Posts in Category: Broadcast History

1.28 Billion Minutes Streamed (and NBC Is Still Counting)

NBC Olympics: TV Ratings Not Great, But Steaming Video HUGE

Heading into Friday night, NBC’s television coverage of the Rio Olympics has been averaging 28.7 million viewers and a 15.9 household rating.

Those numbers are still down from London four years ago, but NBC Sports continues to see record returns from streaming. Live-streamed minutes of the Rio Games have now reached 1.5 billion, and the Stamford facility keeps adding capacity. -Bobby Ellerbee

1.28 Billion Minutes Streamed (and NBC Is Still Counting)

The NBC headquarters is in full Olympics mode, which includes a vastly expanded streaming program that, through Thursday, had offered 1.28 billion minutes of live Rio coverage.

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August 13, 1899…The Master Of Suspense Was Born In London

August 13, 1899…The Master Of Suspense Was Born In London

Like you, I loved his movies, but his television show, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” is my favorite of all his creations. On October 2, 1955, the show debuted on CBS. At the link is the very first episode titled “Revenge” without the famous opening silhouette or monologue . http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x445j0m?GK_FACEBOOK_OG_HTML5=1

This was the half hour show that aired weekly at 9:30 on Sunday nights from 1955 to 1960, The show moved to NBC and to Tuesday at 8:30 from 1960 to 1962.

As you would expect, the ratings were good and sponsors wanted more which brought about “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”, which lasted for three more seasons, from September 1962 to June 1965, adding another 93 episodes to the 268 already produced.

By the way, in case you have ever wondered what the music was that always played in the famous opening title shot of the drawing and silhouette, it was Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette”. You can see that at this link. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x87f7f_alfred-hitchcock-1-presents-caracol_shortfilms

– Bobby Ellerbee

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August 13, 1997…”South Park” Debuts On Comedy Central


August 13, 1997…”South Park” Debuts On Comedy Central

Below is the first (of three) pilot episodes for the show, and this one is called “Jesus Vs. Frosty”. The animation technique was inspired by the “Monty Python” use of cut outs, and this was created in 1992 by Tray Parker and Matt Stone, which was the year they met in a University of Colorado film class.

The first two pilots, used real construction paper cut outs and stop motion. Later, their animation software would take over, but keep the cutout effect. There have been a total of 267 episodes over the course of the show’s 19 seasons, and Season 20 will premiere on September 14.

Congratulations to Tray and Matt on their success! As a cast member on “Squidbillies”, with our 10th season airing now on Adult Swim, I know what a milestone 20 years on the air is to you guys. Kudos! -Bobby Ellerbee

The 1st Pilot Episode of South Park. Don’t Own South Park or Comedy Central.

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August 12, 1968…The Last TV Performance Of “Over The Rainbow”


August 12, 1968…The Last TV Performance Of “Over The Rainbow”

48 years ago today, Judy Garland appeared on “The Mike Douglas Show”. No one knew this would be the last time she would sing her beloved classic on television, but this is the last rendition the viewing public got to see. http://youtu.be/WjQuzn1jWzA?t=2m58s

At the start of this clip, you can see Mike and Judy reminiscing over some rare photos of her, but this video is set to start where Douglas asks her to sing one of the greatest songs of all time. We still love you Judy! -Bobby EllerbeeFrom The Mike Douglas Show, aired in August of 1968. (Part 4 of 4) In the final part of the interview Judy talks about some of her movies, her children’s rea…

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August 12, 1881…Cecil B. DeMille Was Born, And With Him: “Epics”

August 12, 1881…Cecil B. DeMille Was Born, And With Him: “Epics”

DeMille was one of the greatest film directors and producers of all time. His name was synonymous with the word “epic” and he brought some of the biggest films ever made to the screen. In the photo, we see him talking with Charlton Heston, as Moses, on the set of “The Ten Commandments”.

There is more and a very good 3 minute clip at the link, plus a full 45 minute video bio at the bottom of the page.
http://www.biography.com/people/cecil-b-demille-9271261

Here is one of the many great stories, some true-some not, told about “Mr. Epic”.

DeMille once directed a film that required a huge, expensive battle scene. Filming on location in a California valley, the director set up multiple cameras to capture the action from every angle. It was a sequence that could only be done once.

When DeMille yelled “Action!,” thousands of extras playing soldiers stormed across the field, and riders on horseback galloped over the hills. Spears and arrows by the thousand flew, catapults fired, and battle towers loaded with soldiers came toppling down. The whole sequence went off perfectly. At the end of the scene, DeMille yelled “Cut!”

It was then that he was then informed, to his horror, that three of the four cameras recording the battle sequence had failed. In Camera #1, the film had broken. Camera #2 had missed shooting the sequence when a dirt clod was kicked into the lens by a horse’s hoof. Camera #3 had been destroyed when a battle tower had fallen on it. DeMille was at his wit’s end when he suddenly remembered that he still had Camera #4, which he had had placed along with a cameraman on a nearby hill to get a long shot of the battle sequence.

DeMille grabbed his megaphone and called up to the cameraman, “Did you get all that?” The cameraman on the hill waved and shouted back, “Ready when you are, C.B.!”. -Bobby Ellerbee

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STOP THE PRESSES! WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE? A UNICORN? Now THIS, is INTERESTING!

STOP THE PRESSES! WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE? A UNICORN?

Now THIS, is INTERESTING! Behind RCA’s Dr. Paul Weimer, with his Tri-Color camera (foreground), there is something behind him I have never seen before.

