Posts in Category: Broadcast History

ULTRA RARE! Last Houston Fearless 30B Crane In The US Located

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ULTRA RARE! Last Houston Fearless 30B Crane In The US Located

For years, I had wondered if any of these fantastic stage cranes were left. The only one I knew of was in The UK, but just last week, someone sent me this photo of a 30B in Milwaukee.

That I know of, this is the only one left in the US and it’s on display at Robert Paquett’s Microphone Museum…along with a mind blowing collection of very rare antique equipment from radio and television. This crane once belonged to WTMJ in Milwaukee, but before that, it had belonged to a Hollywood film studio.

It goes without saying that I would love to have this, but getting in the house could be a bit tricky. To see more of Bob’s fantastic collection, click this link. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
http://www.sssmilwaukee.com/Microphone%20Museum.html


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October 23, 1956…Videotape Makes Its Network Debut On NBC

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October 23, 1956…Videotape Makes Its Network Debut On NBC

58 years ago today, a two and a half minute video taped song from ‘Your Hit Parade’ star Dorothy Collins was inserted into ‘The Jonathan Winters Show’. NBC engineers in New York wanted to see if the viewing public could tell the difference from the live portion of the show. When no one noticed the transition, the age of video tape was born.

Details are a bit murky here, but I think this was all black and white and remember, this is only six months after Ampex introduced videotape at the 1956 NAB in April. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that Winters himself tells us that his 15 minute show was the first regular color series on television, but I think that may have happened in 1957. The first color videotaped specials were from ’57 as well and I think it took a year for RCA who had a color recording technology to work out the share with Ampex who had the quad head technology.

As for what the west coast saw, well…that would have been a kinescope of this show as the first ever tape delayed broadcast was November 30, 1956 at CBS with a broadcast of ‘Douglas Edwards With The News’. Unfortunately, there is no kinescope or tape of this historic event and all that’s available from Jonathan’s 1956 show is this :30 second intro. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2nkN9HklrY

His first of two variety series. This one sponsored by TUMS. In the late 60s he tried again on CBS.
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Sightseeing #3…The Dean Martin Show? Close, But No Cigar!

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Sightseeing #3…The Dean Martin Show? Close, But No Cigar!

Thanks to Chuck Pharis, here is a photo of the recreated Dean Martin set, which I think was used on one of those half hour pitches for Martin CD collections.

Although the set is fake, the RCA TK41 is very real and rare too! It belongs to our friend Jim Elyea at History For Hire in Los Angeles and is one of three TK41s he owns. What makes them rare is that these TK41s came from CBS Television City. As we all know, CBS only owned six or eight TK40 and 41s and this is one of them.

http://www.eyesofageneration.com/Gallery_History_For_Hire.php
If you have never seen my article on History For Hire, click the link and be ready to be amazed! Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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Sightseeing #2…’Today’ Show, Set Tours And Ikegami HK322s

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Sightseeing #2…’Today’ Show, Set Tours And Ikegami HK322s

It’s not often that we get to see the Ikegami cameras at NBC, or a complete new set change on a major show, but in this video we get both. We start with the Friday, September 7, 1990 sign off from Studio 8H and the old set. During the SNL summer break, ‘Today’ moved there so that Studio 3B could be updated and the new set built. The second part is the intro of the new set in 3B with a few nice shots of the Ikis there.

I don’t think NBC stayed with the Ikegamis very long…maybe four years? Anyone know? I think they may have left the RCA TK47s around 1989 and by ’93 or ’94 had switched to Sony. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/5wSnGb0V9X4During the northern hemisphere summer of 1990 the bright, chic living room style NBC Today set, in use since 1985, was dismantled and partly re-assembled ups…
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Sightseeing #1…’Another World’, NBC Brooklyn 1990

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Sightseeing #1…’Another World’, NBC Brooklyn 1990

Thanks to Anthony Torre, here’s a something we don’t often see…NBC’s Ikegami cameras. This was at the Brooklyn Studios and I think that’s an HK 322, but I’m not positive. With this in mind, up next is a 1990 trip to ‘Today’ and a look at their Ikegamis. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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October 22, 1939…The First Ever Pro Football Telecast

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October 22, 1939…The First Ever Pro Football Telecast

75 years ago today, the relationship between professional football and television began when The National Broadcasting Company earned a spot in history by televising a pro football game. Only 22 days before, NBC had televised the first ever college game on September 30th.

