What a wonderful, one of a kind, shot to open with…Chris Walken’s Captain Hook coat and hat at his resting chair on the set. All that hoofing and singing takes a lot out of a guy, but it was worth it! Thanks to Rob Balton for these great shots. More on the photos, so click on each one. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Williams Flies…Walken Soars! ‘Peter Pan’ Behind The Scenes #1
The sight, the sound, the splendor…it was live television magic! The first reviews are out and although many a snarky line from critics were waiting to be penned, they weren’t. Even the critics agree, everyone wanted this to work…and it DID!
There are a lot of great pictures from the set coming in and I will be posting them in batches today so stay tuned. More on the way.
It seems the main criticisms are about the length of the production and that it dragged in a few places. When Mary Martin was ‘Peter Pan’, the first two productions were two hours and the third, the 1960 video taped version, was about ten minutes longer. Making each minute of a 180 minute production dazzle, is a big job and in my opinion, the camera work, sets and effects DID DAZZLE! The names of the camera crew are on two screen shots from the closing credits…these twelve men, along with the entire crew are among the best in the business. More on the pix! Enjoy and share! Many Thanks to Rob Balton for most of these pix…more coming! -Bobby Ellerbee
‘Peter Pan’…Exclusive Behind The Scenes Video, Post #2
This is our friend Rob Balton (who just went to bed at 4AM ET) with his Techno Jib rehearsing a flying scene. Here you can see the relative positions of the sets in this studio with Wendy’s room in the distance, the miniature set in the middle and what I think may be the edge of Neverland behind them. Thanks for sharing this Rob! More pictures coming up next! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
A Preview From Never Never Land…’Peter Pan’, Live Tonight
Below is a link to the great New York Times story on tonight’s live blockbuster from NBC. These photos are from that article and here are a few interesting tidbits on some of the production techniques and surprises to watch for.
First, unlike ‘The Sound Of Music’ last year, many of the sets will be 360 degree wraparounds that will be shot with Steadicams and jibs.
All told, Pan includes roughly ten times as many technical components as last years live SOM event with lots of live special effects, including flying. So far the flying has been smooth, but some other things have been a little nerve wracking…like “the shadow dance”.
The shadow — actually a computerized projection — is one of dozens of complex technical elements intended to boost the wow factor in NBC’s three-hour broadcast. In this segment, the shadow squats when Peter crossed his arms, and crossed its arms when Peter squats…or, that’s the way it should work. During the Times reporter’s visit, the shadow took on a mind of it’s own and wasn’t minding it’s handler.
In addition to the rebellious shadow, other complicating factors include a live, computer-generated Tinker Bell; moving sets; a contraption-heavy pirate ship; and a talented mutt named Bowdie who plays Nana the dog.
The producers are embracing showy theatricality with an eye toward establishing such live productions as a holiday tradition for NBC. The network has already secured the rights to ‘The Music Man’ as its 2015 offering, though it won’t commit until they see how this one comes off.
“Break A Leg” everyone! Among our friends on the camera crew are Charlie Huntley, Rob Balton and Tore Livia. We wish cast and crew alike our best. A little more on the photos, so chick on each.
Tomorrow, back stage shots! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Thanks to John Schipp, here’s a shot from 1966. The trucks are N3 and there’s a TK41 in the center of the shot. The tree lighting used to be carried locally on channel 4 on tape delay. The crowds were so thick that It would take John 30 minutes to carry the videotape from the truck to the tape room on the fifth floor.
Today, there are no mobile units used. The audio and video are linked directly to the Studio 8H control room. Dennis Degan tells me it’s been done this way for several years now. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Keep your eyes peeled here…there is a lot of interesting equipment passing by. We’ll see everything from RCA TK41a and TK60s to Norelcos, GE PE350s and the rare Ampex portable. There’s also some interesting tape and delay equipment here and I hope some of you can call that out. Not sure of the date, but given the cameras, I think this is from the late ’60s. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
ABC’s First Series…’Hollywood Screen Test’, April 1948
The “television magic” starts with the name of the show…it was actually done in New York. ABC didn’t have a television property in Los Angeles till September of 1949.
