Posts in Category: Broadcast History

The NBC Chimes: Part 1

The NBC Chimes: Part 1…My Original NBC Chime Set

In the photos below, you see one of the original sets of NBC chimes purchased by NBC from the Lesch Silver Co. of Manhattan. It is a Degan Dinner Chime, model 400 which in 1927 had a suggested retail price of $9.00 each. NBC’s total purchase at Lesch was $48.50 which bought them either four or five sets of the chimes.

A few years back, I was able to purchase this set of Degan Dinner Chimes from Mr. Harold Chasen, who was then 88 years old. Harold told me that he was given this set of chimes when he retired after 40 years of service with NBC Radio.

His much younger boss had found them in his new office years earlier and had only recently stumbled across them the week before Harold retired and gave them to him as a going away present. Harold was quite surprised and suspected that his boss didn’t really know what he had, but was happy to now be in possession of these historic chimes.

Mr. Chasen was also a drummer and had played on a lot of RCA recordings, and after NBC, had a music store or two in Virginia. He investigated further and had come to the conclusion these were most likely from the Red Network studios as the Red and Blue networks had separate work and engineering offices for accounting purposes.

Harold had started with NBC radio as an engineer in 1933 and his first few months were spent at NBC’s original home at 711 Madison Avenue. In late 1933, NBC and RCA moved to their new building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

NBC’s radio history begins in July of 1926, when RCA took over WEAF as the flagship for the Broadcasting Company Of America, a name that was soon changed to the National Broadcasting Company.

The purchase price was $1 million. The first broadcast of the National Broadcasting Company originated from the Waldorf Astoria on November 15, 1926 with a show that lasted from 8PM till midnight.

WEAF was owned by RCA, but with the creation of NBC, bought WJZ radio as NBC’s first station and shortly after, RCA put WEAF under NBC’s control and thus was born the Red and Blue Networks.

WEAF was the key station of the Red Network, and “sister” station WJZ, was the flagship of the Blue Network, which went into operation 6 weeks later. The colors were derived from the ink colors used to trace the network routes on AT&T system maps.

In late 1927, WEAF and WJZ moved to 711 5th Ave. Both the Red and Blue key stations had two studios each and a large auditorium studio was shared by both.

In those early days, at the end of a programs, the NBC announcer would read the call letters of all the NBC stations carrying the program. As the network added more stations this became impractical and would cause some confusion among the affiliates as to the conclusion of network programming and when the station break should occur on the hour and half-hour.

Some sort of coordinating signal was needed to signal the affiliates for these breaks and allow each affiliate to identify. Three men at NBC were given the task of finding a solution to the problem and coming up with such a coordinating signal. These men were; Oscar (O.B.) Hanson, from NBC engineering, Earnest LaPrada, an NBC orchestra leader, and Phillips Carlin, an NBC announcer.

During the years 1927 and 1928 these men experimented with a seven note sequence of chimes, G-C-G-E-G-C-E, which proved too complicated for the announcers to consistently strike in the correct order. Sometime later they came up with the three note G-E-C combination. These three notes were first broadcast on NBC November 29, 1929 and were struck at 59 minutes 30 seconds, and 29 minutes 30 seconds past the hour.

Was it this set of chimes that first struck the now famous NBC audio logo? We’ll never know, but will always wonder. On the right is an NBC announcer in the 711 Madison Avenue studios with a set of Degan Dinner Chimes preparing to strike the three most famous notes in the world.

Tomorrow and the next day, more on the NBC chimes with actual 1950 NBC press releases on the adoption of the sound as the first registered audible service mark, and the electrification of the chimes. Enjoy and share! Bobby Ellerbee


The Poor Bastards Never Had A Chance…The NABET Strike, 1987

The Poor Bastards Never Had A Chance…The NABET Strike, 1987

As we know, Dave loves to play with the staff and crew, but when the technicians strike rolled around, management had to step in and Letterman pulled all the stops to “play” with them. This should start at the intro to ‘Dave’s Record Collection’ which sets up the piece of Letterman roaming the halls of NBC. Enjoy and share! gets fed up with all the technical problems during the technicians strikes and decides to take a break and get a cup of coffee.


You Mean There’s No SET??? Inside, ‘Inside Edition’

You Mean There’s No SET??? Inside, ‘Inside Edition’

Last week, inside CBS Studio 45, I was stunned to learn that this green screen area is where Deborah Norville hosts ‘Inside Edition’.

Don’t freak out, but this is not the only show done this way and the list of others is growing. In the photos below you see the before and after. The mannequin is a camera test stand in for Deborah, and each day, video checks are done to adjust the chromakey settings so that the effect does not “tear” when the virtual set is added into the mix.

Although the show is videotaped for later playback, this is all done in real time. A key point of a virtual set like this is that the real camera can move in 3D space, while the image of the virtual camera is being rendered in real-time from the same perspective.

That means the virtual scene has to instantly adapt to and mirror the camera’s output including zoom, pan, angle, traveling, etc. This is what differentiates a virtual set from the traditional technique of chromakey.

Integration of camera tracking is done with either optical or mechanical measurements to create a live stream of data describing the exact perspective of the camera. In this case, the tracking is measured digitally by capturing the information generated by the robotic pan heads.

The 3D virtual software used on ‘Inside Edition’ is made by the granddaddy of chromakey innovation, Ultimatte, who’s been on the cutting edge of chromakey hardware and software since 1976. Enjoy and share!


A Recipe for Analog to Digital Video Transfer: Baking

The Race Against Time And The Ultimate Dropout…

Our friend Richard Wirth has a new article on how preservationists are reviving videotapes…at least long enough to play them through into a digital format. It is literally a “sticky business”, but thankfully there are people making the effort. Here’s a look at how they are making the old tape stock playable again.

A Recipe for Analog to Digital Video Transfer: Baking

We had a project come to us recently that required the transfer of ¾ inch videotape to digital files. To those for whom analog videotapes have become a mysterious relic akin to Egyptian hieroglyphs, let it be known that much of our cultural heritage still exists only on this medium.


’60 Minutes’…The Man Behind “The Look”, Arthur Bloom

’60 Minutes’…The Man Behind “The Look”, Arthur Bloom

Shown below are photos of the door to the ’60 Minutes’ Studio 33, including a memorial plaque to Arthur Bloom, a major innovator of television graphics.

Arthur Bloom was the award-winning CBS News television director responsible for the distinctive on-screen look of 60 Minutes since its debut. He led the modernization of on-screen graphics at CBS News, and died in 2006, but his legacy lives on.

He was one of the last remaining original 60 Minutes founders still working for the program. Bloom also played a role in helping to train Dan Rather to succeed Walter Cronkite in the CBS News anchor chair in 1981.

