July 25, 1959…Nixon-Khrushchev “KItchen Debate” Tape Airs In US
The Kitchen Debate was a series of impromptu exchanges (through interpreters) between then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the “kitchen of a modern American home” on display at the opening of the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow on July 24, 1959.
Using an RCA TK41 color camera, the debate was recorded on Ampex color videotape, a new technology recently pioneered in the U.S., and Nixon made reference to this fact. The exchange was subsequently rebroadcast in both countries. Khrushchev was skeptical of Nixon’s promise that his part in the debate would be translated into English and broadcast in the U.S., but it was.
In the United States, three major television networks broadcast the kitchen debate on July 25. The Soviets subsequently protested, as Nixon and Khrushchev had agreed that the debate should be broadcast simultaneously in America and the Soviet Union, with the Soviets even threatening to withhold the tape until they were ready to broadcast. The American networks, however, had felt that waiting would cause the news to lose its immediacy. Two days later, on July 27, the debate was broadcast on Moscow television, albeit late at night and with Nixon’s remarks only partially translated.
Below, Ampex president Phil Grundy, Khrushchev and Nixon watch the playback of the just recorded remarks. Khrushchev was shown how to operate the controls of the recorder, rewound the tape and played it back.
Nixon persuaded him to let it be seen in the United States, but Khrushchev insisted that it be translated in full and played unedited. To make sure that it got out of the Soviet Union, Ampex president Philip Gundy rushed back to his hotel with the tape, wrapped it in a dirty shirt and booked the first flight home.
By the time it was broadcast the following day, American newspapers had reported the event as an exchange acrimonious enough to start World War III. What viewers actually saw, though, was the two leaders in earnest and sometimes animated discussion, but by no means ready to launch missiles. The tape has been hailed as a milestone in communication as well as an historical document in its own right. The link above is to one of the few versions with captions. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
June 1940….Television’s 1st Convention & 1st Network Broadcast
76 years ago, in a spirit of cooperation, competitors RCA, GE and Philco teamed with AT&T to televise the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. It was a television first in more ways that one. Not only was this the first time TV had covered a political convention – this was also the first ever network to cover 3 cities at once.
RCA’s W2XBS in New York City had sent broadcasts of “Meet The Wife” to General Electric’s W2XB in Schenectady, in January of 1940, which was in essence, the first network. RCA had also sent separate broadcasts to Philco’s W2XE Philadelphia, but this event, now included all 3 stations. Many historians call this the first real television network, as it endured though the WW II television black-out, and began again in April 1944 with the broadcast of “The Voice Of Firestone Televues”.
The NYC-Schenectady leg was handled by existing AT&T equipment, but to get the intact images to NYC from Philadelphia required AT&T adding amplifiers every 5 miles of the 108 mile route, so a lot of time was spent in manholes in early June.
In Philly, there were only about 100 receivers in use, and most of those belonged to Philco and their executives, but it is reported that up to 2,000 a day watched the coverage on 60 sets RCA had installed at a museum next to the convention hall.
Were it not for a dark horse candidate winning the nomination, the convention may not have made many memories, but Wendell Wilkie came out of nowhere to defeat former President Herbert Hoover, Senator Robert Taft, Thomas Dewey and two others to win the nomination at 2 AM, on the 6th ballot.
The legendary Worthington Minor, who was just starting his TV career, watched and said unlike the radio coverage, TV captured the tension on the delegates faces as they voted.
That year, FDR was nominated for his 3rd term in office, but television could not take us there, as the convention was in Chicago, and at the time, there was no coaxial connection between the midwest and NYC. On election night, both NBC’s and Dumont’s stations broadcast election results locally. -Bobby Ellerbee
July 23, 1962…First World Wide Television Broadcast Via Telstar
On Monday afternoon on this date, 54 years ago, CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite entered NBC’s studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to co-host this historic broadcast with NBC’s Chet Huntley. ABC’s Howard K. Smith was at the UN Building. The twenty minute broadcast from the US to Europe was slated to start at 3 PM eastern, but the Telstar signal was acquired a few minutes early so they started then.
