Video Archiving - Restoration - Remastering - Duplication - Transfer - Vintage - Antique - Conversion
Introduced in 1969 but not widely adopted and released to the US market until 1970, EIAJ (
The machines utilized 1/2 inch reel to reel tape on 30 minute 5 inch reels or 60 minute 7 inch reels.
The EIAJ format was a low-band format. With about a 3 MHz bandwidth. That translates to about 240 lines of resolution.
The format called for a two head system in a 180 degree wrap around the head drum. Head A read/recorded the odd lines (1 3 5 7 9 etc) while head B recorded the even lines (2 4 6 8 10 etc) up to 525 lines. Tape speed was a fixed 7.5 inches per second.
The CV Skip Field format that it effectively replaced, only recorded the odd lines (ergo: the term "Skip Field") and on playback simply created the other field (the even lines) by simply repeating the previous field. Translation: The EIAJ format had twice the vertical resolution compared to the earlier skip field format...
Despite many advancements, the EIAJ format does not meet RS-170 specifications (in other words, unless time base corrected and the sync replaced with re-generated sync meeting RS-170A specifications, it could not be broadcast or easily duplicated). Note: all our transfers are Time Base Corrected and the sync meets full RS-170A specs.)
With the advent of EIAJ that recorded both fields, the earlier skip field format was quickly abandoned. EIAJ-1 was the spec. for black & white, while EIAJ-2 was the color specification.
Up until this time, interchangeability between machines was pretty much a hit or miss affair (mostly misses actually.....) The CV series of machines also known as the Skip Field Format, had no tracking control. It was not an oversight.... only that in 1965, there were so few VTR's, that tape interchangeability wasn't even on anyone's "radar screen" (if they could only imaging what was to come !) Chances of finding another similar format in even the entire county would have been a slim chance.. Thus in the early days of video, tapes were intended to be played on the very machine they were recorded on, since no two machines would likely ever have the same exact alignment... The release of the EIAJ format specification changed all that, by tightening up the dimensional specifications and adding a tracking control to adjust capstan-servo timing to match tapes recorded on other machines.
After initial release of the EIAJ machines which were monochrome only, Sony was the first to release the first EIAJ-2 Color VTR. Interesting to note that the original EIAJ specification actually spec'd a color format.. Upon EIAJ's release, there were at the time, no affordable consumer color cameras... So initially, the first machines were monochrome only. These were designated as being EIAJ-1. About 1974, the first affordable color cameras started to hit the market... The EIAJ format was ready, as all it needed was the color processing circuitry... The format specification for color was EIAJ-2. In fact, Color EIAJ-2 tapes will play fine on EIAJ-1 machines since the color spec was but a mere extension of the monochrome signal, but will play only in black and white.
Not a broadcast quality format, it was mostly used in the industrial and consumer marketplaces. EIAJ is by far the most popular of the half inch open reel video formats. Historically, it was the format that took the world by storm and was the format that "kick started" the "Video Revolution".
Many early family and industrial videos were recorded on this format in the 1970's and EIAJ machines were becoming quite popular.
Perhaps the earliest popular portable VTR to make significant market penetration was the Sony AV-3400, also better known as the Portapack as shown here. The Portapack was the industry's first truly portable VTR... It was monochrome only ,and the camera (The AVC-3400) connected via a 10 pin cable... The Portapack was also an EIAJ-1 machine.
The camera employed vidicon technology.... (or more accurately: by today's' standards: lack of technology !)... To make a half decent picture, the camera required LOTS of light. Video shot outdoors in sunlight were actually quite good... Shot Indoors in available lighting, (colloquially called the "mud") the images often appear noisy - a bit "muddy" and the natural "lag" of the vidicon tube is far more pronounced... Fortunately, the equipment we employ here to make the transfers allows us to dramatically reduce the noise without any sacrifice in resolution or detail, and at the same time boost the video levels... The results are never as good as video properly shot in adequate lighting to begin with, but it accounts for a dramatic improvement as opposed to being transferred with no digital processing...
The Portapack only accepted 5 inch diameter reels that were capable of recording up to 30 minutes of monochrome video... Some folks continued to record until the tape literally ran off the end of the reel, (a bad practice) in which case, the tape could actually hold 33 to 34 minutes...
The Portapack was powered by a Gel-Cell lead acid battery. When new and operated at room temperatures (if memory serves me correctly), it would allow up to 45 minutes of operation at standard room temperature... In cold winter weather with temps below 30 def f; only about 20 minutes or so..
Whether recorded on a studio/home machine or the Portapack, the format is very robust... About 99% of the EIAJ tapes we receive are able to be recovered if properly recorded to begin with. Few if any modern digital formats will survive the decades as the EIAJ format has done..
Until EIAJ's slow demise beginning in the late 70's when Betamax and VHS were first introduced, EIAJ open reel was by far the most popular consumer/industrial tape format of its time.
Although Sony was the leader in the format, other manufacturer's also entered the market, such as Panasonic with their own EIAJ machines... Panasonic recorded tapes would play equally as well on Sony EIAJ machines, and vice-versa... Of course; that was the entire idea behind the format.
A few machines were manufactured by Sony and Panasonic that were cassette/cartridge based machines.
The EIAJ cassette was one of the first cassette based machines ! It actually holds a closer resemblance to that of an eight track audio cartridge.
It is the very same recorded format as that of the open reel tapes... Only that the tape was housed in a robust cartridge that not only protected the tape, but made manual threading a thing of the past...
However, the cassettes were prone to mis-loads and jams, and were never widely accepted because of that. (They are also quite rare - for that very reason !). Having serviced them, I also learned to curse them.... I lovingly referred to them as being "Jam-a-Matic's"
The cassettes measured 5x5x1 inches. The picture on the left depicts the bottom of the cassette to help in identifying it.
Because of the vast numbers of EIAJ machines that flooded the market over the decade from 1970 until about 1982, the format is not in any immediate danger of total extinction... But with that said, the format is today considered rare, and there remains only a handful of working machines left that can make the transfer.
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Northeast Region - New England