Bloom spent his entire 45-year career at CBS and used his keen eye and a symphonic vision of camera work to become one of the medium’s best directors of live political event coverage. His outstanding talent was recognized with the first Lifetime Achievement Award in News Direction from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in 1995. The same organization had honored him twice before, once for news direction of CBS News coverage of the 1976 Democratic and Republican conventions and, before that, in 1973 for his work on 60 Minutes.

Most of Bloom’s time was devoted to 60 Minutes; he helped to create and then honed the consistent, classy look of the broadcast. Each week he worked in Studio 33 in the CBS Broadcast Center monitoring the program’s studio production and directing the 60 Minutes correspondents as they taped introductions and tags for their reports. He influenced some of the broadcast’s most basic elements, starting with its famous ticking stopwatch.

The first stopwatch was Bloom’s own. The timepiece symbol began as part of 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt’s idea for “60 minutes of reality” and came to life when Bloom filmed his own Minerva stopwatch. The concept worked well enough to be used at the beginning of the broadcast’s third edition on Oct. 22, 1968.

Soon it was shown between segments, eventually becoming the iconic logo recognized by generations. Bloom updated the logo, but only in barely noticeable ways at intervals of several years. His modernizing touches included the use of slimmer typography and the addition of subtle shading and texture to the logo’s background. He oversaw the stopwatch’s transition from a filmed image to a computer-generated one.

“Artie had an eye for what worked visually and what didn’t – he was invaluable to me,” said Hewitt. “I depended on him to make the broadcast as visually appealing as it turned out to be. He was at my side every step of the way.”

Bloom also helped Hewitt execute the graphic concept for 60 Minutes as a magazine for television, deciding on a mock-up of a magazine page to put behind the correspondent to begin each of the broadcast’s segments. Now also computer-generated, the magazine concept has essentially remained the same.

Bloom also directed and helped launch the program’s off-shoot edition, 60 Minutes II, which was broadcast from 1999 to 2005.

Every four years from 1974 to 1990, Bloom was called on to direct live political coverage, something he embraced with energy and competitiveness.

Network television political event coverage in the 1970s and ’80s reached new heights in its scope and the use of new technology. It became a three-network race to cover the events in the most dynamic way, with Bloom leading the CBS News charge with demands for more cameras and better graphics. The feisty Bloom fought hard and could be very persuading. He got an extra camera for the Republican Convention in 1984 almost by force.

A fun-loving jokester (and slightly built) he jumped from a table onto the back of the 6-foot-5-inch director of technical operations, yelling, “I want that camera!”

Bloom also ushered in new and colorful ways to punctuate the coverage with engaging animation enhanced by the computer that greatly modernized CBS News graphics capabilities. Innovative animation included red, white and blue exploding firecrackers and galloping donkeys and elephants used as “bumpers,” the visuals used between coverage and commercials. Bloom became so well known for these that CBS News staffers had bumper stickers made reading “Bloom’s Bumpers.”

Bloom’s biggest talent was bringing an event to life on the small screen through the lenses of cameras by instinctively and immediately choosing the images that worked from the many camera angles on monitors in front of him. He could orchestrate the images to convey even the subtle sights and sounds of an event.

First, he would lay his “orchestra” out, positioning cameras and selecting their operators based on the individuals’ talents. Once the event began, colleagues marveled at Bloom’s split-second decisions on which cameras to cue, watching him deftly direct up to 17, each strategically placed by him to play a pre-ordained role. Like all live event television control rooms, CBS News’ was chaotic, but as boisterous as Bloom could be, he was in control at all times. As a joke, he once stopped directing, turned his back on the monitor wall and pretended to become disinterested, drawing panicky stares from colleagues.

CBS News political events coverage directed by Bloom includes the Democratic and Republican conventions and the primaries from 1976 to 1988, the 1976 Ford-Carter and the 1984 Reagan-Mondale presidential debates, and all the election nights from 1974 to 1990. He occasionally directed coverage for special news events, such as the return of hijacked TWA Flight 847 (1985) and the Geneva Summit (1985), and “CBS News Special Report: A Celebration of Liberty” in 1986. He also directed documentaries, such as: “JFK: 1000 Days and 10 Years” (1973); “Vietnam: A War That is Finished” (1975); “CBS Reports: Energy: The Fear, The Facts, The Future” (1977); and “Nuclear Arms Debate” (1983).

Bloom saw the transformation of onscreen network reporters into highly compensated television stars beginning in the late 1970s, but never became star struck. So respected was his candor with on-air talent and his talent for television, that Bloom was asked to train rising star Dan Rather, whom he directed on 60 Minutes, to take over for Walter Cronkite in the anchor chair. Bloom coached Rather by taping him reading Cronkite’s script from the night before and then critiquing the read with him.

In another special mission, he served from 1990 to 1992 as special assistant to the president for program production, working with the entire CBS News production staff to assure the quality of its broadcasts.

Bloom joined CBS in the mailroom as a messenger in 1960 at the age of 18. He moved to the News division as a clerk and soon became a member of the DGA, receiving his first directorial assignments at the age of 21. From 1962 to 1965, he served as an associate director and director at WCBS-TV, the CBS Owned station in New York. In 1966, Bloom was named an associate director for CBS News and, in 1968, was named a director/producer when he was asked to direct the launch of 60 Minutes.

The above article is courtesy of CBS


’60 Minutes’ And The Green Screens At CBS

’60 Minutes’ And The Green Screens At CBS

As a followup to the photos of the current set, I thought it would be fun to take a look back. On the left is one of the original set chairs from ’60 Minutes’ on display in the lobby of the CBS Broadcast Center.

It is very likely one of the same chairs seen in Glenn Mack’s 1973 photo of the old set which shared space with ‘Captain Kangaroo’ in what I think was Studio 46 or 47. ’60 Minutes’ has always used the chroma key effect on the story set ups with each reporter. Moving from the blue to the green backgrounds may have started on the ‘CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite’ around 1970.

Below left is Dan Rather delivering the weekend news on Sunday, March 4, 1973 with a green screen map. I think this is Cronkite’s desk, but an not sure. More on Walter’s desk in the next post! You’ll see where it was and what’s there now.


’60 Minutes’…On The Set

’60 Minutes’…On The Set

With so much green screen around, it was a nice surprise to find the ’60 Minutes’ set dressed in blue. When CBS started buying Norelco PC60s by the dozens in 1965, a medium blue was the prefered chroma key background then, but by around 1970 green began to take over as wardrobes have more blue than green accents, making it easier dress the talent.

CBS was one of the first to move to the medium green backdrop, but there will be more on this in the next post. This is almost indigo, and as you can see, there is a mat on the floor to prevent scuffs to the set and keep the effect pristine.

There are two cameras on this set; one a ped camera and the other is mounted on a small jib. On the right is a shot of the prompter control area. Most of the main CBS Broadcast Center studios are huge, but this is a small, intimate space…just big enough for the cameras to have some depth and be able to move around.