It is similar to the first generation of RCA color cameras, but is not one of the two built for testing in the RCA/NBC Wardman Park Studios in Washington DC. Those cameras are in the other photos here and have vents on the doors, a different lens housing on the front, exhaust blower on top, and do not have any kind of control knobs that we see at the rear of the lens housing here. Nor do they have aluminum “color” badges on their sides (just behind Weimer’s shoulder, you can see the “color” badge).

This perplexing photo, sent in by Barry Mitchell, is from a 1953 RCA publication on color television, and the only mention of the photo refers to the Tri-Color technology. I suspect this photo was taken at RCA in Camden.

As for just what this is…I’m not exactly sure, but here is my best guess. Before I go there though, let me say that I have heard that the Wardman cameras were returned to Camden when the WDC color test were concluded in 1950, and testing moved to NYC in ’51.

I think this may be one of the Wardman cameras that has been modified inside and out as a possible “go-between” lab model that tries to bridge the gap between the Wardman cameras and the second generation of color camera, which were the “coffin” cameras used in NBC Studio 3H in NYC after the Wardman experiments were concluded.

I know that having the optical system in the box on the front of the camera was never something they liked, because of the fixed focal length, which meant you had to move the camera back and forth for long shots or close ups. I suspect the controls on the back of the optics box is a newly added attempt to adjust the “back focus” into the red, blue and green filter mirrors that were in this box.

Since the turret had been introduced on the RCA TK30, in 1946, just after the Wardman cameras were built, I think one reason this mock up failed to be used was because it still had little ability to vary shots, that a turret offered.

The John Vasos designed “Television” badge on the lab model is now joined by a “Color” badge, which was also a Vasos touch. One further refinement Vasos suggested to RCA was to round the top of the viewfinder, making the first application (on the “coffin” cameras), similar in appearance to the gentle curves we came to admire on the TK40 and 41.

I’m sure there were refinements to the interior electronics, but have no idea what those may have been, but the color optics system moved inside on the “coffin” cameras which improved the image out.

Anyone have further thoughts, or ever seen this rare camera “missing link” before? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee




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August 11, 2009…72 Year Run Of “The Guiding Light” Ends

August 11, 2009…72 Year Run Of “The Guiding Light” Ends

The Guiding Light is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running drama in television history, running from 1952 until 2009, preceded by a 15-year broadcast on the radio.

First broadcast five days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration, the title “The Guiding Light”, refers to a lamp in the study of Reverend Dr. John Ruthledge (a major character when the show debuted) that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed.

June 30, 1952 is the day “The Guiding Light” came to television. It’s first TV home was in CBS Studio 56 at Liederkranz Hall on East 58th street, where two of the four studios there had Dumont cameras. After the consolidation of production into the CBS Broadcast Center and colorizing in the mid 60s, Liederkrantz was closed, but ‘TGL’ was a big show so CBS moved it to a facility of it’s own…Studio 65, The High Brown Theater on 26th Street, which had upstairs and downstairs studio floors.

The black and white photo is from September of ’52 in Studio 56. The two color photos are from Studio 65. The studio shot was taken in the basement, while the control room and bigger studio were on the first floor. Occasionally, actors would have to race from one floor to the other to make appearances in the same scene.

‘The Guiding Light’ was created by Irma Phillips, and began as an NBC Radio serial on January 25, 1937. On June 2, 1947, the series was moved to CBS Radio. Even after it’s television debut, the show would continue to be broadcast concomitantly on radio until June 29, 1956.

The series was expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour in early 1968, which is probably when the move from 56 to 65 occurred. The show expanded to a full hour on November 7, 1977.

The series broadcast its 15,000th televised episode on September 6, 2006.On April 1, 2009, it was announced that CBS had cancelled the show due to low ratings.

The show taped its final scenes for CBS on August 11, 2009, and its final episode on the network aired on September 18, 2009. On October 5, 2009, CBS replaced “TGL” with an hour-long revival of “Let’s Make a Deal”, hosted by Wayne Brady.

With a 72 year run, TGL stands as the fourth longest-running program in all of broadcast history.

At the link is a full 15 minute episode from March 4, 1953 when the show as just 9 months old. The Duz commercial is live, and the pitch man is the show’s announcer Hal Simms. The Ivory commercial appears to be on film. Thanks to Gady Reinhold for the color photos. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTUMbA3SGt0




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August 10, 1948…WJZ-TV (WABC) Signs On In New York

August 10, 1948…WJZ-TV (WABC) Signs On In New York

New York’s Channel 7 came to life 68 years ago today, so Happy Birthday! Below are articles from “Billboard” and “Broadcasting” that describe the gala night.

Since a lot of us are a bit rusty on ABC television’s owned & operated roots, here’s a short primer.

On April 19, 1948, the ABC Television Network began its broadcasts on its first primary affiliate, WFIL-TV in Philadelphia. Only the month before, ABC bought the Duland Riding Academy at 7 West 66 Street at their network’s new home, which would allow them to leave the space at 30 Rock, that they inherited in the NBC Blue Network deal.

In that it would be four months until WJZ came to the air in NYC,
some of those first ABC shows were shown on Dumont’s WABD. Finally, August 10, 1948, the network’s flagship owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City, began its broadcasts. ABC’s other owned-and-operated stations launched over the course of the next 13 months.

WENR-TV in Chicago launched on September 17, 1948, while WXYZ-TV in Detroit went on the air October 9, 1948. KGO-TV in San Francisco went on the air May 5, 1949.

