Posts in Category: Broadcast History

John Vassos: Transparent Television

John Vassos: Transparent Television

Yesterday, I posted a story on industrial design pioneer John Vassos and his influence on the RCA Television cameras. Today, I thought I’d show you the plexiglass TRK 12 receiver he built for the 1939 World’s Fair. Vassos helped design the RCA building there, and all of the display areas.

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One That Never Made It

One That Never Made It

RCA once disclosed that they had spent over $200,000,000 developing color television. I don’t doubt it…it was expensive work to do and this Tri Color Vidicon tube is proof. Below in this photo from April of 1953, Dr. Paul Weimer of RCA Labs poses with the new tube idea and the color camera that never was. By ’55, the concept was abandoned due to the cost involved.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ELECTRONIC TELEVISION! 85 TODAY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ELECTRONIC TELEVISION! 85 TODAY

Friday, September 7th, 2012 is the 85th anniversary of the invention of electronic television. In 1927, 21 year old Philo T. Farnsworth and his 18 year old bride, Pem, demonstrated their invention to two Crocker Bank investors in the second floor lab of a rented garage at 202 Green Street in San Francisco.

85 years ago today, Farnsworth’s image dissector camera tube transmitted its first image, a simple straight line. The source of the image was a glass slide, backlit by an arc lamp. An extremely bright source was required because of the low light sensitivity of the design. By 1928, Farnsworth had developed the system sufficiently to hold a demonstration for the press. His backers had demanded to know when they would see dollars from the invention, so the first image shown was, appropriately, a dollar sign.

In 1929, the design was further improved by elimination of a motor-generator, so the television system now had no mechanical parts. That year, Farnsworth transmitted the first live human images using his television system, including a three and a half-inch image of his wife Elma (“Pem”), with her eyes closed because of the blinding light required.

Many inventors had built electromechanical television systems prior to Farnsworth’s seminal contribution, but Farnsworth designed and built the world’s first working all-electronic television system, employing electronic scanning in both the pickup and display devices. He first demonstrated his system to the press on September 3, 1928, and to the public at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on August 25, 1934.

In 1930, Vladimir Zworykin, who had been developing his own all-electronic television system at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh since 1923, but which he had never been able to make work or satisfactorily demonstrate to his superiors, was recruited by RCA to lead its television development department. Before leaving his old employer, Zworykin visited Farnsworth’s laboratory and was sufficiently impressed with the performance of the Image Dissector that he reportedly had his team at Westinghouse make several copies of the device for experimentation. Zworykin later abandoned research on the Image Dissector, which at the time required extremely bright illumination of its subjects to be effective, and turned his attention to what would become the Iconoscope.

In 1931, David Sarnoff of RCA offered to buy Farnsworth’s patents for $100,000, with the stipulation that he become an employee of RCA, but Farnsworth refused. In June of that year, Farnsworth joined the Philco company and moved to Philadelphia along with his wife and two children. RCA would later file an interference suit against Farnsworth, claiming Zworykin’s 1923 patent had priority over Farnsworth’s design, despite the fact they could present no evidence that Zworykin had actually produced a functioning transmitter tube before 1931.

Farnsworth had lost two interference claims to Zworykin in 1928, but this time he prevailed and the U.S. Patent Office rendered a decision in 1934 awarding priority of the invention of the image dissector to Farnsworth. RCA lost a subsequent appeal, but litigation over a variety of issues continued for several years with Sarnoff finally agreeing to pay Farnsworth royalties. Zworykin received a patent in 1928 for a color transmission version of his 1923 patent application, he also divided his original application in 1931, receiving a patent in 1935, while a second one was eventually issued in 1938 by the Court of Appeals on a non-Farnsworth related interference case, and over the objection of the Patent Office.

The photo below shows Philo and Pem at the demonstration of a 1935 version of his television camera.

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WOW! Look at this!


WOW! Look at this! Followup to yesterday’s classic Murrow photo

SEE IT NOW, Season 1, Episode 6 Late December, 1951: Studio 41 CBS Studios, Grand Central Terminal.

