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>> Tech OPs. >> Early Colour Studios

Message started by Charles Norton on Apr 13th, 2014, 6:22pm

Title: Early Colour Studios
Post by Charles Norton on Apr 13th, 2014, 6:22pm

As I understand it, the first colour television studios at TV Centre (TC1, TC6, TC7 and TC8) were all in place in time for the launch of BBC1's colour service in 1969. The other studios at TV Centre remained black and white-only facilities for a little longer.

However, what happened with the BBC1 programmes that were recorded in a colour equipped studio prior to the launch of the BBC1 colour service? If a studio was equipped for colour recording, would all programmes from that studio have been made in colour as colour videotapes, but then be broadcast in black and white for BBC1? Or were black and white cameras wheeled in from another studio so that the show could be made in black and white?

What I'm trying to say is, were supposedly black and white programmes ever actually made in colour and only broadcast in black and white? I don't mean shows like 'Morecambe and Wise' and 'Sherlock Holmes' that were made in colour for BBC 2 and then repeated in black and white for BBC1. I mean programmes that were only ever intended to be black and white but would have been made in colour studios.

Does anyone remember how it was done?

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Bill Jenkin on Apr 16th, 2014, 4:07pm

I don't remember this happening Charles (using a colour studio to record a programme in black and white) but I suppose it might have done.
I can for certain say that black and white cameras would not have been wheeled in from other studios. If it happened at all they would have used the colour cameras in the studio.
Of course, in a sense, any BBC1 show in colour was destined for a black and white transmission because the old 405 line transmission system was not finally switched off until 1985.
The studios were not able to record anything themselves but recording time had to be booked with a VT channel (then still in the basement).
I should imagine that the colour studios were in such demand that it would be foolish to put any b & w shows in them.  
I remember 'Nationwide' being an awful hotch potch of b & w and colour when it first went colour (from Studio 'E' Lime Grove) there were some film reports still in b & w and others in colour.
Interesting to note that although the colour system was supposed to be 'compatible' for showing on b & w televisions you could always see an interference pattern caused by the colour sub-carrier. In fact they have used this pattern to reproduce lost colour from 16mm b & w film recordings of colour programmes where the original colour tape has been wiped / disappeared).

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Bill Jenkin on Apr 16th, 2014, 4:45pm

I have put your question to an email group made up of a load of people who used to work in the studios Charles and have had a reply from an ex colleague of mine Graeme Wall:
"I believed it did happen, programmes like Playschool were only budgeted for mono but occasionally were rostered into colour studios when a mono studio wasn’t available.  I was told the engineers were instructed to switch the output to mono. .....".

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Charles Norton on Apr 16th, 2014, 9:05pm

Thank you, so much. That's really very interesting.

So, presumably, in those cases where this sort of thing did happen, the image would have been acquired in colour on the studio floor with an EMI 2001, but only the monochrome component of the recording would actually make it to the quad tape? Is that right? Were tech-ops able to do that - effectively filter out the colour prior to it reaching the VTR? A notch-filter or something?

Is it possible that a show, in this instance, could find itself with a colour mastertape, which only appeared to be black and white, by virtue of going out on BBC1?

As you say yourself, the colour sub-carrier can often find itself embedded in otherwise monochrome telerecordings of colour VT. It would be fascinating to learn if any essentially black and white programmes may actually contain unbroadcast colour information latent in their film recordings. Although, as you point out, the number of programmes falling into this camp is likely to be tiny. I suppose we're just talking about shows that used TC6 and TC8 prior to the big November 69' switch.

Many thanks again.

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Bill Jenkin on Apr 17th, 2014, 7:04am

I've had some more replies to my query Charles:

"Pres B, in the days before the start of colour TX, was used as a test bed for colour cameras. Rehearsals were used to evaluate the colour system being tested. For transmission the programmes were in black & white, achieved by switching off the colour subcarrier. "

"It did happen Bill.  I was the Vision Operator  for most of a series called "The First Lady", with Thora Hird (1968/69).  At that time only BBC2 was in colour and I remember working with just the luminance tube of the 4 tube Marconi colour cameras.  These were not to last long, the EMIs being greatly superior.  The one thing the Marconis did well was black and white pictures - probably the best ever seen in studios.  I remember a partly coated mirror (or prism) was removed from the optics after the lens.  This enabled us to work at half the light level used for colour, reducing the number of shillings in the electric slot!
That saving and a limited amount of colour post production availability led to the decision to work in B&W.
I am sure other programmes were made this way - I vaguely remember Blue Peter as one.
The rest is lost in 45 years of fog and dry ice!"

