Posts in Category: Broadcast History

Welcome To ‘Beautiful Downtown Burbank’

Welcome To ‘Beautiful Downtown Burbank’

This is the start of ‘The Tonight Show’ in Studio 1 in Burbank. The move from New York was in May of 1972 and reruns filled the gap. I think this photo is from the week prior to air as the cast and crew began a few days of rehearsal and blocking. Starting in July of ’71, guest hosts were used on Monday nights but the show was still 90 minutes long when the move occurred. Taping was at 5:30 and usually ended at 7 if there were no problems.

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Almost Show Time

Almost Show Time

During warm up, Johnny takes a look at the audience. It doesn’t look like it, but there are 465 seats here in Studio 1.

By the mid-1970s Tonight was the most profitable show on television, making NBC $50 to $60 million ($178,163,000 to $213,796,000 today) each year. Carson influenced the scheduling of reruns (which typically aired under the title The Best of Carson) in the mid-1970s. In order to work fewer days each week Carson began to petition network executives in 1974 that reruns on the weekends be discontinued, in favor of showing them on one or more nights during the week. In response to his demands, NBC began planning a new comedy/variety series to feed to affiliates on Saturday nights that debuted in October 1975 and is still airing today: Saturday Night Live. Five years later, Carson renewed his contract with the stipulation that the show lose its last half hour; Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow expanded to 90 minutes in order to fill the resulting schedule gap. Although a year and a half later, Tomorrow gave way to the hour-long Late Night with David Letterman (1982–1993), The Tonight Show remains one hour in length.

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Follow The Eyes

Follow The Eyes

In Johnny’s monologues, it was always interesting to me to watch his eyes move. This shot is during the warm up, but when the show started, a camera would be shooting him head on and was positioned with the lens in the center of the Q card board. During laughs and applause, you could see Johnny look at the board getting ready for his next line or two. When you saw him look to his lower right, that was a good indication that the end of the monologue was near and a stop set was just ahead.

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Fascinating NBC Studio 3H Photo, 1939

Fascinating Photo

1939, NBC presents “Mamba’s Daughters” staring Ethel Waters, seen here in the head scarf. The play is running on Broadway and is similar to the movie ‘The Help’, which is pretty interesting television fare for the time. The cameras are Iconoscopes and the cameramen are ‘interesting’. On the left, one is wearing a pith helmet, the one in the center has a handkerchief taped to the viewfinder and draped over his head and the guy on the right has some nice suspenders. With as many jackets as I see, the AC must be working given the immense banks of flood lights. Interestingly, not many shadows to be seen.

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Insider’s History of The Hollywood Palace

Insider’s History of The Hollywood Palace

Thanks to ABC Hollywood veteran Don McCroskey, here’s a look behind the curtain of a place many of us remember as The Hollywood Palace.

ABC started doing shows from what was then called the El Capitan theater in the fall of 1957 using equipment installed by NBC in 1950 to do musical-variety shows such as Martin & Lewis. The Frank Sinatra and Guy Mitchell shows were done from there for only one season. In the Summer of 1963, the theater was reactivated with an RCA TS-40 video switcher and an RCA (Hollywood built) audio console.

The Jerry Lewis show was expensively produced but a failure after only 12 shows. It was replaced by the Hollywood Palace show (and the name of the theater changed) which ran from January 4, 1964 thru February 7, 1970. The King Family show ran January 23, 1965 thru January 8, 1966. The above picture was probably taken sometime before the summer of 1965 since the barber shop was bought out to make room for the TK-41-C color camera and Ampex color video tape installation. All shows from the Palace were in color from September, 1965 on. Lawrence Welk did shows from the Palace until PC-60 color cameras were installed in Stage E in the Fall of 1966.

When I started in 1972, I did utility on the Merv Griffin Show that was shot here also. As a tape operator, I worked there along with Nick Giradano who was the lead tape editor using two AMPEX VR-2000 2 inch machines. It was a fun show to work and I learned a lot from Nick. Later the tape machines were removed and the show was taped at the Prospect Lot via TELCO lines.