Aside from the historic transmission event, the sight of Cronkite and Hunley working together is nothing less than extraordinary and you will love the sign off at 40:23 which made everyone laugh!
This is the only version of the entire US portion of the broadcast I can find and is queued to the start of the network coverage. As you will see, there are shots fed into NBC from all across the country including Cubs baseball from Chicago, President Kennedy in Washington, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Mt. Rushmore, the Statue Of Liberty, buffalos on the planes, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir from Utah and much more.
In Europe and Canada, 100 million viewers tuned in and it seems that the baseball game was their favorite part. A few hours later, the tables would turn and Europe would broadcast live to the US with Howard K. Smith joining Cronkite and Huntley at NBC, and all three networks would air this live, simultaneously. -Bobby Ellerbee
This is a short, but sweet color home movie shot on the south side of the theater, as they arrive for rehearsal. Because the hosts rotated on a weekly basis, it would be rare for all of them to be there at the same time, but I looks like that may have been the case.
In the film, you can see the stairs pictured below. If the building looks familiar, in ’63, ABC took over the lease and called this, The Hollywood Palace.
The El Capitan is at 1735 North Vine Street, just a couple of blocks north of where NBC’s Radio City West was located, and was NBC’s first “spill-over” location for television once AT&T linked the coast with the rest of the country in 1951.
On April 1, 1951 the El Capitan Theatre was leased to NBC for fifteen years at a cost of $30,500 per year. On Sunday, September 30, 1951, “The Colgate Comedy Hour” became NBC’s first regularly scheduled west-to-east television broadcast, and it came from The El Capitan, on a bi-weekly basis, with the other weeks done in New York. Thanks to our friend Rick Scheckman for sharing this clip. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
You Mean They Used Color Cameras For B/W Broadcasts?
Yes, they did and WICU was not alone…so did WSB in Atlanta, and many other local stations in the mid ’60s.
This photo is one I recently found, and it reminded me of a the disbelief many young people had on an article I did here, a year or so back on the conundrum that the ’65 network color conversions had caused at the local level.
From ’65 till about ’67, RCA’s booth at the NAB had the TK60 B/W camera next to their TK42 color camera, and lot of local stations were struggling to decide how to handle local color.
Many had just plopped down a hefty sum for a new color transmitter and support equipment, but what was next? How long could they hedge their bets on local B/W?
To add to the problem, the TK42 was not as good a camera as the TK41, and most knew it, but RCA didn’t have a fix yet. They had discontinued the TK41 in 1964, and the TK44 didn’t come till ’68. On top of that, Norelco’s PC60 came to the market in ’65, and CBS was all over that, and ordered them by the dozens, crowding out local orders.
Back then, sometime the best idea was to buy a color camera and use it without the colorburst on two + camera shows. I know it is hard to believe, but believe your eyes…it happened. -Bobby Ellerbee
July 19, 1946…A Star Is Born! Goodbye Norma Jean, Hello Marilyn
This is Marilyn Monroe, in her first screen test, July 19, 1946 at 20th Century Fox. Her successful magazine modeling career brought her to the attention of Ben Lyon, a 20th Century Fox executive, who arranged a screen test for her.
Lyon was impressed and commented, “It’s Jean Harlow all over again.” She was offered a standard six-month contract with a starting salary of $125 per week. Lyon did not like the name Norma Jeane and chose “Carole Lind” as a stage name, after Carole Lombard and Jenny Lind, but he soon decided it was not an appropriate choice.
Monroe was invited to spend the weekend with Lyon and his wife Bebe Daniels at their home. It was there that they decided to find her a new name. Following her idol Jean Harlow, she decided to choose her mother’s maiden name of Monroe.
Several variations such as Norma Jeane Monroe and Norma Monroe were tried and initially Jeane Monroe was chosen, but Lyon decided Jeane and variants were too common, and he decided on a more alliterative sounding name.
He suggested Marilyn, commenting that she reminded him of Marilyn Miller. Monroe was initially hesitant because Marilyn was the contraction of the name Mary Lynn, a name she did not like. Lyon, however, felt that the name “Marilyn Monroe” was sexy, had a “nice flow”, and would be “lucky” due to the double “M”. -Bobby Ellerbee
Exclusive! Soupy Sales Returns To WXYZ, Detroit For A Visit!
