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Soon MCR21 will be sporting its original green livery with a grey stripe round the vehicle. So a big thank you to James Thorpe and his team of restorers at Ward Jones Commercials
(Now called Chiltern Automotive)
Photos Brian Summers
To De-rig or Not?
That is the Question
By Nick Gilbey with contributions from Dan Cranefield, Brian Summers and Peter Cook

Peter Cook remembers his first job working on the crew of MCR21 as a trainee cameraman back in 1964.

"I joined LO1 on MCR21. The first task I had with the scanner was 3 or 4 ‘rig’ days at LTA Wimbledon tennis where the truck was derigged into a wooden hut for the duration of the Championship.”
MCR21 would be used to co-ordinate the output from two other units covering the Centre Court  and No 1 Court, along with presentation.  Rediffusion de-rigged two of their  Pye OB units to cover Wimbledon in the 1950s alongside the BBC

Photo Courtesy of Pat Stapleton
Rediffusion de-rigged OB units covering Wimbledon Championship in the 1950s/60s
Perhaps the most ambitious de-rig which the BBC undertook, was to televise climbing the Old Man of Hoy in 1967, a vertical rock in the the Orkney archipelago off the north coast of Scotland. MCR27, one of the other nine Pye OB units  which were nearly identical to MCR21, was shipped to within two miles of the rock. From there, the equipment from MCR27 had to be pulled on a sledge to the cliff overlooking the Old Man of Hoy. After a disaster, which nearly thwarted the programme, live pictures were transmitted over two days on BBC 1, reaching nearly 10 million viewers.
                   The  audio mixer being taken out of MCR27.
Then, after a ride on the sledge, being carried to the  control room being set up in a tent. Watch the video - Link below - Philip Gilbert, the director, explains what went wrong just two days before the programme was transmitted.
The Old Man of Hoy
Two Photos of the equipment in MCR 1, the BBC Television's first outside broadcast unit. It would have been a mammoth task to de-rig this unit. Fortunately no such de-rig was required or probably possible
Richard Dimbleby and Peter Dimmock in the de-rigged control room at Westmister for the Queen's Coronation in 1953
By the 1950s MCRs 3 through to 12 had arrived. These units were all based in
semi-articulated trailers. The equipment was either placed on shelves or in racks and it was quite feasible to de-rig the equipment. For the TV coverage at Westminster Abbey . The contents of MCRs 9 and 10 were installed in a temporary control room within the Abbey.
The interior of MCR4


Photo Nick Gilbey
CMCR 1, The BBC's first colour mobile control room, at Trooping The Colour in 1967

Dan Cranefield explains what it was like to de-rig a camera
from the BBC Type 1 CMCR

The first three BBC colour OB units, CMCR 1-3, each contained four cameras labelled as Peto Scott PC60. Each camera used two Mk IV multicore camera cables to its Camera Control Unit (abbreviated to CCU) which were very large, heavy and cumbersome. Each CCU was about 2ft wide and over 3ft high and about 3ft from front to back. Each CCU was in the form of a desk because each had its own lift and iris controls on it and, under a Perspex flap, all the controls for “picture registration”, which was required at that time. Each camera needed to be switched on 2 hours before it was “lined up”, i.e. the camera was focussed on a black chart containing many squares made up of white lines, then each of the three images, red, green and blue, were aligned correctly in a designated hour’s “line-up” period before each recording or transmission. For the first colour OB, which was Trooping the Colour in 1967, (but not actually transmitted on BBC1), I switched everything on at 0600 on the transmission day so that pictures were available for recording or transmission at 0900.
These three OB scanners had a transverse production area facing the rear of the vehicle and four CCUs were mounted in front of the production desk. The vision supervisor operated one of them and two or three engineers operated the other three. The rear of the vehicle had two full sized doors and a powered tail lift which was needed to remove the CCUs safely to get them in and out if necessary.
Thankfully, it was rare for them to be de-rigged and there was a large number of cables to be unplugged each time. One occasion which caused this to be done was to put a camera and CCU onto the boat, which I believe was “Everest” which was used by BBC Tel OBs for the annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race from Putney to Mortlake.
I was the engineer on CMCR1 chosen to do this derig for the 1968 boat race, the first in colour. My memory is a little hazy as to whether there was just one camera or two on the boat on this occasion, but I think only one because the few colour cameras available were needed elsewhere to cover the course of the race, but I do remember that a lot of planning and effort was needed for this boat camera.
Firstly, the CMCR needed to be parked at a suitable place where the CCU and camera could be off-loaded straight onto the boat. This was carried out below and adjacent to Twickenham Bridge and the CCU was positioned in a doorway between the boat’s cabin and the bow of the boat because access was needed operationally to front and back of the CCU if necessary.  The boat then set off for Putney where testing was due to start and I was left on my own to do all the cabling needed, a hands-and-knees job. Since the doorway was blocked by the CCU the only way to get from the back of the CCU to the front was to go via the bow, walk alongside the cabin on a very narrow walkway using the handrail on the cabin roof and re-enter the cabin from the stern of the boat. I managed to complete the cabling just before we reached Putney, a couple of hours later.
I assume a portable generator and the radio link transmitter to transmit the vision signal must have been fitted on arrival at Putney because I would have resumed my duties on the CMCR which, by then, had arrived at Putney as well. As far as I remember everything worked OK and the programme was a success. I doubt whether any recording of this race survives.
Dan Cranefield

PC 60 Camera

photo Nick Gilbey
Steve Harris (pictured) with his beautifully restored  BBC Type 2  Colour Unit
North 3     CMCR9

The BBC ordered 10 Type 2 colour mobile control units from Pye which were delivered in 1969/70. As the equipment inside the colour control rooms became more complex, the opportunity and feasibility for a de-rig became very complex.

