Introduction to the Sony Portapak and Camera

A demonstration of the Sony Portapak 1/2" tape recording deck, including using camera and microphones, and a discussion of best practices for avoiding damage and achieving the highest quality recordings.

00:02Copy video clip URL Introduction from Susan Milano. “This equipment which we use is Sony 1/2″ videotape. It was never intended for anything in the way of professional use. It was intended as a consumer home product. As a result of that and the fact that costs were cut by economizing on little things, it’s pretty delicate…. What we hope to teach you in the next couple of months is just basic precautions and ways to avoid having problems with the equipment.”

01:32Copy video clip URL Milano explains the different parts and functions of the camera itself. She recommends avoiding handholding the camera for any long duration. She demonstrates zoom, aperture, and focus, and explains the use of the eyepiece both while shooting and as a monitor for playback. 

05:08Copy video clip URL Explanation of the Vidicon tube and its sensitivity to direct light. 

06:20Copy video clip URL The ten-pin cable that attaches to the camera. 

08:56Copy video clip URL The recording deck – the Portapak itself. Milano demonstrates the fragility of the deck and its carrying case. 

10:43Copy video clip URL The inputs on the side of the deck. The power adapter

13:05Copy video clip URL Using a battery. The battery that comes with the Portapak lasts for less than half an hour, Milano says. It can be recharged, but it takes about 8 hours.

16:38Copy video clip URL Using modified motorcycle batteries, which give you 3-4 hours of shooting. 

18:12Copy video clip URL Hooking up the power adapter to the deck. 

19:06Copy video clip URL Other inputs and controls on the deck: the camera input, the camera/tv switch, and tracking button, microphone, earphone, battery gauge. Discussions of external microphones and earphones/headphones. 

23:36Copy video clip URL Using a unidirectional external microphone and a lavalier microphone. 

25:52Copy video clip URL The controls on the deck. 

27:35Copy video clip URL Threading the videotape reels and using the controls without damaging the tape. 

31:19Copy video clip URL Recording with the deck, using the camera to shoot. Standby mode.

35:01Copy video clip URL Getting your battery to register on the gauge. 

36:13Copy video clip URL Demonstration of shooting, rewinding, and playing back footage. Making and viewing test recordings to ensure that the equipment is operating properly and that the tape is thread correctly. 

39:25Copy video clip URL The minute counter. Demonstration of the heads going around within the deck and explanation of the tape passing across the tape heads. One tape head sitting higher up than the other. Helical scan recording for 1/2″ and 1″ tape as opposed to the method for 2″ recording. 

42:18Copy video clip URL Sound head, erase head and other buttons inside the deck. Best practices for holding/using the deck. How to hold it or place it to avoid damage. 

44:48Copy video clip URL Milano concludes, and smiles at the viewer, laughing as she curtsies. “And next week we’ll be making a Sony soufflée. Bon appétit!”


1 Comment

  1. Susan Milano says:

    What a good little refresher, seeing this again now that fifty years have passed. Guesstimate as to date of production…..1973.

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