Thanks to Barry Mitchell, here is a 1982 video of Soupy returning to where it all started…WXYZ TV in Detroit. Good tales from old timers and some of the tricks they pulled on each other, plus a few pies in the face. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee[fb_vid id=”827852363918981″]
July 17, 1955…Behind The Scenes With ABC At Disneyland Opening
This is the only place you can see this rare 14 minute video of ABC’s preparations for the 29 camera live remote, of the 90 minute opening ceremony show at Disneyland. Please share it with your friends, and read the second part of this post below as there, you will find more info, and a link to the show that was broadcast 61 years ago today. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee[fb_vid id=”703773192993566″]July 17, 1955…Disneyland Opens: Behind The Scenes Video
61 years ago today, what was then television’s largest remote took place at the Disneyland Grand Opening. Here is the ultra rare, 14 minute, behind the scenes film produced by ABC to commemorate the massive 29 camera, live broadcast.
This video ends with the narrator saying “And here’s the show”. At this link is the full 90 minutes program, hosted by Art Linkletter, Walt Disney and many more famous faces.
Since this embedded video is not available on the internet anywhere but here, please share this so your friends can see it. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
This video may, or may not start at 1:24, which is the first few minutes of the debut, but if not, the three promos for the new network before it are worth a watch too. The stories and events they will be covering are remarkably similar to the ones we are watching today…the political conventions, the upcoming Atlanta Olympics, Russia’s president, and more, as reported from some very young looking “old friends”.
MSNBC launched July 15, 1996 on the already existing NBC owned cable channel, America’s Talking, using space at CNBC’s Ft. Lee facility. They later got their own building in Secaucus, but have been in Studio 3A at 30 Rock since October 2007, with several new set renovations this year. One of those was the addition of Brian Williams breaking news desk, and here’s link to a site that has this, and several other stories on NBC studio makeovers. http://www.newscaststudio.com/2015/09/24/brian-williams-breaking-news-desk-debuts-on-msnbc/
One of the fist MSNBC series is one that I love, and wish someone would bring back…”Time And Again”. Using NBC archival footage, that show is one of the best historical retrospective series I’ve seen.
Click this link to see some of the people, shows and subjects they covered and see for yourself. Happy Birthday MSNBC! -Bobby Ellerbee https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=time+and+again%2C+msnbc
https://youtu.be/WSS2s-4PrNQ?t=1m24sAnd so it began. On 15 July 1996, the U.S. gained a new 24 hour news channel which was then a joint venture between NBC News and Microsoft. For some hours le…
See Anyone You Know? 1984 Pool Cameramen Shoot Each Other
With the Republican National Convention coming next week, here’s a look back at the very end of the 1984 version, when Thomson cameras were in vogue at CBS. At 3:35, I see our friend Charlie Huntley. This video came from producer Phil Savenick, who has a great collection of early television memorabilia, including rare tubes once owned by Philo Farnsworth. Thanks for sharing Phil. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
Here are the cameramen from the 1984 Repubican convention photographing each other as the pool video ran out. A nice document of TV history.
This is the first of 109 cartoons Popeye starred in from 1933 until 1942. Newspaper cartoonist E. C. Segar is the man who created Popeye, but before he came along, Olive Oyl had been the star of his “Thimble Theater” comic strip, and had been since the strip debuted December 19, 1919…10 years before Popeye was created on January 17, 1929. The sailor man was an instant hit and Segar’s creation character became one of the top funny paper characters in the country.
When Popeye came to the silver screen, he needed a voice and for the first two years, that was done by Billy Costello, but he was replaced in 1935 by Jack Mercer. Olive Oyl was originally voiced by none other than the voice of Betty Boop, May Questel, but when producer Max Fleischer moved operations to Miami from New York in 1938, Questel didn’t want to move, so Margie Hines took over. In 1943, Paramount moved the operation back to New York and May Questel once again became the voice of Olive.
William Pennell was the original voice of Bluto, but he too declined to move to Florida, but when Paramount moved the operation back to NYC, he took over again. While they were in Miami, Gus Wickie was the voice of Bluto.
