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  MCR21 PROJECT

NEWSLETTER

JUNE 2021
 
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MCR21 has been on the move again. It arrived back at Brian Summer's home near Camberley last month. Certainly in much better shape than when it left there back in November 2019. Work on the inside of MCR21 has started.
Brian is happy to be back behind the steering wheel
before mounting the new chrome wheel trims

Work on the inside of MCR21 has started.
Quite a lot of remedial work on the interior before the electronic equipment can be installed. Brian Summers has been organising work days.
Photos from John Stevens video
Watch The Video
Jeremy does a great job re-fitting the window
Below is a happy band of volunteers taking a well earned lunch break
 Left to Right -  Brian Summers, Paul Read, John Stevens, Jeremy Owen,  Chris Randall, Steve Sharp and Steve Parnell
 
Paul Read, as well as helping out at the Camberley workshops, has also continued his work on the Pye monitors. Here is his latest video.
VIDEO No 6
MCR21 NOW HAS A FACEBOOK PAGE
For the latest news about the restoration and events.
(Thanks to Robert Burn for setting up the site)
Just added - the plans for MCR21's first public appearance in September.

 
SWAINS LANE UPDATE
Brian Summers starts removing the cable ends
overseen by Mike Steed and Norman Green

On 20th May equipment was removed from the BBC's Swains Lane installation in North London by us, the Broadcast Television Technology Trust, and members of BECG, the Broadcast Engineering Conservation Group.

For the BTTT it means that the historic cable apparatus, which enabled incoming microwave signals from OBs to be routed to both Alexandra Palace and Broadcasting House, and other historic items were saved. The original installation at Swains Lane dates back to 1938. The remaining BBC transmitter/receiver was switched off nearly two years ago. The BBC is now selling off the site in a residental area of Highgate in North London. 

A big thank you to Mike Steed who was the BBC News Operation Manager who first contacted us about the equipment. Mike has now retired but continued to help us save the equipment from the scrapyard. Thanks also go to BBC's Andy Hutchins and Pantelis Pagonis who organised the transfer of ownership forms and all the other paperwork.

 
Watch The Video
Howard Arnall operating a Pye Mk 6 camera. Howard was a vision engineer on MCR21 in 1964

MCR21 was originally equipped with four of these.
Brian Summers describes the Pye Mk 6 camera.

A large robust camera built to an exacting BBC specification for use in the new fleet of MCRs ordered from Pye. The camera was a development from the Pye Mk5 camera using more semi-conductors and mechanical turret ( the Mk 5 had a motorised turret which was slow to operate.). The lens irises were driven by a servo system with the drive motor mounted in the centre of the turret. The turret had a cone angle to splay out the lenses so that they did not obstruct the view of the taking lens. A six-position filter wheel was operated by an edge knob at the front left side of the camera. It had hinge down side panels with plug in electronic modules. The CCU & PSU in were in "suit-case" style boxes that could be bolted together.

This is what Richard Ellis writes in his book, The Pye TVT Story.

This camera, with its BBC specification was not sold to any other broadcasters and I believe only about 50 were made. Three are known to survive. In the first 5 produced the PSUs where all identical later PSUs had varying degrees of comparability. Used by BBC Outside Broadcasts, they were fitted in MCRs 19 to 28.  All had four cameras with provision for a fifth camera as a spare. MCR20 went to Cardiff, MCR27 went to Glasgow and MCR28 went to Bristol. Roving Eye 5 was fitted with two Pye Mk6's. These could have been the spares mentioned above. As colorization progressed some of the Pye Mk6's were re-deployed. MCR21's cameras went to the BBC's Theatre, The Hippodrome in Golders Green.
 
