Here is another of Parker Smith’s portraits of a few of my cameras. This PC60 began life at CBS Studio 52 in New York, just around the corner from Studio 50, The Ed Sullivan Theater. It later went to CBS Washington and was used on the White House mobile unit. Enjoy and share!
Preparing For One Of Television’s Most Memorable Scenes…
We all know what happens next, but here is a rare classic shot of Lucy having her “flaming nose” applied by Hal King. Behind Lucille Ball is Jess Oppenheimer and on the right is Director of Photography Carl Freund. Enjoy and share! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyDvc8tsd_0
I Told You Mitch Miller Was A Joker…Can You Spot The Joke Here?
As you watch, you’re in for a surprise as there is “a joker in the deck”, but not a word was ever said about it on the show. Thanks to Kevin Vahey for this bit of fun. (The joker, Johnny Carson, shows up at 2:53, 3:28 and 4:11)
Before there was Hollywood, there was Betzwood. Before there were film moguls and studio lots in California, Siegmund Lubin was doing it in Pennsylvania.
Lubin was originally an optical and photography expert in Philadelphia but he became intrigued with Thomas Edison’s motion picture camera and saw the potential in selling similar such equipment as well as the making of films. Lubin constructed his own combined camera/projector he called a “Cineograph” and his lower price and marketing know-how brought reasonable success.
In 1897 Lubin began making films for commercial release. Certain his business could prosper, the following year he rented low-cost space on the roof of a building in Philadelphia’s business district (seen here). He exhibited his new equipment at the 1899 National Export Exposition in Philadelphia and the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
The insatiable appetite of the American public for motion picture entertainment saw Lubin’s film company undergo enormous growth. Aided by French-born writer and poet Hugh Antoine d’Arcy, who served as the studio’s publicity manager, in 1910 Siegmund Lubin built a state of the art studio on the corner of Indiana avenue and Twentieth Street in Philadelphia that became known as “Lubinville.”
At the time, it was one of the most modern studios in the world, complete with a huge artificially lit stage, editing rooms, laboratories, and workshops. The facility allowed several film productions to be undertaken simultaneously. The Lubin Manufacturing Company expanded production beyond Philadelphia, with facilities in Jacksonville, Florida, Los Angeles, and then in Coronado, California.
In 1912, Lubin purchased a 350-acre estate in Betzwood in the northwest outskirts of Philadelphia and converted the property into a studio and film lot. This was to be one of the first real film lots in history and is shown here complete with it’s “western set”. Enjoy and share!
A Rare Bit Of Film History…Making Movies With Sound
‘Show Girl in Hollywood’ was released in April of 1930 and is one of the first sound films made. Fortunately it includes in it’s story line a bit about how these films were made.
As you will see in this rare clip, condenser mics are hung from the rafters and there are multiple cameras shooting simultaneously from soundproofed booths. The first look at the cameras comes at :43 and at 1:25, we go inside the booth and hear the whur of the camera. There are several more camera shots, but at 3:09 and 3:11 we get a look at the audio mixing board and the lathe cutting the disc the sound was recorded on.
Cameras were noisy, so a soundproofed cabinet was used to isolate the loud equipment from the actors, at the expense of a drastic reduction in the ability to move the camera. For a time, multiple-camera shooting was used to compensate for the loss of mobility and innovative studio technicians could often find ways to liberate the camera for particular shots.
The necessity of staying within range of still microphones meant that actors also often had to limit their movements unnaturally. ‘Show Girl in Hollywood’, from First National Pictures (which Warner Bros. had taken control of thanks to its profitable adventure into sound), gives us one of the best ever behind-the-scenes look at some of the techniques involved in shooting early talkies.
Several of the fundamental problems caused by the transition to sound were soon solved with new camera casings, known as “blimps”, designed to suppress noise and boom microphones that could be held just out of frame and moved with the actors.
With sound came a new, strict standard of 24 fps. Sound also forced the abandonment of the noisy arc lights used for filming in studio interiors. The switch to quiet incandescent illumination in turn required a switch to more expensive film stock. The sensitivity of the new panchromatic film delivered superior image tonal quality and gave directors the freedom to shoot scenes at lower light levels than was previously practical.
Thanks to our friend, NBC audio legend Joel Spector for sharing this with us! Enjoy and share!
