MARCH 2020


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Ken Osbourn, who was a sound assistant on MCR21 back in the 1960s, has let us have his 8mm film which features footage of MCR21/LO21 and, perhaps, other BBC units. Can you identify the locations, dates and any of the people featured ? We would love to hear from you. You can contact me - Nick Gilbey email or mobile 07831 219957.
The copyright of the video belongs to Ken Osbourn

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Above is  a still taken from Ken's film showing one of the three cameramen at the temporary station built to receive the royal train arriving for the Investiture of The Prince of Wales. This was MCR21 first outing as a colour unit. The call sheet for the crew is below. For an incomplete list of events covered by MCR21, press the link button below
MCR21 Programme List
Working on the the vehicle restoration is gathering speed at
Ward Jones Commercials.

Much of the equipment, removed from MCR21 last year, is also being restored. This work is being carried out by volunteers.  Below shows Len Smythe working on the mains panel.

MCR21's SOUND MIXER and AUDIO SYSTEMS by Brian Summers
The sound desk, installed in MCR21, was made by Pye Ltd. from modules in their then new ‘Broadcast Audio Equipment’ range.  The idea behind this, was that simple or complex installations could be made up by combining a number of standard units, selected from the module range.
A full sound system, programme and talkback, to the BBC's requirements was made up for MCR21, complete with amplifiers, PPM's, faders, power supplies, reserve battery supply, tone generators and a telephone system with ring generators.
This compact installation was built into two desk units which form part of the overall production desk - fitted transversely across the vehicle. These were notionally ‘portable’ in the sense that they could be removed and operated away from the vehicle, if the programme required that.
Part of the BBC's specification was that there should be various levels of equipment ‘de-rig’, to increase the flexibility and accommodate different circumstances. Notable was the programme made of the ascent of the Old Man of Hoy. It was not possible to get the MCR near enough to the site, so the complete contents were moved close to the point of ascent and was operated under canvas! Another situation was at Wimbledon where at least two MCRs were de-rigged into the void under the court seating.
The sound mixer had 20 input channels, each having it's own plug in amplifier module with gain control and input level switching. These channels were divided into three groups, which could operate independently - perhaps feeding a PA system or foldback – or they could be mixed again at the master faders for a combined output. Two independent PPM's could monitor different signals and there was a BBC designed ‘optical PPM’ , installed above the transmission video monitor. This was so the sound supervisor could see the PPM in the same eye line as the master monitor. In the production area of MCR21, the left hand seat is for the engineering manager. At this position, the panel has talkback controls, a telephone and the 16 line magneto calling telephone exchange. 
The mixer modules were easily accessible under the desks, on the left are the power supplies and the loudspeaker amplifiers and on the right the channel and mixer amplifiers. Top Right are the two PPM driver modules.  The mixer inputs connectors are on the rear of these units. Of note is the lack of equalisation, the mixer has a flat frequency response.

Communications to the cameras, outside the MCR, was built into the cameras as ‘talkback’ so the cameras could hear production talkback, programme sound and engineering talkback. There were spare jacks on the cameras so that others could plug in and listen. This was well before radio was used for talkback!  Telephones were used, but if these were near the ‘action’ the bells would be turned off.


At the commentary position was a commentators telephone unit, known in the BBC as a Baron box. Two of these have been restored as part of the project. It has two pairs of headphone sockets at the front, each headphone pair has it's own volume control, which is normally supplied with production talkback. The other choices are programme sound or “off air”, sound & vision from a TV receiver unit.
The telephone handset operates as a loudspeaking telephone in the OB Van for the producer or production secretary. Switches are provided to call the producer or to cue the sound mixer. There is no bell with the telephone - a bell is the last thing you want ringing..........
There would have been one or two picture monitors displaying mixer out and off air. One or both of these would have the picture displayed selected in the MCR by the production secretary. 

MCR21 was used at least three times to record Jazz 625 at the Marquee Club.
A popular way of enhancing a singer's voice was to add reverb

Ken Osbourn explains how reverb was achieved
in the 1960s
It is relatively easy nowadays to add reverberation to a singer in a group.  Not so in the 1960’s which was when I was a sound assistant on MCR 21.
There was a device in a box with a spring arrangement inside that could sit on the back seat, on the right-hand side after you had ascended the back steps. This could be ordered as a piece of additional equipment from stores at Kendal Avenue.  It had to be powered, and the input and output connected to the sound desk by means of tie lines, which I seem to remember were in that area.  The results were poor.
A better method was to send the audio requiring treatment to an echo room at BH (Broadcasting House, Portland Place).  This was achieved using Post Office circuits on the BT (Block Termination).  The two circuits (Go and Return) had to be “Music Circuits” i.e. of suitable quality according to prescribed technical specifications. There would also be a control circuit (telephone) to talk to the man in the control room at BH.
At BH, the audio was fed to a loudspeaker in an echo room in the basement, tiled to produce the hard surfaces, and the result was returned via a microphone.  I imagine that different sizes of room were available to produce different reverberation times. I remember stories about poor results causing the man in BH to go down to the echo room to resolve a problem.  A flooded room was not helpful!
There was also a “portable” echo unit, a large device which could sit in the camera-van.
If you were really stuck at a venue, you could utilize the toilets by installing a loudspeaker (LS1 perhaps?) and a microphone (probably a 4035). It was a good idea to arrange for the water to be turned off, and the door to be locked of course.

Ken Osbourn                      Sound Assistant MCR 21
We still need help with the Project. Please do get in touch if you have some time which you could devote to the Project or would like more information or perhaps you have a story to tell about MCR21.
There are lots of ways people can help.
Please do get in touch with Brian Summers or Nick Gilbey  -
or telephone Nick 07831 219957
So far we have raised nearly £5,000 through donations. We still need to raise more money to complete the MCR21 Project and keep it running.
Every little helps.
You can donate buy using the link below to
the donate page on a website.
or if you would be kind enough to support the Project through monthly donations, please email us and we can send you the Trust's
bank account details

In the next newsletter - find out how MCR28 helped in the recording of 'All You Need Is Love' at the Abbey Road Studios in 1967. Also discover what happened to all
the 1960s Pye BBC MCRs  19 to 28
Newsletter Feb 2019
Newsletter May 2019
NewsletterJuly 2019
Newsletter Sept 2019
Newsletter Nov 2019
Review 2019
Copyright © February 2019  Broadcast Television Technology Trust, All rights reserved.

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MCR21 · The Abbots House · The Street · Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6QF · United Kingdom

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