Main Forums >> Musicians' Lounge
        Print Thread

Pages: 1
Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 21733
Loc: Worcestershire
BBC Sypher (dubbing) Suite video from late 1970s
      #992804 - 14/06/12 11:07 AM
Someone has posted an old internal training video from the BBC onto YouTube

http://tinyurl.com/dywdecp*

It explains how the Beeb's SYPHER 2 suite and the in-house TV dubbing process of that era works -- this dates back to the late 1970s and was the first time BBC installation of Neve's NECAM moving-fader automation system.

SYPHER is one of those fab BBC acronyms that stands for 'SYnchronous Post-production using Helical-scan video and Eight-track Recorder. Essentially, it was traditional film-dubbing, but optimised for TV production using multitrack machines synced with timecode, rather than sprocketed mag film tracks synced with chains and bi-phase pulses!

I used this kind of technology myself on many programmes, and even project-managed the design and installation of a similar set up at a BBC regional centre long, long ago. It all looks hilariously old-fashioned and crude now, but it was state of the art at the time and worked extremely well.

Don't think the H&S goons would be happy with someone balancing on top of an empty beer keg for the foley work today!

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator     Back to top
The Korff
Loose Cannon (Reviews Editor)


Joined: 20/10/06
Posts: 2356
Loc: The Wrong Precinct
Re: BBC Sypher (dubbing) Suite video from late 1970s new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #992850 - 14/06/12 03:25 PM
That was fascinating! Cheers Hugh


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator     Back to top
Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 21733
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: BBC Sypher (dubbing) Suite video from late 1970s new [Re: The Korff]
      #992860 - 14/06/12 04:21 PM
Yes, looks incredibly old-hat and antiquated now.

The PEG system was a unique BBC design that was essentially a mechanical 'sampler' to play sound effects instantly on remote cue using mellotron-like mechanics to pull lengths of quarter-inch tape from a special cassette over a replay head.

Moving fader systems were brand new then too. I remember production teams being quite ecited about watching the faders move all by themselves! Lovely old Neve analogue console, too. Hmmmmm...

No one would tolerate the waiting time these days for the Umatic video, two multitracks and quarter-inch machines to wind back and then play and synchronise for each mix pass! I remember having to abort countless drop-ins for continuing to building the mic because one or other machine had failed to achieve stable timecode lock in time!

My memory has faded now, but I remember timecode was always on the highest numbered track (8, 16 or 24), usually with the adjacent track left empty as a guard band to avoid crosstalk.

The 1" multitrack from VT had code on 8, a guide mix on 4 (I think), and simple programmes were dubbed on the 1-inch 8-track directly, using channels 1,2,3,and 6 for track-laying, with the final mix going back onto 5 ready for layback to VT. In other words you had the original (usually live studio) mix plus four tracks for effects and music, mixed back in mono to track 5 which was subsequently laid back to VT.

There was always a timecode offset, off course, between the source tracks and the final mix because of the replay-record head gap, and that had to be taken into account by dialling in the correct timecode offset to the synchroniser when syncing to the video for track-laying/mixing, and reviewing or laying-back.

More complex programmes would be track-laid on a 2-inch 16 track but mixed back on to the 1-inch 8-track for VT. The video machine in that clip was a 2" quadruplex machine made by Ampex. Four heads on a helical scanning drum, with a linear audio track running along one edge of the tape. Hideous things to line up, and if you got it wrong (or if the line up driftted... which it did a lot), you would see horizontal bars of a slightly different hue appearing across the pictures! The VT line-up colour bars had a large patch or red across the bottom to help reveal such alignment errors!

This tape-based Sypher dubbing technology perservered right through from the 1970s to the late 1980s, by which time the AMS Audiofile and DAR Soundstation started to take over, followed by all manner of other generic computer-based DAWs and a few hardware audio editors like the Akai DD1500. Digital consoles with full automation facilities started to become the norm then too.

The kids today don't know they're born!

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator     Back to top
Richie Royale



Joined: 12/09/06
Posts: 4392
Loc: Bristol, England.
Re: BBC Sypher (dubbing) Suite video from late 1970s new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #992869 - 14/06/12 05:14 PM
Very interesting. It looks like there was lots of potential for error and problems!

--------------------
http://soundcloud.com/richie-royale
http://www.mixcrate.com/richieroyale


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator     Back to top
Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 21733
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: BBC Sypher (dubbing) Suite video from late 1970s new [Re: Richie Royale]
      #992870 - 14/06/12 05:29 PM
Didn't seem like it at the time, and probably not significantly more so than today -- I think it just seems that way to you because the technology is less familiar and seems more complex as a result.

But the emphasis was definitely on mixing live and getting it right (or at least good enough for broadcast) in more or less real time, rather than the off-line micro-fiddling that is the realm of the modern DAW.

Hugh

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator     Back to top
Mike Stranks
active member


Joined: 03/01/03
Posts: 3711
Loc: Oxford, UK
Re: BBC Sypher (dubbing) Suite video from late 1970s new [Re: Hugh Robjohns]
      #992895 - 14/06/12 09:00 PM
Ah some memories there Hugh...

Of course I was a local radio man, but if we were very good we did see the occasional Studer. To be fair they did become more common as it was realised that local radio was here to stay.

And without wishing to drop into Python mode you TV boys didn't know you were born. I remember trying to mix three tape machines to one on the fly with no timecode in sight. 'Twas always a heart-rate-raising and buttock-clenching experience! But we just did it 'cos that's all we knew/there was.

I've already started to forget how revolutionary I found 'digital' when I first started using it about 8 years ago. It's only when someone looks in when I'm recording or mixing and goes into "wow" mode that I realise just how far we've come in the last 40 years.

So thanks for sharing; nice to see the Sennheiser 414s again!


Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator     Back to top
Pages: 1

Rate this thread

Jump to

Extra Information
1 registered and 3 anonymous users are browsing this forum.

Moderator:  David Etheridge, James Perrett, zenguitar, Martin Walker, Hugh Robjohns, Zukan, Frank Eleveld, SOS News Editor 
Forum Permissions
      You cannot start new topics
      You cannot reply to topics
      HTML is enabled
      UBBCode is enabled
Rating:
Thread views: 1995

September 2014
On sale now at main newsagents and bookstores (or buy direct from the
SOS Web Shop)
SOS current Print Magazine: click here for FULL Contents list
Click image for September 2014
DAW Tips from SOS

 

Home | Search | News | Current Issue | Tablet Mag | Articles | Forum | Subscribe | Shop | Readers Ads

Advertise | Information | Privacy Policy | Support | Login Help

 

Email: Contact SOS

Telephone: +44 (0)1954 789888

Fax: +44 (0)1954 789895

Registered Office: Media House, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB23 8SQ, United Kingdom.

Sound On Sound Ltd is registered in England and Wales.

Company number: 3015516 VAT number: GB 638 5307 26

         

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.

Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media