Going to extra-ordinary lengths…

In mid-December, Chief Marketing Officer Ted Langdell drove 400 miles from Northern California to Los Angeles to pick up equipment for Zinspection that an Eastern US customer bought at an auction when a film and video company closed.

Ampex VR-7800
Ampex VR-7800 that Ken built a custom wooden top for when he refurbished this machine in the mid-2000s for a Los Angeles film and video restoration company

Among the five vintage video recorders was a late 1960s Ampex VR-7800 1″ VTR that Ken Zin had refurbished for the now-closed company ten or so years ago.

Colleague Al Sturm built an interface box to allow the VR-7800 to be used with a 1986-era digital time base corrector.

The Eastern customer needed the machine inspected, repaired to working condition if needed, and shipped to them ASAP.

VR-7800 Playback
Playback of a VR-7800 test recording after Zinspection and adjustments — with Textronix 1780R Test Set

Ken’s inspection revealed the machine to be working. He thoroughly cleaned, tested functions, made adjustments to improve the playback quality.

Once satisfied that the machine was ready to ship, Ken built a crate for safe shipping.

Ted and Ken crated the VTR, boxed up the associated TBC and interface.

VR-7800 ready to ship by FedEx Heavyweight Air

Here’s the ZinCrate with VR-7800, Ampex TBC-6 and custom interface box strapped on tope and ready to ship to our Eastern customer from the FedEx Heavyweight Air terminal in Sacramento

Ted worked with the customer’s logistics department to get the items shipped via FedEx Express Freight, and drove the items 90 miles from the Zin! VTRWorks lab in Magalia (near Paradise east of Chico) to Sacramento on Christmas Eve in time to make a plane for next day delivery.

The boxes were pallet-wrapped to the crate for safety and protection, and then strapped to the crate. “We wanted to make sure all three items arrived at the same time, so our customer could set up and go right to work,” Langdell says.

The customer got the machine the morning after Christmas, and was able to have a batch of tapes converted to files, QC’d and delivered to its customer before New Years Eve, which was the deadline for them to complete the job.

ZinFurbishing an Ampex AVR-2: What Ken found

Ken has been working on Ampex AVR-2 Serial #197, which began life as one of a pair of machines at KRBK-TV, Sacramento, California.

Seen here at time of pickup, this third-generation Ampex Quad is in need of some TLC, which it is getting now.

# 197 is undergoing a thorough ZinFurbishment.

Crazy waveforms from AVR-2 at first power-upThat’s designed to identify and correct problems that make “fun” vector and waveform paDSC_2303tterns like those seen here…

Leaky capacitor on AVR-2 board

The ZinFurbishment will replace quite a few capacitors, such as the one on this board that leaked, destroyed its lead and trace on the board,

 

Crispy connectors
Poorly crimped connectors heated up due to resistance, and got crispy.

It will also  fix “crispy” power connections such as on the rectifiers seen here, caused by poorly crimped connectors.

Ampex issued a field bulletin advising to solder directly to the lug on the rectifier or other part, such as transformers.

The system did power up, but there were quite a few power supply related issues to be addressed. 

Fuseholder added
A fuseholder was put in circuit with circuit breakers instead of fixing cause of breaker trips.

Apparently, previous owners or engineers chose to “band-aid” some faults rather than fix them… like put a fuse in circuit with a circuit breaker because what was found to be a poorly crimped connection wouldn’t support the current requirements of the circuit.

3M RF tap
3M RF tap for external TBC added to back of AVR-2. Will be removed

Rather than deal with a problem involving part of the TBC, a workaround involving a 3M dropout compensator RF tap was installed.

 

(Heads were being scratched while contemplating “Why’d they do THAT?”)

Broken wire on connector
Broken wire on connector caused transport problem dangerous to tape

A wire break found on one of the transport harness plugs was responsible for no rewind capability.

 

 

 

 

A lot of small and large things have been discovered and fixed as the process of problem finding, identification and elimination continues.

 

AVR-2 electronics cage
AVR-2 electronics cage needs a lot of air to keep things cool. Only three of the six muffin fans under the cage were installed. And only two worked.

Instead of the factory complement of six muffin fans under the machine blowing air up into the electronics chassis, only three were found, and one of those was frozen… didn’t move.

That means the heat generated by the electronics wasn’t being removed, and could be the cause of overheated components, malfunctions and shorter time between failures.

People wonder why the cost of bringing back VTRs and VCRs can be expensive. These things are why. It can be a very time-consuming process, and time is money.

The basic electronic and mechanical issues need to be addressed before any “fine tuning” and finishing work can be done.

Once those items are addressed, we can see what to do about cosmetics, like worn paint and button legends.

AVR-2 control panel

The good news includes two Ampex Extender Cards for the electronics chassis (needed to do adjustments where circuits on several cards interact) and an audio preamp extender.

The head spun up fine and has good life… as tested on another VTR.

All in all, we expect to see this AVR-2 transferring tape reliably very soon for new users.