entire premises at Tuart Hill where I worked for 33 years are now gone, demolished.

These days I can record and play Full HD video and audio in my SLR cameras, with a quality just as good as these $100,000 monsters produced. I can transfer the material to this computer and edit to a higher standard than we had when we paid $150,000 for an edit system. I can do video effects with ease in Full HD, in real time, to a higher standard than the $70,000 Ampex ADO that I used to slave over.

An entire vision/audio/editing/recording system is now a box that can be picked up in one hand, at a cost of about $5,000.

Everything has changed! It all seemed to happen around 2000, and I retired in 1999. Yippee!

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I’ve been saying it repeatedly, constant vigilance is needed in supermarkets. Yesterday I did my grocery shopping in Coles and asked for $100 cash out as well. I was just about to walk away with the money in my hand when I checked – I’d only received one $50 note. Fresh new notes tend to stick together and I thought I had two fifties, but no. I was able to thrust my hand out just as it had been when the checkout guy had handed it to me and he could see I was right. Lucky. Watch out.

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I’m still having the pleasurable experience of trying to decide on a car. I’ve looked at other cars but nothing has the prestige of a Mercedes. There are two contenders at the moment. The first is another CL500 like the Melbourne one, but this one’s in Sydney:

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2005 Mercedes CL500 in Sydney.

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2005 CL500 interior.

It’s the same price, $34,888. But I don’t like the colour – silver.

The other contender is right here in Perth, a 2009 CLK350:

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The one for sale is steel grey in colour and it’s $40,000. And it’s an AMG model, their extra sporty bits model.

My head says the local 2009 CLK350 is the much better buy. It’s three years younger, with much lower mileage and being sold by a Mercedes dealer.

But my heart still wants the 2 door CL500 in Sydney. It’s a bigger, heavier car, much more mechanically complex, but soooo much more luxo, more prestigious, more sporty, more “showing my good taste”. If only it wasn’t silver!

It’s a delicious quandary to be in. I don’t have to do anything, of course. No pressure. Just yum, yum.

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I’m writing all this at 3.30am. My sleeping has gone haywire. I went to sleep at about 1030pm as usual and dropped off very easily, but woke again at 11.50pm and couldn’t get back to sleep. The main problem is severe itching in my legs. It’s diabetic nerve pain and nothing seems to help except getting up and using the Circulation Booster. I feel OK, but I’ll need to sleep in the daytime, and that will upset tomorrow night, and so it goes on. This erratic sleeping is not good for your health.

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