On May 7, 1949, Billboard revealed that ABC would spend $2.5 million to convert the old Vitagraph/Warner East Annex in Hollywood into The Prospect Studios, and construct a transmitter on Mount Wilson in anticipation of the launch of KECA-TV, which went on the air on September 16, 1949. The rest as they say, is history. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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August 10, 1964…President Johnson Signs Tonkin Resolution

August 10, 1964…President Johnson Signs Tonkin Resolution

In the East Room of The White House, President Johnson is shown signing the document with RCA TK30s from NBC’s WRC handling the network pool coverage that day, and using one of the first through the lens TelePrompTers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rd6zKqGcaOM
This was the first big escalation of the war in Vietnam, and like many things Vietnam…it was a mistake of gigantic proportion for two big reasons. First, it gave the President a blank check with the military and the ability to declare war with out the approval of the congress. Second, and as you will see in the video, the attacks on US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin didn’t happen, as Robert McNamara says in this short clip, in which we also see video from these cameras. -Bobby Ellerbee (A Vietnam Era Veteran).

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August 9, 1936…Jesse Owens Won His 4th Gold Medal In Berlin

August 9, 1936…Jesse Owens Won His 4th Gold Medal In Berlin

The first live television coverage of a sports event in world history occurred during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. These games were televised by two German firms, Telefunken and Fernseh.

Telefunken’s two large stationary cameras were based on RCA technology and the single, smaller Fernseh “roving” camera was based on Philo Farnsworth’s system.

Below, the dark camera is the Fernseh camera and was a bit smaller than the big white Telefunken cameras. Both systems broadcast at 180 lines and 25 frames per second. Four different areas were telecast using three cameras. In total, 72 hours of live transmission went over the airwaves to special viewing booths, called “Public Television Offices” in Berlin and Potsdam.

The cameraman looking into the viewfinder on the Telefunken is Walter Bruch who later went on to develop the Phase Alternation Line System, or PAL that, was initially adopted by more than thirty countries and eventually, more than one hundred. When interviewed by German talk show host Hans Rosenthal on why he had named it the “PAL system”, Bruch replied that certainly no German would want to have a “Bruch-System” because Bruch in German is synonymous with “broken”.

By the way, the Telefunkens appear to have zoom lenses, but they’re not. There were several fixed focal length lens options that could be changed out (a 2 man job), and we can see an example of that in the telephoto lens shot. They have placed the focus mechanism on the outside of the camera instead of inside, and are already using cradle heads instead of friction heads. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee




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August 9, 1957…”Home” With Arlene Francis Ends Three Year Run

August 9, 1957…”Home” With Arlene Francis Ends Three Year Run

NBC’s “Home” show debuted March 1, 1954 at 11 AM from their 67th Street Studios which were built just a few years earlier by WOR.

The concept came from a show NBC President Pat Weaver had originally titled “Shopping”, and was designed for the upscale female demo. Weaver’s other creations “Today” and “Tonight” are alive and well, but “Home”, the third of the triad, ended with the 893rd and final episode on August 9, 1957.

When Arlene Francis was chosen as the host, Weaver changed the name to “Home” and broadened the scope of the show to add more entertainment and interviews, but each show did have a twelve minute segment on shopping and new products that ranged from food and furniture to clothes and cosmetics.

Instead of trying to present the show on a household type set, NBC spent $200,000 on a circular set that made it clear to viewers that it was done on in a modern television studio. As you can see it was shot “in the round”, but the set also rotated on a huge turntable and was one of the most versatile sets ever. There is also something special about the cameras, that I will point out on the individual photos, so click on those.

As you can see,NBC even built a huge ceiling mounted, remote control camera boom for overhead shots. What you can’t see it the elaborate plumbing the set had. As in the image with the girls with umbrellas, there were often special effects on the set, including a way to make and drain “rain”, as well as operate the kitchen sinks.

In the third year of the show, it was moved to the 10 o’clock hour as CBS was doing their best to counter program with Lucy reruns at 11. Although critics loved the show, it’s aim at the upper class female demo was too narrow and the ratings continued to drop forcing NBC to cancel it. Still under contract for another year, NBC replaced “Home” with “The Arlene Francis Show”, which was much livelier and had more entertainment. – Bobby Ellerbee






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Behind The Scenes of The Iconic Abbey Road Cover Photoshoot

August 8, 1969…At The Beatles Abbey Road Photo Session

Where were you then? I was about to start my senior year in high school, and my third year as a part time radio announcer. Here is an interesting article on the photo shoot, with some pix you may have never seen. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

Shooting Film: Behind The Scenes of The Iconic Abbey Road Cover Photoshoot

Everything you could ever want to know about this famous photo session. I wonder if there’s any more photos in existence from this day? And I wonder if anybody living in the flats across the street shot any photos from their windows?

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August 8, 1974…Nixon Jokes With Crew Minutes Before Resigning


August 8, 1974…Nixon Jokes With Crew Minutes Before Resigning

Forty two years ago, President Nixon announced his resignation to the nation from the Oval Office of The White House. The first seven minutes of this video capture his pre broadcast remarks which, under the circumstances, are truly remarkable, and a bit disturbing.

The CBS crews handled the pool coverage that night with two Norelco PC70s. Sensing a historic moment, a smart network tape operator started recording even before Nixon entered the office. As you will see, a lot of his very odd personality is revealed here.

Although it is not shown, after the speech, he turned to the crew and wished them a Merry Christmas…in August. Well, it was Nixon, after-all.

At the 7 minute mark, his resignation speech starts and the whole thing is here. To bad he didn’t do this a year earlier. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee

Moments before he goes on-air to resign as President of the United States, Richard Nixon is calm and collected, joking with staff as they set up the pool fee…

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EXCLUSIVE…Inside The First Color Television Remote Unit

EXCLUSIVE…Inside The First Color Television Remote Unit

Thanks to Chuck Pharis, and his very rare RCA “Red Book”, I have new information and images to share with you, that include not only the first color remote unit, but also, new details on the Washington, Studio 3H and Colonial Theater color trials. I will set the stage with some background on color history, and with some new dates which have been confirmed by RCA information.

