Posts in Category: Broadcast History

October 24, 1980…Letterman Daytime Show Finale & Studio Tour

October 24, 1980…Letterman Daytime Show Finale & Studio Tour

Classic, Classy Letterman! Last day of his NBC morning show.
Although it only ran from June 23, until October 24, 1980, a lot of what would come later, in the late night years started here, including Stupid Pet Tricks.

From NBC Studio 6A, here is the last 15 minutes of the show, but the first 6 are spent touring the studio and meeting producer Barry Sand, announcer Bill Wendell, director Hal Gurnee, and more, and at the end, a full credit roll with names that are still familiar, like John Pinto, Bill Bonner and Jack Young. The cameras are RCA TK44s.

By the way, near the end, watch for the showgirls in the huge peacock head dresses….if you remember, those were used at the start of the “Late Night With David Letterman” debut show.

Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

October 24, 1980. Final Letterman Morning Show excerpts(pt 2 of 2) Live. w.”(Theme from)Las Vegas Gambit Show”( to Theme of David Letterman Show)


October 23, 1956…Videotape Debut Network TV: Setting The Record Straight

October 23, 1956…Videotape Debut Network TV: Setting The Record Straight

Most people think the November 30, 1956 time delayed broadcast of “CBS News With Douglas Edwards” was the first use of videotape on network television. That is not correct, but it was the first use of tape as a time-shifter, in that the east coast broadcast was videotaped at Television City for rebroadcast two hours later to the mountain and west coast time zones.

As for the first known network use of videotape, that happened 60 years ago today at NBC. At the time, “The Jonathan Winters Show” was 4 weeks old. The 15 minute variety show ran from 7:30-7:45 Tuesday nights, just before “The Camel News Caravan” with John Cameron Swayze, replacing one of the two weekly Diana Shore shows that had for years, aired in that slot on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

On October 23, 1956, the NBC engineers in New York wanted to see if the viewing public could tell the difference between a videotape and the live portion of the show. Jonathan’s musical guest that night was Dorothy Collins, of “Your Hit Parade” fame. She had a new record out called “The Italian Theme” and her performance, with dancers and backup singers, was recorded earlier in the day. During the live show, Winters introduced her, as if she was there, and the tape rolled seamlessly. In case there was a problem, NBC had extra operators on duty that night in New York, and to their great relief and amazement, no one called or noticed. With that quiet event, videotape had passed the final acceptance test.

At the link is the song Collins sang that night…unfortunately, the is no kinescope of the show.

Remember, this is only six months after Ampex introduced videotape at the 1956 NAB in April. In the book “A Companion To American Technology”, Carroll Pursell reports that a month later, in November of ’56, Winters used videotape to play two characters in the same sketch. Unfortunately, there is no kinescope or tape of this historic event either, and about all that’s available from Jonathan’s 1956 show is this :30 second intro. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 22, 1939…The First Ever Pro Football Telecast

October 22, 1939…The First Ever Pro Football Telecast

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

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

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

According to Allen “Skip” Walz, the NBC play-by-play announcer (pictured below), only eight people were needed for the telecast. Walz had none of the visual aids…monitors, screens or spotters used today, and there were just two cameras. One was located in the box seats on the 40-yard line and the other was in the stadium’s mezzanine section.

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

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

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


October 22, 1962…In The Oval Office For The Cuban Missile Crisis

October 22, 1962…In The Oval Office For The Cuban Missile Crisis

As Told By The Guy In The Red Circle, A MUST READ STORY!

Barry Ostrow was front and center for the Cuban Missile Crisis Speech! This is the fascinating story of that fateful day…October 22, 1962. Just out of college, he was a brand new hire at WTOP and has a great story to tell! Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee


STATE OF THE ART: The Studio Cameras…A Primer On Innovations

STATE OF THE ART: The Studio Cameras…A Primer On Innovations

The best way to illustrate the current configurations of camera platforms is with this set of images from Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight” show, taken for us by Bruce Oldham, who was Camera 3 with Conan for many years. Below is a typical setup…a Canon DigiSuper studio lens and a Sony HDC 1500 camera, and some interesting mounting as we will explore in detail. Now is the time to look closely if you have never seen this kind of arrangement.


Above is what is now called a “studio buildup kit.” Below is a Sony HDC 1000, and it’s called a “hard body” camera. This is the configuration most of us are familiar with, as this is was the traditional design since there was such a thing as television.

missing image

The first departure from the norm came from RCA when they introduced the TK760, which in essence was a ‘hard body’ chassis with an RCA TK76 ENG (Electronic News Gathering) camera inside. The TK76, was their first shoulder mounted color portable, but with in the 760 configuration, the 76 gained a full size box lens and full size viewfinder.

RCA TK760 Camera - Studio 3

Above, the RCA TK760 with and TK76 inside…below, the RCA TK76. Both cameras have a 1976 vintage.

Image result for rca tk 76



If you haven’t quite caught on yet, this should do the trick. Do you notice the difference in the light and dark parts of the camera? Well, that’s because these are two unique elements. Below, you can see the sled’s back opened up to reveal a small ENG/EFP-size camera inside. In this case, the camera is a Sony HDC 1500.



