When TV started in 1956 there were few people in Australia who had the wide ranging skills required to operate a television service. The ABC technical areas were running on a structure established by the PMG (Post Master General department). ABC TV decided to train technicians in conjunction with North Sydney Technical College, now TAFE. John Watson, headed the “Technicians in Training” group.
I was in the second year intake in 1958. We worked 12 weeks in the studios under the tower at Gore Hill and walked next door to North Sydney Tech. for 6 weeks of intensive learning. The whole course was to be 4 years.
During the 4 years, the Techs. in Training or TITs as we were called worked throughout the station, studios, master control, telecine, maintenance, telerecording, Some of us gravitated to the more technical areas, I loved the studios. In the ABC studios at that time there was no differentiation between the technical and operational staff, we were all technicians, senior technicians, supervising technicians.
My first taste of real television was working in Studio 21 rigging lights with Jack Povey.. Jack was a great fellow who had come from show business, the theatre or the circus, I don’t really know but he had an aura about him. We started early in the morning lowering lights to the studio floor with sisal rope and manpower and re-rigging them according to the lighting plan for the show on that day. Often after the show finished and the studio went “OFF AIR” we would re-rig for the evening program. Working with Jack taught me two things.
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I lost my fear of heights working with both hands on the lighting grid and on ladders and Jack gave me a sense of discipline, working to deadlines and keeping calm. Four years later studio 22 was built and the engineering workshop designed and built a network of motor powered battens that raised and lowered the lights to the studio floor. Life was much easier. I seem to remember at the 4 Corners 40th anniversary bash that they were still there. But I digress.
All this was exciting for a sixteen year old but I couldn’t wait to work on a live show. Live to air television was a real adrenalin buzz. I got my chance when given the job of keeping the cables from the three cameras free and untangled as they moved about the studio floor. Sometimes it took a while to untangle after the show. I later operated Mole Richardson booms positioning the overhead microphones above the performers as the moved about the floor. Always keeping them just out of all the 3 cameras view. It was a bit like a ballet especially on the live two hour dramas and operas. When, later, I was driving the crane for Camera 1 (Etzio Belli was often the cameraman) and operating cameras myself, I had to remember up to 100 shots. These were all written on “Camera Cards” but in the relentless progress of an opera or drama there was often little time to read them.
We worked all hours and took our dinner in steamer bowls to Mary who worked in a shed at the back of the studios, boiling water on a stove, heating all our dinners ready for the quick breaks between rehearsals and shows.
The old tearoom was a great place. Everyone ate together in that shed, cable pullers to directors. It was a place where thrown together, you could really find out what was happening in the organisation,
The four years of training passed quickly. The professionalism of our mentors in the studios set a standard that I have valued all my life.
In live TV hundreds of thousands of people saw your mistakes so you learnt very quickly not to make them. Some of those who helped me include John Watson, Sam Brown, Dick Cohen, Phil Pearson, John Garton, John Lark, Barry Quick, Barry Hall, Bruce Valentine, John Hicks, Greg South and Sam Chung, Ezio Belli, Bill Dayhew, John Wharton, Dave Tapp to name a few. I thank them all.
We graduated in 1962.
Peter Lipscomb started at ABC TV mid 1958 and joined the TIT group
in Feb 1959. He transferred to the Film Department in 1969 as a Sound
Recordist. Peter left the ABC in 1982 to freelance as producer/director
and then moved to on-line learning.