Remember, Washington was where the first phase of color experiments were done, with two first generation cameras at Wardman Park studios. Both of those cameras were retired and sent back to RCA in Camden in December of 1950.

The second phase of color testing was done in New York in NBC’s Studio 3H. In January of 1951, work began on the color installation there, and was completed by March. Three experimental cameras were installed in 3H and are called the “coffin cameras” due to their size and black color.

The third phase of color testing began at The Colonial Theater in New York. RCA/NBC leased the theater and began installation in late September of 1952 and the first transmission from here was March 19, 1953. There were four prototype models of the RCA TK40 in operation there, that underwent a full year of tests before RCA began production on the TK40 in Camden.

I felt it would help to refresh your memory, as we now know that this mobile unit was used in both the 3H and Colonial field test. As I mentioned in Thursday’s (8/4) post on this unit, this is one of the original NBC Telemobile units built in 1937.

The first use of the color mobile unit was in September of 1951 with a five day remote test from The Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY. Support equipment was permanently installed in the unit, but a “coffin camera” was borrowed from Studio 3H, which for a week, sent pictures three times a day. The morning test was shown in black and white on WNBT, to see how the images looked on the monochrome sets. The two afternoon tests were closed circuit color test seen on color sets at The Center Theater, The RCA Exhibition Hall across from 30 Rock, Studio 3H and in Princeton at the RCA Labs.

In 1952, there were over 30 remote tests, including two from Palisades Park NJ, but the big one was on October 18, when two of the coffin cameras were used to telecast, in color, the Columbia-Pennsylvania football game from Baker Field. One of the cameras was equipped with the new RCA Electa Zoom lens, while the other used the a normal field array of lenses on the turret.

Although there were very few color sets, RCA’s main objective with the experimental color broadcasts was to satisfy the FCC, with the fact that their Dot Sequential system was truly “Compatible”- in that it could deliver the same quality image to black and white TV sets, that monochrome broadcasts offered. Via newspaper ads, local viewers was asked to write to NBC with their comments on reception and picture quality of the color segments.

When color operations moved to the Colonial Theater, the new TK40 prototype cameras were delivered, which had very different control equipment. So, the mobile unit had to have a complete refitting, but when remotes were done, cameras were borrowed from The Colonial for a few days at a time. For more, click on the pix. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee





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August 6, 1956…The DuMont Network Goes Dark

August 6, 1956…The DuMont Network Goes Dark

In furthering television on a technical basis, DuMont brought a lot to the game, but financially, it had always been an uphill battle. Their deal with Paramount was always a problem, and without radio properties, they had no leverage with AT&T. At the link is the story of the final years. http://www.dumontnetwork.com/7.html

In a nutshell, here is how DuMont began to dismantle its network operations. On April 1, 1955, many of the entertainment programs on the network (including “Captain Video”, DuMont’s longest-running show) were dropped. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s last program aired a few weeks later, on April 26 (he would soon move to ABC).

By May, only eight shows remained on the DuMont network, and the AT&T coaxial-cable interconnection to DuMont affiliates in other cities was cancelled. Inexpensive programs like “It’s Alec Templeton Time” sustained what was left of the network during the summer months. A panel show called “What’s the Story” was the last regularly scheduled non-sports program on DuMont, with its final airing on September 23, 1955.

After that date, DuMont reserved its “live” network feed for occasional sporting events. The last program of any kind on the DuMont Television Network was “Boxing from St. Nicholas Arena”, with Chris Schenkel on August 6, 1956, although this show continued locally on WABD in New York City. -Bobby Ellerbee

DuMont Television Network | Historical Web Site

“We didn’t have a lot of stations, but we had a lot more than ABC did…The only reason ABC survived was they had been in the radio business, and they got the Paramount backing.”

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August 5, 1957…”American Bandstand” Debuts On ABC

August 5, 1957…”American Bandstand” Debuts On ABC

61 years ago today, AB debuted on the ABC Television Network. Many tell of Dick Clark going to ABC with the show, but…according to Leonard Goldenson, it didn’t happen that way. Mr. Goldenson is the titan that built the network into the one we know today, and this narrative is based on his book, “Beating The Odds”.

In a nutshell, Goldenson’s friend and ABC’s top researcher, Ollie Treyz was responsible for bringing the show to the network. With an insatiable appetite for information, Ollie was reading the Philadelphia rating books and noticed a WFIL show called “Bandstand” had a consistent 15 or 16 rating, which was huge. Treyz was curious and called the man who had brought him to ABC in 1948…that was Roger Clipp who now managed ABC affiliate WFIL for Walter Annenberg.

Clipp sent a kinescope to Treyz, who showed it to his teenage daughter and her friends, who loved it. Treyz played it cool and told Clipp that although they didn’t think it would work, they would like to try it out on the network. They made a deal for $1500 per week for WFIL to produce the show, and Clark got a few spots a week for himself to sell. ABC sold the national spots for $1500 per minute.

At the time, ABC had a fairly competitive prime time, but not much more, which made it hard for them to gain new affiliates. Their afternoons were mostly soap operas and some game shows, but nothing special, with “Afternoon Film Festival” airing daily from 3-5. In the fall of 1955, ratings got a boost with the addition of the “Mickey Mouse Club”. It debuted as a one hour daily show that aired from 5-6. After the first 13 weeks, the MMC went to the half hour format and ran from 5-5:30 from then on.