Okay, here’s what is going on. Above is the Sony HDC 1500 (Hi-Definition Camera) and below is the Sony HDLA 1505. (HDLA means “Hi Definition Lens Adapter.”)



Ikegami has a slightly different version of its build-up kit, called a System Expander. Above is the Ikegami SE S500 in the studio. Below is yours truly behind an Ikegami HDK 79EX III with the SE S500 field configuration. Chuck Pharis took the picture at the University Of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium while I was visiting him at work the day before game day. Below that is the Ikegami HDK 790 EX III hard body camera.

Grass Valley LDK 8000



Thomson did something like this in the 1990s and called it a “sled.” One each side, you can see their sled that started as an easy new way to move their big cameras without taking them apart, like the LDK 9. A few years later, Thomson had a better idea, and mounted an ENG camera in the sled as you can see on the right. The arrangement sidesteps the need for ‘hard body’ cameras and allows the small camera to be quickly and easily removed from the large lens adapter for maintenance and repair, or for use in the field or studio as a hand-held with quick addition of a smaller EFP-style lens. Call me old-fashioned, but I still like hard bodies.

Before we go further, let’s talk about ENG and EFP. ENG stands for “Electronic News Gathering” cameras.The term started with the RCA TK76 that debuted in 1976. EFP, which stands for “Electronic Field Production” cameras, is a new manufacturers designation for the same small cameras most of us still refer to as ENGs. I may be wrong, but I think the difference is mostly in the usage. ENG cameras are usually sound-equipped and are used in “stand alone” point-and-shoot, news-gathering situations. EFP cameras have no audio capabilities, are usually used in pairs or threes, and require setup time, cables and switchers.


Above and below are more interesting new technical developments. Above, we see a camera using the standard EFP-style camera lens instead of the large Canon box lens. Below is a great side-by-side comparison shot.


As mentioned above, the camera itself can be used in the studio with the large or small lens configurations. The small lens allows for quick use of the camera as a hand-held medium. In the-hand held mode, the camera’s eye piece viewfinder must be used. When mounted, one of several kinds of large viewfinders can be used with the Sony Large Viewfinder Adapter. This can be seen in the two images below. Upper image is the Sony HDLA1507US catalog image; the real thing is seen just below.




Closer looks at the EFP large viewfinder adapter’s use are above and below. With Sony, when the camera is seated in either the viewfinder adapter or larger lens adapter, the power and controls of the camera are partially transferred to the control panel on the back of the sled, as seen in the image below.



We’ll close with a couple of camera shots that show Bruce’s camera 3 (above) and the main interview set. Below, a full large lens adapter kit was in use next to Andy’s podium; to the right, the smaller EFP camera is naked. It’s just mounted on a light weight ped and ready to go hand-held instantly. Bruce’s camera was one of the three large lens cameras mounted on the new Vinten Quattro peds, and was equipped with a Canon 72X DigiSuper lens. It did guest close-ups at home base and other zones. The other two large lens cameras had Canon 27X DigiSuper lenses and were cameras 1 and 2. All together, there were nine cameras with eight operators in the studio. Cameras 4 and 6 were the combo hand-held and ped-mounted. Camera 5 was the jib, and 7 and 8 were robo-cams with one operator. There were also 2 Iconix lockoff lipstick cameras for audience shots.



How Cartoon Trump/Clinton Come To Life On ‘The Late Show’

How Colbert Does “Live” Interviews With Cartoon Hillary & Donald

New technologies to create live animations are gaining attention this year with the use of Adobe’s Character Animator. The new program can shorten the time to create animations from weeks to hours, by allowing animation puppets to immediately mimic the movements of someone’s lips, shoulders and eyes using a face-tracking camera. Here is the story. -Bobby Ellerbee

How Cartoon Donald Trump comes to life on ‘The Late Show’

Live cartoons of Trump and Clinton could be just the beginning of real-time animations.


October 21, 1954…James Bond Moves From Page To TV Screens

October 21, 1954…James Bond Moves From Page To TV Screens

On this day in 1954, Barry Nelson became the first actor to play James Bond. Before this, 007 had only been a literary character in the novels written by Ian Fleming.

The event was a one hour, live presentation of “Casino Royale” on “Climax”; a Sunday night CBS drama showcase that ran from ’54 till ’58. Fleming was paid $1,000 to adapt the novel to a screenplay for the CBS production.

It would be six more years before Bond came to the big screen with “Dr. No” in 1962.

Interestingly, the run time for the TV play is 00:51:45 leaving only 8 minutes for commercials. How refreshing! -Bobby Ellerbee


The Historic Hudson Theater…Newly Renovated & Broadway Ready

The Historic Hudson Theater…Newly Renovated & Broadway Ready

Look what they found in the basement!

In 1995, the theater was bought by the Millennium Broadway Hotel and used it as a conference center, but last year it was sold to the London based Ambassador Theater Group. Since then, the theater has undergone more major renovation, and will soon become a Broadway theater again, just as it began in 1903, but here is some of The Hudson’s TV history.

The Hudson Theater became NBC’s newest New York studio on September 25, 1950 with the debut of “The Kate Smith Show.” Her daytime show was on at 4PM weekdays from ’50 till ’54. From September of ’51 till June of ’52, she also hosted the “Kate Smith Evening Hour” at 8PM Wednesday nights from the Hudson.

On Sept 27, 1954, “Tonight” with Steve Allen debuted from The Hudson and stayed there until December of 1959. Jack Paar had taken over in June of ’57 after the strain of hosting “‘Tonight” and, the Sunday night “Steve Allen Show” became too much for Steverino. Both Allen shows were done at The Hudson.

With the January 1960 debut of “Tonight” from Studio 6B, NBC’s lease on the Hudson was up and the theater went back to legitimate theater after having spent the ‘30s and ‘40s as a CBS Radio theater and the ‘50s as an NBC Television studio.

As for the door, at one point in the 1950’s, ”Tex and Jinx,” were known in virtually every American household. They had two radio programs, a five-day-a-week television show and a syndicated column in The New York Herald Tribune. They were among the first to refine the format that came to be called the talk show.

The beautiful Jinx Falkenburg was one of America’s highest paid cover-girl models during World War II, and later, with her husband, Tex McCrary, a pioneer talk-show star on both radio and television they became a national fixture. This is where Barbara Walters began her broadcasting carrier.

There is more on Tex and Jinx at this link in a remembrance of the two by William Safire. They died a month apart in 2003. Break a leg Hudson! -Bobby Ellerbee


‘Saturday Night Live’ Production Designer Eugene Lee On His 40 Years With The Sketch Series

“SNL” Production Designer Eugene Lee…There Since Day 1

As sure as “Saturday Night Live” is television’s most unique production, Eugene Lee is television’s most experienced designer. No one has imagined more sets and scenery than this man, who at 77, is still going strong. Here is part of his amazing story. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

‘Saturday Night Live’ Production Designer Eugene Lee On His 40 Years With The Sketch Series

Approached by a Canadian television producer for a variety sketch series back in the early 1970s, production designer Eugene Lee couldn’t have realized then that he’d stumbled on the job of a lifet…


October 19, 1951…The CBS Color System Comes To An End

October 19, 1951…The CBS Color System Comes To An End

The CBS field sequential color cameras broadcast 111 hours of live color over a 17 week period between June 24, 1951 and October 20, 1951.

On October 19, less than a month after sales of the first CBS made color receivers began, Charles E. Wilson of the Defense Production Administration asked CBS to suspend mass production of color receivers “to conserve material for defense” for the duration of the Korean emergency.

CBS announces (almost too quickly) that it agrees and will also drop color broadcasts; color receivers are recalled and destroyed. Strangely, monochrome receiver production is not affected, and the only “end item” product ever prohibited by the Defense Production Administration was color television sets. The ban lasted until early 1953 and applied to RCA as well.

According to Allan B. DuMont, this was, “a move to take Columbia and it’s color system off the hook.”

The next day, October 20, 1951, the last commercial CBS color system broadcast came with the North Carolina – Maryland Football Game. Eleven stations, as far West as Chicago, had carried the CBS color system broadcasts.

On December 6,1951 the first transcontinental color broadcast was done via closed circuit as USC doctors preformed surgery with new Smith, French & Kline instruments. It was viewed by surgeons in New York. After that, the CBS color system became the Industrial Color System and was manufactured in limited numbers by Dumont and CBS Labs. -Bobby Ellerbee


October 1955…Sid Caesar, With One Of Live TV’s Most Famous “Saves”

October 1955…Sid Caesar, With One Of Live TV’s Most Famous “Saves”

61 years ago this month, Sid Caesar made television history on “Caesar’s Hour” with this improvised bit of comic genius, which has become one of the most famous “saves” in the history of live television.

During this 13 minute sketch of “Gallipacci” (a take off on the famous opera Pagliacci), Sid was supposed to paint a teardrop on his cheek, but then, the mascara pencil broke (at 8:30 in) at the beginning of his nonsense rendition of “Just One of Those Things”.

Not breaking his stride, Sid proceeds to pick up one of Nanette’s lip brushes and paints an unscripted tic-tac-toe board on his face. This aired October 10, 1955, live from The Century Theater.

‘Cirque du Soleil’ has credited Sid Caesar as the origin of the made up gibberish the show’s performers use as a way to make any nationality at home with the narration and performance of their presentations.

Caesar was the master of this, and as you’ll see, Nanette Fabray (who took over for Coca), Carl Reiner and Howard Morris have studied hard at their masters knee. This is cued to start a minute before the “save”, but I think you’ll enjoy watching the whole thing from the start, as the made up lyrics are sung to the comically paired with melodies we all know. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee[From “Kovacs Corner” on] – First telecast on “Caesar’s Hour” on October 10, 1955 over NBC, this kinescoped sketch is a take-off on the Italian o…


October 18, 1964…Hallmark Brings “The Fantasticks” To Television

October 18, 1964…Hallmark Brings “The Fantasticks” To Television

At the link above is a kinescope of the famous Broadway play, that was the October 18, 1964 presentation of “The Hallmark Hall Of Fame”. Below, the photo shows John Davidson speaking to his father, who is played by Bert Lahr.

This was done live to tape at NBC Brooklyn, but only the kinescope work copy remains. The way tape was edited at the networks then, required a kinescope copy of the raw footage, which was then edited as a master of how to manually edit the tape. The odd look was common in kinescopes of color productions, which black and white film didn’t handle well.

‘The Hallmark Hall of Fame’ debuted on Christmas Eve 1951, with the world premiere of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on NBC TV. Until 1955, the production schedule was near frantic with an average of 40 new presentations a year. In 1954, the show began color broadcasts and in 1956, it went to a bi monthly format with six or seven shows a year.

The Hallmark anthology series was one of the highest rated and most awarded in television history. For nearly three decades the series was broadcast by NBC, but the network cancelled it in late 1978 due to declining ratings. Since then, the series has been televised occasionally by CBS from 1979 to 1989, then on ABC from 1989 to 1995, then CBS again from 1995 until 2011, when that network cancelled the series due to low ratings. As of 2014, the series has earned 80 Emmys, 9 Golden Globes, 11 Peabody Awards and many others. -Bobby Ellerbee


October 18, 1952…RCA’s First Experimental Color Football Broadcast

October 18, 1952…RCA’s First Experimental Color Football Broadcast

Below is a rare look at RCA/NBC’s first color remote unit, used for this color-cast. Although it was seen by 99.9% of the audience in black and white, it did at least prove the “compatible color” claim RCA made for its Dot Sequential color system. The year before, CBS had broadcast a football game in color, using their Field Sequential system, but there were no receivers available, except the few CBS had built for their experimental tests. Enjoy and share this exclusive peek at the first color mobile unit. -Bobby Ellerbee

EXCLUSIVE…Inside The First Color Television Remote Unit

Thanks to Chuck Pharis, and his very rare RCA “Red Book”, I have new information and images to share with you, that include not only the first color remote unit, but also, new details on the Washington, Studio 3H and Colonial Theater color trials. I will set the stage with some background on color history, and with some new dates which have been confirmed by RCA information.

Remember, Washington was where the first phase of color experiments were done, with two first generation cameras at Wardman Park studios. Both of those cameras were retired and sent back to RCA in Camden in December of 1950.

The second phase of color testing was done in New York in NBC’s Studio 3H. In January of 1951, work began on the color installation there, and was completed by March. Three experimental cameras were installed in 3H and are called the “coffin cameras” due to their size and black color.

The third phase of color testing began at The Colonial Theater in New York. RCA/NBC leased the theater and began installation in late September of 1952 and the first transmission from here was March 19, 1953. There were four prototype models of the RCA TK40 in operation there, that underwent a full year of tests before RCA began production on the TK40 in Camden.

I felt it would help to refresh your memory, as we now know that this mobile unit was used in both the 3H and Colonial field test. As I mentioned in Thursday’s (8/4) post on this unit, this is one of the original NBC Telemobile units built in 1937.

The first use of the color mobile unit was in September of 1951 with a five day remote test from The Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY. Support equipment was permanently installed in the unit, but a “coffin camera” was borrowed from Studio 3H, which for a week, sent pictures three times a day. The morning test was shown in black and white on WNBT, to see how the images looked on the monochrome sets. The two afternoon tests were closed circuit color test seen on color sets at The Center Theater, The RCA Exhibition Hall across from 30 Rock, Studio 3H and in Princeton at the RCA Labs.

In 1952, there were over 30 remote tests, including two from Palisades Park NJ, but the big one was on October 18, when two of the coffin cameras were used to telecast, in color, the Columbia-Pennsylvania football game from Baker Field. One of the cameras was equipped with the new RCA Electa Zoom lens, while the other used the a normal field array of lenses on the turret.

Although there were very few color sets, RCA’s main objective with the experimental color broadcasts was to satisfy the FCC, with the fact that their Dot Sequential system was truly “Compatible”- in that it could deliver the same quality image to black and white TV sets, that monochrome broadcasts offered. Via newspaper ads, local viewers was asked to write to NBC with their comments on reception and picture quality of the color segments.

When color operations moved to the Colonial Theater, the new TK40 prototype cameras were delivered, which had very different control equipment. So, the mobile unit had to have a complete refitting, but when remotes were done, cameras were borrowed from The Colonial for a few days at a time. For more, click on the pix. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


The Demise of NBC Burbank Part 2 by Richard Wirth

The Demise of NBC Burbank Part 2 by Richard Wirth – ProVideo Coalition

Recently, I wrote about the beginnings of NBC’s historic lot in Burbank as the Peacock network completed its move to nearby Universal Studios. The look back on NBC Burbank’s sixty-two year history wouldn’t be complete without exploring some of the technical history NBC engineers made over the years…


Eyes Of A Generation…Celebrating 10,000 Page Likes! THANK YOU!

Eyes Of A Generation…Celebrating 10,000 Page Likes! THANK YOU!

One of the reasons I started this page was to be able to share unique photos and videos that depict television’s glorious history, that also include the back stage element of the business. Like this.

The other reason was to create a home for television history that could make it, a living history…and with your help, eye witness accounts and stories, we have done that…together. Thank You! -Bobby Ellerbee

Thanks to Jim Davis for this new, crystal clear shot of the “Tonight” show set with the great RCA TK41s in use in Studio 6B in New York.


October 15, 1951…”I Love Lucy” Debuts; RARE On The Set Video

October 15, 1951…”I Love Lucy” Debuts; RARE On The Set Video

This is a close to “being there” as we’ll ever get. This clip from an “I Love Lucy” movie, takes us inside the Desilu Playhouse and gives us an ultra rare glimpse of what it was like on the set of one of television’s most famous shows.

The location is General Services Studios, Studio 2, which in 1952 got it’s own audience entrance at 6633 Romaine Street. The sign at the new entrance invited you into the Desilu Playhouse. The first few years of the show were done here.

As we have confirmed with other sources, this was pretty much the same warm up that Desi used for the entire six years, including the camera push in. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 15, 1973…”Tomorrow” Debuted On NBC

October 15, 1973…”Tomorrow” Debuted On NBC

The only way to remember this great show is to remember what made it great…Tom Snyder. On the event of his death in 2007, here are remembrances from Brian Williams, Jay Leno and David Letterman. Incidentally, Letterman’s NBC show replaced “Tomorrow”.

“Tomorrow” followed “Tonight” With Johnny Carson and started as a 60-minute series which aired only four nights a week, Monday through Thursday, in order to accommodate the weekly shows ‘Midnight Special’ (1973–81) and SCTV (1981–82) in that time slot on Fridays.

It was originally broadcast from the NBC studios in Burbank, but relocated to New York in December 1974 when Snyder took on additional anchor duties for NBC News and the network’s flagship station, WNBC-TV.

In June 1977, the show returned to Burbank until 1979, when Snyder once again began originating from 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

On September 16, 1980, when “Tonight” was shortened to 60 minutes, “Tomorrow” was scheduled at 12:30 Eastern and lengthened to a 90 minute format that lasted until its cancellation 16 months later. In February 1982, NBC replaced “Tomorrow Coast-To-Coast” with “Late Night With David Letterman”. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


Cameraman Don Davis at NBC Burbank

Cameraman Don Davis at NBC Burbank


Conan on TBS: Behind the Scene

I’m proud to share with you an exclusive look behind the scenes at Conan’s TBS program from our friend Bruce Oldham.


The cameras used on Conan’s version of Tonight were almost identical to those you’ll see here on Stage 15 at Warner Brothers. Camera rehearsals are a couple of hours before the afternoon tape session, which starts at 4:30 PST Mondays through Thursdays.



Below are pictures of the show’s Sony HD 1500 cameras…some snugly nestled in their buildup kits, and a couple of Sony 1500s mounted on jibs and small tripods for quick hand-held situations. All together, there are eight cameras in the studio, including a couple of remote-control stationary cameras for audience shots. The main difference is that there are none of the SONY HD 1000 hard-bodied cameras in use like there were at NBC Universal. (I like their look better, but…)








Now, to be honest with you, I get a little lost in the control room and video suites these days, but that’s what’s in this section of our backstage look at Conan’s new digs at WB. Thank goodness they still have audio boards and color bars, because that’s about all I recognize now. I’ll just post these photos below for you to browse through without much comment, but let me add this one little tidbit.

Below, you’ll see some little black boxes with blue screens and handwritten labels that say “VTR.” For anyone who’s ever slung 2-inch tape on Ampex and RCA quad machines, all I can say is…you’ve come a long way, baby! Who would have ever thought VTRs would be small enough to rack-mount two to a row? Yep, these are the latest in Video Tape Recorders. Plus, there is now one for each camera, so a shot is never missed. Remember when car radios were this big?






The Moon Backdrop

After the show ends, it goes to edit for final adjustments for time, and maybe different takes of what the director punched up in real time. With every camera feeding a VTR, that’s very easy, and it reminds me of how The Honeymooners was done using the Dumont Electronicams with their film/video capabilities. The live show was directed as a live show, and the takes were all recorded on kinescope. Later, using the kine playback as a template, they cut the film tighter for the final show. The Conan show is fed to Atlanta in separate segments for transmission, and actually, it is not unheard of to have the first segment on the air in the east while they are still editing the final segments in LA. Now that’s what I call a tight schedule.

One of the main points of interest on the Conan set is the background, with its city lights and moon. During the show, the moon slowly tracks across the rear ocean/city backdrop almost without notice, just like if it were a real moon. Somehow the moon’s reflection in the water tracks across the sets background with the moon and shimmers subtly. It’s really a cool trick. Below, Bruce explains how the city lights up and how the “moon” moves and shimmers.


“The backdrop is a hand-painted scene that looks really good even in person. It is glued to the curved wall that is made of two parts. The upper half above the sea line is drywall that is smooth and the lower half is transparent plexi.”


“From the rear of the drop, the ‘city lights’ are created by individual fiber strands that are strategically placed in drilled holes through the drop to appear to be lighted buildings and street lights.”


“The moon is lit inside its housing with LEDs powered by battery during the show. An AC cable is attached during the rehearsal day to reduce battery drain. It is suspended from two wires that are attached to pulleys and a track that is motorized and is operated by a remote control a hobby car or hobby plane would use.”


“The moon ‘reflection’ is ingenious. A light bar illuminates a plexiglas cylinder with painted streaks on it. The cylinder rotates with an electric motor and the light shines through the plexi backdrop to simulate a shimmering, reflecting moon on top of the ocean.”


“The cylinder rig is on a track that moves left and right behind the backdrop.”


“You can see the track the cylinder rides on, and this is the MOST amazing part of the unit. There are cables and pulleys that are routed from the overhead moon trolley down the side of the backdrop and along this track. When the moon is moved left and right, the reflecting cylinder rig and light bar moves WITH it and is slaved to its path. The ultimate effect is that the moon’s reflection travels with the moon! Pretty cool stuff!

“These physical effects are one most fascinating parts of our ‘Television Magic’. That’s where the true craftsmanship shows up and I love to see what the prop guys and grips come up with to make things work and look different than they appear. Hope this is as interesting to you as it is to me. – Bruce”

Many thanks to Bruce Oldham and the Conan show for sharing these exclusive images with us! I’m a Coco nut! You too?

Just For Fun…Rear View…Of The “Laugh In” Joke Wall!

Just For Fun…Rear View…Of The “Laugh In” Joke Wall!

Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee


Flashback…October 14, 2010; “30 Rock” Live From NBC Studio 8H This 12 minute …

Flashback…October 14, 2010; “30 Rock” Live From NBC Studio 8H

This 12 minute piece is full of great stuff, all shot in the real NBC Studio 8H. “30 Rock” was usually filmed at New York’s Silvercup Studios, but on October 14, 2010, the show was done live in 8H. Just like in the days before video tape, it was done a second time live for the west coast audience.

The show’s director was right at home as she was the director on SNL for many years, which the fictional show in the series was based on. Enjoy, share and visit the EOAG page! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 13, 1947…”Kukla, Fran & Ollie” Debuts On Chicago’s WBKB

October 13, 1947…”Kukla, Fran & Ollie” Debuts On Chicago’s WBKB

At the link is a timeline of the shows milestones, including their October 13, 1947 debut as “The Junior Jamboree” on WBKB in Chicago, the move to WNBQ and NBC, and their last show, 10 years later, which was also on WBKB.

In the five years that the show ran on NBC nationally, fan mail averaged 5,000 letters a day, and the show’s ratings rivaled Milton Burle’s and even Ed Sullivan’s at CBS.

The photo below is of one of the early shows at WBKB. The dolly was a home-made rig, with the camera mounted on a barber’s chair. Thanks for the memories, Burr, Fran, Kukla and Ollie! -Bobby Ellerbee


October 13, 1957…A Red Letter Day For Videotape & TV History

October 13, 1957…A Red Letter Day For Videotape & TV History

The first 4.5 minutes of the attached video tells the story and includes comparison shots of the videotape and kinescope version of the oldest surviving, intact videotape program, “The Edsel Show”.

Thanks to our friend Kris Trexler’s love of cars, his interest in classic television and his professional abilities as a film and videotape editor, we are able to see this…the oldest surviving video tape. He is the one who tracked down this tape that everyone said did not exist.

“The Edsel Show” was chosen to be the very first CBS entertainment program to be broadcast live to the nation from Hollywood, then “tape-delayed” for re-broadcast in the Pacific Time Zone. The show was performed at CBS Television City in Hollywood from 4pm-5pm Pacific Time for live viewing from 7pm-8pm Eastern Time. The show was simultaneously recorded on videotape at Television City, then played back 3 hours later for West Coast viewers at 7pm Pacific Time.

After the live broadcast, The Ford Motor Company hosted a lavish party at a Hollywood restaurant, where the cast and CBS and Ford execs wined and dined and watched the videotape playback of the show to the West Coast. The evolution from kinescopes to videotape recording was underway!

Not wanting to risk a high profile failure of the new technology, CBS also created a kinescope backup of the show which the engineers at Television City played simultaneously with the videotape, so in case the tape failed, CBS engineers could quickly switch to the kinescope “protection copy” of the show. Videotape was a new technology and there was much to risk if it failed during such an important broadcast, but it didn’t.

Now, back to the fascinating detective work Kris did…

You can read the details at the link above from Kris’s website, but in a nutshell…the tape was not in the CBS Video Archives. The kinescope was, but the tape copy was on a TVC engineer’s desk who had personally saved the tape. Remember, part of the miracle of videotape was that it could be reused…the engineer knew it would be if he didn’t rescue it and after the playback, he took care of if for the rest of us to see! Thanks to him and Kris Trexler, here is the “The Edsel Show” that was done October 13, 1957 from CBS Television City. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

This is the oldest videotape recording in existence. The Edsel Show stars Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Rosemary Clooney. Produced at CBS …


October 12, 1950…Burns And Allen Debuts On CBS Television

October 12, 1950…Burns And Allen Debuts On CBS Television

Their radio show started in 1936 but by 1950, it was time to move to television. When ‘The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show’ began on CBS Television October 12, 1950, it was an immediate success. The show was originally staged live before a studio audience and during its first three months, it originated from the Mansfield Theater in New York, then relocated to CBS’ Columbia Square facilities in Los Angeles.

Ever the businessman, Burns realized it would be more efficient to do the series on film and that started that process in the fall of 1952. The half-hour episodes could then be syndicated. From that point on, the show was shot without a live audience present, however, each installment would be screened before an audience to provide live responses prior to the episodes being broadcast. With 291 episodes, the show had a long network run through 1958 and continued in syndicated reruns for years.

After the live/kinescope series ended, the shows were filmed at General Service Studios. The sets were designed to look like their real-life residence, often using an establishing shot of the actual house at 312 Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

The format had George watching all the action (standing outside the proscenium arch in early live episodes; watching the show on TV in his study in the filmed episodes), and breaking the fourth wall by commenting to the viewers.

During the course of the eight-year run, the TV show had remarkable consistency in its cast and crew. The episodes were produced and directed by Ralph Levy (1950–53), Fred de Cordova, who would go on to produce NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1953-56), and Rod Amateau (1956–58).

In addition to cast members Harry Von Zell (replacing original announcer Bill Goodwin in September 1951), Bea Benaderet (who made the transition from the radio show), and Larry Keating, the original writing staff consisted of Sid Dorfman, Harvey Helm, Paul Henning, and William Burns (George’s brother). -Bobby Ellerbee


October 12, 1943…NBC Sells Blue Network: The Start Of ABC

October 12, 1943…NBC Sells Blue Network: The Start Of ABC

On October 12, 1943, Edward John Noble, the owner of Life Savers candy and radio station WMCA in New York, bought NBC’s Blue Network for $8 million.

This was the start of ABC, but even with Noble’s millions, the first 10 years was a hard slog financially. The one thing ABC did that made the struggling network so appealing to a new buyer was something done on a whim, that cost them nothing.

Without asking Nobles, ABC’s chief engineer had applied to the FCC for Construction Permits for 5 television licenses, all on Channel 7, in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Detroit. Shortly after, the FCC froze license applications due to an overwhelming crush of requests. The next part, putting these stations on the air would cost big money, and that is where the financial squeeze got serious. That was 1948.

In much the same way NBC was forced to sell the Blue Network,
the movie theater operator United Paramount Theaters (UPT) was forced to become an independent entity, separating itself from the film studio Paramount Pictures in 1949.

For its part, ABC was on the verge of bankruptcy, with only five stations and nine full-time affiliates. Its revenues failed to compensate for its heavy investments in buying and building stations. In 1951, Noble held a 58% stake in ABC, giving him $5 million with which to prevent ABC from going bankrupt with a loan from the Prudential Insurance Company of America.

Leonard Goldenson, the president of UPT, approached Noble in 1951 and proposed that UPT purchase ABC. Noble received further offers, including one from Bill Paley of CBS, but that would have forced CBS to sell at least its New York and Los Angeles stations. Goldenson and Noble reached a tentative agreement in the late spring of 1951 that ABC would become a subsidiary of UPT, but would remain autonomous in its management.

On June 6, 1951, UPT’s board of directors validated their tentative agreement. However, the transaction had to be approved by the FCC. Insofar as the Paramount Pictures film studio was already a shareholder of the DuMont Television Network, the FCC conducted a series of hearings to ensure whether Paramount was truly separated from United Paramount Theaters, and whether it was violating antitrust laws.

In 1952, when the FCC ended its freeze on applications for new stations, among the issues to be addressed was the approval of the merger between UPT and ABC.

On February 9, 1953, the FCC authorized UPT’s purchase of ABC in exchange for $25 million in shares, and the company was renamed American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters, Inc.

The new company was based in Paramount’s headquarters at 1501 Broadway in New York, and owned six AM radio stations and many FMs, as well as five TV stations and 644 cinemas in 300 cities throughout the United States.

In consideration of this merger, UPT sold its television station in Chicago, WBKB-TV, to CBS for $6 million. CBS changed the calls to WBBM-TV. They kept ABC’s existing Chicago station, WENR-TV but moved the WBKB call letters to channel 7, which would eventually become WLS-TV. Goldenson began to sell some of the old theaters to finance the new television network.

On May 1, 1953, ABC’s flagship stations – WJZ, WJZ-FM and WJZ-TV in New York – adopted the callsigns of WABC, WABC-FM and WABC-TV, and moved to 7 West 66th Street, one block from Central Park.

At the same time, Goldenson had been trying to convince his movie studio friends to provide content for the network. ABC’s merger with UPT led to the creation of relationships with Hollywood’s film production studios, breaking a long quarantine that had existed between film and television.

Goldenson’s efforts paid off, and on October 27, 1954, the network was able to launch a “New ABC” campaign with the productions of several studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox.

However, the most iconic (and ironic) of ABC’s relationships with Hollywood producers was its agreement with Walt Disney. Walt and his brother Roy contacted Goldenson at the end of 1953 to ask ABC to finance part of the Disneyland project in exchange for Disney’s production of a television series.

Walt wanted ABC to invest $500,000 and a guarantee of $4.5 million in additional loans, a third of the budget intended for the park. Around 1954, ABC agreed to finance Disneyland in exchange for the broadcasting of a new Sunday television program, “Disneyland”, which debuted on the ABC network on October 27, 1954 as the first of many anthology TV programs that Disney would broadcast over the course of the next fifty years. We all know the rest of the story! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


WNBC Moves From Studio 3C To Historic 3K

WNBC Moves From 3C To Historic 3K

In late 1935, NBC radio studio 3H was converted to become television’s first permanent home. This was where RCA and NBC did all their early experimental broadcasts and was the first home of “The Howdy Doody Show” as well as “Kraft Theater”.

On September 12, 1955, NBC dedicated Studio 3K, which was made by combining 3H and radio studio 3F, into the network’s first in-house color studio, and “Howdy Doody” was the first show done from here. It was also the home of the Kraft Kitchen set, where Ed Herlihy spent so many hours.

Up until earlier this year, 3K had been an MSNBC studio. Those few 3K shows are now in the new 4th floor news studio. Over a period of 7 weeks, WNBC has built a new news set there that is a kind of 360 use set.

Overnight, the great time-lapse video of the studio under construction was taken down, but here is the link with more info on the studio. Let me know if the video plays for you. -Bobby Ellerbee–396178341.html?_osource=SocialFlowFB_NYBrand

NBC New York debuts new home, gains more space at 30 Rock

NBC’s flagship O&O, WNBC-TV, moved into a new home Sunday night, greatly expanding the station’s … Read More


October 11, 1975…”NBC Saturday Night” Debuts, LIVE In Studio 8H

October 11, 1975…”NBC Saturday Night” Debuts, LIVE In Studio 8H

It would be 8 more months until the show became “Saturday Night Live”, after Howard Cosell’s ABC variety show (which had the same name) folded and give up the name, and the term “not ready for prime time players”.

The video below is a double bonus! First, it is one of the funniest every SNL sketches, from last year’s anniversary show, and second, with your mouse, you can get a 360 degree look at the studio as the sketch unfolds.

Congratulations to all our friends in 8H (some who have been there since the start), on the 41st birthday of one of television history’s most unique adventures! -Bobby Ellerbee

Alex Trebek (Will Ferrell) tries his best to keep contestants Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond), Justin Bieber (Kate McKinnon), Tony Bennett (Alec Baldwin), Bur…


RCA History In The Making….Rare Original Design Sketchs

RCA History In The Making….Rare Original Design Sketchs

I am pleased to share a page from my collection of rarities, a few rare design drawings made by our late friend, Harry Wright of RCA.

Harry designed the look of the RCA TK60, TK42, TK43, TK44, TK45, TK45P and many other RCA products, including telecine and video tape machines. He was an RCA mechanical engineer heavily involved in RCA’s “new look” line up.

After the TK42 project started, several designs were mocked up, but Harry’s low, wide model was the one RCA went with, which was called 42X at the Camden plant. Below are Harry’s first sketches of the TK41, TK44 and the October 10, 1963 diagram of the 42XX, which was a modified 42X which included a dual lens turret, which is also see here. Enjoy, and for more on Harry and these cameras, go to the link below. -Bobby Ellerbee


October 10, 2007…The Beginning Of The End For NBC Burbank

October 10, 2007…The Beginning Of The End For NBC Burbank

Some nine years ago, NBC’s Brian Williams broke the news.

“Days Of Our Lives”, which airs on NBC is still there, but it’s their production company that rents space in the building and not NBC. Beautiful downtown Burbank will never be the same.

NBCUniversal plans to sell much of its 34-acre site in Burbank, California — the longtime home of “The Tonight Show,” and move operations to Universal Studi…


October 10, 1949…The First Ever Network Color Broadcast Airs

October 10, 1949…The First Ever Network Color Broadcast Airs

On this day in 1949, NBC broadcast “Kukla, Fran & Ollie”, live and in color from their Washington DC studio at The Wardman Park Hotel.

The 15 minute show was usually done in Chicago, and in black and white, but RCA had brought them to town for a week of experimental demonstrations to congress and the FCC. That week, each day was filled with short color demonstrations that included all kinds of
on-camera talent in the closed circuit broadcasts.

The studio was usually also filled with official visitors, and on October 10th, was overly full, which brought about the need to broadcast “KFO” on the network, using the color cameras

From the book, “Tele-Visionaries: The People Behind The Invention Of Television”, by RCA color pioneer, Dr. Richard Webb. Webb said, the studio was so crowded with officials, and time so short before “KFO” had to air on the network, that the crews could not get the black and white cameras to the “KFO” set, but since the color cameras were already there…they used them!

The only people that would have been able to see it in color were there, and at RCA Princeton, but not a single comment was ever received from the viewing public about the color image broadcast to their home sets, which certainly goes a long way in proving the system’s “compatibility”.

In the rare photo below, we see singer Gladys Swarthout, performing for the dignitaries during the color test, just before “KFO” was scheduled to air. Real History! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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