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ABC Television: The Early Years

ABC Television: The Early Years

The ABC television network went on the air on April 19, 1948. The network picked up its first primary affiliates, WFIL-TV in Philadelphia (now WPVI-TV) and WMAL-TV in Washington (now WJLA-TV) before its flagship owned and operated station (“O&O”), WJZ-TV in New York (now WABC-TV) signed on in August of that year. The rest of ABC’s fleet of owned-and-operated major market stations, in Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, would sign on during the next 13 months, giving it parity with CBS and NBC in the important area of big-city presence, as well as a long term advantage in guaranteed reach over the rival DuMont Television Network, by the fall of 1949.

For the next few years, ABC was a television network mostly in name. Except for the largest markets, most cities had only one or two stations. The FCC froze applications for new stations in 1948 while it sorted out the thousands of applicants and re-thought the technical and allocation standards set down between 1938 and 1946. What was meant to be a six-month freeze lasted until the middle of 1952. Until that time there were only 108 stations in the United States. Some large cities where TV development was slow, like Pittsburgh and St. Louis, had only one station on the air for a prolonged period, many more of the largest cities such as Boston only had two, and many sizable cities including Denver and Portland, Oregon had no television service at all until the second half of 1952 after the freeze ended.

For a late-comer like ABC, this meant being relegated to secondary status in many markets and no reach at all in some. ABC commanded little affiliate loyalty, though unlike fellow startup network DuMont, it at least had a radio network on which to draw loyalty and revenue. It also had a full complement of five O&Os, which included stations in the critical Chicago (WENR-TV, now WLS-TV) and Los Angeles (KECA-TV, now KABC-TV) markets. Even then, by 1951 ABC found itself badly overextended and on the verge of bankruptcy. It had only nine full-time affiliates to augment its five O&Os—WJZ, WENR, KECA, WXYZ-TV in Detroit and KGO-TV in San Francisco.

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NBC 1949, Television Scene Magazine

NBC 1949, Television Scene Magazine

Seems a lot of people like to give credit to ‘I Love Lucy’ for establishing a three camera production standard, but live television at the network level had been doing that for several years before Lucy. Even ‘The Honeymooners’ that was shot on film with the Dumont Electrocam used three cameras.

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Remember Nipper? The Surprising Back Story…

Remember Nipper?

In 1898, three years after Nipper’s death, Francis Barraud, his owner and brother of his first owner, painted a picture of Nipper listening intently to a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. On February 11, 1899, Francis filed an application for copyright of his painting “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph.”

Thinking the Edison-Bell Company located in New Jersey, USA, might find it useful, he presented it to James E. Hough, who promptly said, “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs.” On May 31, 1899, Barraud went to the Maiden Lane offices of The Gramophone Company with the intention of borrowing a brass horn to replace the original black horn on the painting. Manager William Barry Owen suggested that if the artist replaced the machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, the Company would buy the painting.

A modified form of the painting became the successful trademark of Victor and HMV records, HMV music stores, and RCA. The trademark itself was registered by Berliner on July 10, 1900. (HMV is short for, His Master’s Voice.)

The slogan “His Master’s Voice”, along with the painting, was sold to The Gramophone Company for 100 pounds sterling. Francis Barraud said : “It is difficult to say how the idea came to me beyond that fact that it suddenly occurred to me that to have my dog listening to the phonograph, with an intelligent and rather puzzled expression, and call it “His Master’s Voice” would make an excellent subject. We had a phonograph and I often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from. It certainly was the happiest thought I ever had.

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A Teaching Moment

A Teaching Moment

This photo was taken between late 1946 and early 1948. How do I know? Because, when the RCA TK30s arrived at NBC New York, they initially put the NBC logo on the viewfinder and the WNBT label on the camera body. When the TK10s arrived a few months later, they decided the red metal strip on the TK10 viewfinder was the perfect place for the call letters, so they flipped the layout.
By early 48, NBC NY had gone back and flipped the art on the TK30s too for continuity. This became the standard for all the O&O cameras. In late 53, the NBC Xylophone logo was adopted and a black and white version was put on the RCA TK10s and 30s, and a color version was placed on all the RCA TK40 and 41 cameras, that until then, had no markings. Now you know.