ABC needed a game changer, and that’s what they got! It only took a few weeks for word to spread, and by Thanksgiving, “American Bandstand” was a hit! In the beginning, the local show, was 2 hours, but when it went to ABC it went to 90 minutes and then 60. In the summer of ’57, when it debuted, ABC ran the show from 3:30-5, and it was followed by “The Mickey Mouse Club” from 5-5:30.

13 weeks later, ABC decided to take advantage of thier new audience, and sandwiched the Johnny Carson hosted “Do You Trust Your Wife” into AB, with AB starting at 3 and DYTYW inserted from 3:30-4, followed by another hour of AB from 4-5. From 5-5:30, ABC rotated daily, “The Buccaneers”, “Adventures of Sir Lancelot”, “Superman”, “Woody Woodpecker” and “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok”, followed by “The Mickey Mouse Club” from 5:30 -6.

Of course, all these times are Eastern, which begs the question, how did they handle the west coast feed? Well, fortunately, by this time, ABC had a few of the new Ampex VR 1000 video tape machines in operation. The machines debuted in April of ’56, but it took a while to put them into production and get them delivered, and the networks got the first ones. I think CBS and NBC got 6, and ABC got 4 in the spring/summer of ’57.

Just two years earlier, the Dumont Network had gone dark making ABC the new third network, but NBC and CBS were light years ahead in programs and schedules. Bandstand and Mickey Mouse helped bridge some of that gap. The show ran for 30 years on ABC, first on weekday afternoons and later, on weekends. I would rate it a 10, how about you? Got a favorite Bandstand moment? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee





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Ultra Rare New Photo…The Very First Color Mobile Unit

Ultra Rare New Photo…The Very First Color Mobile Unit

This is the first, and only photo of the first color unit I have ever seen. Not much is known about this first RCA/NBC color mobile unit, but this rare new photo helps a lot in fleshing out the backstory. The top photo shows the unit, with one of the four RCA TK40 prototype cameras from The Colonial Theater, sometime between October 1952 and late 1953.

The photo with the girl in the swimsuit shows one of the three experimental color “coffin cameras”, from NBC Studio 3H on what is believed to be the first color remote test. It was taken at Palisades Park NJ, in 1952. The closed circuit broadcast was sent back to 30 Rock, and to RCA in Camden for appraisal by the engineers.

(FYI, these black “coffin” cameras are the second generation of RCA experimental color cameras, which came into use in 1950 after the RCA color tests moved to NY from Washington. The first generation was used at The Wardman Park Studios in Washington from 1947-1950 and those cameras were sent back to Camden. The third generation of experimental color cameras were the four TK40 prototypes installed at The Colonial Theater in late ’52. Mass production of the TK40 did not start until April ’54).

My historian friends and I have always wondered just how they did that Palisades Park remote. Did they take the equipment there and set it up, or was there a mobile unit? We had heard there was a mobile unit, but no one had seen it. Now we know, and it appears that this is one of the original 1937 NBC Telemobile units, that has been taken out of mothballs and converted for color remote tests.

If you remember, the original NBC Telemobile unit was a two bus affair, one was the camera control unit, the other, the transmitter unit that could transmit a TV signal from its 50 foot tower, about 60 miles, back to 30 Rock. Given the microwave dish up-top, it appears that this unit is now able to throw a color microwave signal, and handle at least one camera, and maybe two.

Thanks to my friend and mentor Chuck Pharis for the rare photo, which comes from something just as rare…The RCA Red Book, which as I understand it, was an RCA book prepared and published for presentation to the FCC, on their dot sequential color system. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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How Peter Pan Flew…On Broadway And In The TV Classic

How Peter Pan Flew…On Broadway And In The TV Classic

Peter Foy was the man responsible for the “flying” effect that all of us, of a certain age, remember with great fondness. Flying one person gracefully is an art…flying four at a time is magic!

Thanks to Terry Wilkie, the TD at Caesar’s Entertainment in Las Vegas, here is an interview with Foy that discusses the finer points of how it is done. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee




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Happy 90th Birthday! Tony Bennett…Born August 3, 1926

Happy 90th Birthday! Tony Bennett…Born August 3, 1926

Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in Astoria, Queens, New York 90 years ago today. To say thanks for so many years of great songs and one of a kind showmanship, here is Tony with Judy Garland in 1963. http://youtu.be/L8RlnoKNPD4?t=4m46s

In a nutshell, here’s how Mr. Bennett’s career began. In 1949, Pearl Bailey, who had seen him in a club, asked him to open for her in Greenwich Village. She had invited Bob Hope to the show. Hope liked him and decided to take Benedetto on the road with him, and simplified his name to Tony Bennett. In 1950, Bennett cut a demo of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and was signed to the major Columbia Records label by Mitch Miller.

In 1951, he had his first big hit…”Because of You”, a ballad produced by Mitch Miller with a lush orchestral arrangement from Percy Faith. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-4zvArJDGg

His first release started out gaining popularity on jukeboxes, then reached number one on the radio play charts in 1951, and stayed there for ten weeks, selling over a million copies. The rest, as they say, is history.

Below is a very rare photo of Mr. Bennett on the “Tonight” show, October 1, 1962. That was the night Johnny Carson made his debut as host of the show, and Tony Bennett was the musical guest Johnny Carson invited to share that special the night with. Happy Birthday Tony! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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August 3, 1944…One Of CBS Television’s First Game Show Debuts

August 3, 1944…One Of CBS Television’s First Game Show Debuts

Pictured here is John Reed King hosting “Missus Goes A Shopping”, which debuted on this day 72 years ago, on August 3, 1944, This is inside CBS Studio 42 at Grand Central Terminal. I will reveal the surprise of who the woman in the hat is a few paragraphs down.