The Crew of MCR21 in 1965
Left  to Right  
Harry Coventry (snr. No1 cameraman) Mike Johnstone (SA1) Selwyn Cox (no2) Adrian Hudson (racks) Peter Cook (to trainee) Andy Tallack (no3) Mike Swain (standing, racks) Derek Thomas (racks)
Bob Buttimere (no4) Howard Arnall (racks)
Roger Pearce (vision supervisor).
Harry Coventry was the first senior cameraman to work on MCR21. He started his career when BBC OBs were based at the Palace of Arts, Wembley. With the arrival of the new Pye OB units in 1964, Harry rose to be the youngest senior cameraman working on BBC Television Outside Broadcasts.
Harry Coventry at Wembley Stadium in 1966
From trainee...to MCR21 and the World Cup Final....Harry Coventry
 

I started in the BBC on Monday 15th September 1958. For four years I had been working on the air radar of night fighters in the RAF, which had given me enough basic electronics to pass the BBC board and give me entry, on this sunny morning, to the Palace of Arts, Wembley, and the world of Outside Broadcasts. The OB base was a relic of the 1924 Empire Exhibition, with a cavernous hall, in which stood a lone Rover 90 – the only private car allowed – that of Alan Bray, the Engineer in Chief.
There were two scanner halls, with painted floors; and in the first, Unit One sat, with cables plugged into the walls. After a brief greeting, I was ushered into the second, where stood Units Two and Three and this last, was to be my home as a trainee cameraman for the next two probation years.
The Senior Cameraman was Duncan Anderson, acknowledged as the finest in OB's and a master with a zoom lens. We were not idle for long! On the Wednesday I did my first live camera, on a Science programme in London. It looked simple. They would drop a precipitate into a tank of water, to simulate an atomic bomb, but to make it appear to be rising, they switched the scans, so that in my viewfinder I had to pan down... to follow it going up! At any point in my career, I would have found this difficult and this was only my third day!
My week was not over. Saturday found the unit at Borden in Hampshire, to cover an army cross-country event and I was on a zoom camera, remote from anyone, following all the action that came my way. I don't remember having any briefing, but all went well until I was asked to zoom in on the scoreboard, which I hadn't even noticed. My picture dissolved and I had my first lesson in 'depth of field'. But the producer was impressed and I survived.
I learned a great deal from Duncan and the rest of the crew. If you're away from home for long periods, you get used to each other...or else. My two years’ probation passed and my contract arrived: I was finally IN. I did my two stints at Evesham and worked on every OB, from Golf to Glyndebourne, Racing to Royal Weddings. In between, I got married, a home and eventually, a daughter. This last event gave me a moment that summed up the 'caring' BBC for me at that time. I was sent a memo from Personnel, congratulating us on the birth and offering any assistance needed. I still have that valued memo. The time passed, the crew changed and eventually, in February 1964, I was successful in a board for Senior Cameraman. The only problem was that there were no new units! So I waited for several weeks, as number three on old Unit 3, much to the amusement of the rest of the crew, until the checks on the new MCR had been completed. Eventually, I was called into the office and asked who I would like to form my crew, which was quite a surprise, and Selwyn Cox, Andy Tallack and Bob Buttermere joined the sparkling, new MCR21.
Together, we experienced some groundbreaking television. Live hole-in-the-heart operations and brain surgery for 'Your life in their hands' was dramatic, without drama. Just for hours in an operating theatre... with heroes. I was called to see Alan Chivers, a producer in Kensington House, to discuss our coverage of the first 'Match of the Day' in Liverpool. It was to be on BBC2, in spite of strong opposition from the FA. We also took the scanner to Sweden and did two programmes for 'Wheelbase', the first overseas documentary OB from a ferry and Volvo in Gothenberg. 
Winston Churchill's funeral at St. Paul's was incredible, with cameras opposite the front steps, in the whispering gallery and on top of the dome. The scaffolding for the small rostrum actually came up through the dome itself – and rigging the mounting, camera and zoom over a two-foot gap, as the roof sloped away below, was not for the faint hearted!
The unit had worked on many football matches, so it was no great surprise when we were asked to be part of the '66 World Cup, with all the England matches from Wembley. There were two crews and a mobile radio camera, making a total of nine cameras in all, the largest coverage ever. I was on the main closeup camera on the gantry and Maurice Abel, the other unit senior cameraman, did the wide angle alongside. We had no idea what a piece of history was unfolding, or that England would keep winning.
I eventually left cameras in '67, for the production unit at Kensington House, but that eight and a half years of my life, and MCR21, will always be my most treasured memories....  
 
Harry Coventry
 

 
Trainee camera operator, Peter Cook, joined the crew of MCR21 in 1964 and recalls his early career with the BBC
and life 'on the road'.
I was living in Scotland and had every intention of going to university to study electrical engineering. I had places at St Andrews and Durham, but particularly wanted to go to Southampton where my elder brother was doing a post grad in electronics. I was investigating the possibility of a sandwich course and wrote to sponsoring organisations, including the BBC. They wrote back with a promotional blurb and application forms for technical operators or technical assistants. I rather liked the photos of men in white coats so applied to be a TA (Technical Assistant). At this time I did not have a TV at home. My board was in Glasgow and I was rather guided through a series of to me obscure questions for example how to light an interview. I think that they were more interested in my Duke of Edinburgh and mountaineering activities and wanted to see how well I could bullshit. Anyway they offered me a job as an operator, so no white coat. In hindsight they were right and as they were desperate to staff up for BBC2, they ignored the fact that I was 17 and should not have worked in Studios until my 18th birthday, which I celebrated at Wood Norton.  It was interesting to later learn that in the first year of what was then UCAS  (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) they managed to leave 30 empty spaces on the course at Southampton that I was turned down for. I also later met a group of BBC 'Tech Trainees', who were on, guess what, a sandwich course, the very thing that BBC had denied existed. As said at the beginning of my first year story, I had asked personnel informally for a transfer to OBs.

Following a surprise and sudden granting of the request to transfer from TVC to Tel OBs I arrived at Wembley in early June 1964. I was soon allocated to first crew LO 1 (London 1 unit on MCR21) initially as a camera trainee. Ironically the first show I did was Wimbledon which was a de-rig, so having put the MCR together it was partly dismantled for a fortnight. During the rig week I was introduced to pub lunches and at the end of the day a number of us would go to Richmond or similar for the odd pint or two. I started the week drinking the odd half and by the weekend it was 3 pints or more! This part of the training may have resulted from the tradition that you bought your round whether or not you drank anything. A no brainer! I was living in a bedsit near Park Royal and only had an old Vespa, so was pleased that Selwyn appointed himself as my mentor and driver. He had a new Mini, which had been considerably ‘souped up’. We would often end the evening at an Indian restaurant or at a shared house in Rickmansworth. Camera allocation was on a rota that changed daily and my first camera was the low close up camera on Centre court. Baptism by fire or ‘sink or swim’. Must have been ok as I was back there the next day.
 
This was my first taste of ‘T&DE’ (Travel and Duty Expenses),  The BBC's fixed payments for overnight stays and meals, which helped what might have seemed an extravagant social life. I vividly remember on a visit to Brighton for cricket at Brighton and Hove, Joe Lines said that he knew a good 5 bob B&B (25p), that would hardly dent the 2 guineas Sched A. ( Expenses  - £2.40 in new money for an overnight). When we checked in it was easy to see why, There were at least 6 beds to a room and by now it was too late to find more congenial digs. At Brands Hatch we scourged the local countryside for digs and ended up at a great pub. The downside was not 6 to a room but 2 to a bed!
 
I had a problem on my first visit to Cheltenham. I was supposed to meet Adrian Hudson at Hangar Lane early one morning but overslept. It was clear that he would not have waited for me so I started up my (not quite street legal) Vespa and headed off down the damp and foggy A40 at a painfully slow pace, half the speed of Selwyn’s mini, and arrived cold and demoralised to have a bollocking. I seem to recall buying the whole crew a drink! At the end of the meeting my scooter went back to Wembley on the cable tender.
 
The International Airshow at Farnborough was memorable for all the wrong reasons. During a display of a vintage Bristol Bulldog biplane, its engine cut out at the top of a loop and the pilot did not quite pull out in time and crashed. As a trainee cameraman I was spotting for Harry Coventry on top of the control tower. Immediately he threw me the headphones and bravely legged it towards the wreckage. I offered shots of him running. Fortunately the pilot, Ian Williamson, escaped with only cuts and bruises. But the same could not be said for the Bulldog. It was damaged beyond repair.

Another event, this time in Bristol, in July, we were broadcasting tennis, Davis Cup. This was in the days when Bernie Inns were in vogue. Some bright spark decided that as well as eating a steak, we should have a drink at every Bernie Inn. There were 14 and we had a schooner of sherry at each one. A couple of us were rather unwell the next day (ask Harry) and my lunch consisted a pint of milk and a packet of crisps. Strange thing is that I completely went off steak for a couple of years, but continued to enjoy a glass of sherry.
 
On a trip to Wetherby for horse racing it was decided that no one had a car into which 5 cameramen could squeeze so Bob hired a car from Godfrey Davis, A Ford Zephyr or Granada I think, in which we made quite an entrance.
 
During the General election in October 64 we were at Bush House with 2 cameras as a drop-in point for journalists and other contributors. David Frost arrived around midnight with actress Janette Scott. He wanted to be the centre of attention and the poor woman who had been filming on horseback all day was abandoned. In quite a small room we did have a limited supply of refreshments. Well I must say that having overcome my 18-year old shyness, and doing my stint on sound training, I paid her the attention she deserved. Sadly she did not need to be miked up, but nevertheless I had the most delightful and memorable experience talking to a beautiful 26 year old actress for ages. David Frost's’s loss, my gain.
 
Quite by contrast, a Brian Rix farce at the Whitehall Theatre was far from relaxing. If you are familiar with the farce theatrical format, there is frenetic activity, actors going in and out of different doors in various states of dress. We usually had a chance to see the action outline at rehearsal rooms, but camera rehearsal was limited. The shot rate was phenomenal and one had to remember up to half a dozen shots between looking at shot cards. Using a turret, there were numerous fast lens swings and not time to ‘go the wrong way’. A feast of adrenaline and a necessity for good vision mixing and shot calling. Video editing was uncommon as a reel of tape was 9 weeks' salary.
 
More relaxed in pace was a Songs of Praise at Butlin’s holiday camp in Bognor Regis. Sadly I was one of the crew who went down with food poisoning. Lying in a chalet all day it was fascinating to observe the comings and goings of men to a chalet across the way occupied it seemed by a couple of women.
 
A more sombre occasion was the State Opening of Parliament, which required a visit to Moss Bros, not uncommon in those days.
 
Music was varied, from the Marquee Club through Royal Albert Hall (Proms and the Festival of Remembrance) to the Fairfield Hall in Croydon. Instrument identification was swiftly learned.
 
The last diary entry for that year was ice skating at Richmond, where crew clothes required were warm not formal. “Keep the feet in” was often heard on talkback, as it was at the Ballroom championships earlier in the year at the Lyceum. Watching contemporary competitions it seem that this key element of camera discipline has sadly been forgotten. Either dry ice or fancy shots seem to have eclipsed the more important fancy footwork!!

Peter Cook

 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP RESTORE THIS ATV
MOBILE CONTROL ROOM?
Back in 2018 a colleague of mine, who worked at the BFI, told me that a former ATV OB unit was being kept behind the BFI's building at Berkhamsted. We have established that it is ATV OB 6 - a Pye TVT built unit and delivered to ATV in 1967.
 
It has several parallels with MCR21. For a start, as mentioned, it was built by Pye TVT and secondly, it started life equipped with monochrome cameras (Pye Mk7s) and subsequently became a colour unit in 1969 with four Philips PC60 cameras. It was saved from the scrapyard when it was acquired by the BFI as an exhibit at their MOMI Museum. Many of you may have seen the unit outside the Museum on the South Bank back in the 1990s

The idea of restoring OB6 is very much in the early stages. It is not officially a project supported by any particular organisation - just a number of interested parties. The BFI has agreed to a feasibility study and the initial stage will be an inspection of the exterior and interior which should happen in August. We do not know yet what equipment is still inside the vehicle.

Another coincidence with MCR21 - a more personal one - is that back in 1968 I took a picture of MCR21 under Chiswick Bridge when it was covering the Boat Race. In the same year I took some photos of ATV's OB 6 - this time at the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.

 
           Above     ATV OB 6 at Brands Hatch
  
1968          
               Below     BBC MCR21 at Chiswick for the the Boat Race
PYE BROADAST AUDIO CONSOLES
A little plug here for David Taylor's Postfade Blog
If you want to find out more about the audio mixer in OB 6, follow the link below.
POST FADE
TELEVISING THE BOAT RACE
A look at the technology behind the BBC's coverage of the 1950's Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race
The BBC and the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race go hand-in-hand, apart from a bit of a hiccup between 2004 and 2008 when ITV won the contract to televise the race.
BBC Television started its coverage of the event in 1937. One 3-camera Emitron OB unit at Putney - the commentary was provided by BBC Radio with the race and finish illustrated by moving model boats along a map of the Thames back in the studio at Alexandra Place.

By 1950 the BBC's television coverage of the race had changed dramatically, Tony Bridgewater, Engineer-in-Charge, explained.


The televising of the 1950 Boat Race was the biggest outside broadcast ever attempted in this country, and probably anywhere in the world. Practically all the BBC's resources in equipment and personnel were mobilized, some of the apparatus being specially built for the occasion and de­livered only just in time; this included microwave radio­ transmission links, 200 Mc/s portable radio links, a V.H.F. two-way communication link, and a mobile central control room .
In several respects this 1950 transmission was an enlarge­ment of that of 1949.  A camera was mounted in the bows of a launch following the boats as before, but the number of  cameras along  the shore, was increased to twelve. In addition, a central control point was provided for controlling the switching of pictures from point-to-point as the race progressed. Another innovation this year was the provision of a separate television sound commentary, given from the launch carrying the camera.

 
This diagram shows the position of the four mobile control room, the central control room and the communications betweem them as well as the launch carrying the camera.
MCR 4 was equipped with three CPS Emitron cameras
CPS Emitron
MCR 7 was a articulated control room put together by BBC engineers. In an interview by Mike Jordan, Ron Chown remembers the unit.  After my stint with T2 I returned to London and joined the third OB unit, which had just been formed. By then a Scanner was known as an MCR (Mobile Control Room) and I joined MCR 7, a home made unit with modified American Image Orthicon Cameras which were very much more sensitive and became the standard type of camera for the next 20 years.
The cameras were produced by the Marconi Company under an agreement with RCA in the United States.
MARCONI Mk 1 CAMERA
MCRs 3 and 6 were identical units suplied to the BBC by Pye TVT in 1949 and 1950. According to Richard Ellis in his book, The Pye TVT Story, MCR 6 was delivered straight to Hay's Wharf ( shown on the diagram) in March 1950 to cover the race. Both units were equipped with Pye Mk 1 cameras.
Pye Mk 1 Camera
Interior of MCR 3
Prior to the 1950 television coverage, the switching between the different OB units had taken place at Broadcasting House or Alexandra Palace. By 1950 the BBC had taken delivery of MCCR 1, a central control unit supplied by the EMI company. This enabled Peter Dimmock to direct the whole coverage from MCCR 1 positioned at Hammersmith.

 
The Thames launch, Consuta, was used in 1950, carrying one of the Marconi cameras from MCR 7. The launch is now preserved by the Consuta Trust. It was first used by the BBC to cover the race in 1949.
This 1949 broadcast was seen as a great success prompting D.C. Birkinshaw, Superintendent Engineer, Television Outside Broadcasts, to send a memo to the production team. ‘ would appreciate a jotting giving your impressions of the Boat Race this year and what improvements you would like to see next year .I am conscious that the phraseology leaves the matter wide open for you to request six gyro-dynes and fifty-five shore based cameras.’ 

As we have just seen, the 1950s coverage didn't quite reach that prediction by D C Birkinshaw. Even in present times, the coverage has not reached those figures. In 2013 John Roberts, the Engineering Manager for SIS Live who provided the facilities for the BBC that year, commented. We haven't quite got up to fifty-five land-based cameras yet, but I think that is only on grounds of cost, we have to make do with thirty four, including the ones bobbing about on the water. Only four of those are gyro-dynes, as Mr Birkinshaw puts it.

If you would like to read more about the BBC's coverage in 2013 and a bit more history, Press the link below
75 YEARS TELEVISING THE BOAT RACE
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More information here
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Please do contact us
Brian Summers or Nick Gilbey
for our bank details
brian@mcr21.org.uk  - nick@mcr21.org.uk
or telephone Nick 07831 219957


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The Newsletter is edited by Nick Gilbey

Thanks to Norman Green
Brian Summers, John Stevens, Rob Burn, Peter Cook, Harry Coventry, Keith Gibson, Mike Jordan, David Taylor and Jack Gilbey

 
Newsletter Feb 2021
Newsletter Nov 2020
Newsletter May 2020
 
 
Copyright © June 2021 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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