Debuting on 15 April 1948, and hosted first by Bert Lytell and then Neil Hamilton (who we know best as Commissioner Gordon on ‘Batman’). The idea behind ‘Hollywood Screen Test’ was to give exposure to many up-and-coming actors who were looking for their big break. Relative unknowns would be picked to guest star on the show with a half-hour scenes of dialogue from a couple of different plays with established stage and screen actors.
Among the stars discovered on ‘Hollywood Screen Test’ were Grace Kelly, Jack Klugman, Pernell Roberts, and Jack Lemmon.
Originally the show aired on Sundays at 8 ET. Across the dial, it’s Sunday night competitors were ‘Toast Of The Town’ with Ed Sullivan on CBS, ‘Meet The Press’ and ‘Admiral Revue’ with Sid Caesar on NBC and ‘The Original Amateur Hour’ on Dumont.
This was the first network series broadcast on ABC-TV, which started TV broadcasting in April 1948. 1948 was the first season in which all four networks, then in operation in the US, offered nightly prime time schedules. By the way, the dog named JJ Morgan got a job too. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
December 3, 1968…NBC Airs ‘Elvis’, The Year’s Top Special
At the link is a great nine minute outtake clip from the show with the Elvis we all like to remember…funny and playful, except at the 3:00 mark, but he’s only human. Notice the great color…this was one of the last big shows done with the RCA TK41s at Burbank.
In the photo below, we see a rarity…Burbank’s modified TK41 viewfinder. I’ve heard the original VF was damaged on a remote and since production stopped in 1966, Burbank engineers make their own VF using a Conrac monitor and building a new housing for it. You may have seen this camera before and wondered…now you know.
This 90 minute special was taped in Studio 4 over a period of four nights starting June 26 and ending June 30 with two shows a night with an hour break between so eight audiences saw the show and all of them were taped. The first shows each night were the sit down performances in the round. The second shows were the stand up performances.
These were the first live shows Elvis had done in four years. The show was a smash hit and after it aired, Elvis returned to the road with a record breaking sting of sold out shows and to the charts with “Suspicious Minds” and “The Wonder Of You”. Enjoy and Share! Bobby Ellerbee
Macy’s Parade History Followup…First Network TV Coverage, CBS
Thanks to historian David Schwartz and friends, we’ve been able to verify that the first network television coverage of the Macy’s Parade was on CBS. From The New York Times, we have a small news item, and the television listings.
At this link is raw newsreel footage of the 1948 parade and it starts with the Howdy Doody float with a real TK30 on board. Notice there is no NBC signage on the camera or float since CBS is the official network, but that changed in 1952 to NBC. Notice that WNBC and WPIX are offering coverage too, but that is local only. The photo is from that year and notice the broadcaster on top of the marquee with a microphone…I think he is a radio host. The annual festivities were broadcast on local New York radio from 1932 through 1941,and resumed in 1945 through 1951. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
‘Tis The Season! Rockefeller Plaza Tree Lighting Tomorrow…
Although the official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933 with the opening of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, here is the start of the unofficial tradition which began during construction. Workers decorated a 20 foot fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans” on Christmas Eve in 1931. Some accounts have the tree decorated with the tin foil ends of blasting caps. There was no Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 1932.
Also shown here are photos from the tree lighting events of 1949, 1963 and 1975. Thanks to Ed Eaves, there’s nice shot from across 6th Avenue showing the new marquee and some holiday spirit. Happy Holidays! -Bobby Ellerbee
‘Peter Pan’…How To Fly And Get Audio At The Same Time
This is Director Jerome Robbins flying with Mary Martin in March of 1955 at NBC Brooklyn. When Robbins directed the show on Broadway, he didn’t have to worry about audio, but when it came to the television production he did. How do you mic a flying Mary Martin?