The first CBS game show on television was actually the “CBS Television Quiz”, which aired on Wednesday nights on WCBW from July 2, 1941 to May 25, 1942. The host was Gil Fates, who went on to be executive producer of “What’s My Line”. Due to the war, the show left the air, as the broadcast schedules for both NBC and CBS flatlined.

With optimism on the war in Europe spreading, TV began to percolate and more time was added to broadcast schedules. “Missus Goes A Shopping”, began on radio in 1941 and ran there till 1951, which King hosted until the show moved to TV. With it’s radio success, CBS figured it would be a good bet to add to its TV line up, and it was. A daytime television version began on November 19, 1947 and ended on November 10, 1948.

So, who is the woman? Hint…she was the scorekeeper on “CBS Television Quiz”. Didn’t help? OK…she is none other than Francis Buss…television’s first ever female director!

In addition to his radio and television quiz shows, Mr. King was also notable as the voice of many Paramount newsreels, and for a time he was coordinating producer of the series. His voice can often be heard on the Turner Movie Classics cable network when the movie newsreels are replayed from time to time.

One of John’s best known roles in radio was as the star of “Sky King”. In television, he is celebrated as the producer of one of the most popular series of the late 1950’s, “Death Valley Days”, which featured, among other hosts, Ronald Reagan. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee




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August 2, 1942…”Here’s Looking At You Kid” Is Immortalized On Film

August 2, 1942…”Here’s Looking At You Kid” Is Immortalized On Film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa-dGYjSq
74 years ago today, the final scene of “Casablanca” was filmed on Stage 21 at Warner Brothers (linked above). They also shot on Stage 04, Stage 05, Stage 06, Stage 07, Stage 08, Stage 09, Stage 11, Stage 12, Stage 14, Stage 17, Stage 18, Stage 25 and French Street on the backlot. Some of the sets used in “Casablanca”, were leftovers from “The Desert Song”, and “Now Voyager” with Bette Davis.

The whole picture was shot at Warner’s except for the sequence showing Major Strasser’s arrival, which was filmed at Van Nuys Airport, and a few short clips of stock footage views of Paris were added for effect.

This scene on the “runway” was purposefully over fogged to hide the deficiencies in the cardboard mock up of a Lockheed Electra which had very short extras around it to help cheat the proportionality.

Speaking of cheating, Bogart was two inches shorter than Bergman, so…like in this scene, he wore wooden block lifts on his shoes, and sat on pillows to hide the difference.

This scene also gave us, “We’ll always have Paris” too. It is thought that the “Play it again Sam” line was delivered on Stage 11. -Bobby Ellerbee


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August 1, 1981…MTV Debuts

August 1, 1981…MTV Debuts

The day that video killed the radio star

On August 1, 1981, MTV was born, starting its very first ever broadcast with the appropriate 1979 hit “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

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August 1, 1949…The First Made For TV Cartoon Debuts


August 1, 1949…The First Made For TV Cartoon Debuts

“Crusader Rabbit” was the first animated series produced specifically for television. The limited animation concept was test marketed in 1948, while the initial episode (below), aired on KNBH (now KNBC) in Los Angeles on August 1, 1949.

“Crusader Rabbit” was the brainchild of Alex Anderson, the nephew of animator Paul Terry. Terry, a former newspaper cartoonist, founded animation studio Terrytoons, where he created “Mighty Mouse” in 1942. More importantly, Terry pioneered the techniques of limited animation for television, allowing his studio to compete with better-funded rivals like Disney.

When Anderson saw a television for the first time, he realized his uncle’s cheap, fast techniques might make it feasible to move animation into the new medium. Terry was uninterested with Anderson’s pitch of an animated TV show…or, more accurately, worried that Terrytoons’ theatrical distribution partner Fox would drop them if they started doing business in the threatening new medium, so Anderson returned to Berkeley and set out on his own.

While working with his uncle at Terrytoons, Anderson had pitched a character called “Donkey Hote” that was passed on by animators who didn’t want to draw donkeys. Anderson changed the character to an easier-to-draw rabbit, but kept the idea of Quixote, and “Crusader Rabbit” was born.

Since the character was unnaturally bold for a rabbit, he paired him with an unnaturally cowardly tiger named Rags. His uncle let him keep the characters for his new venture.

To get Crusader and Rags on television, he teamed up with Jay Ward, a classmate and friend of his going back to grammar school. Ward had returned West from Harvard Business School with plans to get into real estate but was hit by a truck on his new venture’s first day. Anderson approached him while he was convalescing with the idea that they could form an animation studio together, Ward handling the business and Anderson handling the animation.

The studio they formed was Television Arts Producers. Producer Jerry Fairbanks originally landed the show at NBC, but the network eventually passed, which meant Fairbanks sold it piecemeal to affiliates. The first one to bite was KNBH in Los Angeles (now KNBC), and on Aug. 1, 1949, audiences were introduced to Crusader Rabbit and Rags the Tiger.

Of course, Anderson couldn’t afford the kind of animation that made the Disney shorts work. Each episode is no more than five minutes long, with 10 to 15 episodes making up a single crusade, and, frame to frame, looks more like a comic strip than motion animation.

In some markets, “Crusader Rabbit” was dropped into shows like Romper Room, so, because there was no guarantee that audiences would see the episodes in order, each episode begins with gradually longer and longer recaps, and by the end of a crusade, more than half of the show is recaps. Which, of course, means that half of the show was already animated.

After 195 episodes, the show collapsed in lawsuits: Jerry Fairbanks had borrowed production money from NBC and not repaid it; NBC foreclosed on the show without letting Anderson or Ward know. Another studio bought Television Arts and, with it, the rights to the character, producing more episodes (in color, this time) in 1956.
As Crusader Rabbit collapsed, Anderson and Ward created two new characters that would later meet with lasting success: “Rocky and Bullwinkle”.

