The History of Top-Teks
To celebrate 30 years of business we are proud to present an overview of our history and how acquisition formats have developed in that time. Throughout the 30 years we have always been a company that puts our customers first. Also throughout our history we have worked with all the major brands and been at the forefront of introducing new formats to our customers.
On the 15th May 1989 Top-Teks was founded by Gwen Thomas, Trevor Porter and John Shepherd. Located in a 450 square ft office in Harefield, Top-Teks started as an Engineering Services Company providing support and maintenance to Broadcasters, Production Houses and Freelancers.
In 1989 the main formats were U-Matic, with Betacam SP gaining popularity. Top-Teks dabbled in sales at this time but engineering and service were still the core business.
The early 1990s saw Top-Teks expand into a 1000ft² unit across the road and then adding the next door office to double its floor space. Sony’s Betacam developed and Digital Betacam was launched later in 1993. Digi Beta was a slow burner with the 4:3 camcorder starting at around £50K so it would be some years before it was the dominant format. By the mid-1990s Top-Teks had fully embraced the world of sales and quickly became one of the biggest dealer for Sony in Europe.
1996 saw the launch of Betacam SX and a year later HDCam. 1997 saw Top-Teks expanding again taking the offices above the workshop and opening T2 Direct at another site in Hillingdon.
T2 Direct was set up to offer cameramen a place to look at accessories and was tailored to look after the DV and DV Cam customers when there was a significant split between Digi Beta which was now dominant and DV formats. There was a lot of stability in the market at this time with Digi Beta in it’s many guides being the main stay format in the market.
In 1997 HDCam was launched but the HDW F900 camera was ferociously expensive and would take some time to catch on. Famously the HDW-F900F was used for Star Wars, Attack of the Clones which is usually famed for being the first feature shot digitally. 2002 heralded the HDW-750P, an inexpensive access point to HD Video. The HDW-F900R with 24P was a much easier camera to use than the original F900 but wasn’t launched until 2006.
2003 was an eventful year. Top-Teks was asked to supply and support the Digital Cameras for the BBC’s Planet Earth 1. The camera of choice was the Panasonic VariCam for it’s off speed ability that mimicked the under and over cranking used for decades in Natural History filming. The VariCam was originally launched in 2001 and required a bespoke computer / Frame Rate Converter to actually achieve the off-speed video. There were 5 kits in all plus another 2 Sony HDW-750 for underwater work. The project took 3 years to shoot and we didn’t lose a camera. 2003 also saw Sony launch HDCam SR and XD-Cam. XD-Cam Disc, Sony’s first tapeless Broadcast Camcorders still survive today with the PDW-700 and PDW-F800 still in use.
2005 saw Top-Teks move to its current location at Bridge House after numerous robberies at both the Park Place and Hillingdon offices.
2008 was when solid state media started to appear, but media was expensive and tiny.
The 11th of March 2011 was the day that changed the face of the Broadcast Equipment market. The Tohoku Earthquake & the resulting Tsunami accelerated the development of solid state technology beyond anybody’s wildest thoughts. The destruction of Sony’s Sendai Tape Factory literally left the Broadcast World tapeless. This also had a profound effect on Service Revenue for routine maintenance on tape-based cameras and VTRs.
At the end of 2011 Canon announced the EOS C300. This was the start of the move to larger sensor size cameras. Although Sony had launched the F3 a year earlier and Panasonic the AF100 a year prior to that, the C300 was the first to have 50Mb/s recording which was deemed Broadcast standard. The following year Sony announced the F5 and F55. Much later in 2014 the FS7 was launched at IBC and still remains hugely dominant today.
2018 was when the Sony Venice made it’s debut at the BSC show, and later this Spring we’ll see the high frame rates available which will make the camera complete. It is worth noting that the price of a Sony Venice Base kit is the same price as a BVW-400AP was back in the 1990s and far cheaper than a Digi Beta or HD Cam was when they were released.
Top Teks is very proud to still have the service department and three engineers. We still offer a high level of service and after sales support. The Broadcast World has changed as has the way people buy equipment. The relationship between supplier and customer has been lost at some levels which is a shame, but Top Teks continues to prosper. 2019 has seen Top Teks refresh the studio cameras for ITVs Coronation Street. Supply the camera channels for two new studios at BBCs New Broadcasting House. Be one of the largest suppliers of Sony’s Venice in Europe. Equip four Studios at BBC’s New Broadcasting House in Cardiff, and many more projects yet to complete.
Here’s to the next 30 years!