This is the control console for an RCA TK41. The camera control unit is on the left and the colorplexer on the right with the double rows of red, blue and green knobs. You need one of these consoles for each TK41. So many knobs, so little time.
Every Tuesday night, from 1954 to 1970 most of America was watching Red Skelton on CBS…I know my family did. The show as mostly done at Television City, but at some point in the late 50s, Red moved the show out of TVC.
Red was a very smart guy and very well paid by CBS for his show,even when it was at TVC. He was one of the first and few independent producers and for a few years, did his show at his own facility on the old Charlie Chaplin lot in Hollywood where KTLA and others also had studios.
Skelton had become fascinated with the way he looked on color television but frustrated with CBS because they did so few color broadcasts. When TVC opened in ’52, it was all black and white but on September 7, 1954, “Life with Father” was colorcast from Studio 43C with RCA TK40 cameras.
A second studio, Studio 41, was converted in 1956 with TK-41’s. By the early 60’s, CBS colorcasting had decreased to only a few shows per year. The last studio 43 production with RCA equipment was the in late 1964 taping of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Even though TVC had color, they weren’t broadcasting in color much.
Thinking that if he delivered the show in color it would help, he bought his own equipment from RCA and Ampex and began selling CBS his color video tapes. On the days they were not taping the Red Skelton Show, the theory was they would rent out the 3 production units for color production there in Los Angeles and make big dollars on that too. That did not work out, but Red still won on the deal.
CBS wanted more control of the Red Skelton Show, and the amount of money they paid for it, so around 1962, they made a deal with Skelton that moved him back to CBS Television City. As part of the deal, CBS bought RED-EO Video’s production buses and used the units for studio and remote work for a year or so before the whole 3 unit ensemble was sold to KTLA in late 1964. KTLA put the cameras in their studios, but still did remote work with them too.
I’ve had this photo of these 10 cameras that were built by WFBM in Indianapolis for a long time and have often wondered why these guys built so many of them. Now I know.
Operating now at WRTV, the station signed on the air on May 30, 1949 under the call sign WFBM-TV with a film documentary entitled ‘Crucible of Speed’ covering the history of the Indianapolis 500. Here’s where it gets interesting…that documentary was followed by the inaugural live television broadcast of the event. If anything is a 10 camera shoot, it’s the Indy 500! Kudos and congratulations to the engineering pioneers at Indiana’s oldest television station.
in ’55, the Vinten Heron crane was developed for the BBC, which bought models for its London and regional studios. The biggest innovation in the crane was it’s ability to crab, thus allowing it to move freely in any directions, giving it the flexibility of a pedestal with increased height range and speed. The Heron also came west to Canada, South America and the US.
This historic magazine ad zeros in on the need for 90% less studio light (and heat) with the brand new RCA TK10, equipped with the recently perfected Image Orthicon tube. This, and the sister TK30 field version, were the first cameras that could actually make a good pictures using only a single candle as a light source.
Many have wondered and asked this question, so here is the answer. From some point in the early 1940s, Philco was legally able to prevent Philips from using the name “Philips” on any products marketed in the USA, because the two names were judged to sound similar and that it may cause litigation. As a result, Philips instead used the name Norelco, an acronym for “North American Philips [electrical] Company.”
When Philips bought Philco in 1981, Philips was able to freely use the Philips name for all of their US products, but they chose to retain the Norelco name for personal care appliances, and the Magnavox name for economy-priced consumer electronics.
One reason to keep the Norelco name was all the money the spent on Christmas advertising. Remember the old ‘Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer’ stop action special that still runs? They all were brought to you by Norelco. Below is on of the spots from the early 60s.
Just in from long time NBC Burbank engineer Bob Meza. This is a beautiful photo of the Rose Parade and TK41, and unlike any I have seen before. Most of the shots show the parade approaching, but this shows the passing and the huge crowds further down the route. Remember…please send me you pictures! firstname.lastname@example.org
In the screen shot below from ‘Art Linkletter’s House Party’ on CBS, you can see a small, white square in the upper right corner (click to enlarge). If you were watching the show, and paying attention, you may have noticed that soon after it appeared, a commercial would miraculously appear too.
At CBS, this electronically inserted square was called an EPSQ. It stood for Extended Program Que and would appear solid 30 seconds prior to a commercial as a warning to stations along the network, and then just prior to going into the break it blink on and off a few times.
During a live show, as most things were in the 50s and early 60s, this was the signal for a station break, and if I am not mistaken, the number of blinks about 15 seconds out would tell stations how many network sponsor spots were in the break.
NBC also did this electronically but may have called their system something else. ABC would just superimpose an art card with a small white circle in the corner. This stopped when most shows went to tape and the information could be teletyped to the stations.
Thanks to Gady Reinhold for his help with this story.
