Time Machine: Interstitial Moment, Video Stockholm Syndrome

By Francis Dougherty, Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Division
April 14, 2015
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Our beloved Sony AV8650 EIAJ ½” open reel deck has been repaired by Bob Shuster, alias Midnight Bob.  Up and running, the 8650 is sending both color and soft grey sometimes ghostly moving images to our old and forgiving FOR.A TBC, then to our Snell and Wilcox, completing the transition from CCTV to SDI.  I have run the tape through my gloved fingers making myself a primitive kindred apparatus. Perhaps it is the result of prolonged exposure, but I have true affection for this medium and am heartbroken when people express disappointment at its most obvious flaws.  You love the children that you labor to bring forth even if they are weak and pale and suffer from poor contrast. Think of these recordings as a last faithful carbon copy or an imprinted shroud. 

Sony AV 8650

Sony AV8650 EIAJ 1/2" open reel

There is so much history wound up in these open reels that would not exist in any other form.  The medium became available at a rich time in Dance history.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, Judson Dance Theater artists and countless others employed it. There is ridiculously little existing dance footage of Isadora Duncan.  In the briefest of fragments she orbits a huge tree at a 1920s garden party.  The tree obscures her from the camera for a moment in a clip that is only a few moments in duration. We would be happy to have even an artifact ridden open reel recording of something more.

Frame Grab  from AV 8650

MGZIC 5-455, Marnee Morris, 1975
Produced by Doris Chase

If you’re curious about the Non-EIAJ Sony CV 1/2” open reel format take a look at an earlier Time Machine post.   You might also take a look at Charles Bensinger's Video Guide; it is freely available on line.  It was written at the height of half inch open-reel’s serviceability and an innocent optimism as to how the medium would change television and document us. 

Sony CV Non-EIAJ 1/2"  open reel Marketed  Under the General Electric Brand