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Look At The Floor

Look At The Floor

In the days of live television, floor marks for cameras, booms, actors, props and scenery were everywhere. Even with a few full camera rehearsals, it wasn’t easy to remember what lens and what position you were supposed to be in. The floor marks helped. This shot is from ‘The Armstrong Circle Theater’ which aired on NBC from 1950 till 1957. The weekly dramatic presentations were only a half hour long till 1955, but then the series went to an hour and the chalk budget doubled.

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George Jetson Would Be Proud!

George Jetson Would Be Proud!

Thanks to Benoit Prégent for sending this photo of the Kuba Komet set at the Cinémathèque Québécoise in Montréal. Below is a 30 second video of the set working in Germany. The KUBA Corporation manufactured the Komet from 1957 to 1962 in Wolfenbuttel, West Germany. This set stands 5′ 7″ tall, it’s over 7′ wide and weighs 289 pounds. Interestingly, the Jetsons debuted in 1962 so the Komet was slightly ahead of it’s time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxWfvlDWBfU

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It Never Was The Same Again, Was It?

It Never Was The Same Again, Was It?

If you were ever on a kids show, you know that after the visit, you never saw the show the same way again. Got a story to share about your visit?

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Election Night: 1952, The First Computer Assisted Predictions

Election Night: 1952, The First Computer Assisted Predictions

An Interesting Story…The computer was right but CBS balked

At CBS, Charles Collingwood sits in the Univac set on election night of 1952. What you see here is just for show as the actual computer was an 8 ton beast the size of a single car garage located in Philadelphia.

Univacs cost about $1 million apiece, the equivalent of more than $8 million in today’s money. The computer had thousands of vacuum tubes, which processed a then-astounding 10,000 operations per second (compared to 5 billion per second for today’s superfast chips).

Remington Rand approached CBS News in the summer of 1952 with the idea of using Univac to project the election returns. News chief Sig Mickelson and anchor Walter Cronkite were skeptical, but thought it might speed up the analysis somewhat and at least be entertaining to use an “electronic brain.”

The Univac in Philadelphia was connected to a teletype machine at the CBS studios in New York City. As the first precincts reported on election night, technicians used Unityper machines to encode the data onto paper tape to feed into Univac.

Pre-election polls had predicted anything from a Democratic landslide to a tight race with the Demo candidate, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, slightly ahead of the Republican, five-star Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in World War II.

So it was a surprise at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time when Univac predicted Eisenhower would pile up 438 electoral votes to Stevenson’s 93. The odds of Eisenhower garnering at least 266 electoral votes — the minimum needed to win — were 100-1.

In New York, news boss Mickelson scoffed at putting the improbable prediction on air. In Philadelphia, Woodbury added new data to the mix. At 9 p.m. correspondent Charles Collingwood announced to the audience that Univac was predicting 8-7 odds for an Eisenhower win.

As the evening wore on, an Eisenhower landslide gathered momentum. The final vote was 442 to 89. Univac was less than 1 percent off. Late that night, Collingwood made an embarrassing confession to millions of viewers: Univac had made an accurate prediction hours before, but CBS hadn’t aired it.

The public was now sold on this computer stuff. By the 1956 presidential election, all three networks were using computer analysis of the results. It was here to stay.

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It Used To Be This Simple…

Classic Photo

At WWL in New Orleans, a TK11 shoots the news with Jim Kincaid, Hap Glaudi and Don Westbrook in the late 1950s or early 60s. Thanks to Craig Harper for the photo.

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From the 1950 RCA Catalog

From the 1950 RCA Catalog

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RCA Electra-Zoom Lens, Part 1

RCA Electra-Zoom Lens, Part 1

The Electra-Zoom was in use at NBC for the debut of the Today Show in January of 1952. When this actually became available, I don’t know, but we do know from the RCA catalog description that there were two ways to operate the lens. Manually, it was done with a push through rod like the Zoomar rod. Electronically the lens zoomed in and out with a toggle switch that mounted on the pan handle. The electronic control is shown in this photo.

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RCA Electra-Zoom Lens, Part 2

RCA Electra-Zoom Lens, Part 2

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From The 1959 RCA Catalog

From The 1959 RCA Catalog

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From The 1959 RCA Catalog

From The 1959 RCA Catalog

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Inside WHDH Telecine Center…With Labels

Revision From Friday Post

Friday, I posted a photo I though was from WKY, but it’s from WHDH in Boston in 1958. Here is the photo again, but with a labeling of the Telecine equipment. Thanks to Lytle Hoover and Oldradio.com

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Interesting RCA Factoid

Interesting RCA Factoid

This photo brings to mind an oddity. Notice the 4 lens turret has only 3 lenses…a 50mm, a 90mm and a 135mm. Oddly, this was the standard factory compliment of lenses from RCA with all TK10s, TK30s and TK11/31s. The 4th lens, you had to buy separably, and even then, they were pretty expensive. The next lenses up were the 8, 13, 15, 17 and 25 inch models. In 1954, the 8 inch cost $400 or in today’s dollars, $3.355. Now, when you see lens turrets with only the standard 3 lenses, you’ll know why.

This photo is probably shortly after KIDO’s sign on in 1953 and shows a new TK11 at Boise, Idaho. KIDO is now KTVB. Thanks to Craig Harper for the photo.

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An Early Production Rarity

Look What I Found In An RCA Catalog!

A few weeks back, on October 12, I had commented on the tripod dolly under an RCA TK11 at KRON. I had wondered who made them and noticed they seemed kind of ‘foot steerable’ with the arch in the back for the cameraman. Now we know there was also a foot lever that could align all the wheels in the same direction for a straight line dolly. Meet the TD 25A.

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How Nostalgic

How Nostalgic

Here’s an old 3 sided test pattern rack. Notice the ‘Willie Wirehand’ statuette in the background. Willie was the mascot/trademark of the Rural Electrification Association and well known in the ’50s and ’60s. He was called ‘Ready Kilowatt’ too and was a mascot for electric utility companies.

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The One And Only of the One And Only

The One And Only of the One And Only

This is the one and only photo, of the one and only RCA TK42/43 at NBC. RCA engineer Harry Wright gave me this photo of the camera RCA took to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. NBC never bought a 42 or 43. This camera was put in the crash news studio and was always on, just in case news broke at any hour of the day. Wonder where it would up?

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Super Classic: NBC Brooklyn

Super Classic: NBC Brooklyn

I’ve had this photo since I was 15. It was sent to me by Mrs. Katheryn Cole from NBC in New York. Only recently, after meeting his daughter Maureen Stamm here on this site, I think I can now identify the cameraman at the bottom of the photo as Don Mulvaney…her dad. Feels like I’ve known him for a while.

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Sandy Fallout: David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon Tape With No Audiences

Letterman and Fallon: Alone with Sandy!

Neither had studio audiences for yesterday afternoon’s taping sessions. If you go to the link, you can see clips from each show with eerily empty seats.

Sandy Fallout: David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon Tape With No Audiences

If David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon crack wise and no one’s around to laugh, are they still funny…

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STOP THE PRESSES! GUESS WHO’S BACK!!!

STOP THE PRESSES! GUESS WHO’S BACK!!!

A few months back, I told you that the historic Chapman Electra Crane in NBC Studio 8H was being retired and replaced by a newer model…WELL GUESS WHAT! THE OLD CRANE IS BACK! The driver of the crane, Philip Pernice just told me that the turning radius on the new Electra was not the same and it would not work on the ‘Saturday Night Live’ set, so…the old crane is back in action!

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Inside The RCA TK41

Inside The RCA TK41

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“Sam And Friends”

Sam And Friends

Earlier in the week, I posted a photo of Jim Henson and Kermit. Someone mentioned remembering them from their first TV show, so here’s a photo. ‘Sam And Friends’ was a 5 minute weekday show produced in Washington, D.C. on WRC-TV in black-and-white, and later, color. There were 86 episodes and the show ran from May 9, 1955 to December 15, 1961.

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The Beautiful RCA TK11

The Beautiful RCA TK11

I think this is one of the best looking cameras ever made. This is Home Ec class from the University of North Carolina’s WUNC. The TK11 is mounted on a Houston Fearless friction head and a Houston Fearless TD 3 counterbalance pedestal.

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