The first few minutes of this is really instructive on the show’s production. As I had assumed in yesterdays post, they actually did the show from the control room for the first season, but would later move it to ‘the other side of the glass’, but it would still have a distinct control room feel. Here, again, you can see Don Hewitt directing behind Murrow. For more, check out the great rundown below.

http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=seeitnow

See it now [English] Part 1 of 3! Full lenght & High Quality! …SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE… English: The show was an adaptation of radio’s Hear It Now, also produ…

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John Vassos and RCA ‘Television’

John Vassos and RCA ‘Television’

If you look where Milton’s hand is, you are seeing the hand of one of America’s first industrial designers…John Vassos. The ‘Television’ and ‘Color Television’ badges that adorn all the early RCA cameras and telecine equipment was designed by Mr. Vassos. The classic look and style of the TK40/41 was also a part of his contribution to form and function. I think he also had a hand in the look of the TK10, TK30 and TK11/31s. The chrome and red stripe on the TK10s is very Vassos looking. He influenced, and was influenced by the art decco style.

His association with RCA began during the design phase of the RCA exhibits and building at the 1939 World’s Fair and lasted into the 1970s. Some of his influence in style migrated to the RCA consumer products too, like radio and TV set design.

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Ampex VR 1200, Up Close and Personal


Ampex VR 1200, Up Close and Personal

For those who have never seen a big Quad videotape machine in action, here’s your big chance. As you’ll see, it’s not as easy as just pressing the ‘Play’ button.

We forget sometimes how far video technology has come in just the past few years. I recently needed to get some video from an old 2″ Quad videotape and disco…

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ULTRA RARE CLASSIC PHOTO!

ULTRA RARE CLASSIC PHOTO!

See the just added video…see it here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJkJ6j0Z2Ro

Together, working on a very early 1952 edition of ‘See It Now’, we see two legends of CBS News…Edward R Murrow, and, the shows first director, Don Hewitt. This is the first and only image I have ever seen of both of them together in the studio.

This looks like there is actually a camera in the control room, so this may even be a rehearsal from the first broadcast as they kind of set the stage for the viewers.

Murrow’s set would later move to the other side of the glass in later years, but in the studio it would remain very “control room looking”

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Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors

A while back, there were some questions about an Ernie Kovacs photo posted here that had him pouring water (that was missing the glass), on a titled gimble set. The set was at quite an angle but the viewfinder shot was level…how? Mirrors. This old style system is still around and in use mostly for cooking segments, but the mirror arrangement can also be flipped to make the shot look like the camera is floor level, like for dance numbers. Now you know!

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The 1956 Conventions: The Birth Of A Team

The 1956 Conventions: The Birth Of A Team

In 1956, both the Democratic (San Francisco) and Republican (Chicago) political conventions were big events for television. To anchor at both, NBC paired Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. They were well received and the rest, as they say, is history.

By 1956, NBC executives had grown dissatisfied with Swayze in his role anchoring the network’s evening news program, which in ’55 fell behind its main competition, CBS’s Douglas Edwards with the News. Network executive Ben Park suggested replacing Swayze with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Bill McAndrew, NBC’s director of news (later NBC News president), had seen a highly rated local news program on NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV in Huntington, West Virginia, with two anchors reporting from different cities.

On October 29, 1956, he replaced ‘The Camel News Caravan’ with ‘The Huntley-Brinkley Report’, with Huntley in New York and Brinkley in Washington. Producer Reuven Frank, who had advocated pairing Huntley and Brinkley for the convention coverage, thought using two anchors on a regular news program “was one of the dumber ideas I had ever heard.” Nonetheless, on the day of the new program’s first broadcast, Frank authored the program’s closing line, “Good night, Chet. Good night, David. And good night, for NBC News.” This exchange became one of television’s most famous catchphrases even though both Huntley and Brinkley initially disliked it.