Booms were used for most of the show, but for the flying sequences, something special was called for. In 1953, Shur had introduced “The Vagabond” wireless mic which was used by Marlin Monroe when she was interviewed by Edward R. Murrow on ‘Person To Person’ in 1955.
They tried a Vagabond, but it was not strong enough, so NBC engineers came up with a stronger unit. The mic was on Martin’s chest under her costume and the transmitter was under her arm. The antenna was in a special belt she wore. In order to receive the signal, wires were embedded in the floor of the set, and strung from the lighting grid. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
As we just read in this morning’s first story, the first television production of ‘Peter Pan’ was March 7, 1955. On January 9, 1956, NBC Brooklyn did it again…live and in color. Here is a promo for the second broadcast that fortunately was captured from inside a kinescope of the January 6, 1956 ‘Ernie Kovacs Show’. Thanks to Ben Model for the capture and to Randy West for bringing this to my attention. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
10 years ago today, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw made he final appearance as anchor on ‘NBC Nightly News’. He began his run on the show in April 1982.
Although he has already coined the phrase “the greatest generation”, he does not use the term when he talk about them with great respect. At the end, Bob Hope sings a short custom version of “Thanks For The Memories”. Thanks Tom! I remember you from your days at WSB in Atlanta. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
December 1, 1975…’The Edge Of Night’ Moves From CBS To ABC
This was the first serial in television history to switch networks. By the way, did you know the famous skyline in the opening is Cincinnati, Ohio as seen from Kentucky?
April 2, 1956 was a big day at CBS, as two of the first half hour daytime soaps debuted that day…’The Edge Of Night’, which came from Studio 64 (an old Dumont studio), and ‘As the World Turns’ which came from Studio 63.
At one point, ‘The Edge of Night’ audience was estimated to be more than 50% male, largely due to the show’s crime format and its late start time of 4:30 ET. In July 1963, the show was moved to 3:30 after CBS gave the 4:30 slot back to the affiliates. ‘The Edge of Night’ dominated the 3:30 slot even over otherwise-hit programs like NBC’s ‘You Don’t Say’ and ABC’s ‘Dark Shadows’ and ‘One Life to Live’. However, when the show moved to 2:30 on September 11, 1972, as per Procter and Gamble’s insistence upon running all of its shows in a continuous daily marathon, it slid from a solid #2 in the Nielsen ratings to near-last.
The last CBS episode on November 28, 1975, ended with the discovery that Nicole Travis Drake was alive. She had been presumed dead in an explosion 18 months earlier while on a boating trip with her husband Adam Drake. ABC aired the show beginning on December 1, with a 90-minute premiere episode that picked up where CBS had left off.
Below is a full CBS episode that I think is from around 1958. Very few of the CBS shows survived, so this is a rarity. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee
By the way, the only other soap to do this would be the Procter & Gamble’s ‘Search for Tomorrow’, which would move from CBS to NBC in 1982.
Having Your Cake, And Eating It Too…Live, But With Instant Replay
After posting the story yesterday on the anniversary of the first Instant Replay, there were some comments on how naked a game would be without what we’ve all become accustomed to. As I read those and thought about how much fans at the game miss, this great photo from or friend Craig Harper came to mind.
This is Saturday’s game between Baylor and Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas…where the Cowboys play. Now THIS is how to really enjoy a football game. By the way, Baylor won. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
ABC Hollywood & Vine Studio History Update…Firm Date Located
At the link below is my original story from November 19th in which I speculated on the date ABC took it over, but thanks to Steve Dichter, we now have a firm date. This clipping is from the July 4, 1949 issue of Broadcasting – Telecasting Magazine.
The third studio mentioned would become Studio A, a large radio studio that could also handle occasional television shows. The smaller B and C were radio only but could seat 300 each. Thanks to Steve for the new info that has been so illusive. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
November 30, 1914…Charlie Chaplin’s First Screen Appearance
The man in the top hat is Charlie Chaplin, but if you have ever seen him work, you know that instantly just by the way he moves. He was 25 years old when he made this and by the time he turned 28, he would be one of the most famous people in the world. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Another Holiday Scrapbook Memory, And A BIG Surprise!
