THE NBC ND-8G CAMERAS
A while back, I got a question about an odd looking NBC camera in use in 1947. Interestingly, I had the same question last year and passed around a picture to a group of what I consider REAL experts. There was a lot of discussion but finally Ed Reitan, who has the great Early Color Television site http://www.earlytelevision.org/Reitan/index.html came up with part of the answer and I have worked on developing the rest of a great back story by finding never before seen pictures, so here it is.
The reason they do not look very RCA, is because they were not built by RCA…they were built by NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York!
NBC built a lot of custom things for special uses inside the company and they cataloged their creations by giving them a New Development, or ND number. No one know what this camera was actually called, or what its ND number was, but the reason I call it the NBC ND-8G is because the 4 cameras built were only used in NBC studio 8G in Radio City, and it was the first large radio studio converted to use for TV because it was a 2 story studio and allowed room to add the light grids. Studio 3H was the first converted from radio to television in 1935 by RCA as the birthplace of experimental electronic television.
Below is an article sent to us by a new friend and long time TV engineer in Argentina from the June 1948 issue of RADIO AGE and it offers more details of the 8G camera.
NEW TELEVISION STUDIO
Latest Addition to NBC Facilities Provides Space for Staging Four Video Productions at a Time
Possibly not the largest television studio in the world, but certainly the most modern and best equipped, NBC’s 8G in Radio City became a working part of the network’s expanding television service on April 22. The new studio increases by three to four times the studio production capacity of NBC’s television department and in its appointments represents the cumulative result of two years of planning by engineers and programs personnel.
Studio 8G, on the eighth floor of NBC’s headquarters in the RCA building here, is equipped with radically new audio and video controls, television studio cameras and lighting. It has provisions for six of the newly designed NBC television cameras which make use of the sensitive RCA Image Orthicon tube. The studio lighting eliminates four-fifths of the heat generated by lights formerly used in television studio operations.
In preparing Studio 8G for operation, workmen installed 500 miles of wire, over two miles of coaxial cable, 52 tons of refrigeration, and enough light, heat, power, and air-conditioning to supply a village of 100 average-size homes.
As many as four separate programs may be presented simultaneously from the studio. Added scenery effects – including falsified perspectives for background scenery, use of photo-enlargement drapes, and use of the floor as part of the scenery – will be possible because of the increased size and space of Studio 8G. In addition, rigging for the scenery will be four times as heavy as that found in NBC Television’s present studio 3H, permitting more massive, more realistic sets.
The most revolutionary feature of the studio is the control room, designed by NBC engineers. Located one floor above the studio itself, it is separated from the studio by a partition of light-attenuating plastic, which eliminates excessive light from the studio which would interfere with the operation of the monitors. At the same time it permits the operators to see into the studio. Of trapezoidal shape, the control room is so located as to give engineers and program directors a clear view of the entire studio.
Studio 8G, a converted radio studio, measures 48 feet by 87 feet. It is approximately three times as large as 3H, the studio out of which NBC Television has been operating since 1935. Overhead, and covering one half of the studio, is a permanently fixed steel catwalk which will be used as a lighting bridge. In addition, there are demountable lighting towers which can be used anywhere in the studio – a flexible system devised by NBC engineers to hang lights on short order.
The lighting will consist of a combination of fluorescent units. large incandescent lamps and banks of photo-floods with internal silver reflectors which can be used in any combination required.
A low level of heat will be emitted by these lights because of the small amount of illumination required by NBC cameras. These require a maximum intensity of from 200 to 250 foot candles, reducing to one-fifth the heat and light formerly needed in television studio productions.
The new NBC cameras – of which four will be used at the beginning of the studio’s operations, but will be later increased to six – use the sensitive RCA Image Orthicon tube. The cameras were designed by the network’s engineers and are of special construction to accommodate the requirements of the new studio.
Milton Berle and Phil Silvers mug for this very unusual looking camera. Notice the 2 viewfinders and the right handle that closely resembles the RCA TK40-41 handles that allows focus control. The reason for the dual viewfinders was to give the cameraman the ability to see the scene in the viewfinder, even if the camera was up high.
Below, “Uncle Miltie” goofs around in front of one of these cameras. There’s a detail about the lens turret we’ll point out in the next picture.
From the front, notice that it does have a turret but only three lens positions.
Here they are in use in the October 1948 presentation of the Philco Playhouse in Studio 8G. Notice the wall hanging picture above and below. A pretty clever way to get an otherwise impossible shot.
Studio 8G shots from the spring of 1948.
In the only known photo of its kind, here are all 4 of the NBC build cameras at work in Radio City’s Studio 8G…their permanent home. Two more were scheduled to be built and added here,but they never got here. There is a rumor that the four more of these were built and sent to NBC’s new Washington DC station, WNBW in mid 1947.