A crowd of 13,050 were on hand at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field on that now-historic day when the Philadelphia Eagles fell to Brooklyn’s Dodgers 23-14. Yes, there was a Brooklyn Dodgers football team, from 1930 to 1943.

The game included play by three future Hall of Famers…quarterback Ace Parker and tackle Bruiser Kinard for the Dodgers and end Bill Hewitt for the Eagles.

Five hundred-or-so fortunate New Yorkers who owned television sets witnessed the game in the comfort of their own homes, over NBC’s experimental station W2XBS. Many others saw the telecast on monitors while visiting the RCA Pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York where it was scheduled as a special event.

According to Allen “Skip” Walz, the NBC play-by-play announcer, only eight people were needed for the telecast. Walz had none of the visual aids…monitors, screens or spotters used today, and there were just two iconoscope cameras. One was located in the box seats on the 40-yard line and the other was in the stadium’s mezzanine section. (The photo of Waltz below was taken a few years later with an RCA Orthicon camera behind him).

“I’d sit with my chin on the rail in the mezzanine, and the camera was over my shoulder,” remembered Walz. “I did my own spotting, and when the play moved up and down the field, on punts or kickoffs, I’d point to tell the cameraman what I’d be talking about.”

The television log records of that day say that the game began at 2:30 p.m. and ran for exactly two hours, thirty-three minutes. By comparison today’s games run almost three full hours. Of course there were no commercial interruptions during the 1939 game. There were, however, interruptions of another sort.

“It was a cloudy day, when the sun crept behind the stadium there wasn’t always enough light for the cameras,” according to Walz. “The picture would get darker and darker, and eventually it would go completely blank, and I would begin to call the game in the style I used for radio broadcasts.”

Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee




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Television In The Army…1953 ‘The Big Picture’ Special

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Television In The Army…1953 ‘The Big Picture’ Special

This is about as good a look at RCA TK 11/31s in action as you will ever get, but we also see Dumont 5098C cameras here. There are some RCA TK30s scattered in and even a small Dage portable and RCA’s Walky Looky. There’s a lot of camera footage here, but you’ll have to skip around some.

The first 10 minutes of this is done at the Army’s New York facility and is RCA heavy. Some of the TK30 footage of the war games was shot at West Point.

The second segment takes us to Augusta, Georgia and the Southeast Signal Corps School at Ft. Gordon (where I trained), and this installation was equipped with Dumont equipment, including a kinescope machine which we’ll see.

At around 14 minutes in, we see a small Dage portable and at 21, more of the mobile unit with TK30s. At 22:25 we see the RCA Walky Looky in action. Many of us that grew up in the 50s and 60s remember watching these ‘Big Picture’ presentations on our local stations. Do you remember? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/aIRV6vfdt7Q
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Inside CBS Studios 41 And 42…Grand Central Terminal, Then And Now

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Inside CBS Studios 41 And 42…Grand Central Terminal, Then And Now

In November of 1937, CBS was near completion of their first television transmitter on the 72nd and 73rd floors of the Chrysler Building. Across the street in Grand Central Terminal, work was underway on the new CBS television studios.

The studio space was 40 feet high, 230 feet long and 60 feet wide. There, two live production studios were built…41 and 42. Studios 43 and 44 were control rooms, but called studios. All four structures, plus a dressing room and some engineering space was packed into this room.

In the photo with the many fluorescent lights, we see the largest studio, 41. In the next black and white photo, we see Studio 42. I think there was a movable wall between them for huge productions and election night coverage.

Next is a photo of that space stripped and ready to become The Vanderbilt Tennis Club. In the exterior photo, we see circled the area of the building where this space is located. Finally, here’s a shot of the space as it looked a few years ago. I think the tennis courts are gone now and the space is now a lounge for conductors and engineers. Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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Follow Up…A Quick Glimpse Of The RCA A500 Cameras, Studio 3H

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Follow Up…A Quick Glimpse Of The RCA A500 Cameras, Studio 3H