Thanks to the animated shorts, Popeye became even more of a sensation than he had been in comic strips. As Betty Boop gradually declined in quality as a result of Hays Code (movie sex police) enforcement in 1934, Popeye became the studio’s star character. By 1936, Popeye began to sell more tickets and became the most popular cartoon character in the country in the 1930s…beating Mickey Mouse. Well blow me down! -Bobby Ellerbee https://youtu.be/GJCTTba4S0EPopeye the Sailor — Fleisher Studios This is the first of the 109 cartoons that starred Popeye the Sailor, produced from 1933 to 1942 by Fleischer Studios f…
Forgotten Gem! Steve Martin’s “The Great Flydini” Sketch…CLASSIC!
That “wild and crazy guy”, Steve Martin, has done so much great work, for so long, it’s easy to have missed some of his sketches. Even though I am a big fan, I had not seen this till recently. This is one of the best pieces of comedy I’ve ever seen, and I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I do. -Bobby Ellerbee
My Show…”Squidbillies” Season 10 Debuts Tonight!
For those of you that don’t know, I am the voice of The Sheriff on the “Squidbillies” which has been the top rated show on Adult Swim since we started in 2006. (FYI: at night, Cartoon Network becomes Adult Swim).
It is rare for my character to not be in an episode, but tonight, Sheriff and I will be at my house watching the wild, and crazy shenanigans the New York Times attributes to us, with great pride.
It’ll be fun night in Dougal County, Georgia ya’ll. Congratulations to all my fellow voice mates, our producers, artists and sound engineers on 10 great years, and thanks for inviting me on this trip!
July 10, 1950…The Original, TV Music Countdown Show Debuts
“Your Hit Parade” was television’s first ever Top Ten type music show, and radio’s too. It started on the NBC Red Network on April 20, 1935 and ran there till 1955. The television version started on NBC on this day in 1950 and ran there till ’58 when it went to CBS for a year.
In the great photo below, we see one of the show’s biggest stars, Dorothy Collins singing before the cameras at NBC’s Ziegfeld Theater, in color. The show started July 10, 1950 in NBC’s brand new Studio 6A which was converted from radio to TV on May 29, 1950.
The show needed more floor space for the 10 song scene sets, and the next year it moved to NBC’s brand new 8H which was converted to television on January 30, 1950. The show was done in color occasionally from The Colonial Theater, but went all color in 1956 when it moved to Perry Como’s new home at the Ziegfeld Theater. As a side note, the 4 RCA TK41s at the Zeigfeld were sent to Studio 8H when that beacame the “Peacock Studio” in 1963.
TeleTales: “Film At 11″… WPIX Coined The Phrase In 1948
“First on the scene. First on the screen”. That was the motto for NYC’s newest television station, WPIX, which went on the air June 15, 1948. It was owned by the New York Daily News, which was famous for their pictures, thus the name PIX, and the video arm was just as determined to be a leader in their film and visuals.
At the time, WCBS, WNBT and WABD all ran their newscasts in the early evenings, and all signed off before 11 PM. In order to add some extra time for viewers to catch the news, and (aha!) have their set tuned to WPIX the next day, when it was turned on, they ran their WPIX Telepix Newsreel program at 7:30 PM and again at 11 PM.
Two days later, a United DC 6 passenger plane went down in Mt. Carmel PA. The NYDN had a plane, and WPIX film cameras went along to get the first footage and pictures for the late edition of the paper, and the 11 o’clock newscast.
That evening, June 17, 1948, WPIX announcers reminded the viewing public that soon, they would see the first images of the incident, and ended each mention with “film at 11”. This also added punch to the fact the WPIX was Channel 11.
For years, WPIX was the only NYC station to run an 11 o’clock news cast, and was the first TV station in the US to do this. There can be no doubt that “film at 11” was born then and there. Below is the NYDN front page from sign on day. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Mystery Photo Reveals…THE FIRST WNBC TV Was NOT In New York!?!
Believe it or not, there was another WNBC TV, before there was WNBC New York!