I love these two shots Dale sent of him at work with the TK41s. This one is in Fort Worth at the Colonial Country Club shooting golf in 1968. Go ahead Dale…stand on the box if you need to.
Dale is such a veteran cameraman that when he retired from ABC in Hollywood after 45 years, they calculated that he had an extra…get ready…15 years of time! Would that then equal a total of 60 years at ABC?
Another great shot of Dale on location in Lincoln, Nebraska getting ready for some Corn Husker football in 1969! By the way, I’m almost positive that these two photos were taken by another ABC cameraman…why? Although it would have been nice to see the front of the TK41C camera in both, notice that the human subject, Dale, is precisely centered in each one.
I thought it was sacrilegious to mention NBC and Norelco in the same breath, but that was before I met Fred Himelfarb. Fred was NBC’s senior camera engineer and was in charge of the NBC Labs at 30 Rock.
Fred came from RCA to NBC with the first TK40s and was the direct link between NBC and RCA. He was the genius that made dozens of modifications and changes that made these cameras so great.
One of the best stories I know about these cameras was told to me by Fred himself in one of only three phone conversations I was able to have with him before he passed suddenly in August of 2009. Due to NBC’s lack of interest in the TK42s and 43s (which is another Fred story discussed in the RCA Archives section of the web site), and with the long lag in the TK44’s development, NBC was actually considering buying 35 Norelcos for their remote trucks. By 1966, Fred had already begun to modify the specifications of Norelco’s camera to suit his high standards in the image it made. Fred even wanted a smaller plumbicon tube size, and got it. Phillips built 6 PC60s to his specs for testing.
When these 6 Norelcos arrived, it so happened that NBC was about to televise the World Series, so…Fred deployed them all to the stadium and invited the Phillips brass to watch from a special hospitality truck that showed only the broadcast feed. After the game, they all commented on how great it looked on TV, and every single Phillips executive said that they were especially impressed by the shot from the outfield. That’s when Fred told them that actually there were 7 cameras there and that the outfield shot came from an RCA TK41C. More improvements were made and the Norelco PC70 was born.
Around 1968, NBC bought 35 of them and they were all assigned to mobile units with none of them ever used in any of the NBC studios. I think they all came with the Varotal lenses. One is seen below at the 30 Rock Christmas Tree Lighting. Note that the new ‘Nebraska’ logo is in place and the small snake logo at the lower corner has been obscured.
After some 30+ years, this famous Chapman Electra crane is leaving NBC’s Studio 8H. John Pinto, the camera operator on the Electra, since Al Camoin retired, told me that a new Chapman is on the way. During the SNL hiatus, 8H has been filled with many individual audio booths (like during the 08 China games) for Olympics coverage and after the games are over, a new Chapman crane will arrive.
Interestingly, this crane still belongs to Chapman (and is leased) which is why this very crane also worked at ABC on Dick Clark’s $$$ Pyramid Shows. Longtime ABC cameraman Howie Zeidman tells me the shows were taped early in the week and Chapman would pick up the Electra early Monday morning at NBC, deliver it to ABC, and have it back by early Wednesday so SNL rehearsal could begin.
I don’t know where this awesome piece of broadcast history is going to wind up, but I’ll keep you posted!
June who you say? June Foray, (now 94) is the voice of hundreds of cartoon characters, but best known for her work as the voice of Rocky, Natasha Fatale and Nell Fenwick on ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’. She’s also Granny in many Looney Tunes shows like Sylvester and Tweety. You name the cartoon, her voice has been in it…even the Twilight Zone.
This photo from early 1949 shows WBAP in Fort Worth’s ‘Saturday Night Barn Dance’ show on the air with an RCA TK10 working to capture it…horses and all. The television version of ‘Barn Dance’ is actually a spin off of the WBAP radio show at started in 1923.
The radio show was such a hit that others quickly copied the format. Radio station WLS in Chicago (the initials stood for “World’s Largest Store” since it was owned by Sears, Roebuck, & Co.) premiered one of the first copies called ‘National Barn Dance’, in 1924. Other stations followed suit – KWKH of Shreveport, Louisiana, with the ‘Louisiana Hayride’, WWVA of Wheeling, West Virginia, with the ‘Wheeling Jamboree’ and, of course, WSM of Nashville, Tennessee, with the ‘Grand Ole Opry’ which debuted in 1925. WSM TV began broadcasting in 1950 and soon after, The Opry went on the air.
In this photo, the size of the teleprompter just jumps off the page for some reason. Although we’ve all seen them before, it suddenly seems huge, but to everyone’s credit, this cumbersome configuration worked for the talent as well as the camera crews. This is long time ABC cameraman Charlie Henry on the WABC News set with an Ikegami 312E. I think the prompter is a QTV model.