This is a rare look at some of the features of the RCA A500 cameras inside NBC Studio 3H. The important stuff is only 7 seconds long from 1:20 till 1:27 but there, we see the cameras clam shell opening style, the lenses, the focus handle and the upside down and inverted image in the ground glass optical viewfinder. This should start just before all this so be ready…it goes by fast. This was not in the guided tour video we saw earlier today, but I thought you may want to see it. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/e20TcY5AXLg?t=1m17sA brief history of television broadcasting beginning in 1932.
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What A Night! September 27, 1954…’Caesar’s Hour’ & ‘Tonight’ Debut

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What A Night! September 27, 1954…’Caesar’s Hour’ & ‘Tonight’ Debut

A week or so back, we touched on this but here’s something new. Thanks to Maureen Carney, here is the ad that ran that day introducing not only ‘Caesar’s Hour’, but the rest of the television line up that Monday night, including the debut of ‘Tonight’ with Steve Allen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLGoNg9VzUk
At the link is what is thought to be the first “Commuters” sketch from the new Caesar show that ran that night. This is called “The White Rug” and features Sid Caesar, Nanette Fabray, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris and Janet Blair.

In ‘Your Show Of Shows’, there was a similar set of neighborly sketches called “The Hickenlooper’s” that Sid and Imogene Coca performed with Morris and Reiner. That was so successful, Caesar carried it over but took it from the city setting to the suburbs. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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Follow Up…NBC’s Studio 3H And 5F, Historic Photos

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Follow Up…NBC’s Studio 3H And 5F, Historic Photos

In the Guided Tour of Studio 3H I just posted, we saw the control room in action, but here is a closeup of the video shading board that was in use in 3H in 1937 and the information on the back of the photo.

A few days back, we also saw NBC’s second ever television installation in another video. That was Studio 5F and here is a shot of the 16 and 35MM projectors in the first ever telecine room. There are two Iconoscope cameras on the other side of the wall these are projecting into. This was built just after work was completed on 3H and probably went into service in early 1936. The photo is accompanied with the information on it’s back. Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee





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ULTRA RARE! Meet NBC’s FIRST CAMERAMAN…Albert W. Protzman

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ULTRA RARE! Meet NBC’s FIRST CAMERAMAN…Albert W. Protzman

Late yesterday afternoon, I stumbled across this incredibly rare piece of television history in a happy accident, while researching the locations for the guided tour post just before this. In the coming days, I will share what I learned from Mr. Protzman’s writings, but for now…let’s meet the man.

Beginning his career at AT&T-Bell Laboratories School in 1922, Al Protzman became one of the first and youngest radio broadcast engineers in the country…he was 20 years old and working with the AT&T stations WEAF and WJZ, and later, with the National Broadcasting Company after its founding in 1926.

From 1930 to 1936 Protzman worked in Hollywood as a sound engineer for Fox Film and its successor 20th Century-Fox. Among his screen credits were several “Charlie Chan” films and “The Power and the Glory”, starring Spencer Tracy.

In 1936, NBC was just beginning television program tests and they approached Protzman with a job offer to become their first TV cameraman. He accepted and eventually became one of TV’s earliest Technical Directors. In 1939, Protzman presented a paper, “Television Studio Technique” to the Society of Motion Picture Engineers which described NBC’s TV experiments in great detail and I’ll share that with you soon.

Al Protzman retired in 1966 as Director of Technical Operations for NBC. He died in 1981 in Bronxville, New York, aged 79. Thanks to NBCU Photobank for the image. Enjoy and SHARE! -Bobby Ellerbee


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A Guided Tour Of Some Of Television’s Early Studios…

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A Guided Tour Of Some Of Television’s Early Studios…

You may have seen this before, but may not have known the historic places you were seeing. Today, we will remedy that with a guided tour of this film, so let’s get started.

At 1:58 we are in GE’s WRGB in Schenectady NY. RCA began as a part of GE and early on, this facility was the GE experimental television center.

At 2:36 we see in the foreground at WRGB a three wheel camera “trolley”. It survived and is now on display at the Schenectady Museum along with two of these camera.

At 3:00 we see television’s first ever Mobile Unit…the twin van RCA creation with the camera control in one and the transmission gear in the other. These 38 foot units were built in 1938.

At 3:20 an RCA Field Iconoscope camera is being mounted and just after that, we are in the camera control van.

At 3:55 we see an RCA Type 1840 Orthicon camera in action. This is the first version of this camera we saw here yesterday.