Yesterday, our friend Barry Mitchell sent this to me and I was as bewildered as he was, so I started digging. How could these famous call letters be on the side of this TK11 with a Channel 30 designation? WNBC New York is Channel 4.
Well, as it turns out, before NBC’s flagship station took the WNBC calls in 1960, the network bought its first, and only UHF station in New Britain, Connecticut and named it…WNBC. Who knew?
That was 1956, and at the time New York was WRCA (’54-’60), and of course, had started as WNBT (’41-’54). Today, that first WNBC TV is WVIT, but when NBC bought it, it was WKNB, which went on the air in 1954 on UHF Channel 30.
UFH was barely receivable back then, but with RCA as a maker of all things television, I suppose they bought it more to play with and test than anything else, but it was not a very successful venture. NBC was out by 1959, and fortunately, took these glorious calls with them and plugged them in the next year in the Big Apple.
I had no idea this had ever happened, and you never know where opportunities to find out these kind of things will pop up. If you have some mystery photos like this, share them with us and let’s see what we can find out. Below is a link to more on the WVIT history. Thanks Barry! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFTw6LFuclE Video 1 #t=37″ target=”_blank”>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKBMuyZFmhQ #t=37 Video 2
Many have called this “the best written, best executed news program ever produced”. I agree…I watched it every night. Before I get too far along, at the first link above, Linda Ellerbee talks about Overnight in the same style that endeared her to so many. The second video is the last few minutes on the air and the full 60+ staff and crew credits with video of all of them! You may see some familiar faces!
‘NBC News Overnight’, a live one-hour news program, aired from 1:30 till 2:30 AM for about seventeen months starting on July 5, 1982. Its debut coincided with a lunar eclipse, and despite science reporter Robert Bizel’s disappearance during the live broadcast (he went for some coffee), it was a success from the first night.
It never talked down to its viewers because, from day one, it never assumed that the lowest common denominator was the way to go. Entirely the opposite, in fact. The writing was crisp, witty, and smart. Overnight closed its doors in the first week of December 1983, after NBC management dropped it because of low ratings.
The first co-anchors, co-writers, and co-editors for Overnight were Linda Ellerbee and Lloyd Dobyns, who had, a few years previously, co-written and co-hosted Weekend, an offbeat weekly magazine for NBC.
After about six months of helping to shape Overnight, Dobyns left to do other work for NBC. Bill Schechner ably took his place as co-anchor and co-writer until ‘Overnight’ went off the air.
Overnight featured literary quotations, subtitled reports from overseas news programs for a new perspective, the best features (or sometimes just the silliest) from local affiliates, and a whole grab bag of things never before seen on national news programs. As Bill Schechner said on the final program, it proved that there is more than one way to deliver and to receive the news. Overnight must have been puzzling to some, though, because it had an unexpected mix of both seriousness about important issues and irreverence for nonsense.
As with any live broadcast, goofs occurred from time to time on the program. However, the anchors always made the best of it. They would chuckle instead of becoming mortified and simply corrected their mistakes, often injecting a bit of humor. Ellerbee once said this on the program after one such mistake:
“Live TV is a great time saver. It allows you to make a fool of yourself in front of large groups of people instead of one at a time.”
Shortly after Dobyns left, an NBC News executive suggested to Ellerbee that she take Lloyd’s seat now that she was the senior anchor. Ellerbee said she felt no need for that, but agreed to give it a try. Some nights later, she returned to her old spot. During that broadcast, she explained, after showing a tape of her position changes:
“Lately, you may have noticed a bit of musical chairs being played on this program. But in three nights, I have spilled three cups of coffee because the coffee was where it should be, but I was not. So I have moved back. And if the executives don’t like it, they may jolly well come and do the show and spill their own coffee.”
A year and a half after its birth, NBC decided to cancel Overnight in November 1983, due to low late night ratings and corresponding lack of ad revenue. In the following days and weeks, thousands of viewers (ten thousand, to be exact) called and wrote letters or telegrams of protest to NBC management. Some even sent checks and cash to defray the costs of producing the program (all the money was returned).
NBC’s news release on the program’s cancellation said the program remained “the model of a one-hour news program,” but it was being canceled because “being the best is not enough”. And so it goes!