Huntley handled the bulk of the news most nights, with Brinkley specializing in Washington-area news. The closing credits music for the broadcast was the second movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, from the 1952 studio recording with Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

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50 Years Ago, Last Night…On September 4, 1962

50 Years Ago, Last Night…

On September 4, 1962 CBS became the first network to air a half hour of television news. A week later, The Huntley-Brinkley Report at NBC went to a half hour as well.

Walter Cronkite had replaced the original anchor, Douglas Edwards, in April of that year. On May 3, 1948, Douglas Edwards began anchoring ‘CBS Television News’, a regular 15-minute nightly newscast. It aired every weeknight at 7:30 PM, and was the first regularly scheduled television news program.

In 1950, the name was changed to ‘Douglas Edwards With The News’, and the following year, it became the first news program to be broadcast on both coasts, thanks to a new coaxial cable connection, prompting Edwards to use the greeting “Good evening everyone, coast to coast”.

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WNBT (NBC), 1941 Rate Card – Part A

WNBT (NBC), 1941 Rate Card – Part A

When I first saw this, I was stunned. At first, I thought they wanted $120 for a 60 second spot, but no…it was $120 per hour to sponsor a show. That’s more like it, especially when you consider that there were only 2,000 sets in the NYC area. When you see (in Part B below) what shows were on, think again about this rate card.

Here are some cost of living prices from 1941:

Average Cost of new house $4,075.00
Average wages per year $1,750.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 12 cents
Average Cost for house rent $32.00 per month
Beautyrest mattress $39.50
Average Price for a new car $850.00

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WNBT (NBC), December 1941 – Part B

WNBT (NBC), December 1941 – Part B

Just 2 weeks before this, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and we were at war with Germany, Italy and Japan. Even this meager schedule of programming would basically go to nothing in the next few years as production of home receivers was replaced by radar and radio equipment manufacturing.

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Surprise, Surprise! Who knew that ABC had robotic cameras this early?

Surprise, Surprise!

Who knew that ABC had robotic cameras this early? The cameras I think are Ikegami HK 312E models, or another early Iki, so this would be in the late 70s, early 80s maybe. The center camera is on a Fulmar ped and there’s a human running it, but the other two…well, I’m just amazed at how big the robotics are, and the fact that they’re in use on the Evening News with Peter Jennings.

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Who Knew Atlanta, GA and Mayberry, NC were so close?

Who Knew Atlanta, GA and Mayberry, NC were so close?

Below in pink, you see Tara from ‘Gone With The Wind’ and under it, the Mayberry set for the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ on the ‘Back Forty’.

Forty Acres was a film studio backlot that belonged to RKO Pictures and later Desilu Productions, located in Culver City, and is best known as Forty Acres, or “the back forty”. It had other names such as “Desilu Culver”, the “RKO backlot” and “Pathé 40 Acre Ranch” depending on which studio owned the property at the time.

For nearly fifty years it was famous for its outdoor full-scale sets such as Western Street and Atlanta Street or Main Street and was used in films like King Kong (1933) and Gone with the Wind (1939), and television shows like Bonanza and Star Trek. In 1976 it was razed for re-development.

Forty Acres is best remembered for providing the backdrop for the town of Mayberry on the television series The Andy Griffith Show. Many of the street scenes and buildings on the backlot were seen regularly on television screens across America and became quite familiar with viewers. The original Town of Atlanta set, comprising a New York style street, a town square and a residential area to the east, was situated in the center of the property and was used on shows like Adventures of Superman, Ozzie and Harriet, Batman, The Green Hornet, and Mission: Impossible. It was also used on Star Trek in three episodes entitled “Miri”, “The Return of the Archons” and “The City on the Edge of Forever”.

The Tara set, which sat on a sloping rise at the north western corner of the property, was torn down in 1959 to eventually become the Stalag 13 set for Hogan’s Heroes. Most of the sets, which included Camp Henderson on Gomer Pyle, were situated primarily in the center, south and west end of the property.

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This is Red Barber with something few have ever seen…

INCREDIBLY RARE PHOTO!