This photo from South Africa shows dual Sony cameras televising World Cup Soccer and the caption said “in stereoscopic hdc”. Unless this is a 3D broadcast, I just don’t get it. I’ve never seen regular broadcast cameras slaved together for 3D, but maybe that’s what is happening here. What do you think? Time for the real engineers to weigh in!
Nice shot of TK60s at work at Texas Tech’s KTXT in Lubock TX back in the 60s. These were good looking cameras in every way…their physical appearance and the top quality pictures they made. This was the end of the line for monochrome cameras.
The lens on both cameras is the Angenieux Zoom, Model lOX40C, and is custom made for the TK60 and have a geared iris ring for operation by the iris drive mechanism of an RCA TK60. The lens is also ortal based. Ortal base lenses, like on the TK60s are held in place by clamps on the turret instead of screwing in like the Ektanon lenses.
These cameras are using an outside focus control kit but there is also an internal port for the focus rod to pass through in the lower right corner of the camera. On the older models, the zoom rod went through the center of the lens selection handle on the back and out through the center of the lens turret. The addition of the geared iris drive in the center of the TK60 turret stopped up that hole. Rank Taylor Hobson had a similar lens for the TK60 but theirs used the mechanical cables instead of the push rod.
This is the only photo I have ever seen of an Orthicon camera in use at CBS. This photo taken on the US Capitol steps is probably from 1947 and the signal from this camera would probably be feeding to WMAL TV, the first CBS affiliate in Washington. WTOP became the CBS affiliate in WDC in January of ’49.
I suspect this is an RCA made camera but the few Orthicon cameras they built, did not seem to have much in the way of logos or badges. Remember, the Orthicon was the first version of the Image Orthicon which debuted in the RCA TK10 and TK30s in mid to late 1946. Thanks to Tom Buckley for the photo.
An Interesting Story about TK41s and American Bandstand
I’ve often wondered if TK41s were ever used to shoot American Bandstand and I have found out that the answer is yes, but only for a couple of weeks, and it wasn’t in LA…it was at WFIL in Philadelphia.
ABC was really the last of the big 3 to go full color, to their credit though, they did broadcast the ‘Jetsons’ in color as early as ’62, but only by taking the film to KNBC to feed them the color signal as they did not have a color telecine chain till a couple of years later.
But back to Philadelphia. In 1958, WFIL went color and got a few TK41s. They decided to use them on American Bandstand because they could at least feed the color signal live there in Philly even if ABC network didn’t ‘do’ color. Studio B was 80 x 42 x 24, but with the bleachers and set, there was a lot less space to dance. For years, the show was shot with 3 RCA TK10s, and later TK11s, and that worked out fine, but the TK41s, were so big and took so much room to swing around (remember the camera from pan handle to lens tip is 5 feet long), shooting with even 2 took up so much of the dance floor that they went to a single TK41.
It didn’t take long for everyone to figure out that the new 1 camera color show was nowhere near as good as the old 3 camera black and white one, so they went back to the TK10s. To make the decision easier, ABC refused to take the color signal about the same time the local producers began to miss their choice of shots.
Thanks to Thomas Buckley for this great photo. This is Roger Mudd filling in for Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News around 1966 or so. The Norelco PC60, camera 1 in the background is probably one Dave Dorsett used in his many years as ‘Walter’s cameraman’.
While the great Peter Jennings is on my mind, here is a photo of him preparing to go live in the fall of 89 at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Other ABC people in the photo are Jack Smith to the left of Jennings and Steve Tello on the right. Stu Schutman and Annie Benjamin are shown here too.
The video featured is one of four I’m sharing here…it is an extended 12 minute look behind the scenes of the 2010 ‘live’ show done from Studio 8H at NBC. I had previously posted a 5 minute version. It’s great!
This is the latest from Chapman for football coverage. Here ESPN cameras are mounted on an Olympian sideline crane on a modified T formation with one above the other. Both platform turrets have 360 movement that the operator ‘walks’ to the angle they want with their feet, similar to the European soccer sideline rigs and hockey ‘half shell’ set ups. COOL!
This is a companion to the Electrocam photo posted yesterday. This control room shot is not from Dumont’s 67th Street Telecenter, but the photo owner, Ward Bennett thinks this is either at the Adelphi Theater, where the ‘Honemooners’ was shot, or at the Wannamaker’s studio.
Shown here, Frank Carr on left standing up talking on telephone, Hal Bowden sitting right of Frank, Paul Mirasola seated far right, and Ken Gieman, the person who was the Electonicam operator, is in the Audio Room.