A few months ago, well known Atlanta photographer Parker Smith came to my house and shot my camera collection all day long. This is one of those shots…a beautiful portrait of my RCA TK60, but this is not just one shot! It’s a composite of about a dozen shots. This actually looks much better and sharper if you click on it for the bigger view.
He would relight each shot and later combine them with Photoshop to merge the images into one. I think RCA would be jealous. Thank you Parker! More to come soon!
Twenty five years ago yesterday, July 5, 1989, the show premiered as ‘The Seinfeld Chronicles’ as a one time test on NBC. After it aired, a pickup by NBC did not seem likely and the show was offered to Fox, which declined to pick it up. Rick Ludwin, head of late night and special events for NBC, however, diverted money from his budget by canceling a Bob Hope television special, and the next four episodes were filmed.
Those four episodes aired May 31 June 21, 1990 together with the pilot constituted the first season. These four episodes were highly rated as they followed ‘Cheers’ on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m., and the series was finally picked up.
NBC ordered 13 more episodes and the second season aired January to June of 1991 but only 12 episode ran as the scheduled premiere of January 16, 1991 was bumped due to the outbreak of the Persian Gulf war.
Larry David believed that he and Jerry Seinfeld had no more stories to tell, and advised his partner to turn down the order, but Seinfeld agreed to the additional episodes. For the first three seasons, Jerry’s stand-up comedy act would bookend an episode, even functioning as cut scenes during the show.
Here’s fun few minutes of outtakes from the show that take us on location and into the studio at CBS Studio Center in LA. Enjoy and share.
Although “Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying To Murder Her” was the fourth episode to air, it was actually the first one shot. The film date was September 8, 1951 and the air date, November 5.
This photo was probably taken on September 7, a day before dress rehearsal. Being the first show, a lot of initial blocking was needed as was wardrobe planning. They wanted to do the show without stopping and this meant Lucy and others had to wear layers of clothes for quick changes.
In this episode, Lucy only has one costume, but in the second and third, there are several changes which she wore in layers, but that stopped after the third episode and they would stop for changes. Pickups were few and usually done at the end.
Here is the video link queued to the start of this scene. Notice Ricky is now in a tie with no sweater vest. Enjoy and share!
Jodie Peeler sent me this recently and as I studied the photo of my favorite cameras in action, I began to try to fix the location. The donut box on the crane mounted TK41 told me this was New York…they were the only NBC crews to do this. CBS New York did this too with their TK30s. Must be something in the water?
The dead giveaway was the cabling on the sound boom. Notice it goes up. NBC Brooklyn was the only place that had overhead cable guides for the booms. As I understand it, there were big free swinging arms mounted under the lights that were rigged to keep the audio cables off the floor.
The beauty of these two huge studios was their size. Cameras were able to move in here like on movie sets and producers and crews took full advantage of it with lots of sweeping shots. There were at least two Houston Fearless 30B cranes (shown here), several Panoram dollies (lower camera) and lots of ped cameras.
The camera cables were too heavy to use the overhead system, but in order to get as much cable off the floor as possible, the audio was flown. Just off the top of my head, I think Studio A was 12,000 square feet and B was 10,000. Any guesses on what show or special this if from? Enjoy and share!
‘Sing Along With Mitch’ began in 1961 on NBC, the same year ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ debuted on CBS. It was done from the huge NBC Brooklyn Studios till it was canceled in 1964 due to changing tastes in music.
Although Miller was head of A&R (Artist and Repertoire) at Columbia Records, and responsible for signing artist and finding hits for them to record, he was not a fan of rock and roll. Enjoy and share!
‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’…Rare Shots & Interesting Facts
Until last week, the bedroom scene photo was the only one I had ever seen of this show in production. In that one, you can see director Jerry Paris just behind Dick in his famous red sweater.
The show was shot at Desilu Studios and in this new photo from the audience area, we get a good look at the homebase set. This was the last major primetime series to have its entire run filmed in black and white. The show was due to be shot in color after the 5th year, but that never happened because of the cast and producers decision to end the show after 5 years.
Sally Rogers was the first woman on an American television show to portray a solely independent woman. Before that, women were mostly cast as housewives. The character of Sally Rogers was inspired by Lucille Kallen, who wrote for ‘Your Show of Shows’ and Selma Diamond who wrote for ‘Caesar’s Hour’.
The show’s production company was called Calvada Productions. The name came from the names of all of the key persons involved in production: Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard, Dick Van Dyke and Danny Thomas. In one program, co-producer, Leonard played a character called “Big Max Calvada”.
The series originally was to focus on Rob at the office with Sally Rogers as the lead female character and Laura as a minor one. The character of Laura became so popular that Mary Tyler Moore became the lead female character and more of the focus of the show shifted to the relationship between Rob and Laura. Many times situations at the office were still focused on Rob and Laura. This put a strain on the relationship between Rose Marie and Mary Tyler Moore, and while the two ladies got along well, they never became close friends.
Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon (Mel) were actually close friends. According to Deacon, many of the best insults Buddy hurled at Mel were worked out when the two went out for drinks after work. During Richard Deacon’s first season as Mel Cooley, he was also finishing up the last season as Fred Rutherford on ‘Leave It to Beaver’.
Final fact…did you know Johnny Carson was a runner-up for the role of Rob Petrie? Enjoy and share!
Interesting Tape Artifact…July 4, 1976, Boston Pops National Debut
Somehow, there is no video record of the first ever nationwide broadcast of the now famous Boston Pops 4th Of July concert on CBS, BUT…there is this piece of work tape.
This eighteen minute clip will start with CBS reporter Charles Collingwood preparing to talk with Walter Cronkite in New York. We never hear Charles or Walter…only the audio of the concert itself and on the bright side, we do get to see the whole ‘Overture Of 1812’ and all the fireworks. At the very end (17:54) Collingwood talks with Cronkite again. I understand Walter was quite happy and gushing praise.
By the way, I think this year’s concert was done last night due to the approaching Hurricane Arthur. I assume the taped show will run tonight as usual. Thanks to Kevin Vahey for sharing this.
The Story Of The Best Ever Version Of “The Star Spangled Banner”
To help set the tone for this 4th of July holiday, here is our national anthem sung like never before, and the backstory of how it came to be. Please watch it with the volume high and don’t be surprised if you tear up to, what most consider, the most moving rendition ever.
Few know that the entire performance was prerecorded…music and voice. In order to keep the performance from sounding thin, as most stadium performances tend to be, Houston wanted the great arrangement by John Clayton to be as powerful and moving as it was when she first heard it ten days earlier.
This performance was the opening of Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium, January 27, 1991…10 days into the Persian Gulf War. Whitney was backed by the Florida Orchestra along with music director Jahja Ling, before 73,813 fans, 115 million viewers in the United States and a worldwide television audience of 750 million.
When asked to perform, Houston knew instantly how she wanted to interpret the tune. Rickey Minor, her longtime musical director, suggested taking the song out of standard, waltz tempo—three quarters time—and add an extra beat per measure, which would allow Houston to open up her voice and the song. It worked!
Here’s a great television artifact from of of it’s biggest shows. As you can see, the show taped on Tuesday nights, which I think stayed constant at both Television City and Metromedia. Enjoy and share!
State Of The Art Television: 1961 & The Ampex Editec System
This great 1961 demo tape from KTTV in Los Angeles gives us one of the most thorough run throughs of video switching effects and video capabilities of that era available. Keep in mind though, videotape was still a cut and splice process till 1963 when Ampex introduced the Editec system which came after this video was created, but here’s the way it worked…
Editec was the first form of electronic video editing, allowing broadcast television editors frame-by-frame recording control, simplifying tape editing and the ability to make animation effects possible, but left a lot to be desired. They had no time code, no way to mark edit points, and no pre roll.
Just like the cut-and-splice technique, editors found edit points by stopping the tape near the start of a scene and fine-tuning the reel position by hand.
With points marked on both machines, they manually wound the tapes backward an equal number of control track pulses. Then they started both machines playing at the same time. At the edit point, they punched record on the master machine.
Two things determined whether the edit hit at the right time: the speed of the machine’s record switch, and the carefully-timed twitch of the editor’s finger.
If the editor hit the button early, or if the switch started recording a fraction of a second sooner than the editor guessed, the previous scene on the master got clipped.
If the edit happened too late, the editor had to decide if it was bad enough to take a second time. Repeating edits got tricky because the window to get it right grew narrower and narrower with each attempt. If the second try triggered too soon, it botched the master. If it triggered too late, it meant yet another try.
Typically, alert editors and reliable machines could get within a half-second of the intended edit point using this technique. Enjoy and share!
By Request…The Ampex NAB Poster By MAD Artist Jack Davis
Every once in a while, people ask me to post this and since we’ve been on the edge of Ampex land the last few days, here is the biggest and best image I can find of this. I think this was given out at the NAB back in the 70s.
In 1944, the Ampex Electric and Manufacturing Company was formed by Alexander M. Poniatoff in San Carlos, California. The name AMPEX consists Poniatoff’s initials…AMP, with with the EX added as an abbreviation for “excellent” to form the unique name.
This is the dedication of NBC’s new studios for WRC Radio and TV, it’s owned and operated station in Washington DC. President Eisenhower is on hand for the occasion as are David and Robert Sarnoff and many distinguished guests.
NBC’s David Brinkley narrates much of the opening minutes which gives us a good look at Studio A, while Eisenhower gets a tour of the engineering facilities. As you’ll see, mostly from 4:28 – 6:00 and again from 9:30 – 10:30, there are black and white cameras in the studio alongside two new RCA TK41s. Their four black and white cameras are in use mostly to cover the arrival and dignitaries, but when the speakers start, their job is done and the TK41s take over.
At 14:50, Robert Sarnoff pushes a big button to make the switch from b/w to color, which is when the color burst is added to the signal. This rare Quad tape restoration to D-2 digital tape was done by Ed Reitan, Don Kent, Dan Einstein in July of 2006.
The Care And Feeding Of The Ampex VR 2000 Quad VTR
As your read this, quad video tape is being transferred to digital formats inside CBS Television City at what they like to call “Jurassic Park”. It’s a 24/7/365 operation and the facility is equipped with just about every type VTR format you can imagine.
In 1964, Ampex introduced the VR 2000 high band videotape recorder, the first ever to be capable of color fidelity required for high quality color broadcasting. Just for fun, here is part one of the four part Ampex training tape on the VR 2000.
This 1961 ad from Ampex shows the first six videotape machine models they made…machines that changed the world. Here’s the lineup from left to right: 1956, the VRX 1000…1957, the VR 1000…1959, the VR 1000B…1960, the VR 1001A…1961, the VR 1000C and also from 1961, the VR 1002. Enjoy and share!
‘Concentration’…NBC, August 25, 1958 – March 23, 1973
The original network daytime series, ‘Concentration’, appeared on NBC for 14 years, 7 months. With 3,796 telecasts, this was NBC’s longest running game show. Hugh Downs was the original host and served from ’58 till ’69. During this time, Hugh was also Jack Paar’s side kick on ‘Tonight’ and in ’62, he was the new anchor on ‘Today’ when Dave Garroway left. In ’85, The Guinness Book Of Records recognized Hugh Downs for holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network television.
It’s anybody’s guess as to where this photo was taken because ‘Concentration’ had a lot of homes, but the daytime version was always inside 30 Rock. From ’58 till ’65 Studio 3A was home. 1965 till 1967, it was 3B, and 8G from ’67 till ’73. This was the last show on the NBC roster to go color and that happened November 7, 1966.
There were two short lived night time versions…one was hosted by Jack Barry in 1958 for four weeks from Studio A at NBC’s 67th Street location, which was where the ‘Home’ show was done. The second primetime version was April to September of ’61 from the Ziegfeld Theater on Monday nights with Bob Clayton as host.
When Downs left in ’69, Bob Clayton took over, but three months later Ed Mcmahon hosted for six months during Clayton’s leave of absence for an illness.
The Barry – Enright produced shows ended in ’73, but six months later, the show was back on NBC as a Goodson – Todman syndicated production from the west coast with Jack Narz as host and ran till ’78. Art James was the original announcer. Enjoy and share!
July 2, 1964…President Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act Legislation
Fifty years ago today, this beautiful photo was taken in The East Room of The White House as President Johnson addressed the nation, just before signing The Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
For those of us who are old enough to remember these times, it’s interesting to recall the many famous faces in the front rows. If you take a look at the video clip (below) of this, it appears that there are three pool cameras from CBS covering the event. That center camera is shooting through a very early through the lens teleprompter. I think the blue part is actually the paper roll script with a double mirror reflector box on top of it. Enjoy and share!
The Secret To Voicing ‘Porky Pig’ In 30 Seconds…Amazing!
Thanks to our friend Randy West, here is the current voice of ‘Porky Pig’, Bob Bergen unpacking the voice pattern that Mel Blanc perfected. Watching this is like learning to sing “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis.
Porky Porky bo borky, banana fanna fo Forky, fe fi fo Forky, Porky!
At 1PM, July 1, 1941, NBC’s WNBT in New York became America’s first commercially licensed television station to go on the air. At 2:30 PM, CBS owned WCBW became the second.
On June 24, 1941,both the NBC and CBS stations were licensed and instructed to sign on simultaneously on July 1 so that neither of the major broadcast companies could claim exclusively to be “first.”
However, WCBW did not manage to sign on the air until 2:30 p.m., one full ninety minutes after WNBT. As a result, WNBC inadvertently holds the distinction as the oldest continuously operating commercial television station in the United States, and also the only one ready to accept sponsors from its beginning.
The first program broadcast at 13:00 EST in the sign-on/opening ceremony featured the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner”, followed by an announcement of that day’s programs and the commencement of NBC television programming.
On its first day on the air, WNBT broadcast the world’s first official television advertisement before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. The announcement for Bulova watches, for which the company paid $9.00, displayed an NBC/RCA test pattern modified to look like a clock with the hands showing the time. The Bulova logo, with the phrase “Bulova Watch Time”, was shown in the lower right-hand quadrant of the test pattern while the second hand swept around the dial for one minute. Enjoy and share!
A New Can Of Worms…’The Price Is Right’ NBC Studio Locations
Frankly, I had always thought ‘The Price Is Right’ debuted in color from the Colonial Theater in 1956, but that is not quite right. It now appears the show (daytime) debuted from The Hudson Theater in black and white, however…the primetime version did debut from The Colonial, but that was in 1957. Here’s the rundown of dates and studios for the daytime show….
‘The Price Is Right’ prime time version always originated in color from The Colonial Theater from 1957- 63. The daytime show was in black and white from ’56 till ’62 and went color in it’s last year. Although the daytime show had come from NBC color facilities as early as 1959 and was usually shot with RCA TK41s, it was broadcast in b/w, which was not uncommon in the late 50s and early 60s. Thanks to David Schwartz for his help with this.
62 Years Ago Yesterday…’The Guiding Light’ Debuted
June 30, 1952 is the day ‘The Guiding Light’ came to CBS television. It’s first TV home was in CBS Studio 56 at Liederkranz Hall on East 58th street, where two of the four studios there had Dumont cameras. After the consolidation of production into the CBS Broadcast Center and colorizing in the mid 60s, Liederkrantz was closed, but ‘TGL’ was a big show so CBS moved it to a facility of it’s own…Studio 65, The High Brown Theater on 26th Street, which had upstairs and downstairs studio floors.
The black and white photo is from September of ’52 in Studio 56. The two color photos are from Studio 65. The studio shot was taken in the basement and the control room and bigger studio were on the first floor. Occasionally, actors would have to race from one floor to the other to make appearances in the same scene.
‘The Guiding Light’ was created by Irna Phillips, and began as an NBC Radio serial on January 25, 1937. On June 2, 1947, the series was moved to CBS Radio. Even after it’s television debut, the show would continue to be broadcast concomitantly on radio until June 29, 1956. The series was expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour in early 1968, which is probably when the move from 56 to 65 occurred. The show expanded to a full hour on November 7, 1977. The series broadcast its 15,000th televised episode on September 6, 2006.
On April 1, 2009, it was announced that CBS had cancelled ‘Guiding Light’ after a 72-year run due to low ratings. The show taped its final scenes for CBS on August 11, 2009, and its final episode on the network aired on September 18, 2009. On October 5, 2009, CBS replaced Guiding Light with an hour-long revival of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’, hosted by Wayne Brady. ‘Guiding Light’ stands as the fourth longest-running program in all of broadcast history.
At the link is a full 15 minute episode from March 4, 1953 when the show as just 9 months old. The Duz commercial is live and the pitch man is the show’s announcer Hal Simms. The Ivory commercial appears to be on film. Thanks to Gady Reinhold for the color photos. Enjoy and share! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTUMbA3SGt0
At the link is a fascinating article from Ted Elrick in “The Director’s Guild Of America Quarterly” on how the show was done. There is a lot of information there you won’t read anywhere else.
In the photo, we see Desi Arnaz with Jess Oppenheimer looking at a control booth under construction at General Services studio just before the show started production. This is probably around August of 1951.
Now this is really more of an audio and intercom center than anything else, because as you remember the show was shot on film, but coordination was still a key factor in the production. All the camera, dolly and boom people wore headphones. I would think there was an assistant director in the booth reminding them of cues and the DOP and director would be on the studio floor. Enjoy and share!