The Special Effects Lesson…More Classic Letterman

The Special Effects Lesson…More Classic Letterman

On March 17, 1983, Dave takes a walk down the hall to NBC’s Studio 6A control room for a demonstration of some of the video effects the show uses. Director Hal Gurnee is there along with Emmy winning TD Terry Rohnke. This was episode 24 of season 2. Enjoy and share!

Dave takes us into the control room to demonstrate some special effects. Also seen are director Hal Gurnee and technical director Terry Rohnke.


Up, Up And Away At The Player’s Championship… Our friend John “Bo” Boeddecker…

Up, Up And Away At The Player’s Championship…

Our friend John “Bo” Boeddecker was in the catbird seat again yesterday, 100 feet above the course in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Here are a few shots of John and his rig, and below at the link, a great 7 minute video on how NBC Sports covers the Players. Enjoy and thanks to Kevin Vahey for the reminder.


‘SNL’ Surprise…The Real Baba Wawa On Weekend Update!

‘SNL’ Surprise…The Real Baba Wawa On Weekend Update!

Congratulations to Barbara Walters on a brilliant 50 + year career in television, and god bless her for her sense of humor that has served her well since Gilda Radner began “doing” her in 1976.

#i” target=”_blank”> #iAhead of Barbara Walters’ retirement on May 16, Weekend Update pays tribute to the television journalist by compiling clips of her being impersonated on the show – until the real Walters stops by to defend herself and reveals the secrets to her success.


‘Tic Tac Dough’…NBC Studio 6B

‘Tic Tac Dough’…NBC Studio 6B

Below is host Jay Jackson with contestants on the primetime version of the show that ran from September ’57 till September ’58. The daytime version came from the Ziegfeld Theater. At the link is a clip from the show with Jackson as host, just before the Quiz Show scandals hit.

Tic-Tac-Dough had a long, checkered history. Produced and originally hosted by Jack Barry, it debuted on NBC daytime on July 30, 1956. Barry was busy with his company’s prime-time hit ‘Twenty One’, and he eventually handed hosting chores off to Gene Rayburn. Announcing Legend Bill Wendell was the announcer and when Rayburn moved on in 1958, Wendell took over as host, continuing until this run of the show did its final broadcast on October 23, 1959. A prime-time version, hosted by Jay Jackson and later by Win Elliot, ran from September 12, 1957 until December 29, 1958.

What killed ‘Tic Tac Dough’ was the news that Barry and his line producer, Dan Enright, were rigging their shows. Most of the outrage was over their other prime-time series, ‘Twenty-One’, but there was plenty of evidence that the outcome of many a game of ‘Tic Tac Dough’ was prearranged. In particular, a ‘Tic Tac Dough’ contestant named Kirsten Falke was subpoenaed by a government investigation and she admitted that one of the show’s producers, Howard Felsher, coached her on how to win and gave her answers in advance. The prime-time version was yanked off the air but NBC attempted to keep the daytime version around for a time, swearing that it had been cleaned up and was now on the level. It may have been but audiences stopped watching.

How did one play ‘Tic Tac Dough’? Simple. Two contestants competed, one designated as “X” and one designated as “O,” just as in tic-tac-toe. Each of the nine boxes on a tic-tac-toe grid had a category assigned to it and a player could “win” that box by correctly answering a question in that category. Get three in a row and you win. Thanks to David Schwartz for the photo.


The “F” Word’s Television Debut!

The “F” Word’s Television Debut!

George Carlin would love this. In March of 1947, nine months before Howdy Doody debuted in December, Bob Emory went on the air with the first hit kid show, live from New York. The show was called ‘The Small Fry Club’. It was an instant hit and New Yorkers fought tooth and nail for tickets for their kids.

Several years earlier, Emory had worked with Bob Smith to create ‘The Triple B Ranch’ for radio, which is the forerunner of the Doody show, so Emory knew what worked. The Small Fry show aired Monday through Friday at 7PM for five years on The Dumont Network.

As we all know now, no live show is without peril…especially kids shows. ‘The Small Fry Club’ had a large set and even though Dumont’s studio was state of the art, the overhead lights were not powerful enough, so cherry lights were added to the front of the camera pedestals. One day in the summer of 1947, the floor manager was listening in his headset for a cue from the control room and with his concentration diverted, backed into one of the cameras set of cherry lights.

First, there was a blood curdling scream, then a very loud and clear “Fu*k” from the floor which Emory tried to cover with an extra big laugh (which wasn’t hard to do). The photo below shows the result of this occasion as from then on, the cherry lights were enclosed in metal boxes.


Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 2

Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 2

The 13-story, brown brick and terra cotta office building with a ground-floor theater was built by Arthur Hammerstein between 1925 and 1927, and was named Hammerstein’s Theater after his father, Oscar Hammerstein I. The theater auditorium had a number of beautiful stain glass windows that were removed for safe keeping when the Letterman renovation was done.

Below left you can see part of one of a dozen or so wooden crates that these windows are safely packed in. The NYC Historical Commission requires that they be safeguarded and stored on site.

In the center we see the “elephant columns”. At some point in the 1950s, Sullivan took interest in an elephant act touring with Ringling Brothers and wanted them on the show. Before they arrived, some calculations were made and it was determined that they were too heavy for the stage without some extra support, so, these two columns were added under center stage. Today, this space is the Green Room for visiting bands that close the show.

Behind the doors on the right is where the Studio 50 control room used to be. This photo was taken from the lobby entrance near the box office. To the left is the interior theater lobby and directly behind me is the arrival lobby and the main entrance doors on Broadway. This space is now part of the auditorium again and the control room is in the basement with all the other production and technical elements of the show. More soon!


Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 1

Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 1

On the left, Jackie Gleason’s favorite door! This door is located in the basement and on the other side of it is a now capped set of stairs, but in Gleason’s time, the stairs let to The Cordial Bar. The Cordial was located inside the 13 story office building which adjoins the ground floor theater. Gleason and later, Sullivan guest stars could have a cocktail without ever leaving the building.

Unlike Hurley’s near NBC, The Cordial did not have a hotline, but the phone number was as familiar to stage manager Eddie Brinkmann as his own home number.

Speaking of Gleason, here is a great wall size photo of him in the crew lounge. The cameraman on the right is CBS legend Pat McBride who worked both Gleason and Sullivan. ‘The Jackie Gleason Show’ debuted from here, CBS Studio 50, on September 19, 1952. Although Sullivan’s show started in 1948, his show came from CBS Studio 51, The Maxine Elliot Theater till 1954, which is when the show moved to 50.