The station traces its history to 1938, when television set and equipment manufacturer Allen B. DuMont founded W2XVT (renamed as W2XWV in 1944), an experimental station. On May 2, 1944, the station received its commercial license — the third in New York City — on channel 4 as WABD, after DuMont’s initials. It was one of the few stations that continued broadcasting during World War II, making it the fourth-oldest continuously broadcasting commercial station in the United States. The station broadcast from the DuMont Building on Madison Avenue. On December 17, 1945 WABD moved to channel 5.
Channel 5 is now WNYW and is the flagship station of Fox Broadcasting. It’s sister station is WWOR (Secaucus NJ). I noticed that Mr Harold (Hal) Borth has visited this site and I would like to hear from you Harold. Please email me at email@example.com.
Mr. Borth spent 40 years with these stations as a Senior Engineer and has been on top of the Empire State Building and World Trade Center more times than you can count attending to the transmitters and towers. I hope to do a story on WABD and it’s progression to WNYW.
Real Camera Operator History! A TRUE RARITY! (Revised Text)
Here is a picture of Ken Gieman, the first Dumont Electorcam operator. I think Ken is on the left of the camera with his hand on the steering ring.
This picture was taken at Dumont Broadcasting, Channel 5, Studio 5, 205 East 67th Street, NYC about 1956. I had originally thought the set behind them was the ‘Honeymooners’ set without the furniture, but after seeing the comments below, have double checked the photo. This set has double wide windows…Ralph and Alice’s apartment window was a single window.
This is a 35 mm version of the Electrocam and used Kodak Tri X film.
This picture was sent to me by Ward Bennett who was given the photo by Harold Borth who Ward worked with at MetroMedia, WNEW-TV then at FOX, WNYW-TV. Thank you Ward!
This is from a 1975 tennis match near Boston. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a Mark VII with a lens other than it’s regular Angenieux lens compliment. These were great cameras and I’m glad to have one on display. Mine spent most of it’s days on Sesame Street.
Let me let you in on a little secret. Lunch with Soupy Sales, Detroit’s most popular TV kid’s show, wasn’t really a kid’s show at all. Oh sure, Soupy always reminded the kiddies to take their vitaminnies and eat Silvercup Bread, “the best bread in Dee-troit,” but the show always relied on more adult oriented humor. In a 1958 Detroit Times article Sales even admitted, “There’s really no message to this show. It’s actually a kid’s show for adults.”
Soupy and his straight man, puppeteer Clyde Adler, were basically a modern day vaudeville team. The show never had a live studio audience, except for a very vocal stage crew. Soupy always tried to crack up the crew, and they were more than happy to reciprocate. For example, Soupy’s orange juice was on more than one occasion spiked with 100 proof vodka, courtesy of the stagehands. Another crew prank involved the placing of dirty notes between the buns of Soupy’s hamburger. When Soupy lifted the top of the bun to put ketchup on his burger he’d see the dirty note, which would invariably break him up.
The most well known gag from the show ranks as one of the classic outtakes in TV history, thanks to Dick Clark’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes TV show. So without further ado, I give you the true story of the famous “Naked Lady Behind The Door.”
There never was a written script for the show; Soupy and Clyde would just work out what they were going to do, giving the director a bare-bones outline for camera angles and sound cues. The bit was for the audio man to play a recording of a woman screaming. Soupy would then run to the door, open it, and look down to see a pair of women’s shoes being pulled by fishing line, running from a pair of men’s shoes. Blackout, cut to commercial.
The studio that day was filled with curious onlookers who were in on the joke. Soupy knew that something was up, but he wasn’t quite sure what. The show started precisely at noon, and ran smoothly. At about 12:27 Soupy, as rehearsed, heard a woman’s scream. He ran to the door, opened it, and instead of a pair of women’s shoes saw a nude woman wearing nothing but a smile. Soupy stole a quick glance at the master monitor, hoping that the curvaceous cutie’s image wasn’t being broadcast live over the airwaves. Sure enough, to his horror the monitor showed exactly what Soupy had feared- a smiling nude woman. The engineers were clever enough to patch a different camera angle into the monitor, making Soupy think that thousands of Detroit kiddies were at home eating their lunches in front of the TV while getting a lesson in female anatomy. In reality, what the kids saw was a speechless Soupy standing next to an open door, nothing more. Soupy saw what he thought was his career passing before his eyes.
Since the show was broadcast live, no video footage exists. The gag was recreated once more in Los Angeles in 1962, but because the show had gone completely to videotape by then, any flubs could be easily edited out, making the practical joke less effective and here is the video.
Soupy Sales blooper isn’t really a blooper. Although the normal straight on door shot made it to air, the shot of the stripper did not. The crew play a pract…
With Chicago’s WBKB still on my mind from this morning’s post, I thought now was a good time to add this photo of the windy city’s bright start of the small screen from the early days. The names are at the bottom and should be viewable in ‘full screen’ mode.