It is a lively bunch who gather round the virtual table in the virtual (tea) bar to chew the fat, and who offer items interest, opinions and information over a wide range of topics.
Things that we discussed but have not included here – as not being relevant to the Tech Ops history site – include Broadband speeds, MAC versus PC, adding various types of PCs to a networks – and the oldest computer in regular use between us. That’s just a small sample!
And what is the collective name for a group of OB Engineering Managers?
Suggestions ranged from a “A Chaos”, a Plot, an Emsworth, an Eminency, an Emergency, a “cut & paste” of Ems, an “OBTW” of EMs (This, Oh by the way, was a verbal addition to all planning sheets. The bigger the show, the more additional EMs, and hence the addition of even more “OBTWs”!)
One topic more than any other has featured in this selection – the quality of sound in current television programmes. We were all taught – at Wood Norton but more practically in the studios – that sound perspective mattered and that sound should match the shot (and vice versa, of course). Cameramen and boom operators worked together – or, rather, sound and vision professionals worked together – to provide the best possible experience for the people at home. The conversations about sound have been split over more than 5 sections here.
So here is the sixth collection stories of how life in TV (and related industry) was for those who worked for the BBC – and why we express concern about the quality of sound and vision in current broadcast productions. There is a lot about Sound in these conversations!
ADAPT project – Sound Technology and the BBC Academy
The Adapt Project is investigating the history of television production technologies in Britain.
Tim Heath’s personal research focuses on the history of sound technologies for television from 1960 to the present day. As part of his research he needs to speak to those, retired or still working, who may have worked in any area of television sound to discuss their careers and experiences using historical technologies.
A formal response to this, coordinated by Pat Heigham, is here Discourse on TV Technology over the years
This section is part of the usual Tech Ops discussions.
A Pretty Nurse is …
Each BBC site had a surgery where one ventured if one had sustained an injury at work – cut finger, electric jolt or whatever.
Ad Breaks and “Maigret”
Fade to black and up again. “Maigret” was a programme sold abroad, so needed breaks so that adverts could be played in: but many other programmes with a potential for overseas sales included clear ad breaks for commercial playout.
Ariel Flying Group
A group photo of the Ariel Flying Group was published in “Propspero”. It may have been taken on an open day sometime in 1973 or 1974. Ariel Flying group started flying at Fairoaks using Condor aircraft and only moved to Denham when GK was bought.
Back to 1975
Daily Duty Sheets and Studio Allocations for the end of August 1975.
– and forward to 1994 …
Lines Booking Sheet for 9th July 1994
Batteries and Multimeters
What happened to B size batteries?
We have AA, AAA, AAAA, C, D.
BBC London Premises
The many and varied premises that the BBC used to inhabit in London alone!
BBC Recording Tape
Was BBC Recording Tape really only good enough for tying up the roses? Possibly not as bad as Zonal, which seemed to be Sellotape sprayed with rust.
Birtspeak is a very long running column in “Private Eye” which carries examples of mad BBC quotations. It originated – not surprisingly – by quoting Mr – sorry, Lord – Birt’s pronouncements. Everyone thought that would go away with the man, but it turns out not to be true, hence Birtspeak 2.0.
A pretty make-up girl was parked in front of the cameras for colour matching the camera. She was referred to as a CLUG.
The cameras may be matched – see CLUG – but one person has said that she used to see colour differently with each eye. But did it only concern one shade or hue, and what, if any, difference would it have made to her everyday work/circumstances?
Comments on 2015 and 2016 Programmes
There are anachronisms in many period piece programmes – but more of an issue is the sound pickup in period dramas: this theme is explored in some depth in the sections below on “The Quality of Sound in TV Broadcasting”.
Clever stuff this CSO! In the right hands, of course!
CGI Backgrounds and Virtual Newsrooms
Most regional “cubby-hole” studio newsrooms now have a looped CSO/CGI background to give a more controlled environment. Only the newsreaders are real.
Dad’s Army – in which studio?
This discussion started as there had been a suggestion that “Dad’s Army” had been telerecorded at Lime Grove.
Don’t ask me, ask Mother
Amazing what can be found tucked away in the back of a drawer …
We see what we think we ought to see, hear what we think we ought to hear – and relate things unknown to things we know. A story from Geoff Fletcher.
Early Days of Home Computing
My first computer was ….
Early Domestic Tape Recorders
Didn’t we all have Ferrographs? Well, no – don’t tell anyone, but mine was a Ferguson – but then I was on cameras …
Early Portable Tape Recorders for News
What would have been the small audio (tape) recorder used by News reporters of the 1960s?
Flashing Lights and Perspex
Spirals of lights flashing in sequence that served no purpose at all.
Forfar 5 – East Fife 4
Talkback: “And it’s Len on the Lip”
Early days of ENG
Bob Auger remembers where he was fifty years ago…
Filmed and Directed by …
A cameraperson and someone else. That’s maybe all you need. It’s perfectly possible to combine the various skills and get a good show made, as long as it isn’t a complex show.
For Doctor Who in Memoriam
Tony Hadoke has been preparing his current Doctor Who In Memoriam video and has offered a picture.