This is Red Barber with something few have ever seen before. Of Red’s own invention, this panel is connected to the remote truck and shows the director areas of the field Red wants to comment on. This gives the director a heads up so he can get a camera on the position in advance and gives Red’s ‘color commentary’ video support. He’s not trying to direct the play by play action, but as a single announcer, wanted a bit of extra help when he told stories or noticed things the guys in the truck could not see.

For instance, home plate has 3 lights, operated by toggle switches. If a left handed batter is up, Red would let him know by flipping the left switch so the director can get the best shot. If he wanted to tell the director to watch the catcher, he would use the center light. There were also combinations of lights that signaled that he wanted a shot of people in the stands. Very Cool!

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State Of The Art: Video Tape Delay

State Of The Art: Video Tape Delay

Until sometime in the mid to late 60s, this is the way you got a 6 second delay for live television events. In this photo, you would have recorded on the left machine, thread the tape over a few homemade spendels and play it back on the machine on the right for air. In case of bloopers, cut to live action before the image gets to the playback head and pray there are no more till you can get to a station break and re sync.

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1913: State Of The Art Sports Reporting

1913: State Of The Art Sports Reporting

Check out these two long rows of telegraph operators and reporters. That’s how the 1913 World Series was covered from The Polo Grounds in NYC. The series pitted the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Athletics.

(NY Giants became the SF Giants in 1957)

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The Great, Van Cliburn

The Great, Van Cliburn and, some not so great news…

In 2005, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Van Cliburn, who was a frequent guest of a good friend of mine in Miami. Although his background is classical, he’s very down to earth and can tell some great jokes. I had heard his name since I was a kid, and frankly, to my ear, it seemed everyone called him ‘Vancliburn’. I remember thinking it odd that he had a one word name like ‘Liberace’, but figured it was some ‘piano thing’. There is some sad news below.

The only classical pianist who has received a ticker-tape parade in New York City, Van Cliburn has announced through his publicist that he has been diagnosed with advanced bone cancer.

Raised in Texas and educated at Juilliard, Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn earned global fame at age 23 when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, which occurred at the height of the Cold War.

Cliburn performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and his later recording of the latter was the first classical recording to sell 1 million copies and eventually went triple-platinum.

Cliburn eventually gave his name to the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962, and despite retiring in 1978 he has performed for every American president since Harry Truman. Cliburn received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2001 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

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RCA Color Television: January 1954

RCA Color Television: January 1954

In this special issue of RCA Broadcast News, everything you always wanted to know about early color TV, and more is here. Color cameras, film, lighting, transmission…all of it. From the highly technical to the simple stuff, it’s all covered in this issue. Enjoy!

http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-RCA-Broadcast-News/RCA-77.pdf

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New York Worlds Fair: Summer 1964

New York Worlds Fair: Summer 1964

I remember visiting the RCA Exhibit and the how much I hated leaving it. I was 13 and my parents had to threaten me to get me out of there. This singing duo was there along with a guy playing an electronic accordion. Sprite had a brand new commercial running that had the same kind of new, electronic keyboard sounds that were coming our of his instrument. I think there were only 2 TK41s there, but I looked at every inch of both of them. I was fascinated by all of it.

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RCA Color Comes To Japan: 1957

Color Comes To Japan: 1957

On Sunday, I had a story about Expo ’58 and the RCA color exhibit at the Brussels’ World’s Fair. In it, I also mentioned that RCA had sent a mobile color unit to Japan in 1957 to give them a first look at color television and here is the other part of that story. The Japanese were impressed and within a year of the visit, these 5 RCA TK41s arrived at Nippon Broadcasting.