Given what you are about to read, it makes what you are about to see all the more amazing!
Did you know that long before the Muppets were created, Paul Winchell had come up with moving arms on Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff? It’s true, and became necessary when he came to NBC television in primetime from 1950 till ’54. He created an “armed” version of each dummy and hired a very capable assistant to do the hand work.
Wait till you see Jerry and Paul play the Christmas bells while singing “Jingle Bells”…in many ways, this is simply brilliant work! By the way, there’s a great animated Camay soap add here and the NBC close. The ear muff piece at the front is fun too. How very clever.
After his prime time show on NBC, Winchell had other hit TV shows and Carol Burnett is reported to have made her television debut with Paul in 1955. He also invented a working artificial heart long before the first transplants. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
The First Instant Replay…Thanks to CBS Director Tony Verna
Fifty one years ago, next week, the first isolated camera and a “borrowed” Ampex VR 1000 brought life to a new element of broadcasting that would forever change football and sports coverage.
The following account of how it came to be is from “ESPN College Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game”.
Dec. 7, 1963: The Birth of Instant Replay
Ask football fans if instant replay has its roots in the college or the professional game and most will go with the pros. But those who tuned in to the Army-Navy game on CBS on Dec. 7, 1963, know better.
When director Tony Verna, a Philadelphia native, returned to his hometown to direct the Army-Navy game that year, he arrived with a unique plan and a giant, 1,200-pound tape machine he had unplugged and transported from the CBS network control room at Grand Central in New York. Unbeknownst to all but a handful of
CBS executives and his crew, Verna was going to attempt to give viewers an immediate second look at a play.
“Video replay” was Verna’s unofficial name for the yet-to-be unveiled and considerably risky innovation. Risky because at that time the Army-Navy game was the showcase game in college football. In this pre-Super Bowl era, there was no grander stage in televised sports than the annual clash between the Cadets and Midshipmen. And in
1963, the stakes were even higher. Millions of Americans would be tuning in to the high-profile military rivalry game because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 16 days earlier.
For Verna, the genesis for the idea came years before when, as a twenty something wunderkind recently hired by CBS executive Tex Schramm, he worked on that network’s telecasts of the 1960 Rome Olympics. The network aired the entire Olympics on tape delay — after the tape was flown across the Atlantic to New York. It was then
that Verna learned videotape possesses two audio tracks.
For his special replay, he would use one track for crowd noise, the other for a simple cue system that would help locate the correct spot on the tape. One solid, clean beep would indicate a team going
into a huddle; two clean beeps would indicate a team breaking a huddle.
Several glitches occurred during his first attempts at fusing his taped technology with the game in progress. His monolithic tape machine was spitting out seven to nine seconds of video hash, indecipherable, cluttered pictures, before locking into a clear shot of game action. Occasionally, his machine didn’t work at all. Instead of football
action, the monitor would reveal what was already on the tape, sometimes a scene from ‘I Love Lucy’ or a Duz detergent commercial.
For three nervous quarters, Verna peered into his monitor and studied his two guinea pigs, Navy quarterback Roger Staubach and Army counterpart Rollie Stichweh. Verna had assigned one camera to follow only the two signal-callers, primarily because Staubach was so skilled with his ball-handling and fakes that most cameramen couldn’t
keep up with him. Although Staubach was the winner of the 1963 Heisman Trophy, it was Stichweh who made television history that day.
Stichweh faked to an Army halfback before running into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown, Army’s last in a 21-15 loss. The requisite beeps sounded in the production truck. Words passed through
cables and into headsets. Seconds later, a clear image of Stichweh and the Army offense appeared on the monitor. Verna pulled the trigger and threw the picture on air.
“Here it comes,” he warned play-by-play announcer Lindsey Nelson, to whom he had revealed his intentions only hours earlier, during the taxicab ride to Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium. Nelson didn’t even have time to forewarn his audience that they would be witnessing television history. Most important, though, Stichweh “rescampered”
into the end zone and the very first instant replay went off without a
So as not to confuse viewers, Nelson alerted his audience to what they’d just seen: “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!”
