History of Cintel

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Some Cintel History from Early Days to 1990 by Neil Kempt

The company was originally Cinema Television Ltd., with threads back to John Logie Baird of pioneering UK television fame and his company Television Ltd.

Amongst various early activities, Cinema Television planned (circa 1939) the installation of large screen TV receiving systems at several Cinemas in the London area.

Cinema Television was acquired by the J Arthur Rank Organization in the late 1950’s and renamed Rank Cintel. The company was moved from Sydenham in South East London to space in a modern factory on Bessemer Road, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, which was shared with other Rank Group interests.

After a few years the Rank Xerox copy machine division was established at the same Welwyn Garden City factory and eventually took over the whole site. Several displaced units, including Cintel, were relocated to the nearby town of Ware, Hertfordshire,

In addition to Telecines, three tube RGB color video projectors were items in the product line-up until the late 1960's. These were used in Flight Simulators and for commercial and military display applications.

A novel product was a three CRT Precision Color Monitor with the images from three monochrome CRT’s optically converged through color filters to a viewing window to produce a full bandwidth color image from RGB video inputs. At one time these were used for viewing simultaneous RGB outputs from color telecine machines during the manufacturing process.

Another lesser-known Cintel notable was a 2” Quadruplex type VTR. Two or three of these were built in the 60's and reportedly worked well. However, patent conflicts with Ampex & RCA prevented them from being brought to market.

With the UK and other 50hz markets transitioning (UK from 405 line) monochrome to 625-line color around 1967, color telecines became much in demand. The BBC was updating and modernizing their studios, and the second channel Independent TV was expanding. Both added 625-line PAL color service on newly allocated UHF channels. The 405 line monochrome service on Bands 1 and 3 continued in parallel until phased out around 1985

The design of the Cintel Flying Spot Telecines was based on a continuous motion twin lens film transport. This technique illuminated the film from a fixed raster on a special high light output scanning CRT through two matched lenses which, with the film running past at 25fps (50 Hz frame rate), scanned each film frame twice. One scan was for the even lines (or odd) as the film passed behind the top lens, and again for the odd lines (or even) as it passed behind the lower lens. The lenses were alternately selected by a synchronized mechanical shutter and the spacing between the lenses adjusted for positioning the interlace. The still frame picture was elongated and not usable except for reference. The raster from the CRT was focussed onto and modulated by the film then picked up and converted into a video signal by high gain photomultiplier tubes. Monochrome machines had one Photomultiplier. Color machines used a dichroic mirror splitter and three (RG&B) Photomultipliers. The nature of the Flying Spot technique produced wide bandwidth perfectly registered RGB outputs with no Lag and excellent Signal to Noise ratios. These telecines would not operate at 60 Hz / 24 fps, so machines were supplied solely to 50 Hz market areas. The quality of construction on Cintel telecines was such that machines put into service in 1947 at the BBC were converted to Color in 1966 and rumored retired in 1990. An example is in the Science Museum in London.

The heavy mechanics of the film transports took several seconds to reach sync speed. Extremely precise engineering was required for the optics and transport design, and this was achieved with generally excellent results. The picture stability of the claw driven 16mm machines was without equal at the time.


The early Twin Lens Flying spot Telecines were produced on a one off basis for specific customers, mainly the BBC. They were 405/50 25-fps Monochrome, and used tubes (valves). These came in 16m and 35mm versions and two position slide scanners. They were separate machines for each film format.

Another interesting design was the Polygon Telecine. Also Flying Spot, produced up to about 1965. Operated on 35mm only which was scanned through a multifaceted rotating glass polygon. Featured fully variable film speed and direction. A few were adapted to color but were not entirely successful due to color aberrations in the polygon prism

The MK1 Flying Spot Color Telecine. From 1967. An upright design in cabinets including the video processing, servos, high voltage etc. Some tubes (valves). Single gauge 16mm only or 35mm only. 50 Hz, 25-fps only. Fan cooled Custom Scanning CRT (Made by Rank Electronic Tubes) running 25 (originally 30) kV at up to 300uA. The 35mm machine was a continuous motion film mechanism driven by a servo AC motor. Twin lens shutter selected, sprocket drive with stabilizing inertia rollers. The 16mm machine used a precision DC Servo motor, twin lens shutter selected, with the film driven by ingenious continuous motion recycling twin claw mechanism operated by cams.

The 35mm had an Optical Sound head and the 16mm had Optical and Magnetic sound heads. For double system sound, interlock was by three-phase Selsyn motors to Westrex, Sondor, Albrecht or similar sound followers.

The MK2: Up to 1975. Flying spot color Telecine, evolvement of the MK1. Solid state, upright design with transports and the video processing and monitoring in separate cabinets (or console). Two transports could feed one video channel for multiplexed operation. Similar scanning tube arrangements and twin lens mechanics to the MK1, but the 35mm unit was much improved with reverse run capability and servo reel motors. MK2’s were very durable and widely used in 625-line markets worldwide.