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CLASSIC: ‘Person To Person’

CLASSIC: ‘Person To Person’ History

Below, Norm Hannin prepares his specially branded TK30 for a live interview at the home of Bobby and Ethyl Kennedy. Notice the cut out on the bottom of the viewfinder hood. Good idea. Here’s an edited clip of Murrow and Frank Sinatra on ‘Person To Person’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddQZsvAv1z0

‘Person to Person’ ran from 1953 to 1961 and all the segments were live. The moves were rehearsed and questions were scripted but not strictly scripted so adlibs and surprises from guests did happen. Edward R. Murrow hosted it until 1959, interviewing celebrities in their homes from a comfortable chair in his New York studio. In the last two years of its original run, Charles Collingwood took over as host.

Although Murrow is best remembered as a reporter on programs such as ‘Hear It Now’ and ‘See It Now’ and for publicly confronting Senator Joseph McCarthy, on ‘Person to Person’ he was a pioneer of the celebrity interview.

The program was well planned, with as many as six cameras and TV lighting installed to cover the guest’s moves through his home, and a microwave link to transmit the signals back to the network. The guests wore wireless microphones to pick up their voices as they moved around the home or its grounds. Each episode had two live guests each week and the two 13 minute interviews in each program were typically with very different types of people, such as a movie star and a scientist.

Murrow wanted the series “in spite of television,” to “revive the art of conversation”. This was an historical step to building the cult of the personality on television. The personalities were divided into two camps, with the entertainment and sports figures in one, and the second containing all others, including artists, writers, politicians, lawyers, scientists, and industrialists.

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Reagan, Carter, Anderson

Reagan, Carter, Anderson

This is election night, 1980 at ABC New York. The big camera is an Ikegami HK 312E with the big Triax box on it’s right side. The ENG camera may be an Ikegami 77, but I’m not sure. Do you know?

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August 27, 1968…44 Years Ago Today, Dan Rather Manhandled In Chicago


August 27, 1968…44 Years Ago Today

Dan Rather was manhandled at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Classic footage of a well remembered event.

For more presidential election videos go to electionwall.org

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RCA TK30 ‘Gun site’

RCA TK30 ‘Gun site’

This is a screen capture from an introductory article on the RCA TK30 from RCA Broadcast News in 1946. Here we have an explanation of the mysterious gun sight that attached to the top of the viewfinder hood. I think there were two types…this one with a polarized lens and a very simple, slotted metal version that looked like Mickey Mouse ears set very close together.

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New Year’s Eve At Times Square: A History Lesson

New Year’s Eve At Times Square: A History Lesson

Here’s a brand spanking new RCA TK30 above the entrance to the Hotel Astor in Times Square in 1946 shooting the merry makers below. Since the mid 1800s, Trinity Church was the gathering point, but the celebration moved to Times Square in 1904 as part of a promotion of the New York Times to celebrate their new building and headquarters.

New York in 1904 was a city on the verge of tremendous changes – and, not surprisingly, many of those changes had their genesis in the bustling energy and thronged streets of Times Square. Two innovations that would completely transform the Crossroads of the World debuted in 1904: the opening of the city’s first subway line, and the first-ever celebration of New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

The NY Times building was the focus of an unprecedented New Year’s Eve celebration. Alfred Ochs, owner of The Times, spared no expense to ensure a party for the ages. An all-day street festival culminated in a fireworks display set off from the base of the tower, and at midnight the joyful sound of cheering, rattles and noisemakers from the over 200,000 attendees could be heard, it was said, from as far away as Croton-on-Hudson, thirty miles north along the Hudson River.

The New York Times’ description of the occasion paints a rapturous picture: “From base to dome the giant structure was alight – a torch to usher in the newborn year…”

The night was such a rousing success that Times Square instantly replaced Lower Manhattan’s Trinity Church as “the” place in New York City to ring in the New Year. Before long, this party of parties would capture the imagination of the nation, and the world.
Two years later, the city banned the fireworks display – but Ochs was undaunted. He arranged to have a large, illuminated seven-hundred-pound iron and wood ball lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to signal the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908. The rest as they say, is history.