At 4:04 we enter hallowed ground. This is NBC Studio 5F which was home to the first ever television film chain with a 35 and 16MM capacity. It was built in 1936, just after Studio 3H was converted from radio to television.

At 4:15 we get a rare look as CBS Studio 41…the largest of the two production studios at their Grand Central Terminal location. The cameras are the RCA A500 Iconoscope models. Studio 42 was a bit smaller.

At 5:06 we see the first ever animated television ID. I think the voice is Ben Grauer. This was rolled from Studio 5F.

At 5:30 we see the NBC antenna atop the Empire State Building

At 5:44 we are back inside WRGB where we get a look inside one of the GE Iconoscope cameras.

At 8:14 we are inside the RCA plant in Camden.

At 8:40 we may be inside the RCA Labs in Princeton where much of the early television testing was done.

Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWm5DhtverU

A U.S. Armed Forces report about the future of television in 1945. Footage from this subject is available for licensing from www.globalimageworks.com
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The RCA TK45…Making Beautiful Pictures in Australia, 1987

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The RCA TK45…Making Beautiful Pictures in Australia, 1987

Although the clip is only a minute long, it’s one of the best looks you’ll get of the sharpness and clarity of the pictures these cameras made. This was the follow up to the RCA TK44B and was manufactured between 1973 and 1977 with a total of only 298 made. This is half the number of TK44s made as there were 639 of them made between 1969 and 1974. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PIlZikCal0

Source 1″ C Videotape
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SNL Classic! Behind The Scenes Of “The Continental” Sketches

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SNL Classic! Behind The Scenes Of “The Continental” Sketches

This past Saturday night, the SNL classic episode that aired at 10 PM was the April 8, 2000 episode with Christopher Walken as host and the big sketch from this show was the “Cowbell” scene with Will Ferrell. But, whenever Walken hosts, he does a recurring character…”The Continental” which is always shot from the woman’s Point Of View by a hand held camera.

Here is “The Continental” sketch from February 22, 2003. This special video shows us what the studio audience is seeing as well as the home audience by way of a box insert from the hand held. I don’t know who the cameraman is, but Wally Feresten is the Q card man. As a matter of fact, Wally’s company does all the Q cards for NBC’s live shows both in New York and in LA.

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

The Making Of S*N*L’s “The Continental” – enjoy!
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Seems Like Only Yesterday…And It Was! CBS Sunday Morning

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Seems Like Only Yesterday…And It Was! CBS Sunday Morning…

Thanks to Craig Wilson for these shots from yesterday’s show from Studio 45. Notice the three camera shot…Studio 45 is so big it hosts two shows…’CBS Sunday Morning’ and ‘Inside Edition’. Behind the three cameras you see one of the green cyclorama curtains and the ‘Inside Edition’ sign.

During the week, that whole side of Studio 45 is all green, floor and all as Deborah Norville’s show is done with a virtual set. I’ve included a shot I took of that set in May. They use a mannequin to help adjust the chroma for camera tests. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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The First Two RCA Orthicon Cameras…Early Indoor Test, 1940

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The First Two RCA Orthicon Cameras…Early Indoor Test, 1940

These photos are opaque slides from a homestyle stereoscopic viewer. I think what we are seeing here are the first two RCA Orthicon cameras being tested. Notice there is (1) no focus control anywhere. In earlier posts today, we saw both the panhandle focus and the side mounted focus. (2) There is only a single lens and not the double fixed focal length lenses we see on the Iconoscope camera and later versions of this camera. (3) Notice also that there is no viewfinder on any of these cameras, but if you look closely you can see there is a removable door over that viewing port.

To reinforce my belief that these cameras did not have electronic viewfinders, notice the open door shot. This shows a single row of electronics in the VF area, but behind it is the light proof black box which encloses the ground glass – optical viewer. I think that row of tubes is associated with functions in the camera body below the VF.

As you view that open door shot, look at that huge exhaust port behind it (left bottom) and the single lens on the front (right bottom). In an earlier post, I had identified this first version of the Orthicon camera as the Type 1840…that name is due to the tube number inside which is the 1840, also seen here. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee





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The RCA Orthicon Camera On Location…1945

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The RCA Orthicon Camera On Location…1945

While we are on the Orthicon Camera, here are a few interesting pictures of it in use in outside broadcasts. There are two photo here from the 1945 Macy’s Parade…one of the camera shooting down and one taken from the street showing the camera on the balcony of The Astor Hotel.

The photo of the camera with a banner was taken on VE Day in 1945 with the camera again at The Astor. Finally, a rare hand bill handed out on VE day to passers by announcing the televised coverage on WNBT. In the next post, we’ll see a real rarity…these cameras inside. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee





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Ultra Rare And Historic Photos Of The RCA Orthicon Camera

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Ultra Rare And Historic Photos Of The RCA Orthicon Camera

Be sure and click on all six pictures. This the first time I have ever seen close ups like this and we even have a photo of the camera in it’s carrying mode. This is the second version of this camera and is probably from 1942 or ’43.

In the last photo, we see the early, 1940 version of the camera with it’s CCU and power supply. I think the original was called the Type 1840 and notice it has the focus control in the pan handle like the old Iconoscope cameras and the TK41s. Notice this newer model has the focus control on the right side of the camera body and this is the first time the focus control was mounted there.

Although Dumont had used electronic viewfinders from the start, I do not think either model of this RCA Orthicon camera had them. Given the lenses are the same dual fixed focal length configuration as the RCA Iconoscope cameras, I’m pretty sure this too had a ground glass – optical viewfinder as well.

The Orthicon debuted just a year after the 1939 World’s Fair and the official launch of electronic television. The Orthicon was the forerunner to the much better Image Orthicon tube which came into use in 1945. This is a big improvement over the Iconoscope, but…this tube still required a lot of light and these cameras were mostly used mostly outside. I do have some photos of them in a studio, but I think that was purely for testing and demonstration purposes. Thanks to NBCU Photobank for the images. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee







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A Detailed Guided Tour Of NBC…From 1926 – 1947

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A Detailed Guided Tour Of NBC…From 1926 – 1947

With the help NBC veterans Joel Spector and Dennis Degan, we have identified the many places inside Radio City at 30 Rockefeller Plaza that is shown in this interior travelog of NBC. This is narrated by NBC legend Ben Grauer who we’ll also see in a couple of places.

In the first minutes, there are quick opening shots of Arturo Toscanini in 8H and the NBC Master Control room on the fifth floor which was in use from 1933 till 1963.

At 2:11, we get more quick shots of 8H, 3B and either 6A or B.

At 2:40, we see Ben Grauer in what it implied as a 1926 broadcast…this could be actual footage of him on stage at NBC’s first home at 711 5th Avenue, or it could be reproduced for this film. At 9:37, I think we see Ben again and he is older, so this may well be real footage from 711.

At 4:50, we see the exterior of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and just seconds later, we are in the lobby.

At 5:01 we get a look at the original lobby configuration which included the staircase to the large mezzanine and as the footage rolls, we wind up there. FYI, NBC is restoring these areas now and they will look a lot like this when they are finished next year. The staircase is located where the security desk was until just recently.

At 5:25 we see the original radio master control board used at 711 5th Avenue. It is in front of the new radio master control on the 5th floor.

At 6:45, after seeing the 5th floor, we enter NBC Radio Studio 3B which is now home to NBC Nightly News.

At 8:00, we find NBC’s legendary newscaster H. V. Kaltenborn in one of the many small news studios in the building. This was probably on the 4th floor, as was the newsroom that we see next.

At 14:20, we move into Studio 8H, which was then called “The Auditorium Studio”

At 14:52 we see director George Voutsas with engineer Gil Markle, both of whom Joel worked with in 1965.

At 17:20 we get a quick look at NBC Radio City West in Hollywood

At 19:08, I don’t know exactly where this is but suspect this could be Studio 3A.

Finally, at 21:55 we arrive in television land in Studio 8G, NBC’s second television studio. The first 8G broadcast was ‘Hour Glass’ and I am 99% certain that the show we see there is an episode of ‘Hour Glass’ which was a variety show.

We end with footage from 8H with The NBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee with thanks to Joel Spector and Dennis Degan.

http://youtu.be/ZvNF8scIar0
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The Demise of NBC Burbank Part 2

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October 17, 1958…Video Tape Editing Makes It’s Debut!

All week, we have danced around this subject with the Smith Block posts, but it was only this morning that I realized that we are at the 56th Anniversary of video tape editing. The following is excerpted from Richard Wirth’s article from March, which is included in full below.