The MK2 featured the “Colorgrade” Video Channel with RGB Lift / Gamma / Gain video channel with differential primary color balance by Joysticks and Positive / Negative capability. This excellent design was used in many models and was also sold as a stand alone box for use with other brands of telecine. Broadcasters operated live to air with manual "eyeballed" color correction and pan/scan on the fly.

A variant of the MK2 using all the mechanical parts and most of the electronics was a high resolution Telerecorder (Kine) and at least six units were produced.

In the mid-70's, several special slow scan wideband flying spot telecines were constructed for the Decca -Telefunken (Teldec Videodisc) mastering project.

Other telecine related products around this era included the TARIF (Technical Apparatus for the Rectification of Indifferent Films) which was an early Color Correction system (originally BBC designed). This was a manually adjusted RGB Color processor with knob control of Color Vector and Quantity of Lift and Gain components. There were also PAL and NTSC Encoders and Decoders, a range of precision Monochrome and Color picture monitors, Vertical Aperture Correctors (Enhancers), Adjustable Phase Correctors, Single Wire control systems, and a few large analog Standards Converters.

In the early 70's, Cintel partnered with the International Video Corporation, Sunnyvale USA, and Thomson-CSF, France, in the development and marketing of the IVC 9000 Two-inch helical scan VTR. Excellent technically, the 9000 never gained market acceptance in Europe and was soon eclipsed by the smaller, cheaper and lighter B and C format One Inch Videotape machines.

However, the cabinets (with some modifications), monitoring bridges and some technology from from the 9000’s were effectively repurposed by Cintel into the MK3 Telecine, a market winning radical design at the time (1975). More on this machine below.

The MK 6, 1967 and on was a Flying Spot Color Slide Scanner. Two slides with manual changeover. Intended to be used as signal or test card generator.

The MK 7, 1967 on was a Flying Spot Color Slide Scanner. 525/625; 30 slides with linear remote controlled changer. Colorgrade video channel. Used by the ITV networks as a Test Card and caption source.

MK 8: 1967 on was a Flying Spot Color Slide Scanner. 525/625; Used two 30 slide linear Marconi or EDS slide changers. Had full remote control and preview function with RGB mix/fade/cut between the two heads. Colorgrade channel. Used one Scanning Tube and each head received full light through a novel optical path. Later "B" models had Cintel-built slide changers and other improvements. Widely used and produced outstanding pictures from Slides

The "Opacity Scanner" was a Flying spot color caption card scanner designed around a large integrating sphere. Several were built to BBC requirements, could handle cards of considerable size mounted on a mechanical shuttle. This relatively simple design produced excellent, perfectly registered pictures from captions and flat objects. Cintel built them with the Scanning Tube at the top and the cards underneath but the BBC modified them to a horizontal arrangement.

The Photoconductive Telecine: 1972 on. This was a departure from Flying Spot and was directed at the 525/625 broadcast market. Multiplexed camera type Telecine with three one-inch Plumbicon tubes with light bias, CCU and Colorgrade channel. The compact design was robustly constructed in a cabinet so no special floor was required. Could run 16mm, 35mm, Super 8mm, and Slides or combinations selected through an advanced optical multiplexer. Modified Bauer 16mm and Kodak 35mm projectors were used, along with Cintel Super 8mm projectors and linear, 30-position slide changers. Many innovative features; this was Cintel's first dual-standard 525/625 “film chain” and quite a number were placed worldwide including one in the USA.

The MK3 was a radically different dual gauge Telecine introduced to the marketplace in 1975. The machine featured some parentage and cabinet styling from the IVC 9000 two-inch helical scan VTR, in which Cintel was a partner. The film was driven by a rubberized capstan with an idler sprocket for phase and velocity reference. Quickly interchangeable film gates allowed 16mm or 35mm operation. Rather than one fixed scanning patch and two lenses as on previous Cintel flying spot telecines, the original MK3 had one lens and the scanning tube had two alternating patches (for 625), or three and two patches (for 525), which tracked the film motion. This technique became known as Jumpscan. Early machines produced beautiful pictures, but accurate tracking while maintaining constant luminance and geometry was a challenge, particularly on 525/60 Hz at 24 fps with 3:2 scanning. This led to the concept of using a stationary raster and scanning electronically at different rates into and out of a framestore which was just becoming technically feasible with IC’s. This resulted in the Digiscan framestore which performed that function. Over the life of the machine there were a number of evolutions of the Digiscan initially for the USA market and subsequently it was adopted in multistandard versions worldwide. A widebanded version of the Colorgrade video channel was used.

The MK3 with its capstan drive and flying spot technology enabled gentle handling of 16 & 35mm film, direct scanning of Color Negative film, Electronic Pan Scan, Electronic Zoom, and a host of previously unattainable features. This machine revolutionized the conversion of motion picture film into video. The very first machines were delivered to London Weekend TV and the MK3 was shown to the USA Market at the NAB in Chicago in 1976. The possibilities of this machine for post production transfers raised an immediate interest. The first North America deliveries were made to Rombex in New York, Northstar (?) in Toronto, Transworld Productions in Las Vegas and following on to several locations in Los Angeles including Ruxton, MCA Discovision, Image Transform, US Video, Compact Video, CIS, etc.