Rocky and Bullwinkle’s future, like Crusader Rabbit’s, was litigious: Ward registered them for copyright in his name alone, and Anderson had to sue his heirs to be recognized as the co-creator.

“Rocky and Bullwinkle”, like many shows to follow, was hailed for being ahead of its time in its use of sophisticated jokes, but “Crusader Rabbit” got there first. Without it, animated shows aimed entirely at adults, might never have come about. -Bobby Ellerbee

Jay Ward’s Crusader Rabbit – Crusade 1 / Episode 1. Like to see more?

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Camerus Giganticus Maximus!

Camerus Giganticus Maximus!

Except for cameras shooting through a telescope, this is the biggest rig I have ever seen! Attached to the front of this RCA TK41 is a giant Fujinon 200 MM zoom lens.

Although it being photographed on the set of “Concentration”, I would find it hard to believe that it was actually used on the show. More than likely, as was/is fairly common, this was a demonstrator sent to NBC to play with for a few weeks, and this was the studio test for the brass inside 30 Rock. To really put it to the test, it would have to go to the field units for a good workout at a sporting event.

With only the regular 4 lens turret, the TK41 was 5 feet long. With the usual Rank-Taylor-Hobson 10X zoom, it was over 6 feet. This beast must be at least 8 feet. Thanks to my friend and mentor, Chuck Pharis for sending this. Enjoy, marvel and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

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Food For Thought…An Hour With NBC News Legend Reuven Frank


Food For Thought…An Hour With NBC News Legend Reuven Frank

Yesterday’s post on the final “Huntley-Brinkley Report” reminded me of this interview with Mr. Frank, who was twice, President of NBC News, and the man who first paired the duo. He is a fascinating man, with even more fascinating insight into the rise and fall of the greatest days of television news.

From 1991, here is a wide ranging CSPAN interview done in support of his new book that I hope you will enjoy. -Bobby Ellerbee

Reuven Frank (7 December 1920 — 4 February 2006) was an American broadcast news pioneer. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Israel Reuven Frank (he later dropped his…

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July 31, 1995…The Circuit Is Reversed As Disney Buys ABC

July 31, 1995…The Circuit Is Reversed As Disney Buys ABC

Did you know that in the beginning, ABC invested in Disney?

In the early 1950’s, Walt Disney sought corporate sponsorship for his Mickey Mouse themed amusement park. Desperate for quality programing, the new CEO of the American Broadcasting Company, Leonard Goldenson, lead ABC to become Disneyland’s primary backer. Following a $500,000 investment to subsidize Disneyland’s construction, the ABC network received a 35% share of park profits and exclusive programming from Walt Disney Studios.

The sponsorship immediately paid dividends. In 1954 the ABC network began televising “Disneyland”, a series of hour long specials, which featured old Disney Films, studio documentaries and new Disney Studio features. The extremely popular Davy Crockett debuted on the Disneyland series, and soon after, “Davy Crockett, the Indian Fighter”, and “The Mickey Mouse Club” came to ABC. The popularity of Disney programming boosted ABC’s ratings, and when Disneyland park opened in July of 1955, ABC aired the special event live, with the biggest ever remote broadcast at the time.

Walt Disney continued to host the “Disneyland” series, which was renamed “Walt Disney Presents” in 1958. ABC aired the successful programs until 1961. A dispute over Disneyland profits and the ability to broadcast in color, pushed Walt Disney to move to NBC, where Disney hosted “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, appearing on NBC until his death in 1966.

One other dividend that is not often mentioned is the fact that, despite all of the efforts from NBC and CBS to have the Hollywood movie makers supply television with programing, it was ABC’s association with Disney that finally broke the logjam. Soon, the screens were full of westerns, and detective stories from the west coast.

On July 31, 1995, Walt Disney Co. agreed to acquire Capital Cities-ABC Inc. in a $19 billion deal. The rest as they say “is history”. -Bobby Ellerbee


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July 31, 1970…Huntley-Brinkley Say Goodnight For The Last Time

July 31, 1970…Huntley-Brinkley Say Goodnight For The Last Time

The final minutes of the last broadcast, and more, were captured on this work tape (link below) from my friend Bob Maher. Here, we see rare video of not only Chet’s NBC sign off, but also…Walter Cronkite’s tip of the hat, with A VERY SPECIAL SURPRISE ENDING. The tape should start at 11:44. Cronkite’s tribute is first, followed by the memorable NBC sign off.
https://youtu.be/P7_fE2zpSIQ?t=11m44s

In the summer of ’56, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley had been paired by NBC to anchor their political convention coverages. It was producer Ruven Frank’s idea to use them at the conventions, but when it was suggested the two men take over the nightly news reporting from John Cameron Swayze, Ruven “thought it was the dumbest idea ever”.

Bill McAndrew was the NBC News boss, and had seen a two man team reporting from different cities on NBC affiliate WSAZ in West Virginia, and liked it. While Ruven Frank was coming around to McAndrew’s way of thinking, Swayze was losing more of the audience to Douglas Edwards on CBS, so the change was made.

At first, the ratings went even lower, but after a year of seeing Huntley in New York, and Brinkley in Washington, the audience began to build and by 1958, the team had won a Peabody Award.

“The Huntley-Brinkley Report” aired from October 29, 1956, until July 31, 1970. Before it, “The Camel News Caravan” with John Cameron Swayze was NBC’s nightly news show, and after Huntley-Brinkley, it came The “NBC Nightly News” with David Brinkley, Frank McGee and John Chancellor. Only in September of ’63 did the show go to half an hour from fifteen minutes…a week after CBS gave Walter Cronkite a thirty minute show.