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TV SHOWS ON THE AIR IN 1960:

TV SHOWS ON THE AIR IN 1960:

77 Sunset Strip
Adventures in Paradise (20th Century Fox)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Angel
Bachelor Father
Bat Masterson (Ziv)
Bonanza
Bringing Up Buddy (Kayro Prod.)
Bronco (Warner Bros.)
Checkmate (Jamco Prod. / filmed at Universal)
Cheyenne (Warner Bros.)
Dan Raven
Dante
Death Valley Days (filmed at numerous ranches)
Dennis the Menace (CBS)
Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater
Father Knows Best (Rodney-Young Productions / Screen Gems)
Guestward, Ho! (Desilu)
Gunsmoke (Arness Prod. / CBS / filmed at several studios & ranches)
Harrigan and Son (Desilu)
Have Gun – Will Travel (CBS / exteriors filmed at numerous ranches)
Hawaiian Eye
Hennessey
Hong Kong
Klondike
Laramie (Revue / filmed at Universal and on several ranches)
Lassie
Lawman (Warner Bros.)
Leave it to Beaver (Gomalco / filmed at Republic & Universal)
Maverick (Warner Bros.)
My Sister Eileen
My Three Sons
Naked City
National Velvet (MGM)
One Step Beyond (ABC Films, filmed at MGM for first two seasons, final season filmed in Great Britain)
Outlaws (NBC / filmed at Bronson Canyon and MGM per IMDB)
Perry Mason (CBS)
Pete and Gladys (CBS / filmed at Paramount)
Peter Gunn (Spartan Productions / filmed at Universal)
Peter Loves Mary
Rawhide (CBS / filmed at MGM, then CBS Studio Center)
Riverboat (Meladare Company / filmed at Universal)
Route 66 (Lancer-Edling Productions / Screen Gems)
Stagecoach West
Sugarfoot (Warner Bros.)
Surfside 6 (Warner Bros.)
Tales of Wells Fargo (Overland Productions / filmed at Universal)
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
The Andy Griffith Show
The Ann Sothern Show
The Aquanauts
The Barbara Stanwyck Show (ESW Productions / filmed at Desilu-Culver)
The Danny Thomas Show
The Deputy (Top Gun Prod. / filmed at Universal)
The Detectives
The Donna Reed Show
The General Electric Theater (MCA / Revue)
The Islanders (MGM)
The Jack Benny Program (CBS)
The Law and Mr. Jones (Four Star Productions)
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (Wyatt Earp Enterprises)
The Loretta Young Show (drama anthology)
The Many Loves of Doby Gillis (20th Century Fox Television)
The Real McCoys
The Red Skelton Show
The Rifleman (Four Star Productions)
The Roaring 20’s (Warner Brothers Television)
The Tab Hunter Show (Famous Artists)
The Tall Man (Lincoln County Prod. / filmed at Universal)
The Twilight Zone (Cayuga Productions / filmed at MGM)
The Untouchables
The Westerner (Four Star Productions)
The Witness
Thriller
To Tell The Truth
Wagon Train (Revue / Universal)
Wanted: Dead or Alive (CBS / Four Star)

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But you knew that Green Acres wasn’t really shot outside, right?

But you knew that Green Acres wasn’t really shot outside, right?

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London: THIS JUST IN! From the International Broadcast Center

London: THIS JUST IN!

From the International Broadcast Center, here is NBC’s Daytime Studio. Hosts from this location are Al Michaels and Dan Patrick. Thanks to Todd Palladino who runs on of these cameras for sending this. Hopefully, more to follow soon.

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London Olympics Coverage…From Studio 8H

London Olympics Coverage…From Studio 8H

This is where most of the commentary marries the video…on the floor of Studio 8H at 30 Rock. With SNL on summer break, the studio is transformed to the Announce Center. Each of these eight or so sound proof booths has 2 sides…a small producer’s side and a larger talent side that can accommodate up to three announcers.

The commentators watch the live feed and with the help of producers on each end, give us the ‘play by play’ on each event. This is really an ingenious system and the photo below is actually from the 08 Summer games in China when NBC used the same set up. I don’t know how far back this off site system goes, but would like to hear from those that have ‘been there and done that’.

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