The first official broadcast use of the Editor Synch Guide (ESG) system aired on October 17th, 1958, on the NBC special ‘An Evening With Fred Astaire’. It was also one of the first programs to be recorded on color videotape.

Video tape was introduced in late 1956 and as the 50’s wore on, more shows began to record in advance, but they had to be done live – recorded in their entirety in one pass. There was no way to stop and fix mistakes. It didn’t take engineers long to begin experimenting with ways to edit the unwieldy and unforgiving two-inch wide quadruplex recordings. Audiotape had been physically edited for years using a metal guide, a razor blade and some special adhesive tape. But television signals were more complicated, particularly in the way they were recorded on the tape.

NBC Burbank engineers and editors decided they had to come up with some kind of process to edit, and eventually they did. Kinescope equipment was still in use and available so they developed a system of editing using 16mm kinescope films. After a master videotape was recorded, a 16mm film “work print” would be made of it along with 16mm magnetic sound recordings. On the cue track of the master videotape, the sound area of the kinescoped film and the cue track of the 16mm sound recording engineers would record the Editor Sync Guide (ESG), a forerunner to what we know now as Time Code.

ESG consisted of a male voice calling out the minutes and a female voice calling out the seconds. Every 24 frames, there would be a one frame “beep” tone. Art Schneider, an NBC editor involved with the system’s creation, says in his book “Jump Cut” it took three people and a week to create the seventy-three minute ESG master recording.

The kine program would then be edited with frame accuracy using standard motion picture editing techniques. When complete, the tape was “conformed” to match the 16mm sound cue track. By the time the ESG was put into use, the manual videotape splicer had become more sophisticated to include adjustment dials and a microscope to ensure accuracy. Using the Smith Block, this became known as double system or offline editing.

Because of the twenty frame difference between the location of the video heads and the audio heads on the videotape machines, the 16mm sound track was used for all subsequent sound mixing and sweetening to maintain sync. After final mixing, it was laid back to the videotape in one pass.

The word of mouth buzz from Astaire program “literally opened up the floodgates to producers and directors who wanted their shows edited at NBC.” Word of its accuracy spread quickly and for about 10 years after, NBC Color City was place to go to edit your videotaped program! The editing on the Astaire program was minimal by comparison to some of the later efforts using the ESG system.

The ESG system was eventually used on ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In’…this was the first program use very quick cutting, sometimes just a few frames. For some segments, every camera take was a physical cut in the tape. It was said when the ‘Laugh-In’ master tapes were played, they had so many physical cuts they sounded like a machine gun firing as the tape passed the spinning video heads!

Many thanks to Richard Wirth for his fine work over the years. The full article, complete with videos is at this link. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://provideocoalition.com/pvcexclusive/story/the-demise-of-nbc-burbank-part-2

The Demise of NBC Burbank Part 2

Recently, I wrote about the beginnings of NBC’s historic lot in Burbank as the Peacock network completed its move to nearby Universal Studios.  The look back on NBC Burbank’s sixty-two year history wouldn’t be complete without exploring some of the technical history NBC engine…
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A Primer On The History Of Chroma Key In Television

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A Primer On The History Of Chroma Key In Television…

Was this Milton Berle chroma key sketch the first? No, but it is one of the most sophisticated early uses of the technology as it employs both chroma key and video tape editing. This was quite a feat in 1959!

Motion picture production had been using compositing for years prior to the invention of television, but it was an involved process requiring optical printers and intermediate film mattes, hardly suitable for the immediacy of live television.

In July of 1957, chroma key had its first on-air test on one of NBC Burbank’s more ambitious projects, ‘Matinee Theater’ that ran from 1955 to 1958. Every weekday afternoon, a one-hour live dramatic production was presented. The source material varied, but often it was an adaptation of some famous literary work.

A television version of the H.G. Wells classic “The Invisible Man,” lent itself perfectly for the first live use of chroma key. When the title character’s hands and head were wrapped in blue and he stood in front of a blue screen, the chroma key amplifier would replace the blue parts of the video with an image from another camera. All that would be seen in the composite shot was the man’s clothing in front of scenery being shot by the background camera, thus making him appear to be invisible.