I remember watching every night and especially remember their famous sign off…”Goodnight Chet, Goodnight David” and at the link below, David Brinkley talks about their sign off. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6FvyXQi6mU







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HISTORY FOR HIRE: A Grand Tour of Hollywood’s Top TV Prop House

In February of 2011, Concord, California camera collector John Bolin took a tour of Hollywood’s top ”prop’ house, History For Hire. By taking his camera, he took us all on tour with him. John sent me over 100 photos of his visit, but I’ve included only about thirty here because the place is so huge, even John’s 100 plus images can’t do it justice so I’ve chosen only the ones that have cameras in them, and not even all of them. There are nearly 1000 microphones that cover every era, different size cranes and dollies, pan heads and peds galore and even a few Mole Richardson perambulators (sound booms).

Basically, if you can name it, History For Hire has it buy the hundreds, and if not, they can make an exact duplicate…even cigarette packages and bottle labels. Got a war scene? Pick a war, and they can outfit your armies…they even have replicas of “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”, the atomic bombs used in World War II.

Below right is John and his wife at KRTH radio where they had gone to visit a friend…afternoon driver, Shotgun Tom Kelly (with hat). It was a busy trip for the Bolins because they had gone down to Los Angeles to pick up a TK47 (new add to his collection) from my old friend Manny Rodriguez whom I met at ABC in New York in the late 1980s. For a long time, Manny was the director of the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” , but is now directing the CBS mid day show “The Talk”. They went to the taping of The Talk. Later that day, they went to the taping of The Conan Show and visited our friend Bruce Oldham who is on camera three. Bruce and John went to school together.

Above left is History For Hire owner, Jim Elyea. Chuck Pharis has helped Jim collect and reengineer cameras over the years and told me stories of how big the place was. Jim and I became friends last year when I helped him acquire 3 pristine Vinten Fulmar pedestals from Singapore. A collector there had short circuited their trip to the salvage yard and need help in finding them a new home. They have a new life in Hollywood now, and at this writing, the 3 peds are being used in the new Muppet Movie.

Before I lay out all the shots below with just a few comments on them, I’ve got to show you a very neat trick. I think Chuck Pharis taught Jim how to do this when they were building the three prop cameras used in American Dreams, which was a TV series that revolved around the early days of American Bandstand. You can see them below in a few pictures.

Since there are basically no working cameras from these early eras, they have to look like they are working, so all the old insides are taken out the real cameras, but saved for parts for collectors. That means little flat panel LCD screens for the view finder, and to make the illusion complete, not one, but four little lipstick cameras with different focal lengths, to imitate the different lenses on the turret that changes in the viewfinder when you rack the lenses to a new position.

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Look carefully at the photo above. First, this is NOT a real TK30. All of Jim’s other cameras are real, but oddly, he has no real TK30s, so he had to make some, but that’s not why I’m showing you this.

See the small box under the lens turret on the bottom of the camera? It’s very non descript and looks like it could be one of the many modifications made to these cameras. Now…look below. The front of the box is open and shows the four small lipstick camera lenses that feed a picture to the LCD viewfinder screen and even to monitors in a control room if that is what’s called for. When the turret turns, there is a mechanism inside the hollow camera body that changes which lipstick lens is ”taking’ the shot. All of his cameras have this capability. Cool!

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OK…here we go…enjoy!

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These 3 TK41s above are from CBS and have the lipstick cameras, too…all the cameras have them, even the TK42s below.

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WOW! Camera Row!

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Above, are the cameras built for “American Dream” , and again below behind a real TK10

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 Above, a real TK10 and below, a real good copy of a TK30 on a Panoram dolly

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Believe it or not, this is a History for Hire built 1950s control room console, and it works.

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Above, John’s friend Bob Snyder on Camera Row with TK60s, below, Noreclos!

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Above I see an Ikegami 323, TK44s and Howdy Doody? Below is one of their TK46s.

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Below are Ampex mono tape recorders…a sight near and dear to my heart. This is what I used in my first days in radio in 1964. I’m still a great audio editor and these machines are one of the reasons why…it’s where I learned to splice and edit.

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Surprise! MSNBC Primetime Convention Coverage Was From NYC!

Surprise! MSNBC Primetime Convention Coverage Was From NYC!

Who knew? I watched MSNBC a lot, and it was just like Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow were there in the hall. Actually, they were in MSNBC Studio 3A, in a the space usually occupied by the “Morning Joe” set.

The seamless blending was made possible by the large number of isolated camera feeds (via fiber optics) from the locations, that give the 3A control room the ability to operate as if the video sources were originating inside 30 Rock. With the giant LED wall screens behind them, using the iso camera from NBC News booth in the hall made it totally believable. Kudos! -Bobby Ellerbee



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THANK YOU…AGAIN From Eyes Of A Generation!

THANK YOU…AGAIN From Eyes Of A Generation!

Yesterday, this page hit a new all-time-high weekly Post Reach of 420,277!

That is nearly double the number in Wednesday’s thank you post, for the new 225,061 threshold, achieved then. We’ve also had 361 page likes this week which gives us 9,077 members who have made “The Home of Television’s Living History”, their home too.

As I have said, I am not the one that makes it live…you do. I do my best to memorialize historic, or interesting moments in TV, but it is all of you who bring the life to it by adding your input, much of which is a rare first hand narrative from people that were there. Thanks also for the amazing images that you so generously share with us. Most of all, I thank you for your willingness to teach me, and all that come here, from the fullness of your experiences, which include every area of the broadcast industry. -Bobby Ellerbee

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