"Yes there were - I think it was in the period when there were a number of colour studios but BBC1 was still monochrome.  I remember working  on a crime series starring an Italian who didn't speak English that well - can't remember the name of the show - and that was recorded in TC1 with EMI 2001s in monochrome. It seemed odd at the time."

I think that the crime series referred to above is "Vendetta" starring Stelio Candelli I seem to remember it had a signature tune written by John Barry.
I assume the studio engineers could switch off the colour subcarrier I am no expert I'm afraid.
I suppose it is possible that some monchrome recordings may contain the colour information as you say.  


Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Bill Jenkin on Apr 17th, 2014, 8:19am

And another one:
"At the point I joined the eng team in Pres,  I remember Pres B were doing Late Night Line-up on three different cameras - presumably for comparison evaluation - before the formal launch of BBC2 in colour - so we're probably talking Summer/Autumn 1967.  Two were definitely a Pete Scott PC60 and a Marconi Mk VII - I presume the other was an EMI 2001."


Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Charles Norton on Apr 17th, 2014, 8:33am

Thanks again. That's fascinating.

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Bill Jenkin on Apr 18th, 2014, 11:52am

One more:

"I think I recall being a very junior operator on "The Troubleshooters" which was made in monochrome but in colour studios. I found it a bit odd (probably pre 625 on BBC 1)".

I don't think that applied to all "Troubleshooters" but may have applied to a few. It ran from 1965 to 1972, known later as "Mogul".

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Administrator on Apr 18th, 2014, 12:18pm

Peter Ward posted his memories of shooting this particular programme here:-

The post includes reference to Riverside, Arriflex 35mm blipped cameras, and other gems from the past...

This page (from the BFI) by Anthony Clarke also refers to the experimental method of shooting....

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Charles Norton on Apr 18th, 2014, 1:46pm

What a wonderful idea. Often wondered why film cameras were never used for multi-camera studios. Not something you'd do regularly of course, but for one off dramas it was such an obvious idea. Shame it didn't pan out. I think certain productions occasionally used crystal-locked 16mm cameras on location for pseudo multi-camera shoots, as well.

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Bill Jenkin on Apr 18th, 2014, 2:41pm

The system they were experimenting with at Riverside was very cumbersome, if you read Peter Ward's piece in you can see some of the problems:

"The vision mixer cut between the non­broadcast industrial cameras to provide a video 'guide' track whilst also running the Arriflex cameras just before each shot was taken. Her job was to economise on film and therefore she would run the appropriate film camera from the gallery just before it was required and when it was up to speed, cut to the industrial vidicon then run the next film camera, cut to that, and then stop the first camera. On a fast cutting sequence the cameras were left running but the system hiccup from the cameraman's point of view was that as the film camera got up to speed his picture, derived from the shutter, broke up completely and only settled mini seconds before the shot was to be used. At the crucial moment when the shot was needed, after re­positioning and framing, the viewfinder picture broke up and by luck and by golly you hoped that it was sharp and framed at the point the picture settled and you were instantly cut to. Film from all the cameras were then edited against the 'non-broadcast' video master.

But as cameramen, our troubles did not end there. The 35mm Arriflex, heavily blimped, were hefty items to crab and crane around on their peds. We attempted to shoot 'Troubleshooters' with normal video camera development but found it an uphill struggle. When we saw the finished result ­ the film from the three cameras edited together and projected on a normal cinema screen we discovered even worse problems. The low quality industrial cameras provided a low quality viewfinder and the focus zones were so much more obvious on a large projected image than they had been in the viewfinder. Any camera movement on shot jumped and bumped over Studio 1 floor and that gave us cause for concern as well."

There were also some issues to do with staffing levels. I think they used the union problems as an excuse not to proceed with a system which at that time was not really up to it for drama.  In the States they used a similar system for "I Love Lucy" with Lucille Ball. Desilu is often credited with inventing the system but in fact they did not, the first for them was for using the system if front of a live studio audience.

Title: Re: Early Colour Studios
Post by Douglas on Jul 16th, 2019, 5:18pm

I worked at Thames Teddington whilst the EMI2001's were in use, on all programmes, Drama, LE etc

So imagine my surprise whilst on a working Holiday in Barbados, 1986 , being given a tour of the CBC studio there (News), to find amongst the varied broadcast colour cameras................. was an ex Thames Teddington EMI 2001, which still had the Thames name plate on the side !!!!!

Wish I'd taken a Photo !

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