Chroma key was developed by Frank Gaskins, NBC Burbank’s technical operations supervisor and Milt Altman, graphics arts supervisor. Together, they pooled their talent to develop what has become standard equipment on live video switchers throughout the world and now can be launched on any home computer. Today, blue has been largely replaced by the use of green, but is the same process. The key color change became necessary when video started to be compressed and primary colors began to be sampled at the ratio of 4:2:2, with luminance and green being the only fully sampled channel in most cases.

Thanks to Gary Walters for the video clip and the question. Thanks to our friend Richard Wirth for the answers. In today’s next post, I’ll give you the link to Richard’s article and also discuss the early process of video tape editing that originated at NBC Burbank…ground zero for tape innovation in the early days! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoLi3MFMS6c&feature=youtu.be

Milton Berle satirizes himself in a 1959 special comparing the old slapstick Berle with his new more sophisticated image in dual appearances that utilizes an…
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Ultra Rare! Smith Block Editing Video…A Fine Follow Up

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Ultra Rare! Smith Block Editing Video…A Fine Follow Up

Here is a short video of a BBC engineer editing 2″ tape with the Smith Block. There has been a lot of interest in the two prior posts this week and this is the perfect piece to top off this subject.

This is from this link http://www.vtoldboys.com/edit.htm# and there is other interesting early video tape editing information here, including how early electronic editing was done. Thanks thanks to Pat Phos Martin for sharing this with us. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
http://www.vtoldboys.com/editm01.htm

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‘Hollywood Squares’…Unaired Pilot AND How Peter Marshall Won The Job

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‘Hollywood Squares’…Unaired Pilot AND How Peter Marshall Won

I don’t think Bert Parks was ever really seriously considered for the role of host of this show, but for the pilot pitch to CBS…he’d be an OK choice. Obviously not though. After the pilot sat on Fred Silverman’s desk for six months, Heater & Quigley did another pilot with comedian Sandy Baron. CBS thought Parks to corney and Baron to “New Yorky”.

The director of the pilot, Larry White took the show to NBC after Silverman passed and they liked it, but they too did not like either host. This is when Peter’s name got put in the hat.

The short version is that Bob Quigley saw Peter in a Kellogg’s commercial and called him. They flew him to Sherman Oaks, showed him the pilot and Marshall liked it, but asked why they were interested in him and not Parks or Baron. Quigley said they wanted a “nonentity”. Marshall replied, “then, I’m your man”! The rest as they say is history.

Marshall’s starting salary was $1250 per week and the stars were paid union scale, which as the time was $750 a week.

Most don’t know it, but this was actually Marshall’s second time to host a game show. The first was a local LA show called ‘Stimulus’ which only ran for ten weeks, but it gave him some good experience.

By the way…Peter had reported long ago that NBC had dumped all of those tape archives, and he was right BUT! Low and behold, a cable channel somewhere found 3,500 episodes in their warehouse. Thanks to them, we can see most of these classic shows. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

Here’s the link to Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syMXK0Gxncc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrSvImHsUX4

Yep, I finally am back to uploading, and I forgot I had this saved weeks ago! Lazy me… Here’s a great one! It’s the original 1965 pilot of the classic cele…
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RARE! ‘Hollywood Squares’ In Studio Shot…First And Only

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ULTRA RARE! ‘Hollywood Squares’ In Studio Shot…The First And Only

Yesterday marked the 48th Anniversary of the debut of ‘Hollywood Squares’ on NBC, which began the long run of the original daytime show from October 17, 1966 – June 20, 1980.

Although I have looked high and low, this is the only backstage shot I have ever seen that shows the cameras and I thank Randy West for sharing it. I’m sure the show started with RCA TK41s and would love to find a picture of that, but till one turns up, here are RCA TK44s on the set. Does anyone know which studio this came from at NBC Burbank? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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This Was Indeed, The Start Of Something BIG! The Roone Arlidge Era

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This Was Indeed, The Start Of Something BIG! The Roone Arlidge Era

This video is from the last episode of ABC’s ‘Wide World Of Sports’ debut season which started April 29, 1961. This clip highlights some firsts in football coverage.

This is the first use of a crane camera over the field, microphones on the quarterbacks and possibly, handheld sideline coverage in a professional football game. (NBC used RCA’s Walky Looky on some college games in the late 50s). The video is quite historic.