Brian Summers explains

The last of the BBC monochrome scanners were specified to be De-rig capable and this facility was used from time to time, an excellent example being the Old Man of Hoy programme.  
This De-rig requirement was specified for the Type 2 colour MCRs. Pye, who built the Type 2  skilfully provided the facility to remove all the technical equipment, often in special frames.   It was the practice, as  used previously, to leave the internal connecting cables in the vehicle  and use the provided boxes of numbered and named cables to interconnect it all.  
When you get to this level of complex interconnecting  it is essential to know what connects to what. 
When the first Type 2 was delivered a test de rig was tried in the scanner hall at the BBC base at Kendal Avenue.  This proved to be a big task to get it all out and connected up, but nothing compared to getting it all back in and fully working again.  This exercise proved that a Type 2 De-rig was a “Bridge to Far” and as far as I know it was never done again. 
The front picture shows the sound area, production and vision control mimicking the internal layout of the CMCR. The rear picture shows a fine tangle of wire with the 4 cameras off to the right. 

Sir Winston Churchill's Funeral -  St Paul's Cathedral
The BBC coverage of Sir Winston Churchill's Funeral in 1965 involved de-rigging the equipment from MCRs 19,21 and 22 into a temporary control room at St Paul's Cathedral. In 1981 there was no de-rig when the BBC televised the Royal Wedding with Prince Charles and Diana
                                                                              Photo Nick Gilbey

1981 St Paul's Cathedral - The Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana

The two great events which were televised at St Paul's Cathedral - The Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill and The Royal Wedding in 1981 - were handled very differently by the BBC and ITV.
The complexity of the 1970/80s colour mobile control rooms, prompted the BBC to invest in a unit which could handle a number of its own cameras but also take in many external cameras. The succession of these colour mobile central control rooms were used at large events. CMCCR 2 was used as the programme TX unit for the Royal Wedding in 1981. It controlled, not only the cameras in St Paul's Cathedral, but took in feeds from the OB units along the procession route.
Two Type 5 CMCRs, each capable of handling eight cameras, which fed into the CMCCR 2, that is a Colour Mobile Central Control Room, which can be seen in the background.

For Churchill's Funeral in 1965, the BBC transmitted the whole programme from St Paul's Cathedral, covering the procession, the service and the journey down the Thames to Waterloo. The same happened in 1981 for the Royal Wedding.
In 1965 ITV had special lines put in by the post office to bring the feeds from the OBs along the route and from St Paul's to Rediffusion's studio 9 in Kingsway. In 1981, again, the TX programme was mixed at Thames's studio in Euston with many feeds coming in from the OBs by microwave.

By 2000, the central control room had a mixer that could handle up to 60 inputs with a matching number of monitors
Below - Brian Summers (right) and  Jeff White grapple with the huge number of vision inputs on the tailboard of CMCCR 3
The MCR21 Project benefits greatly from the work done by volunteers. Paul Read has been restoring two of MCR21's larger monitors. He has been chronicling his work in a video - link below.
Thank you Paul
Paul Read's Video
 Cam 1                                 Cam 2                                  Cam 3                               Cam 4

Last year at the Goodwood Revival with the permission of the Duke of Richmond, Aurora Media and Cloudbass OBs, and with the help of students from Solent University, we recorded the output from four cameras covering a race, which featured racing cars dating from the 1960s. In 2019 twelve cameras covered the race track but, back in the 1960s, the race would have had just four cameras situated round the track.

The recordings from the four cameras will be replayed on the monitors inside MCR21 so that the visitor in the production area of MCR21 will be able to see how the race is covered by the four cameras. The visitors will be able to hear the race commentary and the director's talkback. Below is a link to the video which will give you an idea of what you will see on the screens and hear over the speakers.
        To watch the race   -  press on the Goodwood Race button below
The Monitor Stack in MCR21
Goodwood Race

There are many jobs to do - perhaps cleaning up connectors, helping create a crowdfunding campaign, working on upholstering the seats or organising our successful ebay sales of redundant equipment. We also need the the help of those with carpentry or metalwork skills.
There are lots of ways you can help.
If you would like to become a 'Friend of MCR21'
Please do get in touch with Brian Summers or Nick Gilbey  -
or telephone Nick 07831 219957
We still do need to raise funds to complete the MCR21 Project. For more information about donating, please click on the donate button below. This will take you to the donate page on our website.
                                                  NEWSLETTER EDITOR
Nick Gilbey
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MCR21 · The Abbots House · The Street · Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6QF · United Kingdom

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