technology available was based on the use of Vacuum Tubes (Valves)
with their high voltage power requirements. As valves lost their emission
with time the equipment stability was reliant on testing and replacing
faulty valves virtually on a continuing basis. Daily alignments of
equipment were required to maintain specifications.
are some of the major items of broadcast equipment installed in
the Gore Hill television studios from 1956 to 1959:
Desk containing an 8 input x 6 output vision switcher. Two outputs
were for transmission the others for preview and monitoring. Sound
and vision were married ie a sound switcher followed the vision
switcher. Marconi BD 819 TV Monitors (BD stood for "bloody
disaster"!) were used as precision monitors and Marconi Waveform
monitors were initially employed. Essentially the gear was extremely
unstable and was soon updated as funds became available.
Sync Pulse Generators (SPGs) were used with a remote SPG Changeover
switch. A Sync Gen Locking unit enabled an SPG to be locked to a
remote source so that seamless vision switching could be made in
integrating studio and remote pictures.
Clamp Amplifiers were used on each of the vision switcher outputs.
Their purpose was to maintain a constant black level irrespective
of vision content. Most amplifying equipment in those days was AC
coupled meaning that pictures with a high contrast level and pictures
with a low contrast level would display different black level on
the TV screen. The line clamp amplifiers restored the black level
to a constant reference point so that with scene changes black remained
black. They could also be used to insert a clean synchronising signal.
was controlled via a Master Clock system. A pendulum time piece
was accurately set each day against the PMG's talking clock. Pulses
from this clock were relayed throughout the station controlling
wall clocks. A correction was made at 19 minutes past the hour if
the remote clock was not in range. In the case of the individual
clock it would fast forward to 20 minutes past the hour then stop
but restart again on the 20 minute time pulse sent from the master
clock. In this way the synchronisation of clocks was maintained.
Yes, it did happen; clocks were put to air during correction time
where the clock would rapidly advance and stop at 20 past the hour
until time caught up.
A diesel powered
Generator provided back up power in case of mains power failure
and was operated remotely from Master Control for test runs. It
had an automatic changeover with a delay of about 10 seconds when
the power failed. Manual restore could be scheduled when the mains
power resumed allowing an appropriate announcement to be made warning
viewers of an interruption.
Two Emi Flying
Spot Scanners using continuous motion film coupled with automatic
shrink generators to eliminate interlace jitter. A 16mm and a 35mm
projector with a swivel mirror changeover was used. A 35mm
Slide Projector was also included. Their design was unique in
that the electronics employed did not use any electrolytic capacitors
only paper dielectric types. In addition the high voltage transformers
used were of the oil filled variety resulting in components that
were huge in size. Individual metering of each valve current was
possible via rotary switches however the poor reliability of the
switch contacts, ultimately rendered the system unusable.
on film systems were catered for. Optical sound required good focus
of the sound lamp at all times and a switch over could be made to
a magnetic head for side striped film ie one with a magnetic edge
track. In addition a 16
mm Magnetic replay unit could be locked to the telecine machine
to enable full quality sound. Accurate loading of picture and sound
films was essential before locking so that vision and sound would
be in sync.
You guessed it,
no sound from the violinist on opening night was because the optical/magnetic
sound switch was in the wrong position!
In the late Fifties
Telecine machines were installed.
A Fernseh 16mm
Flying Spot Machine with a separate 16mm sound recorder was used.
Two film cartridges could be loaded each recording a section of
the programme. An overlap in recording was possible by starting
the alternate cartridge before the previous one ran out. After recording
the programme the cartridges went to film processing for developing.
The segmented sections were edited after processing to make a continuous
programme. Precise film frame matching was essential to maintain
accurate sound sync throughout the programme.
It was possible
to lay a magnetic side stripe on the film after which the sound
could be redubbed in sync to make a composite film. This potentially
provided better quality sound than the direct optical recording
but fell short of the quality of separate sound and film. The difficulty
of side striping in those days was maintaining a uniform stripe
thickness when laying the magnetic film.
Adjacent to the
telerecording area was the film processing dark rooms. During processing
the dark rooms were lit only by red lighting. A continuous motion
developing machine was used requiring the film cartridge to be placed
on the equipment and its leader stapled to the tail of the previous
moving film. A series of pullies and rollers enabled the tail to
be held for stapling, but not for long. Constant processing speed
and correct developer and fixer temperatures were essential to provide
correct contrast and gamma rendition. At the output after developing,
the film was dried in heat chambers as it continuously moved through
the equipment and stored on film reels. Yes, precisely timed reel
changes were required where the stapled section had to be cut out
and the leader of the next developed section slotted in to a new
reel. Ultimately the developed sections were then edited into a
continuous programme reel.
The silver halide,
a by-product of film developing was collected in tanks and shipped
out for recycling.
Pye OB Van using
inch Image Orthicon Cameras fitted with a 4 lens rotating turret
to enable lens changes from wide shots to close ups. There were
3 cameras with the van as well as vision and sound mixing facilities.
A mobile power generator trailer could be used in remote locations
if AC Mains were not available. As there were no remote recording
facilities at the time all output from the van was live and had
to be relayed back to Master Control for direct to air transmission
or through to telerecord for recording.
were three communication requirements to be linked from an OB. The
vision signal, the sound signal and talkback between station and
Raytheon VHF Links were used to relay the vision back to Master
Control. Sound on link was also possible but it was transmitted
within the same vision bandwidth which resulted in a degradation
of picture quality. It was therefore normal for the sound to be
relayed by a programme line often temporarily provided by the PMG
department for the occasion. Programme lines were spare telephone
lines connected from the site location back to master control. The
telephone lines were equalised ie frequency boosted to extend the
bandwidth to improve audio quality. 7 Kc, 10 Kc or 15Kc lines could
be requested depending on distance and costs. The higher bandwidth
lines being most expensive. An unequalised telephone line could
also be ordered. It was known as a tie line and was used for talkback
and communication purposes. In areas where no tie lines were available
two way UHF transceivers were used for communications.
Two CPS Emitron
Cameras were used together with a Marconi rotary knob vision mixer.
Sound mixing was via an AWA mixing console.
Studios 21 and
22 were virtually identical in design comprising an 80 feet x 60
feet floor space with a 25 foot ceiling. A Control Room and Viewing
Gallery situated on level 2 of the building overlooked the studio
floor. The major difference between the studios was the studio lights
rigging systems which is detailed below.
Mk 3 Image Orthicon Cameras using 4.5 inch camera tubes were used
in each studio. One camera was fitted to a camera crane, another
on a pedestal and the remaining one on a tripod. This was used primarily
for graphics. All cameras had a 4 lens rotating turret.
The Studio control
room was fitted with an 8 input vision mixer, 3 inputs for cameras,
3 inputs from telecine; Telecine Line 1, Telecine Line 2 and Slides.
Two Remote lines were available for OBs, Clock or other patchable
vision mixer was a 3 bus system; a cut bus for direct source
switching and two effects busses where fades to black or dissolves
could be made being controlled by a split fader lever system. Operation
of effects was facilitated by transferring from the cut bus to an
effects bus which one depending on the placement of the fader levers.
The non-active effects bus was switched to the next input source
and the faders moved to the other effects bus for a dissolve. The
transition effect duration being controlled by the speed of fader
movement. Fade to black was achieved by splitting the faders or
where a spare mixer input was available by dissolving to a black
All inputs to
the vision mixer were routed via a Cable Delay Room. Here drums
of cables were used to ensure that all signals to the point of mixing
arrived at the same time ie all signal paths were extended to match
the longest cable run. The output of the Vision Mixer was fed through
a Marconi Line Clamp Amplifier where the video synchronising signal
was re-inserted to provide a clean un-interrupted output to air.
Signal timing from the SPG in Master Control to say Telecine and
back to studio had to match the SPG to Studio direct timing. Cable
delays were the order of the day.
Audio was handled
in a separate Control
Room. An 8 channel AWA
Audio Console with Programe and Audition busses was used as
the main Mixing Console. Two "outrigger" 4 channel Consoles
fed channels 5 and 6 on the main console to increase the main inputs
and provide group fading facilities. In addition an adjacent AWA
Consolette was used as an effects channel on input 7. This consolette
was operated by a Grams Operator usually sourced from the Radio
Sound Effects department. This 4 channel audio mixer allowed two
Record Turntables and two reel to reel Portable Recorders to be
used for replay to air. Channel 8 on the main console enabled a
6 button remote source selector to feed telecine or OB lines from
Master Control into studio programmes. As all inputs were patchable
the combinations were altered for differing programme requirements.
