Don Crowley Remembers (June 2006)

I was enjoying my morning cuppa coffee just a while ago, enjoying the sunshine on my eastern side patio, when I had a flash back to one Saturday morning at Gore Hill, when I was getting the EMI telecine machines checked out for the day’s operations.

Well, there was no 16mm sound from one of the units, however, all looked good - the sound exciter light shining as expected, connections to the Photo Electrical cell all ok. Then on the black malthoid floor (not sure of the spelling) a glint of light flashed. It was the prism, whose function was to reflect the light around the periphery of the brass casting that the film had to wrap around, to improve the sensing of the focussed split of light.

I picked it up to find there were two pieces, they had come unglued - I had probably even trampled on them. Well what I was to do? I decided to motor up to St Leonard Rail Station, where I knew there was a small photographic shop on the side of the road leading up to the North Shore Hospital. I introduced myself to the owner, and explained the situation. Thankfully he introduced me to the product called Canadian Balsun, and I glued the two pieces together.

The shop owner gave me about a thimble full of the material in a glass phial and wished me the best of British! Observing the set up on the other machine I was able to do a successful re-installation. To my knowledge, this never happened to the second unit and the repaired one worked until the old EMI's were pensioned off.

As an aside, if anyone knows where the old EMI's are these days, I would like to see them again and give them a 'pat on the back', just for old times sake. They sure did thousands of hours of great service.

In those early days the EMIs were rather notorious in certain weather conditions. White flashes would be observed, and it was deduced that static electricity could build up on the film, and could discharge across the aperture of the film gate. The 11 or 13 stage photo electron multiplier simply amplified the white flashes to saturation peak white signals. As air conditioning and humidity control got improved, these effects eventually became almost ineffective.

EMI, with a reputation for great radio studio professional recorders of perfect specifications, seemed never to have been brought into the TV design eg they never optimized 'sound on film.' Our first Chief Engineer (Lloyd Hadfield) had designed (in the UK) a shrink detector which could detect shrunk film; and with two motors it could control and switch and resize the amplitude of the field scans on the flying spot scanner tube. Carl Wilhelm was able to convince Lloyd Hadfield that in his experience there was little chance of 'shrunk 16 mm film'.

So this contraption was removed. EMI (from the UK) were to then deliver bigger mercury filled sound flywheels, which when fitted, brought the wow and flutter specs down to more acceptable figures.

In those early days at Gore Hill, there was no protection to save the raster from severe scan spot burning, as we, willy nilly, switched scans for either the 16 mm or 35 mm operations, Of course these tubes were expensive and sometimes we would have to wait weeks for new scanning tubes to arrive from the UK. The answer in the end was simple, There was a 4 position switch to bring up the ultor of the tubes to 24,000 volts…. so this switch became mandatory to switch this 24,000 volts to zero before switching scans for either the 16 /35 mm operation, then bring up the 24,000 volts again.

Telecine operators wanting to switch to the slide scanner had to switch this 24,000 volts from the film scanner tube to the slide scanner. Sure there was safety metal bar in a safe proof metal box that would swing into action, and discharge the high voltage. However it was always with some apprehension that in the early days we did this exercise about 6.55 PM for the 7 PM news opening.

There was a large shutter that had to change to half aperture size when film was running, as the scans would drop to half their vertical size. The raster would drop from 4:3 to 4: 1.5, as the film in its travel in the 1/50 second would be travelling the other way to the shutter. As this split shutter wore, it used to show up as a flagging flutter - and so these shutters were permanently affixed to provide the half
size aperture. It just meant that a stationary frame in a gate would be vertically shown in double height.

 

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