By the way, Linda is a distant cousin of mine through marriage. Even if she wasn’t related, I would still think she’s still one of the best and most unique in the business! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
See the full interview at http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/linda-ellerbee
ULTRA RARE HOWDY DOODY IMAGES! The Original Howdy…
Be sure to click through these historic images, as I have made extensive comments on each of them, and each image holds a secret of its own.
Tomorrow, Cozi TV will air a six hour marathon of “The Howdy Doody Show”, starting at 9 AM Eastern. With the exception of a few anniversary shows, this will be the first time Howdy episodes have been seen in full, since the show signed off September 24, 1960. That final episode will be included, and is in color. I remember watching it and crying when Clarabell said “Goodby kids”.
Cozi’s effort, nor my report last year on the early Doody years would not have been possible without the help of our friend Burt Dubrow, who now produces “Dr. Drew On Call” at HLN. These screenshots are also thanks to Bert, who was Buffalo Bob Smith’s road manager, and friend for many years. He is the ultimate expert on Howdy, and has helped all of us Doodyville fans by sharing his knowledge, and tomorrow, his footage and stories. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
As told in “Broadcasting” magazine’s July 7th issue, NBC’s W2XBS became WNBT at 1:30 PM, and by chance, became the nation’s first commercial TV station.
To keep either from being “the first”, the FCC had authorized CBS’s W2XAB to sign on at 1:30 too, to become WCBW, but due to a camera fail and a light problem (which you’ll read about), CBS did not come to air until 2:30, which was just about the time WNBT aired the first ever paid spot. It was for Bulova Watches.
Below is the only photographic record of television’s first paid spot. From inside Studio 3H, an NBC Iconoscope camera shoots the clever Bulova test pattern clock (with Bulova logo in the right bottom corner), for :60 seconds…just before going live to a Dodgers-Phillies game. The Bulova time spot ran again at 11 that night, but as you’ll see, there were several spots from other sponsors in between, but only on WNBT.
Although Dumont had opted out of going commercial (till 4 years later), their experimental station was also granted permission to sign on at 1:30, and managed to, but just barely. Neither Dumont or CBS carried any commercial messages on debut day…only NBC, because they had the most experience in television and had a rate card ready on Day 1.
There were other commercial licenses granted, but only the New York stations were permitted conversion on July 1, 1941. As you’ll see in the article, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles stations would come along later.
By the way, congratulations to “Truth Or Consequences”, which also made it’s television debut on this day 75 years ago in a one time simulcast. That’s in the article too. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Commercial TV’s 75th Anniverary…Setting The Stage For July 1, 1941
Tomorrow, television marks the 75th anniversary of its move from the “experimental” phase to the”commercial” phase. Today, we’ll look at the creation of a new piece of production equipment that was necessary to make it all flow on screen…the Shadow Box.
Pictured below is the CBS shadow box prototype being tested in one of the backrooms at their Grand Central studios. This basic design would later become the Gray Telop machine, which CBS allowed Gray to manufacture. NBC had a version too, which I will include in the Comments section.
This three function machine allowed a live camera to shoot into the box and see, with the aid of moving mirrors, photo images, title cards and “rolling credits” on a drum. With no fader controls on the switching console in the control room, live dissolves could be done here manually with mirror movements, and fading light sources in each of the three sections.
With commercials now in the program mix, the shadow box was a great way to add elements to spots, but was also used at the opens and closes, and transitions. There is more detail in the text description on this page from Richard Hubbell’s classic book. “Television Programing And Production” from 1945. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Television Noir? Why All The Dark, Washed Out Screen Scenes?
I thought it was just me, but obviously, it’s not. Here’s look at what started at HBO and is working it’s way around the dial. Frankly, I’m not a fan…I like the look of “Law And Order”. -Bobby Ellerbee
A Rare Two Headed Monster…MGM’s Over/Under Studio Crane
With motion picture studios all cranking at full tilt in the late 1930s, innovation at every level was part of the game. With so many Berkley and Ziegfeld type production numbers in vogue, this is actually a pretty clever approach to getting twin perspectives on a single tracking shot. Thought you may enjoy seeing this curiosity. -Bobby Ellerbee
“Home” (1954-1957) was broadcast from NBC’s 67th Street Studios at 101 W. 67th, which was being leased from WOR. This facility was built in 1949 as WOR’s 9 Television Square building, but mergers called for their studios to move to the Empire State Bldg in early ’54.
