March 19, 1953 and March 19, 1954…Red Letter Days For Compatible Color

March 19, 1953 and March 19, 1954…Red Letter Days For Compatible Color

On March 19, 1953 RCA and NBC’s new multimillion dollar, experimental color facility at The Colonial Theater went online. Work began in the fall of 1952 with some stage renovation and then the installation of the new control and equipment rooms.

The Colonial was equipped with four prototype RCA TK40 color cameras and chains, an all color telecine system, all kinds of new experimental lighting fixtures, monitors and tons of new synchronizing equipment.

The Colonial remained an experimental color facility until Thursday, December 17, 1953. That day, the FCC gave it’s approval of compatible color which made the Colonial the center of NBC’s color universe.

Without The Colonial, a year long string of firsts, that followed, would not have been possible. That sting started with a bang just 14 days later!

On January 1, NBC put their two new color mobile units in service with the first ever coast to coast colorcast of The Rose Parade from Pasadena, California. In 22 color capable cities, it was seen in color, but in glorious compatible black and white everywhere else. The Colonial served as a master control center.

February 16, 1954: NBC transmitted the first newscast in color… “The Camel News Caravan”, including the first integration of 16-mm color film into a live program, was done at The Colonial.

On March 4, 1954, the first shipments of RCA TK40s, and associated studio equipment was made from RCA’s plant in Camden, N.J. This was after two years of testing of the TK40 prototypes at NBC’s Colonial Theater.

Exactly one year after The Colonial went online, on March 19, 1954, the first colorcast of a boxing match from Madison Square Garden, was presented by NBC and was compatible color’s first ever sports event broadcast.

The main event pitted Philadelphia middleweight Joey Giardello against Willie Troy. Here is the newsreel action of the fight.

March 25, 1954: Production of RCA’s first commercial color TV sets, the CT 100s, equipped with a 15-inch picture tube began at Bloomington, Indiana.

June 25, 1954: NBC made the first network transmission of 35-mm color film, on “The Mrs. USA” program from The Colonial.

July 8 – Aug. 19: NBC aired the first network color series, “The Marriage”, a situation comedy with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, from The Colonial.

July 15, 1954: RCA announced development of a new and improved 21-inch color kinescope with a picture area of 255 square inches.

Finally, NBC’s second major color facility came on line. On September 12, 1954, NBC presented the first of many 90 minute color spectaculars with the broadcast of “Satins and Spurs” starring Betty Hutton. That was the first production from NBC’s new Brooklyn Studio I.

September 15, 1954: RCA demonstrated its new 21-inch color picture tube and a simplified color TV receiver.

Oct. 14 – Dec. 30: “The Ford Theatre” was the first sponsored color film series to be presented in color on a regular basis. It was broadcast on The Colonial’s color telecine equipment.

November 28,1954: First two-hour color production of a Shakespeare play, “Macbeth” on “The Hallmark Hall of Fame” was done at Brooklyn I.

December 1, 1954: RCA began commercial production of color TV sets with a new 21-inch picture tube. Quite a year, wouldn’t you say? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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