Color Correction was accomplished manually by Joysticks or for Preprogramming scene by scene Cintel offered the AutoColorgrade (about 1973), which had limited channels and used Punched Paper Tape for storage. Later the Microprocessor based Topsy (Telecine Operations Programming SYstem) Preprogrammer (1979) became available. In 1983 the Amigo was introduced. This was a much more sophisticated programmer with a VDU and Softkeys which could store Color Correction, PanScan, Zoom, Varispeed, machine functions etc. Cintel also offered an Electronic Automatic Color Corrector, and a Six-Vector Secondary Color Corrector (based on an RCA design) controlled by sliders and programmable by the Amigo.

A MK3 accessory was the MatchBox (about 1985). This was a hard drive based system for use as a Colorists picture reference store. The larger version with 340Mb drive could hold some 350 525/60 stills. A similar product was Slide File, intended as a stills source. This would hold 80 525/625 pictures on an 80 Mb Winchester Drive. Both could archive to streaming cartridges

Various film gates were offered by Cintel and aftermarket vendors for use on the MK3 for almost any film gauge, formats and slides. Some early MK3s were fitted with a motor driven, 16-position slide drum which fitted on a spigot mid-deck. The 2 position slide gate with manual changeover was more popular. An aftermarket wet gate was available for transfer of scratched or damaged filmstock.

Brief details of principal MK3 variants found in the USA are as follows ( 625 markets are different for which Jumpscan MK3s continued to be produced until about 1982):

MK3 1975-1976 to serial # 040 Jumpscan Analog 24/25 fps, 525/625

MK3B 1977-1981 to serial # 380 Digiscan 1 24/30 fps, 525 only

MK3B 1981-1982 to serial # 504 Digiscan 2 18/24/25/30 fps,525/625

MK3C 1982-1984 to serial # 705 Digiscan 2 Varispeed, XY Zoom

MK3C 1984-1987 to serial # 825 Digiscan 3 "Enhanced" (MK3CE) @ serial # 772

MK3C 1987-1989 to serial # 928 Digiscan 4 4:2:2 outputs, Ref Frame

MK3HD Several built for 1080/60 1125/60 1260/50 HDTV applications.

The paintwork color scheme was changed with the introduction of the MK3C.

Manufacture of the MK3 series ended August, 1989.

Many early machines were subsequently upgraded to later Digiscans through the installation of field kits. Numerous MK3's were the subject of remanufacturing activities (Turbo 1, 2, HR1440, etc.), enhancements, and aftermarket kits.

Cintel introduced the Ferrit Sound Follower for double system separate magnetic sound in about 1980. This compact upright design featured a 16mm / 17.5 / 35mm capstan tape drive similar to that in the MK3 but with a different servo. The Ferrit could be slaved to MK3 / ADS / URSA Telecines by pulse interlock. Various interchangeable heads and record/replay amplifiers for different mag.track configurations were available. There was no optical capability. The reel motors were similar to MK3 and the Ferrit had fast shuttle and variable speed capability.

The ADS-1 was a CCD Telecine introduced in 1982. Dual standard 625/525. Upright design with separate transport and video/monitoring cabinets. Up to three mechanisms could be RGB - switched into one video channel. Featured a continuous-motion capstan drive with wide Varispeed range. 16mm or 35mm vertical film path film on the same deck with mechanical changeover between gauges by turning a lever. Some rearranged technology from Ferrit, MK3, and Colorgrade together with many new features including effective Infrared electronic scratch & dirt reduction. Options included Automatic color correction, pan/scan, and full remote control. The ADS-1 was initially intended for broadcast applications as a replacement for the RCA TK27/28/29 film chains and similar. At one point Rank Cintel made a deal with RCA to offer the ADS-1 under their label as the TKS100.

The ADS-2: 1987. This was an evolution of the ADS-1 with improvements to the CCDs, head amplifiers, and other details.

The ADS-80: 1988. This was a CCD slide scanner which took standard Kodak slide carousels. Designed and manufactured by Thomson-CSF, France. It used an oscillating mirror for the vertical deflection and was intended for operation stand-alone or with the ADS Telecine. It could be remote controlled and preprogrammed for sequences.

URSA: 1989. Successor to the MK3. Initially similar transport, cabinet, and appearance, but the video electronics were replaced with a state-of-the-art 14-bit digital channel which included integrated secondary color correction. Digital scanning/effects/rotation and integrated thick faceplate front-loading CRT package. Improved optics and yoke design. Improvements to gates and servo upgrades resulted in improved film handling and picture stability. Autoalignment eliminated the need for burn and shading adjustments with better repeatability and extended CRT life. The Remote controls were completely revised to serial digital, and initially came with a new style panel and the Cintel “Arcus” Preprogrammer. As time went by the URSA was interfaced to various other brands of Color Correctors. Continuing further URSA improvements included addition of a 4:4:4 store and outputs. Later Machines were repackaged into a RF tight cabinet of different design to meet tightened EMI regulations.

Corrections / Additions / Photos please let me know to neilhk <at> aol.com

Neil Kempt May 2014

--Rob Lingelbach (talk) 17:30, 28 May 2014 (UTC)