NBC was looking for a home for “Home” and this place had the space for an innovative state in the round, with the kind of informal staging that “Today” enjoyed. -Bobby Ellerbee
RCA Camera Mystery Finally Solved!!! You Won’t Believe This…
Just what is that gear/wheel mechanism on the side of these first generation RCA Iconoscope remote cameras? I’ve wondered this for years, but till today…I never knew for sure.
This morning, I was reading a page from Richard Hubbell’s 1945 book “Television Programming And Production”, and low and behold, there were these two lines that surprised me to no end.
“On the side of the camera are two wheels connected by a small chain. This connects the lens system with small electric motors for the remote-control focusing handled by a technician in the mobile unit”.
I had always suspected it had some function in the focus department, but who would have thought it was a remote focus command operated by the video man in the mobile unit?
Given that the placement of the cameraman’s right hand is always at the lower rear, where the manual focus command would eventually appear, I had never noticed in dozens of photos that show this, that he was actually holding a D handle, and not a focus knob.
I think the cameras with this outside remote-focus mechanism were the first two remote style cameras RCA built, and may be the only two to have this remote-focus ability before a manual focus on the camera was added. Even with the manual focus though, the operator would have to be “talked” into focus, but they were mostly shooting wide shots and not close ups.
Notice in the photo of Dorothy Lamour behind the camera, there is not a viewfinder, but there is a small peep hole in which the operator is looking into a small hollow tube that runs through the camera from the front to back, to help frame shots.
I also think that after the manual focus was added to the camera (where the D handle was), the internal hollow tube peephole went away, and was replaced by the side mounted wire “gunsight” framing tool.
The two photos of the camera at the 30 Rock ice skating rink are dated 1938, but the RCA and Lamour shots are from 1939.
The remote-focus ability is really a surprise to me, but so was the fact that the first studio camera pedestals were raised and lowered with small electric motors. Thanks to Tom Buckley for guiding me to Richard Hubbell…a name we will hear more often this week. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Commercial Television’s 75th Anniversary…Friday, July 1, 2016
To set the stage for this week’s anniversary, I’ll lay out some pictures and share some little known stories about how broadcasters got ready for the move from experimental to commercial television. At the time, it was a big commitment to the new media, and involved a lot more than just changing call letters.
Two of the major obligations were in the money and staff area, as the legal commitment to the FCC required a promise to carry at least 15 hours of programing each week, and a fully tweaked upgrade to the 525 line resolution format, and many more newly adopted NTSC transmission guidelines, including audio via FM.
Although 10 new licenses were granted, the first two were for New York City stations operated by NBC and CBS.
New York actually had three stations, but Dumont’s experimental station W2XYV (that in 1944 became WABD), opted out on the first round siting technical and programing challenges. Money was probably also an issue for them then.
On June 24, 1941, NBC’s W2XBS and CBS’s W2XAB were granted permission to change to WNBT and WCBW, to become effective on July 1. Both were granted simultaneous sign on permission too, so that neither could lay claim to being the nation’s first commercial television station, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.
1:30 was the stipulated sign on time that day, but CBS was an hour late coming to air and I’ve heard that it was the film camera chain that was the problem. With that in mind, today, we’ll take a look into the early days of CBS Studios 41 & 42 at Grand Central Terminal.
The photo below shows what I think is Studio 41 control room around 1942. Notice the two black square holes in the wall at the top of the photo. Those are the film port windows and hanging from the ceiling to their right is a track mounted RCA Iconoscope camera that slides into place over the ports to capture the film projected from the other side of the wall. I think that was the chain with the problem.
The man in the center is CBS legend Worthington Minor who was “Mr. Drama”, creator and director of “Studio 1” and an overseer of most CBS anthology shows. To his left is the assistant director and the audio man. To his right is what we now call at technical director and on this end, the video man. Thanks to Tom Buckley for his help. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee