This is the full compliment of equipment associated with the RCA “Walkie Lookie” Vidicon camera. The wireless back pack is on the table far left. This picture was made at the 1952 NAB Convention. This camera and a few others like it were used by NBC for the ’52 political conventions.
Thanks to Jorge Delendatti, our friend in France, here is another early Thomson camera at work. Designed and made in France, one of Thomson’s distinguishing features through the 1950s and 60s were the lifting handles they added to their cameras. Here, you can see them under the chassis with a thoughtful detente in the center for the hand hold.
Did you know this was the first of two early children’s TV shows that introduced an interactive technique called “the magic screen”? The “magic screen” (a thick piece of green vinyl that you sent away for) would cling to the TV screen via static electricity. Kids could follow along with drawing and writing on “their side” the magic screen with a crayon. The second show was ‘Windy Dink And You’ in 1953. This show first aired locally as ‘The Rootie Tootie Club’ on New York’s NBC affiliate WNBT on October 14, 1950. Since the title character regularly used a magical kazoo, which he called his “Magic Kazootie,” the kids began calling him “Rootie Kazootie.” Following the kids’ lead, the names of the show and the character were changed with the December 26 show. The network began broadcasting it nationally on July 2, 1951. The show aired on NBC until November 1952, and was seen on ABC beginning in December. The last telecast was May 7, 1954. The link above it to a full 30 minute show from 1953 that came from ABC. Thanks to Maureen Carney for this rare photo.
Beany and Cecil was created by animator Bob Clampett after he left Warner Bros., where he had been directing theatrical cartoon shorts. Clampett originally created the series as a puppet show called ‘Time for Beany’, which ran from February 28, 1949 to 1954 and originated at KTLA. ‘Time for Beany’ featured the talents of veteran voice actors Stan Freberg as Cecil and Dishonest John, and Daws Butler as Beany and Uncle Captain. This photo was taken on April 4, 1950…the cameras are RCA TK10s.
Thanks to David Zorning for this very interesting photo. In preparation for the CBS broadcast, two RCA TK1s are being set up. There were probably six cameras on the parade route and they had to belong to CBS as the first color cameras WTVJ had were Norelco and may have been bought in late 66. WTVJ was Florida’s first station and a long time CBS affiliate. I think only WPLG (ABC, Miami) had TK41s. Notice the CBS Color logo on the camera…that logo was created by CBS when the started loading up on Norelco cameras but they used it on their TK41s too.
On September 13, 1980, ‘Solid Gold’ debuted and ran for eight years. The syndicated music show was taped at KTLA from 1980 till 1984 when it moved from the Golden West Studios to Paramount Studios. This photo from Judy Watson shows her husband Dick behind the Norelco PC70 and Dick Woods using the Norelco PCP 70. The link below is to the first episode of the show. Dion Warwick was the original host and Robert W Morgan was the first announcer. At the 5 minute mark, the countdown starts with quick cuts from a lot of songs you’ll remember. Enjoy and thanks to Judy for the photo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl4K6VLIhf0
KTLA Innovation: Television’s First Videotaped Western
‘The Wrangler’ was a six episode summer replacement series for NBC’s ‘Tennessee Ernie Ford Show’ and was produced by KTLA on videotape. This is KTLA veteran cameraman Dick Watson on the Wrangler set with a new Marconi Mark IV and the photo is from his wife, Judy. Much of the back story that follows was written by former KTLA, NBC director Joel Tater.
As most of you know, videotape was introduced in late 1956 and prior to that TV programs were either live, on film or on kinescope. KTLA was the last station in the Los Angeles area to get videotape machines because most of their shows were live and they really didn’t see the immediate need. When a new general manager, Jim Schulke, took over in 1959 he bought lots of Ampex videotape machines, the new black and white Marconi Mark IV cameras and built one of the first videotape mobile units which could shoot shows on location. The new mobile unit would be for not only KTLA shows but anybody else who wanted to shoot their shows on tape on location. Stage 6 on the lot was outfitted with state of the art audio and video equipment to allow for facilities work for outside producers as well. In early 1960 ford motor company was looking to sponsor a summer replacement show for the Ernie Ford show…somehow Schulke convinced NBC and ford to produce a western on videotape, something never before attempted. It was called ‘Wrangler’ and starred Jason Evers. Most of the show would be shot on location at the Janns Ranch in Thousand Oaks with interiors shot on Stage 6.
There were many of the usual problems involved in shooting a period piece on location, such as airplane noise, weather and lighting, but, the biggest problem was that videotape editing had not evolved beyond cutting the tape with a razor, piecing it back with cellophane tape and hoping the splices held. Since there is no visual image on the tape as there is on film, it was a hit and miss proposition that you had made an accurate cut. If the tape pulses were not aligned properly, the picture would roll vertically on the air and you would have to try making the edit again. The first episode of ‘Wrangler’ went on the air August 4th 1960. Because of all the editing problems, that first episode was delivered to NBC to play to the full network just hours before airtime. To try to fix the editing problems, KTLA chief engineer John Silva put together a machine called the TV-Ola, which was to be a frame by frame tape editor. It was about 25 feet long and totally impractical. Meanwhile, the KTLA overtime for shooting and editing the show skyrocketed. Unfortunately the directors chosen for ‘Wrangler’ had never worked with tape before causing endless retakes and the outdoor and indoor scenes rarely matched in continuity. 7 episodes of ‘Wrangler’ were shot, but only 6 aired. The last one ran on September 15th 1960…not a moment too soon for NBC, KTLA, Ford, Silva and Schulke.
July 4, 1958 KTLA became the first station anywhere to broadcast live from a helicopter. The chopper was called the “Telecopter” and not only did it shoot live pictures, it also was used to bounce live shots from the “Telemobile” to Mount Wilson. The Special Coverage Unit was a self contained Ford station wagon with extra suspension, a live camera on top, CCUs in the back and it pulled a generator with a microwave dish and could broadcast while moving, as it often did, when pressed into coverage service on the Rose Bowl Parades. The link is to a clip of the Bel Air fires in 1961 where both are in service. In the photo we see cameraman Dick Watson with a TK30 in 1959 but in the clip, there is a new Marconi Mark IV on the roof. Thanks to Judy Watson, (former secretary to KTLA’s John Silva and Dick’s wife) for the photo.
In case you have never seen it, here is the first sketch of the successor to RCA’s TK41 line. This is a scan of the master drawing that I have. It was given to me by RCA’s Harry Wright who designed this, the TK44 and most of RCA’s Telecine equipment.
Sent to us from our French friend Jorge Delendatti, this is believed to be Thomson’s first camera…an 819 monochrome from the early 1950s. It was made for RTF Television Service (now TF 1) and we don’t know what kind of tube was used. If you look closely, this is very interesting! I can’t imagine what the test pattern looking attachment on the front is, but if it is for registration how could light and focus be achieved? Maybe it has a telescoping arm? Notice also the headphones are receivers only with the talk back mic located under the viewfinder hood. The T handle on the back is for turret rotation and the long lever on the front is for focus. Interesting cabling too.
This is a companion to the just posted GE PC 25 photo from Martin Perry. I thought you may be interested in seeing the difference between the two. Notice the lifting handles on this model are above the door. On the PC 25, the handles are at the bottom of the camera. The PC 15 debuted in 1958 and the PC 25 around 1965. These cameras were both modeled after the RCA TK41 and had three Image Orthicon tubes. That I know of, none of these two GE camera models survive.
Unfortunately, there are none of these cameras left. The few that were ever made are long gone. This is the second model of GE’s color cameras from around 1965. This, like the it’s predecessor, the PC 15 was a three tube Image Orthicon camera based on the RCA TK41. These weighed in at “only” 220 pounds…the TK41 was close to 300. This rare photo from our friend Martin Perry shows Dallas DJ Ron Chapman with a local teen in 1967 at WFAA.
In the days before virtual sets and computer graphics, this is how it was done…with big maps. Although the middle board and frame on the US map look like unpainted plywood, they are actually covered in tan felt. Notice the satellite photo on the easel. This is one of 5 Norelco cameras the station had in their studios. Thanks to Craig Cuttner for the picture.
75 Years Ago, Last Night…Theater Of The Mind At It’s Best!
Although the ‘Mercury Theater Of The Air’ radio presentation lasted only an hour, it’s impact has lasted 75 years. Here is the Orson Wells radio adaptation of H.G. Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’ program in full.
On January 23, 1948 from 2 to 3 PM, a 3 camera NBC remote, sponsored by the Massachusetts Fisheries Association, was done from Boston’s Fish Market. Although a 40 inch Zoomar lens was on one of the cameras, it did little good as a heavy snow began the moment the broadcast started. The cameras and crew were from WNBT in New York and although WBZ TV was still six months away from sign on, WBZ Radio helped with the telco transmission. Back then, NBC’s television network only consisted of New York, Schenectady, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Thanks to Maureen Carney for the photo and story.
In this clip, starting at 2:00, we see what is thought to be the first ever use of the zoom lens in a cinematic presentation. The film is ‘It’, starring “The It Girl”, Clara Bow. “It” by the way is “that special something, a unique sparkle of personality and looks that command attention”. The zoom lens was not new when it first made its cinema appearance in 1927. It had been described many decades before and an example was even patented in 1902. For cinema of the time it wasn’t an ideal solution, as the cameraman had no way of seeing exactly what he was shooting while in the act of shooting it (true reflex finders didn’t arrive in cine cameras until the Arriflex). One advantage is it needed to only be focused once and the lens would stay in focus throughout the shot. So, it had uses even in its original form for cinema and was developed and patented by more than one person. Now, the optical elements of a zoom could not be patented outside any novel lens formula, but the mechanism used to zoom could be and was. The first major patent applied for came from Rolla T. Flora in early 1927 and was granted patent #1,790,232 in January 1931. This was what was used in the ‘It’ movie and was known as the Paramount zoom, and was the earliest cine zoom used. Another was Joseph Walker’s zoom ( #1,898,471 applied for September 1929 and granted March 1933). From a profile on Walker, he had been working on a practical zoom for years, but there is no evidence of a useful patent emerging from his work before this, and no evidence this mechanism itself was then useful. He later built what became the RCA Electrazoom for television.
In the years from 1927 until 1932, the zoom lens was essentially exclusive to Paramount. It was used immediately: In the first shot of the 1927 film ‘It’, when establishing the store setting. After the Waltham’s sign is shown, the camera tilts down then zooms to the bustling sidewalk storefront.
In early 1932, a commercially available zoom began to be sold by Bell and Howell. This was known as the B&H/Cooke Varo. Initially it was made to order, but later was available as stock. The lens was said to have been acquired by all the major studios and by the government. The lens was also available as a rental to any reputable producer, so it may have found its way to independent producers or a small studio like Monogram. Thanks to Jack Hirschorn for his help with this post.
Ladies And Gentlemen…Meet The Voice Of Sleeping Beauty
Mary Costa (R) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and went on to become a famous opera singer. Although Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ debuted in 1958, all the voices were recorded in 1952. ‘Sleeping Beauty’ spent nearly the entire decade of the 1950s in production: the story work began in 1951, animation production took from 1953 until 1958, and the stereophonic musical score, mostly based on Tchaikovsky’s ballet of the same name, was recorded in 1957. The film holds a notable position in Disney animation as the last Disney animated film to use hand-inked cels. Beginning with the next feature, 101 Dalmatians, Disney would move to the use of xerography to transfer animators’ drawings from paper to celluloid. By the way, if you ever put together Aurora model kits and wondered about the name Aurora, it’s Latin for “dawn”. I only now know this because Coast’s character is Princess Aurora and the translation was mentioned in my research. In this photo, the lady on the left is Mary Starr, a well known Knoxville television hostess of the 50s and 60s, and this photo was taken on a visit home by Costa.
Something that got my attention right away was the two Nifty Notebooks (remember those) on the desk. Also, it’s still odd to me to see the NBC snake logo on black and white cameras like these two RCA TK10s. Left to right, Chet Huntley, Dave Garroway, Frank Blair and David Brinkley in 1960. Don’t know who’s behind the camera on the left but it could be Edwin Newman. Thanks to Ken Johannessen for the photo.
AS RARE AS RARE CAN BE! Ikegami’s First Studio Color Camera
This is the Ikegami TK 301. Earlier this year I posted a photo of the Ikegami 301A which followed a year later with some updates inside and a smaller tally. I’ll have a new photo of that tomorrow, but here is the granddaddy of the color studio line from Ikegami that was built and delivered to Japan’s NHK Network in Tokyo in 1971.
A friend of Chuck Pharis’, Jerome Halphen in Paris, France made a trip to the NHK Museum earlier this month and took over 120 photos. I’ll be posting them in albums as we go along, so be ready for a first class photo tour of the magnificent NHK museum. If only the US networks had done what NHK has done, we would have a fantastic, historic collection of broadcast technology unrivaled in the world, but…most of it is gone now except what a few of us have managed to save for posterity. Enjoy and thanks to Chuck for sharing his friend’s photos.
Here’s another very well done article from Richard on mechanical television. Just think, had this system endured, I wonder if we could have had mechanics making house calls to tune up the car and TV on the same trip? :>)
This photo from Maureen Carney is a rare one! Here’s Bill Dana, best known as Jose Jimenez hosting the flagship show called ‘The Las Vegas Show’. Beginning May 1, 1967, the two hour late night show from the Hotel Hacienda hit the air on 106 stations. The network was created to be a forth network with eight hours of programming a day and had UPI as a partner supplying news, but after only a month, the cost of the leased transmission lines from Ma Bell became too much and it folded like an accordion. The network was founded by self-made millionaire Daniel H. Overmyer and was originally named after him, but before the network even went on the air, Overmyer was forced to sell a majority share to investors, although he remained the largest shareholder the new orginization was renamed The United Network.
This one surprised me too! From 1955 til 1961 Jim Henson and company had a local kids show on Washington D.C.’s WRC TV. Across town at WTOP, Jimmy Dean was doing a daytime show called ‘Country Style’ which was later picked up as (the first) ‘The Jimmy Dean Show’ by CBS for a couple of years. While in DC, they met but that was all until Dean went to ABC. (More on that in the post above). In this clip Frank Oz talks about meeting Dean and being Henson’s right hand man, literally, on Rowlf sketches. Jimmy Dean is as easy going and graceful as any host I’ve ever seen. Enjoy.
‘The Adventures Of Superman’ actually debuted on radio a week before this broadcast of February 14, 1940, but that first show was about his trip to earth and Clark Kent was just a child with no speaking part. The show was done at WOR and it may come as a surprise to those of us that know Bud Collier as a game show host…he was the voice of Superman! Enjoy!
In 1956, Edward R. Murrow’s “eyes and ears” drop in for a visit with Hal March. At the time, March was host of the wildly popular $64,000 question, which incidentally aired on CBS. March was well known before the game show as a supporting regular on ‘The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show’ and ‘My Friend Irma’. Although it was ‘Twenty One’ and ‘Dotto’ that were found to be rigged, by 1958 most of the game shows had left the air.
Here are two custom trucks built by Southern Coach for KPRC in Houston. When RCA’s TJ48/50 mobile units were not big enough for some major metro markets, Southern Coach was the next step up. This shot was taken during the the taping of a special at the ranch of then Vice President Lyndon Johnson in the summer of ’63.
The RCA TJ 48, Television’s Local Market Workhouse
Remember these? In 1948, these sold for $9000. In today’s money that is over $87,000. RCA introduced its first postwar mobile production van in 1948, the TJ-48. The interior electronics were modified in 1950 and that became the TJ 50. Prior to this, most local stations that had a mobile unit had modified buses or panel trucks on their own. RCA had made some big remote trucks for NBC in the 1930s but they ever sold any to competing networks.
With George Carlin as guest host, ‘Saturday Night Live’ would take to the airwaves for the first time later on this day. Did you know that at first, the show did not air every weekend? NBC’s news show ‘Weekend’ aired the first Saturday of every month. From ’65 till SNL’s debut, this time slot was used for ‘The Best Of Carson’ reruns of the ‘Tonight Show’.
The Emitron tube was roughly the European equivalent of the Image Orthicon tube RCA had developed in the US. This is a very nice design with a 6 lens turret. Most likely the taking lens is the top center position. Interesting how they slung the large turret face to hang down under the camera’s front.