Speaking of legendary CBS cameramen, I was thrilled to see Dave Dorsett’s locker still intact…name plate and all! Dave retired from Letterman a few years ago, but comes back occasionally for fill in and, just for the fun of it. Dave Dorsett was with CBS for over 45 years and where Walter Cronkite went, Dorsett went too. Dave moved to Late Night when the show moved to CBS and was one of Letterman’s favorite foils on the set.

The staff and crew of ‘Late Night With David Letterman’ is a very warm and loyal bunch. It’s a family all it’s own and I am grateful to them for their hospitality and welcome. The Dorsett locker says a lot about their attitude and style. It’s a nice touch from some very nice people.


More Early French Television…What An Interesting Camera!

More Early French Television…What An Interesting Camera!

This footage is from 1956 and shows what I think is one of the very first Thomson made cameras. We first climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, where the transmitter is but at 1:20, get into the control room and at 2:27, we get a full minute of this camera at work.

Notice the cameraman’s intercom mic is mounted under the viewfinder cover. I have never seen an entire lens turret move back and forth to achieve focus, but this one does and snaps smartly when racking from one lens to the next via the rear clutch. Around 3:20 there is a few second of black screen and then the stage hands tear down (not strike) the old set and put up a new on. Bon Ami!

Thanks again to our friend in Ireland, Brock Whaley for sharing this look inside the 819 line system. sur le processus de fabrication d’une émission de télévision, à partir de l’émetteur de la tour Eiffel pour arriver dans un studio de télévision. Document muet.


I’ve Seen Alligator Shoes, But Never An Alligator Camera…Till Now!

I’ve Seen Alligator Shoes, But Never An Alligator Camera…Till Now!

You won’t believe the paint job on these 1947 French cameras! The build is pretty interesting too! Notice that the viewfinder is built into the pedestal column.

Thanks to Brock Whaley in Ireland, we are able to see behind the scenes of the French 441 line television system. We get into the studio at 2:42 and stay in the studio and control room till 6:30. At 2:30 and 4:42 we get a quick glimpse of an EMI Emitron camera which has been replaced by the newer Iconoscope cameras with their Alligator paint jobs. un premier temps, un exposé sur les techniques de la production télévisuelle en 1947 (caméras, plateaux, régie…). Le tournage a lieu en studio et les cameramen filment un spectacle de flamenco.


The Other Half Of ABC TV3

The Other Half Of ABC TV3

Last week, I posted a photo of me at the ABC News anchor desk, the place Diane Sawyer sits. It is an L shaped desk with the long part of the L on her left in the opening few shots. I was sitting at the long L part of the desk.

As she delivers the news, this is what she sees in the other half of TV3.

On the left below, you see the short part of the L desk and beyond it is the set of ‘Real Biz’ with Rebecca Jarvis. This is a business headlines show mostly seen on the ABC News website, but I think it’s also a GMA insert.

There are four Ikegami robotic cameras in the studio which has half of the long wall (to our left) open so that cameras can move into the adjoining producers space (with windows to the outside) when Diane turns to deliver the news from the long side of the L. Either way she is shot, there are huge video walls behind her. On the right is part of the massive TV3 control room.

Soon, we’ll see that Brian Williams also reports from a studio with two sets at NBC.


What Do These RCA TK41 Color Cameras Have In Common?

What Do These RCA TK41 Color Cameras Have In Common?

On the left is a bank of TK41s at NBC’s Ziegfeld Theater in 1961. On the right is a bank of TK41s at NBC Studio 8H in 1969. What they have in common is matching serial numbers…they are the same cameras!

A week ago today, I had lunch with SNL crane cameraman John Pinto, and this information was among the many historical gems from that conversation.

The first show the new TK41Bs broadcast was the debut of ‘The Perry Como Show’ on September 22, 1956. NBC had just converted the Ziegfeld from a live theater to a color television facility at great expense. Como left for NBC’s Brooklyn I in 1961, but color shows continued from the theater till 1963. Around spring of ’63, planing work began for 8H’s color conversion and after the new shows for the 62-63 season had completed, the physical work started.

There were four cameras at the Ziegfeld which moved to 8H. The 8H photo is on the set of ‘The Match Game’ in the first few months of 1969. This photo from our friend Bob Batsche is quite likely one of the last shots of 8H with 41s as the first four RCA TK44A cameras were delivered to WBAP in Dallas in mid 1969.


‘Today’…Then And Now

‘Today’…Then And Now

The photo on the left was taken January 14, 1952. This was the debut of ‘Today’ and on camera is our friend Frank Merklein, who’s now 91. Also on camera that day (not shown) was Harry Katzman who’s now 90. Harry later moved to video and stayed on the show for 15 years.

Many crew’s have come and gone, but the team on duty Tuesday morning included David Chesney, Jim Corgan, Mason Gunch (jib), Thomas Hogan, Robert “Rope” Jaeger, Robert Lieberman, John Montalbano (stedicam) and Jimmy Mott.

On the right is a photo from 1958, just before the move inside to color studio 3K. I’ve always wondered why they never made use of RCA’s fantastic little portable mini cameras. NBC used them at the political conventions in 1952 and Steve Allen used one occasionally for his “man on the street” segments on ‘Tonight’ in 1954.

I guess they were comfortable sending Dave Garroway outside with a mic and shooting him through the window. Except for their four years in 3K, ‘Today’ has spent it’s whole life on 49th Street. First at the RCA Exhibition Hall which is now Christie’s, then in The Florida Showcase which is across 49th Street from Christie’s and now Studio 1A. I’m sure the show’s creator, Pat Weaver, is proud…maybe even proud as a peacock!

Thanks to our friend, ‘Tonight’ cameraman, Kurt Decker for his help with the crew names.


Camera Bashing…David Letterman’s Favorite Warm Up Trick

Camera Bashing…David Letterman’s Favorite Warm Up Trick

I hope Larry Thorpe and our friends at Canon are seeing this. You couldn’t ask for a better ad campaign premise on Canon durability.

This is Camera 2 on the set of the Letterman show. The bashing started long ago when Dave Dorsett was on this camera but continues with Al Chalino at the controls.

Before the show, announcer Alan Kalter comes out and starts the warm up with some help from Paul Shaffer and company. The second half of the pre show is done by David himself and the first thing he does on his entrance each night is to swing the hand held mic a few times and with practiced aim, let’s it land with a loud “thunk” on top of the Camera 2 lens.

With the camera in the full down position, he talks to the audience with one foot on the pedestal base and rests his right arm on the lens. The end of the lens is against his chest and actually, it looks extremely comfortable. I wonder just how many lens shrouds they’ve been through over the years? As for the handheld mics, I think they may last about a month (photo below in Comments) before they peter out.


Will Buster and Riley Go To ‘Late Night’ With Stephen Colbert?

Will Buster and Riley Go To ‘Late Night’ With Stephen Colbert?

Left and center are the dogs of ‘The Colbert Report’, Riley and Buster. I met them the other day while I was visiting the show at NEP Studio 52. Believe me…I was impressed.

I had already picked up on a warm atmosphere at Coblet’s HQ, but when the dogs showed up…that sealed the deal. I was already glad that Stephen was chosen to succeed David Letterman, but now that I know he and his staff are “dog people”, all the better. With all due respect to “cat people”, dogs rock and in my opinion, it is not a coincidence that DOG is GOD spelled backward.

There is in dogs a love like no other! On the right is me with my dogs Jack (L) and JJ. When I got home yesterday, we had a full half hour of face licking and belly rubbing, and I loved every second of it, and with them in the bed with me (as usual), I slept like a baby last night.

Thanks to Bill Willig, Studio 52 facility manager, for the tour on Monday and for sending along the photos.


NBC Studio 8G…’Late Night With Seth Meyers’

NBC Studio 8G…’Late Night With Seth Meyers’

Yesterday, I showed you the “smoke machine” and described the theatrical effect of bringing the light beams into play. You can see that on the right.

On the left is the 8G camera crew with some real pros! Two of these names will be quite familiar to the ABC family as Paul Martens and Gene Kelly have spent many years there before becoming part of the new NBC crew assembled for the Meyers show.

Left to right are Paul Martens (camera), Buck Buchanan (jib), Ryan Fox (utility), Gene Kelly (camera), Kenny Coyle (utility), Mike Knarre (camera) and Mike Zecca (camera).

When I was in 8G last Wednesday, I didn’t get to meet them but to my great delight, Mike Knarre invited me back to say hello. When I got there Monday morning, Buck Buchanan’s jib had been remounted on a Vinten Fulmar pedestal for smoother action and better control. Paul spent thirty five year at ABC and his first camera was a Norelco PC70. Gene was at ABC nearly thirty years.

The one thing I forgot to do while I was in 8G was to get a few pictures of Bob Friend, but I hope Mike will help me with that. Bob has been the head electrician in 8G since 1992, but his service at NBC started long before that. As I have said before, Bob Friend has the perfect last name…he’s a nice as they come and knows 30 Rock like the back of his hand.

For the record, although we in the south have the better known reputation for hospitality, I am here to tell you that northern hospitality is alive and well! I can not fully express my gratitude for the warmth of the reception that I had in New York. Everyone at ABC, CBS, NBC and NEP (the Colbert and Stewart show homes) were gracious and friendly beyond description. I did not encounter even one “grumpy New Yorker” anywhere…even on the streets! For yankees, they’re actually pretty good people! Bobby Ellerbee


The CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley

The CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley

On April 19, 1962, Walter Cronkite took over as CBS news anchor. Like the Douglas Edwards program that had preceded his, the show was fifteen minutes long and the title was ‘Walter Cronkite With The News’.

On September 2, 1963, CBS was the first to go to a half hour format and that day the show changed it’s name to ‘The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite’. Since 2011, Scott Pelley has been the anchor and the show is done from Studio 47 at the CBS Broadcast Center.

I was on that set last week while some camera tests were being done and as you can see, they are using robotic cameras on the show. All three of the network news shows come from large studios with spacious sets, but the Pelley set is the largest. In the photo on the right, you can see that this is the only network news set with a contingent of news staffers and producers adjacent to the anchor desk.

In my market, Atlanta, NBC and CBS news both air at 6:30 and ABC news airs at 7. I split my time between Brian Williams and Scott Pelley, but I tend to like the CBS news a little more because to me, they seem to have more hard news where NBC seems to have a softer news feel. ABC seems to be softer than NBC.

Frankly, I long for the Cronkite days. Not because Walter was a great reporter, which he was, but because as Managing Editor of the show, he chose the stories they covered. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, all the networks had harder news and in depth coverage. Usually the last story of the night, across the dial, was a human interest story a minute or two long. It seems that now, the soft news has crept back to the halfway point of the shows which leaves only 21 or 22 minutes of actual air time without the commercials.

I wish network news would go to an hour and bring back hard news. We’ve got plenty of ‘ET’ type shows to handle the Kardashians and the fluff.


Final Wrap From New York…

Final Wrap From New York…

I leave for the airport at 10:30 this morning and hope to be home by 5, but part of me will still be here. Every time I watch NYC shows from now on, I’ll be right back in these studios seeing the faces of the many extraordinary people that I have had the pleasure of meeting on this incredible trip, be they on stage on in the control rooms.

I was going to post a picture of the crew from the Seth Meyers Show in 8G, but seem to have lost the paper with their names, but one of my hosts on yesterday’s visit there, Mike Knarre (Camera 2) will get that to me and I’ll have it tomorrow.

One interesting bit of show biz magic was going on there yesterday and answers a couple of questions I have had for years. I had always wondered about the use of “smoke” on sets…why it was used and how it was made. Now I know. When you “smoke” a set, it allows the camera to see the beams of light focused on the actors or band, and adds a kind of theatrical edge to the scene being shot. Below center is the machine that makes the smoke and is virtually a huge version of an e cigarette, using the same chemical mixture. Bob Friend said that in the old days, you didn’t need these because everyone was smoking real cigarettes.

To back track briefly, my first event of the day was a meeting with NBC Executive VP of Corporate Communications, William Bartlett. That’s William’s official title, but unofficial he is the in house historian and has been a tremendous help to me over the years. William has also been a key player in the recent revival of NBC history inside 30 Rock.

Since Comcast took over ownership from GE a few years back (insert big cheer here), a lot of very good things have happened. Long delayed upgrades and renovations are in full swing and NBC’s proud history has made a comeback. Ian Trombley has been the key man in all of this as he was responsible for the planning and building of many new elements and here is an example. The new audience load in lobbies on the seventh floor for 6A and 6B shows is a site to behold. There are huge curved screens on each side that are full of historic NBC photos and headline history and William was a big part of making sure the content on those screens was as memorable as the show experience the audience members were about to have. He’s also done a fantastic job with the historical display cases in the new NBC commissary ‘Studio 9’. There are four glass enclosed cases there with everything from ‘Law And Order’ badges to Johnny Carson’s mug to a great tribute case to Pat Weaver. They are all full of interesting historical memorabilia and change every few months. I am happy to report that unlike in the GE days, NBC’s proud history is BACK in a BIG way! BRAVO!

Around noon, I was back at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater and was finally able to meet Rick Sheckman and Letterman director Jerry Foley. That’s Jerry and I in his office (below left). Jerry and Rick and a surprisingly large number of people on the staff and crew have been with Dave since his days at NBC. They are a tremendously loyal group and well deserving of the spectacular success of the show.

One of the most interesting things that came out yesterday’s conversations was this…believe it or not, the final edit of the show is not fed to CBS. It is hand delivered on video tape daily for replay from the Broadcast Center!

My other two visits yesterday were to ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘The Daily Show With John Stewart’. I met Stephen Colbert yesterday and was able to speak with John Stewart too. John’s guest yesterday was the Yankee’s legendary relief pitcher Mariano Rivera who got a street named after him today in NYC. He and Willie Mayes are the only two living baseball players to have their own New York streets.

I have to go now but will leave you with a great clip of Dave taking over Al Chalino’s camera. FYI, Al took over for legendary CBS cameraman Dave Dorsett and much to my delight, Dave Dorsett’s locker is still active downstairs at The Sullivan Theater. I’ll show you the photo soon. Enjoy! Bobby Ellerbee


Today at ‘TODAY’

Today at ‘TODAY’

Just got back from the ‘Today’ show. “Bullets Over Broadway” was today’s featured performance in the Broadway series and here are a few shots. More later. Got to pack. I’m sorry I was not able to get the names of the camera crew, but if someone can send it to me, I will appreciate it and post them with more pix from this morning. One more post to follow and then I’m off…back to Atlanta.


Inside NBC…Like Few Have Ever Seen It!

Inside NBC…Like Few Have Ever Seen It!

Yesterday, from 10:30 till 3:30, I had the tour of a lifetime! My NBC tour guides were two men that have forgotten more NBC history than most ever knew. Dennis Degan and Joel Spector lead the way as Gady Reinhold, Ron Simon and I looked and listened.

Dennis of course is a long time video editor for ‘Today’ and Joel started with NBC in 1965 as an audio engineer. His boyhood friend, Gady, started at CBS in 1966. When Joel retired a few years ago he was on SNL, but like many, he still comes back for more and does fill in, usually on ‘The Nightly News’ and was actually on standby yesterday for that show.

Like all good television people, we started at the bottom and worked our way up…from the second floor to the ninth. On the second floor is the BOC, or Broadcast Operations Center. It seems that Joel and Dennis know everybody, but I was pleasantly surprised to find our friend Alan Coffield at work there.

Let me pull over to the side of the road for a moment and tell you that there was just way too much seen to go into here and now. When I get home, I’ll cover the tour in more detail but for now, I’m just sharing some highlights.

Today, I will spare you the photo of me kissing the floor in television’s first studio…3H. If you remember 3H, became 3K in 1955 when G and F were combined and color was added. This space is still 3K and is now used as a second studio for MSNBC.

3B is home to NBC’s Nightly News and is where the Brian Williams broadcast originates and to his credit, at Brian’s request, there are no robotics in 3B…real live cameramen are used on the show. There are three pedestal cameras there with a Melin camera and a job camera. WNBC news is in 3C and MSNBC’s main studio is in the expanded 3A space.

Although Gady is a CBS man, he knows NBC inside and out. I mention this because I want to tell you that yesterday, I was drinking from three firehoses…not just one! Some of what I saw yesterday escapes me, but with their help and the pictures, I’ll reconstruct much of this in detail later.

The thing I remember most about the fourth floor was 4G and J. Back in the 50s, radio studio 3G had it’s height cut in half so that a
television film chain room could be built above it.

Remember, even as radio studios in 1933, these were all two stories tall and had upper windows for the observation decks on the floors above. This was the same for studios on 6 and 8 as well.

As you can imagine, over the years the interiors have changed over and over, but the history is still there and Dennis and Joel know where it was. On the fifth floor, we stood in the space once occupied by 5HN where Frank McGee and Chet Huntley gave the first NBC television reports of President Kennedy’s assassination. That floor is now news ingest, satellite news ingest, video editing and video playback for the NBC news shows. This is where Dennis works.

On the sixth floor, the ‘Tonight’ studio floor in 6B had just been repainted so we didn’t go in, but I got a good look at that Tuesday. 6A is idle now awaiting a redo for Meredith Viera’s show later this year. On the seventh floor, there is a lot new construction going on as several new control rooms are being added.

On the eighth floor, we took a look into the newly remodeled 8G which is now home of the Seth Meyers show and I’ll be in there again today to meet Mike Knarre and the Late Show crew. I was there Wednesday but they were in meetings and then straight into the show taping.

Of course 8H is there, the largest of all with 10,000 square feet of space. Seeing it quite, you can appreciate the size more. The control rooms are on the eight floor too. There is much more to come, but for now, I have to get ready for today.

I’m at NBC this morning for a couple of meetings and at noon, I’m going back the The Ed Sullivan Theater to meet Rich Schekman and Letterman director Jerry Foley. I hope to watch the guest band rehearsal there too. This afternoon, I’m visiting Steven Colblet’s studio and after that, attending the taping of ‘The Daily Show With John Stewart’, just down the street. More later! Bobby Ellerbee

P.S. The shots of us inside were taken on the spot were NBC’s always ready, breaking news studio was located. That was studio 5H and was later named 5HN. That is where NBC broke the first Kennedy news in 1963.


The NBC Tour & Best Seat At CBS…The Desk Of William S. Paley

The NBC Tour & Best Seat At CBS…The Desk Of William S. Paley

Yesterday I finally saw ALL of NBC…top to bottom. It was an incredible six hour stroll through history that ended at The Paley Center For Media which is where the photos below were taken.

This is the desk of CBS founder William S. Paley; a leather topped card table with numbers that marked the place of each player. Paley sat at the #1 position (seen below left), Frank Stanton sat at the #2 position. It’s likely that Fred Friendly of CBS News spent a lot of time at the #3 position.

Who else sat at this table? You name them…Jackie Gleason was probably lured from Dumont at this table. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Edward R. Murrow, Don Hewitt, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Douglas Edwards, Mike Wallace, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan and most of the names that are synonymous with CBS have probably sat here at one time or another. This is the true “catbird seat”.

We were able to end our day here because television history’s true protector and conservator was with us. It was a pleasure and honor to have Ron Simon join us for the NBC tour. Ron is the Curator of The Paley Center and since around 1988, has been archiving and collecting kinescopes and video tape of programs that would have otherwise been lost. Thanks to his efforts, thousands and thousands of hours of rare recordings are alive and well…safe for future generations. We all owe Ron and The Paley Center a debt of gratitude for their efforts.

I spent several hours there Saturday watching some of these rare videos, including the fist ever ‘Honyemooners’ episode in which Art Carney played a policeman. His ‘Norton’ character had yet to be created.

While I am on the sad subject of lost footage, here is a story SNL cameraman John Pinto told me at lunch Friday. John had worked at ABC and was hired for SNL’s debut a few months before it started. To keep him occupied till that October 1975 debut, John was assigned a job he still regrets having had to do.

For three months straight, it was his job to bulk erase tapes, most of which happened to be from ‘The Tonight Show’. To quote the announcer at the Hindenburg crash, “Oh, The Humanity!”




Last night, I was an eyewitness to live television entertainment’s only living legacy…’Saturday Night Live’.