During the game, Schramm phoned Verna in the truck. “My boy,” Schramm told Verna, “what you have done here will have such far-reaching implications, we can’t begin to imagine them today.”
In fact, during the early days of the innovation following the 1963 Army-Navy game, the phenomenon became so popular that viewers demanded to see it during practically every sporting event, but unfortunately, there weren’t enough tape machines to go around.
Schramm’s words proved to be prophetic. In the ensuing decades, instant replay – Verna’s not certain which of two announcers, Ray Scott or Pat Summerall, actually named his invention – became a cornerstone component of all sports telecasts.
In the video below, we see Verna describe this and get an interesting glimpse of a CBS TK41 in action from stock footage. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
November 30, 1956…First Videotape Delayed Broadcast, CBS Television City
Fifty eight years ago today, CBS made broadcast history when they replayed ‘The Evening News With Douglas Edwards’ to the west coast. After recording the live feed coming down the network line from New York at 4 p.m. Pacific time, the program was played back three hours later.
In the large photo, we see CBS Engineer John Radis at the Ampex VRX-1000 playing back the show. On the phone to his right is Jim Morrison who is probably on the phone to the control room. I think a kinescope of the newscast was rolled simultaneously just in case there were problems with the tape playback.
This VRX-1000 is one of only 16 hand-built machines Ampex rushed to produce after debuting the VTR eight months before. The two racks of tube equipment to the left contain the electronics for the recorder.
Also pictured here is one of the first photos of the new CBS videotape room at Television City which was kept busy recording network feeds for time-zone delay and eventually, programs produced in the studios at Television City.
It would take over a year for CBS New York to get videotape machines due to a huge backlog, even though the networks got priority. In early 1958, 14 VR 1000 went into service as CBS Grand Central. NBC too had the bulk of their machines on the west coast but both CBS and NBC had two VTRs in New York which were mostly used for testing and engineering purposes.
In the color photo, we see the historic Douglas Edwards machine being retired in 1978. Early on, it had been fitted with RCA color modules as Ampex and RCA traded technology rights. RCA had developed color recording in 1954 and allowed Ampex to use it if they would allow RCA to use the Qaud recording head.
The final photo shows one of two Ampex VRX 1000s used at the first public demonstration at the NARTB convention in Chicago in April of ’56. In today’s next story…the history of the first instant playback. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
A Fascinating History Of Video Tape And Editing Milestones
From Film Maker IQ, here is John Hess with another very interesting look at the development of videotape, it’s uses and the early editing process used. There are some great stories here and some little known facts, including some astounding financial considerations.
Did you know that ‘Laugh In’, which was the first extensivly edited video tape show, took 60 hours to cut and that there were 350 to 400 edits per show? Even the historic “Kitchen Debate” tapes in Moscow are covered here, so settle back and take this in. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
A RARE GEM…KTLA Color Rose Parade Coverage & More!
The events in this great fourteen minute clip all hit the air Sunday, January 1, 1961. We’ll see how on this day, KTLA produced a Sunday news show at 1 PM, a live musical show at 2 and at 3, color-cast the Rose Parade.
This is full of RCA TK10s and TK41s, familiar faces like announcer Tom Kennedy, cameraman Dick Watson, great control room and mobile unit shots and more. I hope the KTLA vets among us will point out faces and places and help name the director of the musical show. I think I have seen him directing in NBC Studio 3H in the 1940s, but don’t know who he is. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
NBC Studio 8H…December 31, 1955, ‘Your Hit Parade’
This clip starts at the introduction of the principal singers and just after the intro of Russell Arms, goes directly into Arms singing “Memories Are Made Of This” as a floor director. We’ll get a good look at the studio and something quite interesting around 4:05.
That’s when the cameraman on a Houston Fearless Panoram dolly gives the boom wheel a hard spin. The action is so free that even after he takes his hand away, the boom keeps going down quite gracefully. I have one of these and the action on mine is quite tight compared to this.
