Don Calder tells his story of life at Ripponlea - January 2010  

While this contribution emanates from experiences in the ABC in Victoria it is included on the Gore Hill web-site as it typifies the evolutionary development of life in the film world. Most of the Sydney Film Department staff of the 50s have passed on as they were experienced recruits from the long established film industry and therefore of an older age.


As history goes I was among those lucky people who got the break into film work because of the advent of Australian Television re the 1956 Olympic Games, and more so into the ABC TV film department in Melbourne which we all felt was the best training ground at that time in experience and experiment.

As an amateur film maker I was delighted to be appointed in late 1957 as a despatch assistant in the film library. Later as an assistant to Russell Hurley, an experienced Film Editor, I happened to mention that I was working on a magnetic film recorder, he urged me to get it finished ASAP. Together with the blessing of our Film Supervisor, Kip Porteous we established a 16mm double system location set-up for filming of major film inserts and small productions at ABV Ripponlea. Kip Porteous O.K'd me to go out with my recorder and the film crew. He allowed me a payment of ' three quid a day' with the cheque sent to my father! It eventually flowed back to my account. They were interesting years.

By now we were only shooting single system magnetic stripe sound for news stories, but occasionally they would hire my machine when they wanted better quality sound on certain stories.

About early 1960 I was appointed as a Gd.1 Film Editor. Programme inserts were becoming longer and more interesting technically. A film dubbing suite had been installed in the rear part of the ground floor at Ripponlea with similar facilities also built at Gore Hill. Sydney ABN sound man Bill Biddle was transferred to Melbourne as Sound Mixer, a position I think he enjoyed and was highly thought of.

I had built a second recorder with advanced features and operated it over the ensuing years, (still at 3 quid a day!) until Geoff Daniels came to Melbourne to replace Kip Porteous as Film Supervisor. Kip was transferred to Sydney to take up a new position. A few years later Geoff Daniels moved to adopt the Light weight 1/4 inch Sync.Tape System; first the Swiss Perfectone then the Nagra Neo-pilot System (also Swiss) and the rest is history.

Needless to say it put me 'out of business' , but I had enjoyed great times working with my own gear. I continued with film editing, sometimes expanding into sound editing and enjoying that also.

In August 1966 I resigned and took up a position in Papua New Guinea with the Australian Government Administration, a great little Film Unit with the Department of Information and Extension Services in Port Moresby. I was there for 4 enjoyable years then returned to Melbourne to spend 20 years with the Victoria Department of Agriculture Film Unit. Being the last to retire I had the doubtful honour of turning off the lights!!.

During retirement I moved to Sydney and remarried, for the last eight years I have been writing my memoirs and personal technical history of 43 years in TV, Film, and Video Production. Since coming to live in Sydney 12 years ago I had been trying to find out something about Harry Medak and 'Herephon Engineering' and the story behind his Synchrosound magnetic recorder.

Double system location sound had been a passion of mine for years, maybe because I was born in 1930, a major year of Australian film sound!, but that's pushing things a bit??.

I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of what the ABC experience has meant to one grateful person. There would be simultaneous developments in both Sydney and Melbourne. I have done no research per se, it's all from personal experience as I remember it, and thankfully I have been blessed with a good memory.

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