I sat on the front row of the floor seats. Looking at the stage, I was on the left side in the corner seat…only three seats on the front row and to my left was the other half of the 8H floor space…the perfect place to see everything.

I’m going into some detail this morning, but believe me…there will me much more on this! Before I go anywhere though, I must first thank the SNL crew for their incredible hospitality, especially John Pinto and Phil Pernice.

These are the pros that do the work: On Camera 1, our friend John Pinto. This is the Chapman Electra crane camera and his long time driver is Phil Pernice, with Louis Delli Paoli and Robert Mancari handling the boom arm duties.

On Camera 2, Paul Cangialisoi. On Camera 3, Len Weshlel. On Camera 4, Carl Eckert. On Camera 5, our old friend Eric Eisenstein. These are pedestal cameras, but when a portable is needed, one of them will handle that.

I know you will want to join me in wishing Barry Frisher a speedy recovery and return. Barry is a long time crew member and is usually on Camera 4, but the until he returns, another long time SNL cameraman, Carl Ecker, has returned from retirement to fill in.

These are two more men that need to be acknowledged…Ed Ruotolo and Pete Phrane. In a way, these two are “the last of the Mohicans”. Ed and Pete are the only two sound boom operators in live network television!

Knowing what I know now, we really have to thank Lorne Michaels too for keeping the show true to the way it would have been done when live entertainment television was in it’s heyday. Max Liebman and Lorne have a lot in common and it seems that Mr. Michels goes the extra mile to acknowledge that in a way.

Liebman produced NBC’s first ninety minute Saturday night hit… ‘Your Show Of Shows’ with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. That show was done the same way, with ped cameras, a studio crane, two sound booms and a live audience.

To his credit, Michaels has taken this a step further. Like last night, I and forty or so others get to sit in the floor seats each week. This adds intimacy to the presentation, but also a few more degrees of difficulty.

Sketches take place everywhere, on both ends of the studio and in the middle too which means four ped cameras, the Chapman and two sound booms have to move there, set up and be ready three minutes after the last sketch. But remember…there’s scenery too and lots of it! Sage hands are constantly in motion setting up the next scene and striking the last and some of the set pieces are quite large and elaborate, but everything has to move at the same time while staying quiet and out of each others way. This is a huge 3D chess game that is beyond fascinating to watch. On top of all this is the Q card team which has to be in place with the cards over the lens of the correct camera and are all in synch in three or four different places at once. More on them soon.

There are kings, and then there are Kings of Kings. The crews at ‘Saturday Night Live’ are Kings of Kings, and then some! In each one of them, from the floor to the control room to the dressing rooms and beyond, both talent and technical…all of them are living legacies. The art of live variety show production, in all of the world, has only one true home; NBC Studio 8H!

With all due respect to all the other live network crews, especially the brilliant New York video artists behind the cameras at Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and Seth Meyers, you are also Kings of Kings, but you have to admit that SNL is in a class by itself as the format and conditions are very different from any other show. It’s apples and oranges. There will be more on all these great crews later this week.

Before I talk about “dancing” I want to remind you to take a close look at the photos below. I have some very interesting new photos, but in these rehearsal shots, notice the equipment and the people…there is a lot of both. No robotics, no wireless microphones…no skimping. This is full blown, 100% manpower.

Now…to the dance. There is a magical coordination and flow of choreography that goes largely unseen that is absolutely stunning to watch in person. The great shots you see on screen are the product of the dance, but the dance itself is a true sight to behold!

One level of this dance is exclusive to SNL. All live shows have floor traffic but SNL has overhead traffic too, and lots of it! Here, we have Louis and Robert swinging John Pinto’s camera over head AND two sound booms! It was very interesting in Friday’s camera blocking rehearsal to hear a discussion of boom shadows. This is one of the elements exclusive to SNL that the pros there have to deal with, and they do it well. Another part of this “level one” dance is the move…the migration of men and machines from one end of 8H to the other, or somewhere in between. There are utility men and women with each camera to handle the cable which is absolutely necessary, and when they move, it’s done with care, calm and efficiency and is a thing of beauty to behold in itself.

The second level of the dance is most pronounced during the musical guest performances. Frankly, I can not begin to express the art of this dance any more than I can describe the art of this kid in the clip dancing to “Happy” on SNL a few weeks back. He has the music “in him” and it is joyous to watch him turn it loose! It’s not overdone…just tasty and cool! You can see it in him through out the clip. I’m going to find out who he is while I’m here. This is qued to his part. Take a look.

What does this have to do with the SNL camera crew? Every one of them “have the music in them” and express it visually with a ballet of moves that will bring tears to your eyes should you be lucky enough to see it done. All four ped cameramen are peding up and peding down, trucking left and right, in and out, back and forth…all constantly in fluid motion. They trade places with each other on the in and outs and in the center, Pinto and company is booming up and down, and over the heads of the others the whole time. This is true art and these are video artist at work!

Speaking of art…watching Phil, Louis and Robert handle the Chapman Electra is a thrill! World wide, this is the only true studio crane in operation in live television. Everything else that flies is a jib, and with all due respect to the jib operators…there is no comparison. The Electra boom is in perfect balance on the up and down and should Louis and Robert turn loose of the boom arm, it will not move and is rock steady. Seeing Phil back the whole thing into the tunnel under the seats is a sight to behold.

If you think this is all, it’s not. There is more and that will come soon but I’m off now for a full tour of NBC, much of which I have yet to see. In closing, my sincere thanks to everyone at SNL that have made me feel so welcome this week. I am deeply touched and truly honored to have been able to see all of you, and be a witness to the extraordinary work you do.

8H IS the home of the Kings of Kings! Thank you all for continuing the legacy of live television at it’s best! Bobby Ellerbee


From The Letterman Stage, To The Set Of Saturday Night Live!

From The Letterman Stage, To The Set Of Saturday Night Live!

Yesterday was so incredible, I can hardly believe it myself! Below is a picture of me kissing the stage floor at The Ed Sullivan Theater (we’ll come back to this). Ten minutes later, my phone rings and I got invited to NBC Studio 8H to sit in on rehearsal for ‘Saturday Night Live’! It doesn’t get any better than this! Or does it?

It might…I’ve got floor seats for tonight’s SNL Dress Rehearsal and will be right in the middle of all the magic!

When I got off the elevator on the 8th floor, I was listening for the voice of St. Peter, because I was definitely in Pearly Gate territory. Instead, it was the voice of St. John…Pinto! I got there at 3 and sat in the center of the studio while all this incredible magic unfolded around me. At 4:30, there was a meal break and John and I went to a lunch served up with a big side order of great stories.

We got back around 5:30 and rehearsal with this week’s guest host Andrew Garfield, the star of “Spiderman”, picked up with a new sketch. By the way, Cold Play is this weeks musical guest and they’ve brought in a giant video display screen as a backdrop.

I sat in awe till 7:30 when ‘Tonight’ cameraman Kurt Decker came up and got me and away we went for dinner and drinks at Hurley’s! How’s that for nostalgia? For those that don’t know, the original Hurley’s was right there at NBC, on the corner of 6th Ave and 49th Street. It was the network’s official watering hole and was lovingly referred to a Studio 1H…with it’s own NBC extension phone.

I’ll go into more detail later on what I saw in 8H, but I want to go back to before the phone call. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our friends at ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’, I was able to go into the theater on a quiet day and really see it.

The first stop…the secret door. In the basement, there is a door that opens into a small stairway and it was Jackie Gleason’s favorite door. The stairs lead up into what is now a Steak and Shake, but from the late 40s till the early 70s, it was a bar. You probably had already guessed that hadn’t you? This little gem was not lost on guests in the Sullivan years as many took advantage of it.

There is just too much to tell about all of this, and it will be best told with pictures, so I’ll again beg your forgiveness for not getting them up now, but next week…look out, because you’ll get both barrels at once!

Today, I’m going to The Paley Center For Media, which was formerly known as The Museum of Television And Radio, and The Museum of Broadcasting. This is the ultimate video archive!

Around 6:30, I’m going to SNL’s Dress Rehearsal, so you won’t see me on television. This is the performance I wanted to see because first, it’s longer and second, I can get back to the hotel in time to see the live show. In Dress Rehearsal, which actually starts taping at 8, several extra sketches are included and are evaluated as the show runs and some will make final air, while others get rewrites and pop up later. Taping could run till 10:30. By the way, counting tonight, there are only three new shows left in this season. The new season starts in September.

Tomorrow, I’m back at NBC for the full studio tour. I’ve been very fortunate in having the ability to spend time on the 6th and 8th floors in 6B, 8G and 8H, but there is a lot yet to be seen. I can’t wait to stand in the space where NBC’s first television studio, 3H was located.

I go home Tuesday afternoon, but there is still a lot left to do. On Monday, I have a meeting at NBC and final quick stop in 8G. Around noon, I’ll be with Rick Scheckman at Letterman and look forward to meeting him and Late Show director Jerry Foley. I didn’t get to meet them yesterday as their Friday meeting were canceled.

I go from Studio 50 to Studio 54, home of ‘The Colbert Report’ for a tour and then on to ‘The Daily Show’ taping a few blocks away. I’ve invited New York Times writer James Barron to come with me to the Stewart show. We became acquainted back in February when the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was going on.

I’m hoping for one final meeting Tuesday morning and then, off to Atlanta. I hope you have a great weekend! I know I’m going to and I’ll share it with you! More Tomorrow! Bobby Ellerbee

P.S. I just read my posts from yesterday and the day before. It’s like I wrote then a month ago…so much is going on I can hardly keep track of it, much less find the time to write about it. I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself but when you are drinking water from a firehose, it’s hard to focus on anything but the massive stream coming your way. I thank God for this incredible good fortune, and thank all the great people here in New York at NBC, CBS and ABC for turning the hydrant wide open!


Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Better…IT DOES!

Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Better…IT DOES!

Today, is the halfway point in my trip that has just been incredible. Yes, I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff, but the best part is the people I’ve met! Today, the pace changes a bit and I have a little more time between events, but the intensity stays the same.

At noon, I’ll meet Rick Sheckman and some of Letterman crew at Studio 50. I couldn’t do this yesterday because it was a double tape day. You can not begin to imagine the frenetic pace behind the scenes of even one of these daily major network shows, but doing two shows in one day…now you’re talking major effort!

After that, I’ll have lunch and go back to Studio 50 for an in depth tour of one of television’s most hallowed venues with Gady Reinhold who was my guide for yesterday’s three hour tour of the CBS Broadcast Center.

At four this afternoon, I enter live television’s ground zero…NBC Studio 8H to visit with the man that has the best job in the world! John Pinto’s camera is the one on the Chapman Electra crane, and that I know of, is the only crane cam operator on the face of the planet. Around five is the dinner break and we’ll get a bite and tell stories, which I can’t wait to hear. Maybe some of the other cameramen will join us?

After that, I’m taking ‘Tonight’ cameraman Kurt Decker to dinner. I wish he could come with to dinner with John and I but Fallon is in the middle of taping then. To my surprise, both Fallon and Seth Meyers tape Fridays. Most of the shows, like Letterman, John Stewart and Colbert do two shows on Thursday for replay on Friday. Monday, I’ll be at Colbert’s studio and go to John Stewart’s show.

Tomorrow, I’m spending most of the day at The Paley Center For Media. Yesterday, Paley curator Ron Simon gave me a grand tour (pictures soon) and I can tell you that they have a very nice Ampex AVR 2 quad VTR and tons of other interesting video machines in their archive office.

Tomorrow night…well, let’s see…that would be Saturday night in New York, right? I humbled to report that I will get to experience the best of both worlds. I’m going to the dress rehearsal of ‘Saturday Night Live’, and will be able to get back to the hotel in time to see the live version at 11:30.

Dress rehearsal is a bit longer than the show because they include a few extra sketches to see how they register with the audience and the best ones get to air. The sketches that didn’t make the cut either die or get a rewrite for a chance to be seen on another episode.

On Sunday at 10, I get the full top to bottom tour of NBC. My hosts will be Dennis Degan (who came with me yesterday for the CBS tour) and Joel Spector, who started with NBC in 1965, a year before his boyhood friend and neighbor Gady Reinhold started at CBS. Gady will be joining us too.

I know you want to see pictures. I want to show them to you, but it is very difficult for me to do this on the road. I’ve taken over 400 pictures so far. I’ve tried as best I can to take notes and even bought an audio recorder to help me place things. I’ll have to wait till I get home to organize and name them.

As I have said, this is like drinking water from a firehose. I love it and am trying hard not to spill even a single drop, but there is so much to take in!

I am closing with this shot from Tuesday’s visit to ‘Tonight’. This is their great camera crew, AND the director. The tall man on the left is ‘Tonight’ director Dave Diomedi. On his left is Edward Pladdys who’s control area is under the audience seating where he controls 4 robo cameras including the two rail cameras on each side of the studio. On Diomedi’s right is Richard Carter who operates camera 5…the Merlin. My gracious host at ‘Tonight’ is Kurt Decker who is to the right of Richard and Kurt is camera 1 on the show. In red next to Kurt is Mike Cimino on camera 3, and if the name is familiar, his dad is the TD on SNL. Pat Casey is next to Mike and Pat is on camera 2. All the way on the right is camera 4 operator Bruce Dines. In just over seven weeks, these seven men have brought a very appealing and fresh new look to the way ‘Tonight’ is presented. CONGRATULATIONS on a job WELL DONE! More later! Bobby


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