In January of ’62, WWOS was given a permanent time slot where it remained for over forty years. The show was the creation of Edgar Scherick through his company, Sports Programs, Inc. After selling his company to the American Broadcasting Company, and joining them to run ABC Sports, he hired a young Roone Arledge to produce the show.

Around 1956, after graduating with a masters degree from Columbia College, Arlidge got a stage manager’s job at NBC’s New York City station, which was then WRCA. One of his assignments there was to help produce a children’s puppet show hosted by Shari Lewis.

Sometime in late 1960, Arledge convinced his superiors at WRCA to let him film a pilot of a show he called ‘For Men Only’. While his superiors liked the pilot, they told him they couldn’t find a place in the programming schedule for it. But the WRCA weatherman, Pat Hernon, who hosted the pilot, began showing it and Edgar Scherick was one of the people who saw it.

While Scherick wasn’t interested in ‘For Men Only’, he recognized the talent Arledge had. Arledge realized ABC was the organization he was looking to join. The lack of a formal organization would offer him the opportunity to claim real power when the network matured, so, he signed on with Scherick as an assistant producer for WWOS.

Several months before ABC began broadcasting NCAA college football games, Arledge sent Scherick a remarkable memo, filled with television production concepts which sports broadcasts have adhered to since. Previously, network sporting broadcasts had consisted of simple set-ups and focused on the game itself. The genius of Arledge in this memo was not that he offered another way to broadcast the game to the sports fan. The genius was to recognize television had to take the sports fan to the game.

In addition, Arledge realized that the broadcasts needed to attract and hold the attention of women viewers. At age 29 on September 17, 1960 he put his vision into reality with ABC’s first NCAA college football broadcast from Birmingham, Alabama, between Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. Sports broadcasting has not been the same since. Thanks to Chaz Bryant for the clip. Enjoy, share and Go Dawgs! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvgnv7xJidY


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NBC Burbank 1958…Here’s A Drive By

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Speaking Of NBC Burbank And 1958…Here’s A Drive By

In the last post, we saw a 1958 clip of Steve Allen and company singing and strolling the halls inside 3000 West Alameda…here’s the outside. Thanks to David Crosthwait and DC Video for this trip down memory lane. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us2flcoPut0

This is a 1958 videotape of NBC Burbank as recorded on 2″ Quad in a mobile unit. The show opens as the camera travels down California Street, takes a right t…
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Steve Allen Special…Singing Tour Of NBC Burbank

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Follow Up…First ‘Tonight’ Host With Billboard Top 40 Hit, Steve Allen

Special Updated Version Of NBC Burbank Stroll!

In yesterday’s post of the Jimmy Fallon record release, I mentioned that he was not the first ‘Tonight’ host to have a record charted in Billboard Magazine. Steve Allen was, and here is the song that he wrote and recorded in a very special television version!

This is the original 1958 footage of the famous stroll through NBC Burbank updated in 2013 with a present day look to the same route. For once, the notes on a Youtube video are very good and quite detailed so make sure to read them. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/zbxoF4F0TrYThis is a special version of a YOUTUBE clip uploaded by goldenvmedia of This Could Be the Start of Something Big-Steve Allen Show clip as video taped at NBC …
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The Smith Block, Up Close And Personal

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In Case You Missed This…The Smith Block, Up Close And Personal

Earlier in the week, I posted a photo of a 1965 NBC videotape edit session using the Smith Block. Thanks to David Crosthwait at DC Video, here are some awesome close ups of the Smith Block which was created by NBC Burbank editor Bob Smith.

Our friend Pete Fascino is the man that built the Avid Editing System and thanks to Kevin Vahey, here (at the link) is an SMPTE article Pete wrote on editing with this metal beast. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.smpte-ne.org/articles/painfulwayitwas.html







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The Great Dennis James…A Video Tribute By Monty Hall

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The Great Dennis James…A Video Tribute By Monty Hall

Few have had a carrier like this…as you’ll see, even Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope respected the trail he blazed. Dennis James was among the first television announcers and game show hosts, and “made his bones”, partially by cracking chicken bones (on mic) as he called wrestling matches which were a staple of early television. He is also the first person to record a commercial on video tape, but his depth and stature is much greater. As good friend Monty Hall will tell you, Dennis James is truly one of television’s great pioneers. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IihYyy3hZ4

This Video Chronicles the life of Television Pioneer and Game Show Icon Dennis James.
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