By means of the 4 microphone inputs on each of the "outrigger"
consoles it was possible to have fader control of a maximum of 16
The Main Console
had limited effects; cross fades. However reverberation was added
by using a sound chamber. This was set up in a long narrow space
between and above the two major studios. Being all concrete wall,
floor and ceiling construction it was fitted with a loudspeaker
at one end and a microphone at the other. This "Echo Chamber"
microphone was fed back to the Studio Mixing Console where it was
mixed back into the originating sound source. Fader settings determined
the amount of echo effect.
was controlled through a Strand
Lighting Console. A modified Organ Console, it used tab switches
to turn lights on or off either singularly or in groups. Dimmer
Control was facilitated remotely using variable auto transformers.
These comprised a mains operated externally wound transformer core
which was traversed by two fader lever arms containing brushes which
tapped across the external windings. High currents were involved
as 500 watt, 1000 watt, 2000 watt and 5000 watt lamps were used
in studio light fittings. As the copper windings and brushes wore
down with use, a spectacular melt down occurred when the conductors
could no longer handle the currents. The television lights in Studio
21 were supported from a fixed scaffold grid and adjusted in height
using a panograph system. This allowed accurate placement of lights,
particularly for Opera and Dramas, however extra rigging time was
necessary as lights had to be physically moved for each set. Studio
22 used a motorised batten system which allowed the lights to be
lowered to floor level for rigging and provided greater flexibility
for a wider range of different productions.
Units for each Camera were aligned, operated and adjusted before
and during programmes. The stability of valve based technology and
the drifting that occurred with camera movements, lighting temperature
changes etc all contributed to variations in picture quality. It
was normal practice to align the camera when it was switched on
then realign it just prior to going to air. Alignment comprised
using a RETMA Test Chart where aspect ratio, scan linearity (test
circle) and resolution could be adjusted for optimum performance.
Vision levels were set to 1 volt peak to peak with black level set
up at 7.5% above blanking level. Flesh tones (in monochrome) were
managed at approx 70% of vision level. During the programme a preview
switcher was used to switch between the cameras to maintain level
balance to minimise severe balance transitions.
Virtually all television equipment
was imported and spare parts could take a long time to purchase
and replace. An Engineering Store was maintained holding some spares
which were extensively used as well as parts recommended by the
manufacturers to be held in case of, but in fact never used. Equipment
failures were often mechanical in nature and the Engineering Workshop
provided facilities to manufacture, modify and develop items particular
to the broadcasting application. Metal presses, benders, lathes
and drill presses, provided basic assembly operations and these
were complemented by a precision workshop, where film camera and
projector shutter mechanisms could be maintained without the need
for expensive overseas replacements. Indeed the Studio Dimmer Transformers
were rewound in the Workshops providing a quick turn around and
the need for less spares.
A small presentation
booth known as Studio 20 permitted voice overs to link programme
segments and housed the Presentation Officer who was responsible
for coordinating all programmes. It was normal for programmes to
be planned for hourly or half-hourly time slots. The ABC always
programmed to the top of the clock. Local programmes were made to
precise durations based on the half hour timings with perhaps time
for a station ident with voice over to announce the next segment.
Imported programmes were usually of 25 minute duration allowing
5 minutes for commercials to be interleaved during the programme.
As the ABC was non commercial the 5 minute time slots were filled
with an interlude. This invariably came from telecine, often a 35mm
film replay. Initially these segments came from the BBC with items
such as "The Great Tit at home" featuring UK bird life
or the "Changing of the Keys" covering the ceremony of
the handing over of the palace keys by Her Majesty's guards. Ultimately
Australian 16mm film segments were used featuring local scenery
with a musical sound track. Live presentations were then used typically
with an announcer sitting in a lounge chair next to a floral arrangement
giving a programme rundown.
The introduction of Film Technology
While the PMG Department was responsible
for the Studio Building Design, the technical fit out fell to ABC
TV Engineering. Carl Wilhelm Senior Engineer, was responsible for
the set up of Telerecording facilities under TV Engineering. The
Film Department was not yet established and the Olympic Games were
to start in November 1956. Who was going to provide cameras for
News gathering? Carl had some experience with 16mm film as his father
used a camera for home movies so in early 1956 he took on the role
of setting up Sydney and Melbourne with film cameras prior to the
Melbourne Olympic Games.
The initial provision of film cameras
included six Bell and Howell Model D70 Clockwork 16mm units using
100ft film rolls. Two Bolex HL16 Reflex cameras and two Kodak Cine
Special Clockwork cameras with were also included. The Kodak cameras
also featured quick change film magazines and a variable shutter
creating fades and dissolve effects as well as manual cranking shafts:
1 frame per turn and 8 frames per turn to permit animation. Also
a chime warning when the spring is almost unwound. The Bolex Cameras
when fitted to a stable tripod could extend their recording time
by continuing to wind them up during the filming.
