About Ken Zin

Ken Zin

Ken Zin works on a 3/4" Sony deck with an Ampex AVR-3 in the backgroundNow in his fifth decade as a Videotape and Television Engineer, Ken Zin has seen a lot develop. 

Serving in the US Army, Ken manned 1960s Ampex VR-1000 Quadruplex Videotape® recorders that had been modified to record radar signals.

As a videotape machine maintenance engineer at Memorex’s videotape manufacturing plant in the San Francisco Bay area, his
skills —back in 1972!— caused  Memorex executive Tony Booker to write:  

“It is my opinion that Ken Zin’s work is equal to the best I have seen in both electronic and mechanical areas. Very few technicians show this much ability in either area of competence and almost none are this competent in both. Because he is a perfectionist, his experience is of a deeper extent than could otherwise be obtained.”Memorex-Tape-Reel

Read here: Ken Zin-Letter from Memorex’s Tony Booker to Richard Bigotti 

Ken’s extensive knowledge about the nature of videotape gained at Memorex and since helps Zin! VTR Works address videotape related issues caused by manufacturing differences, age, and chemical breakdown.

Ken Zin-VR-1000C-B-Cropped-V2-600x518

Ken Zin in front of Ampex VR-1000C, refurbished in 1986 by Merlin for the 30th anniversary of the introduction of videotape. It was displayed at NAB in Las Vegas, and at SMPTE shows in San Francisco and New York. Parts were gathered fom multiple sources to make a complete machine. It was donated to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

After Memorex, Ken spent 35 years as a Wizard at Merlin Engineering Works, widely renowned for putting the “new” back into Quadruplex video recorders, while conjuring up remarkable modifications and accessories for them and other videotape formats.

His experience includes refurbishing and “Merlinizing” Ampex  VR-2000 Quad VTRs for the Library of Congress, (picture here) among many Merlin clients. 

Other Merlin projects included

  • Modification of time base correctors to work with Quad’s segmented nature
  • Changes to Bosch BCN series 1” segmented scan VTRs to create 24fps, wide-band versions for use in pre-HD film transfers
  • A number of other “envelope-pushing” projects.
Ken Zin in front of one of two Ampex FR-900A transverse scan instrumentation recorders at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, (LOIRP) at NASA Ames in Mountain View, CA ©2008 Ric Getter

Ken Zin in front of one of two Ampex FR-900A transverse scan instrumentation recorders at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, (LOIRP) at NASA Ames in Mountain View, CA ©2008 Ric Getter

Since Merlin’s closure, he has continued to apply those skills to machines and projects of many kinds.

Recently, Ken has been keeping rare Ampex FR-900 instrumentation recorders alive at NASA Ames Research Park in Mountain View as the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project extracts high-quality images of the moon from 1960’s era tapes of the moon mapping mission to find the first Lunar landing spots for man. 


Ampex AVR-2 signal system and test gear used for Zin cards to enable AVR-2s to play low band color and monochrome. Cards for NTSC, PAL and related television standards. A special Boland SE-15VTR LCD monitor is being used to see videotape artifacts not visible with ordinary LCD monitors.

Ken is currently engaged in design and testing of new circuits for the most popular of Ampex’s last-generation of Quad machines. This series of brand-new boards will  allow the AVR-2 to play Low Band recordings made on the earliest machines.

Other boards will accommodate various recording and television standards on one machine,  improving the quality of playback and reduce maintenance and adjustments needed during transfers.

copy-copy-Zin-Logo-V6b-e1400747672578.pngHis newest venture is Zin VTRWorks, which is supplying fastidiously “ZinFurbished™ and finely tuned Quad, 3/4” Umatic and other recorders for customers in North America and overseas.

(I) consider Mr. Zin to be one of the true experts in the field of legacy video equipment.

I know of few men who come close to having his knowledge and technical ability to refurbish 2″ quad and 1″ helical VTRs. I cannot recommend Mr. Zin highly enough.—Allan McConnell, Head, Audio Video Preservation Laboratory

Ken’s qualifications include training by major VTR manufacturers whose equipment is now considered “obsolete” but is in daily use to migrate tapes recorded since 1956.

Factory training certificates were awarded by:

    • IVC (International Video Corporation): 
      • 1972 800/700/600 Series Color Video Recorders
    • Sony Corporation: 
      • 1973 Half-inch EIAJ AV series video recorders with heterodyne color
    • Ampex Corporation:  
        • 1975 VPR-7950 one inch tape recorder type “A” format
        • 1975 VR-2000 Quadruplex Video Recorder with “Intersync servo”
      • 1977 AVR-1 Quadruplex Video tape recorder with “Buffer” switched delay lines.
    • Consolidated Video Systems
      • 1976 Digital Video Signal Corrector (First Digital Time Base Corrector);
  • NEC (Nippon Electric Co. Ltd.): 
    • 1978 TBC-10/B with Burst control Oscillator.

A sample of clients includes:

Archives and Libraries:

Video Transfer and Preservation Organizations:

  • BAVC, San Francisco
  • Iron Mountain Entertainment Services, Hollywood
  • Antique Video, San Francisco
  • VideoPark, Grants Pass, OR
  • AME, Hollywood
  • Ruxton, Burbank

Government Agencies and Contractors:

  • NASA
  • LOIRP (Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project)

VTR and Television Equipment:

  • Ampex
  • Sony
  • Merlin Engineering Works
  • Vistek UK
  • Snell & Wilcox UK

Broadcast and Entertainment:

  • KGO Television (ABC Owned) San Francisco
  • PDI/DreamWorks Animation

Major Corporations:

  • Oracle
  • Sun Microsystems
  •  Xerox Corporation
  • Boeing
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Lockheed Skunk Works
  • GE Medical Devices
  • Phillips Medical