Frank Wilkins and Crew 2.
That certainly sounds like a Frank Wilkins story!
You used to be able to pop round the corner to the little specialist shops selling all sorts of electronic bits and pieces. Not quite Akihabara in Tokyo, of course, but this was London in the 1960s and 1970s.
It’s Christmas Time
A miscellany of items with some tenuous connection with Christmas.
Long Live – or possibly not – the BBC TV Theatre
The “Evening Standard” on Tuesday 8 December 2015 reported that the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (formerly the BBC TV Theatre (and before that, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire)) was shut the previous Friday night after a last-minute “formal” health and safety inspection. “…They checked a problem and it was a lot worse than first thought….”
The 2,000-capacity Grade II-listed hall is now closed for the rest of the year.
Lost and/or Forgotten Shows
- “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
- “The Siegfried Idyll”
More about Jacks
The 3.5mm headphone jack is essentially a 19th Century bit of kit – it is a miniaturised version of the classic quarter-inch jack (6.35mm), which is said to go back as far as 1878.
The thing about standards are that there are so many to choose from.
More from Wood Norton Hall – and afterwards …
More than fifty years ago (from 2016), group of spotty youths would be assembled at Wood Norton Hall to begin life in the BBC on TO courses. The content and compositions of the courses changes over the years, but the training given then stayed with us for our professional careers – inside or outside broadcasting.
More Personalities – the Crew – 3
More reminiscences about the people of the various technical crews that we used to work with.
More Personalities – the Talent – 3
More reminiscences about people who worked in front of the camera (and microphone) and who sadly have died this year (2016).
- Paul Daniels
- Cliff Michelmore
- Victoria Wood
and one who famously worked behind the microphone:
- Sir George Martin
Now We’re History – or is it Pretentious Piffle
Is this just pretentious piffle, stylish criticism or what? But this could turn out to be the history (about us) that gets written.
Old TV Sets
Hot valves, extra high tension, whining line output transformers, cathode rays – but forward facing, full sized loudspeakers.
“Our World” – more about this programme
Mike Jordan went to see the display about Our World” in The Science Museum (January 2016).
Terribly old fashioned and non pc of course, but we are, aren’t we?
… and associated sci-fi memories and memorabilia.
Related to History
Peter Cook’s connections to famous innovators, inventors and engineers.
“Shakespeare and Music” – and workplace bullies
Somre people may probably be classified as a bully-in-the-workplace today, but that’s how it was then.
Shot card sample
Geoff Fletcher found a shot card in his BBC box. Very few were ever kept, swept up in the detritus of the derig.
Sprinkle Sprinkle – and a segue to “Grange Hill”
in these conversations, Tech Ops people start talking about one thing – and this lead on to another, and on to another … It is difficult at times to unravel the various strands!
Following on from a post by Bernie Newnham, this segued into storiea about water sprinklers (what, with all that electricity all over the place?) and gently segued into “Grange Hill”.
Mystery surrounds an ST&C microphone type number 4131 that Keith Wicks bought from a car boot sale.
Talyllyn Railway OB Summer 1957
A live Outside Broadcast from the pioneering railway restoration project in the world. It deserves a page of its own.
Tea 6d, coffee 9d
Catering … at least BBC premises never had to suffer the “Roach Coach” (aka sandwich van) which toured industrial estates.
The old ways and working practices
it’s not easy to make judgements about any shift pattern without actually working it.
The Quality of Sound in TV Broadcasting
As mentioned right at the start of these conversations, one topic more than any other has caught the attention of the Tech Ops people – the quality of sound in current television programmes. There are straightforward technical issues – for example, the sound level for an individual programme is different to the preceding and succeeding one. There are problems with the actors – their diction is poor. There are problems with microphone positioning. And sometimes these all come together to provide a “perfect storm” – or it would be if we could hear it.
The conversations about this have been split into four pages.
BBC Academy, Personal mics, Equalisation and more …
What people said…
Flying Scotsman – no locomotive sound, Merlins, wildtracks and a poem by Geoff Fletcher
What people said…
Mumblegate, mixdown, transmission chain, mutlicamera shoot …
What people said…
And here is the opposite … two gaffes, caught clearly.
How was the sound was so good when obviously no-one was mic’ed up?
Obviously speak the Queen’s English.
What people said…
Soft or Sharp, Quad or Helical – and TOTP – again!
Watching old programmes on modern tellies.
The theme music for some TV programmes include the name of the programme in morse code.
Trains and Filming
The Talyllyn OB had its own page: here are some more stories and pictures of Trains and filming (should that be Trains and Telerecording?)
VT Clocks and Film Recording
VT clocks were used to ident VT recordings – but what sort of idents were used for Film Recordings?
What are all these people doing here?
Union disputes, selling the family silver, Mrs. Thatcher, overmanning …
What’s ’is name worked as a …
BBC TV was like a wonderful club, says Geoff Fletcher. He has been trawling through his diaries and has listed the number of people he knew by their job titles at the time.
A wonderful name for the juddery hand-held-like camerawork seen nowadays. Ans the unmotivated crabs and cranes on wide angle interview shots. And …
That’s all for this time around .