Clockwork cameras were favoured for News Gathering as they were
instant start and did not require the footage to be edited. Six
Arriflex ST 16mm cameras with 100ft magazines were also purchased
for external insert use in Studio productions. These were motor
driven and were supplemented with 400ft magazines. As the motors
needed time to get up to speed, the footage required editing before
being used on air. The PMG Department took on procurement of the
Steenbeck Editing equipment and so began Film Operations in the
The ABC Film
Department was created employing Bert Nicholas (Chiel Cinecameraman)
as its first employee and together with Neil Edwards (Chiel Film
Officer) they took over the running of Film technical operations.
Frank Albaneze from Canada was recruited to as Chief Film Officer
and commenced just prior to the Olympic Games in Melbourne. The
clockwork 16 mm Cine cameras were used for news for instant coverage
and the other mostly Arriflex, were for external inserts in studio
productions. Processed Film was then edited to meet the programme
requirements. Film eiting benches were used fitted with either simple
viewer/splicers or as technology advanced elaborate synchronisers.
In the 50s editors had no way of
looking at film except with a big stand alone viewing machine like
a Moviola or an English Acmade. The procurement of the German flat
bed editing machines called Steenbecks enabled speedy editing and
the motor driven cameras became the norm.
A typical Film
Editing Bench as used in the ABC enabled basic editing of cut
and splice. Often accompanied by a small optical viewer
it was good for quick editing of short mute news stories. Keeping
synch on longer productions with interviews and sound effects was
always a problem using these viewers.
enabled all film clips to run locked together while various editing
tasks were performed.
Synchronizers have been in use since
the beginning of film making in the early 1900s for negative matching.
In this function the negative is cut on the synchronizer and spliced
in exactly in the same place the cut work print. Thus a new clean
print can be struck from the newly cut negative free of splices
ready for exhibiting.
When sound came along the synchronizer
was used to synchronize image to sound for editing. They were called
synch sound rushes.
In synching rushes the sound clapper
noise is lined up with vision of the clapper shutting. They run
locked together in the synchronizer till the next clapper arrives
and so on. Sound recording takes longer to slow down and start up
than the intermittent movement of a movie cameras. So sound is usually
longer than the image. Sound is cut off at each camera stop to maintain
synch. If there is mute image the sound is spaced out till the next
sound slate comes along.
The last task for a synchronizer
is to enhance the sound track of a production. Sounds like music,
sound effects and narration are on there own tracks and locked together
in synch with the image. This is called track laying. Eventually
all sound tracks are mixed into one track. That single sound track
is printed onto the side of the new clean copy of the film. This
is called a married print
The first Acmade viewer synchronizers
didn't make it's appearance till the early 60s. When they arrived
pictures could be viewed on the bench while keeping the magnetic
sound heads locked with the picture head. It meant everything was
in synch as it was viewed. This was a big break through. Suddenly
portable bench editing was possible.
Film Splicer is shown at the back of the picture. A Wet splicer
works on the principle of joining two scenes together with film
cement. First the emulsion and the other protective coatings are
scraped off till the raw base is left. Then film cement is applied
and the film joined together. The film base is welded together not
Before splicers were invented film
was scraped then cement applied and carefully the sprocket holes
were lined up by eye and held down. A skill in itself.
The wet splicer made this job a lot
easier with guide posts to line sprocket holes The film scraping
is more accurate. Film cement applied and the splicer shut on the
film. Within 20 seconds the film is bonded as one piece of film,
perfectly lined up.
This type of splicer predates the
modern film tape splicer which was invented in the 60s. It was a
great advanced in film editing. No longer were two frames of image
lost every time a change in editing was made.
Wet splicers and synchronizer are
still used to day but only for negative matching feature films and
This is where wet splicers and synchronizer
started 100 years ago and they are still going. That is till Hollywood
goes completely digital which is no too far off.
began in Sydney on 5th November, 1956, on ABN Channel 2. Test transmissions
preceded this using mainly a test pattern.
The station operated
on the frequency of 63-70 megacycles, transmission being provided
by 5Kw vision and 1Kw audio standby transmitters, radiating from
temporarily erected mast (affectionately known as "Little Toot")
to give an effected radiated power of 16Kw vision and 3.2Kw sound.
When the Postmaster-General’s Department completed the installation
of the main transmitters and mast, these were brought into service
in August, 1958. The permanent mast was approximately 504 ft.(154
m) high, and provided an effective radiated power of 100 Kw for
the vision and 20 Kw for the sound carrier.