For music lovers, there are some other classics here, including “Autumn Leaves”, “Moments To Remember”, “Love And Marriage” and ‘White Christmas”. Despite with the clocks say, the show’s usual air time was 10:30 Saturday nights in 1955 and I think the “nearly midnight new years eve” times are just for the show’s theme that night. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee
http://youtu.be/N-gBRvtbG9M?t=1m47sAired 31st December 1955. The series had excellent productions. Regardless, this episode features the cast covering songs like “Autumn Leaves”, “Love and Mar…
MANY ALREADY ADDED In Comments Section…Click There To See Them!
For our friends working parades or football games today, or even on duty at local stations and cable networks covering the news, editing video or in the control room…take some pix and post them in the comment section of this post. We’ll keep you company and we all know how it is to work on a holiday. The big eye never sleeps.
Here’s a great back in the day shot from John Schipp. I think this is NBC covering The Macy’s Parade in 1954. Happy Thanksgiving! -Bobby Ellerbee
The Macy’s Parade…Passing In Revue, 1939, 1954 & 1965 Footage
Here are four short clips of the parade over the years, two in color and two in black and white. I think we have two from 1939 as in the color film we see a ‘Wizard Of Oz’ float with the Scarecrow, and in the B/W film we see the Tin Man balloon.
In the 1954 color clip, we wind up outside 30 Rock and even get a look at the Christmas tree and skating rink. Given that ‘The Munsters’ car is in the ’60s clip, I date this to probably 1965. Enjoy, share and Happy Thanksgiving! -Bobby Ellerbee
The Macy’s Parade…How It’s Done & How It All Started
Our friend Joel Spector will be playing all the music today for the broadcast, just like he has for over 25 years. That alone is a massive undertaking, but just one of many parts to one of television’s largest jigsaw puzzles.
This video should start at 1:44 and this segment covers the pre production and rehearsals, that start at midnight. At 21:54, the parade’s history segment starts. Mat Lauer says the television coverage began in 1948, but that’s not exactly right. Network coverage began in ’48 on CBS, but local experimental coverage was done by NBC in 1939. NBC also carried the parade locally in 1945, 46 and 47.
Although the parade began in 1924, it didn’t become widely known until after it was featured in the 1947 film, ‘Miracle On 34th Street’, which included footage of the 1946 festivities. At first, network coverage was only an hour long. In 1961, the telecast expanded to two hours, then 90 minutes beginning in 1962, before reverting to a two-hour telecast in 1965; all three hours of the parade were televised by 1969. The event began to be broadcast in color in 1960.
NBC airs the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live in the Eastern Time Zone, but tape delays the telecast elsewhere to allow the program to air in the same 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. time slot across the country. The afternoon playbacks started in 2008.
Just ahead, some early footage of the parade. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving! -Bobby Ellerbee
The Fun Has Begun At Macy’s! Actually, It Started At Midnight…
Here’s our friend Charlie Huntley on the job this morning about 3 AM. Charlie will be doing the honors on the host camera today, but for the past few weeks, and till December 4, he’s been rehearsing with about a dozen more top camera people for the ‘Peter Pan’ Live special.
As you’ll see in today’s next story, rehearsals start at midnight and all the marching bands do a run through at 3 AM. The balloons began to be inflated late yesterday afternoon near Central Park. Happy Thanksgiving! Break a leg Charlie! -Bobby Ellerbee
First Thanksgiving Day Football Game…1934, Bears, Lions & Turkeys
Not only was this the first time a pro football game was played on Thanksgiving, it was also the first time an NFL game was broadcast nationally. On November 29, 1934, NBC Radio, set up a 94-station network to broadcast the Lions-Bears showdown. The famous announcing team of Graham McNamee and Don Wilson described the action.
In the clip is a very good background on the game and how it came to be. With the exception of a six-season gap from 1939 to 1944, the Thanksgiving Day game has been played with no interruptions. Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee