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NEWSLETTER

March 2022
 
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The Broadcast Television Technology Trust
has become the proud owner of a
Pye Mk 6 camera.
Brian Summers collects the camera on a pallet from the Science Museum store at Wroughton, near Swindon
There was a really exciting discovery when Brian unpacked the camera back at BTTT HQ, There is a plate on the rear of the camera head that reads 21/4. This means that it was camera 4 from MCR21. The camera has been re-united with its control room - at last! The camera does need quite a bit of TLC to get it back to its original appearance. That is not surprising, considering its history.

After it spent some five years on the road with MCR21, we believe that it was one of the cameras which was installed in the BBC’s theatre in Golders Green, where a number of light entertainment shows were produced, whilst the BBC theatre at Shepherds Bush was being refurbished. The Pye Mk 6 cameras remained there until the early 1970s when the BBC sold off their monochrome equipment. Two Mk 6 cameras (including ours) were bought by BRES, an amateur radio organisation based in Bromley. They used them in their TV outside broadcast van, before selling them to a dealer who stored them in a garage in Ilfracombe, Devon.

Fortunately, Bob Warren, a manager at Thames TV, had permission from the company to start an historic collection of broadcast television equipment. Bob heard about the two Mk 6 cameras and bought them for the Thames collection. In 1981 Thames lost its ITV franchise. The collection, which was being kept at Alexandra Palace had to go. Bob got in touch with John Trenouth, who was at that time Curator of Broadcast Television at the Museum of Photography Film and Television in Bradford - which was part of the Science Museum Group. John agreed to take in the complete Thames collection. Two lorry loads of equipment arrived from Alexandra Palace at Bradford. The cameras became part of the National Collection and, after being stored at Bradford for a number of years, were transferred to the Science Museum main storage facility at Wroughton. A long journey but now, thanks to the help of many of the curators at the Science Museum Group, one of the Pye Mk 6 cameras will be on display with MCR21.
 MCR21 has been chosen as one of the
BBC 100 Objects
That tell the story of the BBC since it was formed in 1922
You will find MCR21 somewhere between the Mastermind chair and Morph
BBC 100 Objects
MCR21 Facebook Page
Join our facebook page to get the latest information about MCR21 events this summer
Check out the latest MCR21 Videos
on our Youtube Channel
MCR21 Youtube
Volunteer, Paul Read, starts another series of informative videos. This time restoring MCR21's battery charger
CAN YOU HELP?
Now there seems little chance of saving this 1960s
ATV OB 6.
Unless you know someone who would like to take on this mammoth restoration project?
 

BBC Television OBs
in the North of England

PART ONE


Jerry Clegg and Robin Stonestreet tell the story of  BBC Outside Broadcasts in the North
Part One   1951 - 1980

With the opening of the Holme Moss television transmitter near Huddersfield on 12th October 1951, it became possible to link OBs from the North of England back down the distribution network to London. Early OBs from the North were serviced by what was then known as the ‘Midland and North’ Unit, MCR10, based in Birmingham, equipped with 3” Marconi image orthicon cameras. Probably the most notable programme from that era would be the first edition of The Good Old Days, broadcast live from the City Varieties Theatre in Leeds in 1953. Television production in the North expanded rapidly with the opening of the Manchester OB base in 1955, followed shortly afterwards by the Dickenson Road Studios.
Camera operator, Don Mackay, using a Marconi Mk 1b camera from MCR10 in 1954
Don Mackay again. This time behind a Marconi Mk 111 camera outside the
Plymouth Grove OB base in 1955
The BBC studios
in the former Weslyan chapel at Rusholme
The OB base was located in a disused church in Plymouth Grove, Longsight, Manchester 12, with additional parking and storage facilities at Daisy Works, a little way down Stockport Road. The studios were about a mile away in a disused Weslyan chapel in Rusholme, Manchester 14, which had formerly been a film studio. The brand new North Region OB unit MCR13 (PGN813) was based on a Bedford rigid vehicle, the first of four for the BBC, each equipped with three Marconi Mk.3 cameras using the new four and a half inch image orthicon tubes. Initially, there was a great deal of trouble with microphony in these camera tubes affecting the pictures, and this took quite a while to sort out. The condition was not cured in time for the first scheduled OB, which was to have been snooker from the Tower Circus at Blackpool, so the Scottish unit was brought down from East Kilbride to do that one. The first actual OB by MCR13 was Rugby League from Keighley at the beginning of March 1955.
 
The OB fleet at that time comprised the scanner with its camera van and articulated cable tender plus a general-purpose truck, three radio links trucks and a 60ft Eagle Tower plus two Land Rovers.
 
It was a time of great innovation on television OBs and shows produced in Manchester included Saturday Night Out and live helicopter coverage of the opening of the Preston Bypass, Britain’s first stretch of motorway. There were programmes from Calder Hall, the first nuclear power station and from the ferry Royal Iris out in the River Mersey. The illuminations at Blackpool featured several times and included the first live pictures from a moving tram! The Grand National at Aintree was televised for the first time in 1960 and stewards there complained that Roving Eye-2 from London was too tall and obscured their view of the horses. It was also found not to have sufficient acceleration to keep up with the horses. As a result, engineers in Plymouth Grove built Roving Eye 3, the BBC’s first high-speed Roving Eye, mounting a Marconi Mk.3 camera on top of a Humber Super Snipe estate car - 256BLA - and towing a small generator
In an era just prior to the advent of electronic news gathering and portable single cameras, the Roving Eye could occasionally prove to be a valuable asset to genres other than sport. With just three crew and without any outside assistance it could provide live pictures within minutes of arriving on the scene of a news event. Admittedly, it was still necessary to provide terrestrial vision and sound circuits back to the studio centre, but that problem could be overcome by radio links.
In 1963 the Roving Eye went across to Dublin and assisted the fledgling Irish TV service, Telefis Eireann, with live coverage of the visit by President John F Kennedy. In 1964 the Roving Eye provided live pictures from the scene of the Cheadle Hulme train crash, when three people were killed and a large number injured following a serious derailment in the station. In 1965 the Roving Eye put to sea on a barge to cover the launch of the tanker British Admiral in Barrow.
Two years later it sent live coverage from the scene of the Stockport Air Disaster, when 72 people died as an Argonaut airliner crashed near the centre of the town.
 
The OB fleet had been augmented in October 1961 by the addition of a Morris videotape truck (265BLA), housing an Ampex VR 1000 2” quad VTR. The North’s first VTR enabled programmes to be sourced from venues difficult to service by radio links, such as parts of the Lake District. It also provided recording facilities for Studio A, on which occasions it was parked in a special bay in Rusholme Telephone exchange.
 
 
MCR 13 - Below the production area
inside the unit
MCR13 served for 12 years in Manchester. Its last OB was Rugby League from Leigh in 1967, and it was then transferred to Leeds and derigged into an old church hall to provide facilities for the introduction of the Leeds
opt-out version of Look North, BBC North's regional news programme. It was replaced in Manchester by two former London units MCR19 - 364DXP and MCR 22 - 389EHX - equipped with Pye Mk.6 cameras. These units were two of a batch of ten, which had a relatively short service life as monochrome units, being gradually replaced by colour units from about 1969.
Above- MCR19, a Pye-built unit, as MCR21 is, and a cutaway diagram,
showing the equipment inside
Based on Albion Clydesdale chassis with Leyland 400 engines, these type-2 Units CMCR7 (AMU374H) and CMCR8 (AMU386H) were first taxed in Sept / Oct 1969. They were equipped with 4 x Pye PC80 cameras operating on G101 cable with Varitol zoom lenses made by Rank Taylor Hobson.  One monochrome unit, MCR19 went to Edinburgh and was re-fitted as a two-camera colour unit with PC60 cameras. MCR22 was sold to Jordan TV.
 
Worthy of a mention at this point is an ancient caravan, which was fitted out with a single PC80 camera in the early 70s. The vision equipment was mounted on Dexion racks and the sound side was cobbled together on a sort of ‘kitchen table’ affair. In spite of its very humble appearance the caravan had quite an illustrious career, being used for many general election hustings and various other contributions. The highlight of its career was being used as the ‘transmission gallery’ for the first World Snooker Championship to take place at the Crucible in Sheffield.
Also during the 70s, the redundant Studio A in Dickenson Road was fitted out as a drive-in  studio, linked with a colour scanner parked over the road by the former Sunday School building. Popular programmes from the drive-in Studio A included A Question of Sport and the quiz programme Face the Music presented by Joseph Cooper. It continued in use until shortly before Dickenson Road was demolished in early 1976.
 
The Plymouth Grove / Daisy Works OB base soldiered on, serving the two colour units and getting ever more congested until the excellent purpose-built OB base at New Broadcasting House in Oxford Road opened in 1976.
 
The 2-channel LMCR (UYL852S)  with two Philips LDK15 cameras and two helican scan VPR-2  1” VTRs- was added to the fleet in 1978 and became a useful resource for the regional magazine programmes from Manchester, Leeds & Newcastle. These cameras were replaced with 3 x Philips LDK614 cameras in June 1986 in time for the Commonwealth Games from Edinburgh. The LDK614s were a temporary solution until the new mixed field LDK54s were delivered in December. The LDK54’s were replaced in September 1990 with 4 x Ikegami TA79 triax CCUs, running firstly HL95 3 tube cameras, then HL99 IT CCD cameras. These were replaced with HL55 FIT CCDs in August 1991.
 
In 1980 a third type-2 was added to the Manchester fleet, CMCR 9 (AMU418H), another PC80 equipped unit. This unit had started life in Kendal Avenue as LO 5, then been swapped with CMCR 6 in Birmingham in the early 70s, so that London had all EMI 2001 equipped units. In 1979 it was decided to retain only one large unit  in Birmingham and to base a third large unit in Manchester, so CMCR 9 and a selection of staff  were transferred to Manchester. CMCR 9 became North 3.
The first North 3, a Type 2 colour unit equipped with PC 80 cameras, has been lovingly restored to full working order by Steve Harris. You can find out more by visiting the North 3 website
North 3
The following article by Barrie Dodd was first published in 2019 in the magazine of the Guild of TV Professionals, Zerb. Thank you to Barrie Dodd and the publishers of Zerb for allowing it to be included in this Newsletter

...AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.....

Well it does features some iconic vintage              cameras .........a Philips PC80 LDK13
                 and an EMI 2008


The release of the multi-award winning feature Bohemian Rhapsody last year brought back some memories for one of the GTC's longest-standing members, 2007 TiCA winner, Barrie Dodd. Back in 1975, Barrie and some colleagues turned up for work one day for just another job - that job was to shoot the iconic 'Bohemian Rhapsody' video. Not only was this quickly put-together recording extraordinary at the time for the way the in-camera visual effects were used to reflect the unusual track, but also it would effectively mark the start of the whole genre of the pop music video and ultimately the 'MTV' age.

Barrie tells the story.


My family recently booked tickets to see the movie Bohemian Rhapsody. “You must come,” they said. I wasn’t so sure, as I had worked on the original ‘pop video’, as it was then called. Also, in the ensuing years, I had worked on many amazing Queen concerts and videos, so in a way I didn’t want to break the spell with this attempt to reproduce them on film. Actually it was rather good. After about 10 minutes, I began to settle back and enjoy the casting – in some moments spookily good – and, of course, the music. It’s all about the music.

A regular day at the office!

Recollection is a funny thing, as all sorts of memories pop in and out of one’s mind, and it becomes hard to work out a proper timeline of the events of that day back in 1975 when we shot the video. At the time it was just another quick job.
But, briefly, I was one of four cameramen working for Trilion, one of the early broadcast facilities companies. Trilion had grown out of Lion Television, part of British Lion Films based at Shepperton Studios, owned by the Boulting brothers, which was then taken over by the Sheffield brothers,who had started and owned the Trident sound studios in St Anne’s Court, Soho.

Because the ITV regional group of broadcasters, Anglia, Tyne Tees and Yorkshire, already traded under the brand Trident, a name combining ‘Tri’ and ‘Lion’ was chosen – and Trilion was born.
The camera team for the shoot was headed by the brilliant Dave Swan (a founder Council member of the GTC, who tragically died in a hotel fire on holiday some years later), along with Mike Fitch, Dave Barber aka ‘Rocket’ (also very early GTC members) and me. The director was Bruce Gowers, with whom we had already worked on various music shoots, and who had also directed a video of Queen’s 1974 concert at the Rainbow Theatre. The performance was to be recorded at the group’s pre-tour rehearsal studio (stage 9 at Elstree – now a car park).

Cobbling together some kit.

We had a great team of engineers, sound and riggers at Trilion, who could respond quickly to the challenges of any new job – which was just as well since our main four-camera scanner had recently been sold to a German broadcaster (don’t ask), and we had been left with just a VT unit aptly named Mack Sennett because the huge 2-inch machine lurched it over to one side to an almost comical degree! As for cameras, we had just one Philips PC80 and an LDK 13. With less than a day’s notice, our ever-inventive senior vision engineer, Colin Reynolds (later nicknamed Barnes Wallace), had to source another two or three cameras to make it all happen. He managed to borrow a new EMI 2005, along with all the necessary racks etc., from a conference suite at Heathrow. He also secured from Ewarts (later Capital) Studios in Wandsworth, a German-made Fernseh camera. Amazingly, somehow these were all plumbed into a Merc van (sorry, ‘temporary scanner’) and ready to shoot by early evening.

In-camera visual effects

This was all achieved in time for Freddie and the rest of the band to arrive early evening. First of all, a small area was prepared at the side of the rehearsal stage to set up the iconic faces shot. This showed the four band members singing the a capella part of the song and was modelled on the cover photo by Mick Rock from their album ‘Queen II’, which had been released the year before. This in turn had been inspired by a photograph of Marlene Dietrich and was the band’s favourite image of themselves. The shot was lit by Richard Thompson under the direction of Bruce Gowers and Dave Swan, working closely with Freddie.
Next we set up the famous video ‘howlround’ shot by feeding a MCU of Freddie from one camera into a monitor and then mixing the output of another camera pointing at the monitor to make the image feedback or multiply itself, much like the effect that happens when a sound microphone hears itself. At first, the image repeat was too random, so more control was needed. This was achieved by mounting the large PC80 camera on a geared Moy head (borrowed from the studio) at 180 degrees in order to tilt and stabilise the image so that it tailed off in a precise diagonal across the screen in time to the music (a broadcast studio TV camera on a film Moy head mount was not a usual sight in the 1970s!). The final in-camera effect was the multi-image shot featuring multiple repeated faces of the band. The inventive and always helpful John Henshall, founder and owner of specialist filters company Telefex (and now GTC President), had been asked if he could supply a multifaceted prism lens, but at this short notice his wasn’t available. John suggested the ATV studios across the way, who had something similar, and he would supply a wooden support frame. ATV head of cameras, Reg Clowes, kindly obliged – but the prism didn’t fit the frame. So, to save time, we just handheld it in front of the lens – and held our breath. It worked!
Finally, we shot the band on their rehearsal stage giving a full-out performance for the hard rock section of the song, using their own tour lighting setup. We secured a couple of takes of that and then it was onto the final shot of Roger Taylor hitting the gong, stripped to the waist, in an echo of the well-known Rank Organisation ident. Rocket shot this on the LDK 13 with a 3–1 zoom attached to a fixed wide-angle adaptor. This was early optics, without any back focus device. As Roger hit the gong, the director suddenly said “Zoom in”– as always, Rocket made it happen!
Then it was a wrap and a rush to the pub (they had licensing hours then!). Under the skilled floor management of Jim McCutcheon it had all come together and we had made it. The band had been great to work with as well. As the video was needed for a show the next week, the edit was also done in super-quick time – just five hours.

 
The birth of the music video.

Although some artists, notably The Beatles, had been making short promotional video clips for a while (including Queen themselves – ‘Keep Yourself Alive’, ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ and ‘Killer Queen’ already had short promo videos), it was only after the success of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that it became regular practice for record companies to produce full-length videos to accompany single releases, meaning the music could be broadcast on shows like Top of the Pops without the artist having to appear in person. The videos also gave artists control over the visuals accompanying their tracks instead of
dance routines from groups like Pan’s People. According to Brian May (Queen lead guitarist), the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ video was produced so that the band could avoid miming on Top of the Pops, since it would have been hard to mime convincingly to such a complex song. And so, a major new genre was born!
With its operatic overtones and mystical lyrics, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t immediately fit with most rock and roll songs. It was also unusual in that it was nearly six minutes long at a time when the norm was nearer three minutes. Funny how 40 years on it still captures so many people’s imagination – maybe in some part due to that rapidly recorded and edited rather quirky video.
Afternote
Some years after Trillion had moved to a larger base, it began dubbing the bulky old 2-inch tapes to the latest 1-inch format. One evening, as I was leaving, there was a large yellow skip next to my motorbike, full to the brim with the now unneeded 2-inch tapes in their blue boxes.
“Hey,” called out one of the engineers, “That’s Bohemian Rhapsody, do you want it?”
“No, I can’t get it on my bike,” I replied. Whoops!
It was only after the success of 'Bohemian Rhapsody’ that it became regular practice for record companies to produce full-length videos to accompany single releases.
From Left  - Dave Swan helps Rocket into an early Steadicam – Dave Swan  and Barrie Dodd   -
- Mike Fitch with an EMI 2008 –
A more recent photo of Barrie and Rocket, still good friends!
Barrie Dodd  2019


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