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Kinescope

From Academic Kids

The term kinescope originally referred to a type of early television picture tube.

Today the term is more commonly used to refer to a kinescope recording, kine for short, also called a telerecording in the UK: a recording of a television program made by filming the picture on a television monitor. Alternatively it can refer to the equipment used for this procedure: basically a movie camera mounted in front of a TV monitor, specially synchronized to the monitor's scanning rate.

Around 1947, kinescope came into use to store live TV programs for later rebroadcast. Even though the quality of these recordings left much to be desired, they were initially the only way for nationally broadcasting the New York live performances of early television.

As new technologies for storing video became available, kinescope slowly began to fade in importance: In 1951, singer Bing Crosby's company made the first experimental magnetic video recordings; however, the poor picture quality and very high tape speed meant it would be of limited use. In 1956, the first commercial Ampex Quadruplex videotape recorder was introduced, followed by models from RCA. Instead of moving the tape at high speed, the tape heads rotated at high speed against the tape, making longer recording times possible.

Around the same time, the stars of I Love Lucy, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, decided to shoot their show on conventional film, which was necessitated by their insistence on producing their show in California. In retrospect, this was a good idea, since reruns would not suffer from degraded quality. With much of the TV industry moving to the West Coast in later years, kinescopes practically fell from use. For as many as twenty years after, however, kinescopes were used to preserve live broadcasts of soap operas. This process continued well into the pre-recorded era, as videotape was expensive and reused. If an episode was to be saved, this was the way it was done, and many episodes from the 1960s and 1970s only survive through kinescope copies.

For information on the use of kinescope recordings in Britain see Telerecording.

A kinescope image looks less fluid than an original live or videotaped programme, because normal film has only 24 frames per second, as opposed to the 60 or 50 half-frames or fields used by video. Some kinescopes filmed the television pictures at the same frame rate of 25 or 30 full frames per second, resulting in more faithful picture quality than those that recorded at 24 frames per second.

In recent years the BBC has introduced a video process called VidFIRE, which can restore kinescope recordings to their original appearance by interpolating video fields between the film frames. In view of this it is perhaps unfortunate that for commercial reasons few black and white programmes are considered worth repeating today.

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