Inside Lenton Lane 

22 Jun 2008 0 tbs.pm/2198 Article text released under the Creative Commons Attribution license Media copyrighted Report an error in this article

A detailed look at ATV’s East Midlands Television Centre, Lenton Lane, Nottingham

As noted in A Trip to Giltbrook, Midlands ITV contractor ATV was forced to restructure, and was subsequently reborn as Central Independent Television, hitting the airwaves in January 1982. The changes were a requirement laid down by the then-IBA during the franchise renewals of 1980. Amongst the requirements laid down, ATV had to provide better coverage for its Midlands viewers if it was to retain its franchise for a further 10 years.

Management at ATV had struck a deal with an independent broadcast equipment hire company based in Nottinghamshire to provide temporary facilities for its new East Midlands news service until a permanent base was in commission.

Part of the changes (which proved a controversial move) was to re-locate all production work from its Borehamwood Studios in Hertfordshire, to the Midlands – spread between its studios in Birmingham (that underwent expansion in 1982), and a new state of the art production centre, based in the East Midlands.

A 16-acre site at Lenton Lane, on the outskirts of Nottingham City Centre, was chosen to construct the new complex. It was part of a constantly-evolving industrial estate, and also had a direct link to the Nottingham ring-road, enabling the new facilities to be accessed quite easily from most surrounding cities.

The new complex began operation in the autumn of 1983 but was officially opened by H.R.H Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip in March 1984.

It was designed to be spacious and provide the facility to extend if so required – and also provide adequate floor-space for the major production work that was once carried out at Elstree, as well as provide extra small presentation studios, plus a new permanent base for Central News – East.

Ground Floor

Accessible from the main reception area opposite Lenton Lane, this area contained most of the main production areas. Towards the rear of the building were the three main production studios (Studios 6, 7 and 8), which were all serviced by a large scenic corridor that ran parallel to the rear of each studio. This space was in fact large enough to enable large vehicles to drive in, for easier loading and unloading of large items. Sandwiched between this corridor and the studios was the main construction shop, mechanical shop, electrical workshop, a small special effects workshop, a large drapes store and a large prop store.

From 1996, a section of the prop store was converted to make way for the programme library, which had recently moved from over from Birmingham. This area eventually took up a total of three floors – one section dedicated to News material and the two remaining spaces allocated to network programme material.

Back towards the front of the building, the Makeup, Wardrobe, Dressing Rooms and Staff Canteen were housed.

From the main reception, a small wing of offices was constructed in front of the main studio block, spread across three floors; this area contained the staff Sports & Social club, Music Library, Personnel Dept, Press office and the Legal dept.

Studio 6

The smallest of the studios, mainly known for its use for Blockbusters.

3350sq ft (22.1m X 14.13m)

Grid Height: 24ft

Cyc Rail Height 18ft 2in

Audience capacity: 100

Cameras:

4 x Hitachi SK100

2 x Sony BVP 90

Lighting: Monopole Lighting grid & Strand Galaxy 3 studio control

Sound:36 Channel NEVE 51 sound desk

Vision:

Grass Valley 300 24input Vision-mixer

Quantel Picture Frame

Aston Ethos

Abekas A53D

Studio 7

The largest of the production studios, used for large-scale productions, such as Price is Right, Family Fortunes, Supermarket Sweep, Celebrity Squares and Bullseye.

8000sq ft (27.m X 27.3m)

Grid Height: 36ft

Cyc Rail Height: 27ft 9in

Audience Capacity: 500 (Retractable seating available for 235)

Cameras:

4 x Sony BVP 375 cameras

3 x Sony BVP 570 cameras

Lighting: Saturated Lighting grid & Strand Galaxy 3 studio control

Sound: 72 Channel Calrec Sound Desk

Vision:

BTS DD30 Digital Vision Mixer

Quantel Picture Frame

Aston Ethos

Abekas A57

Optional: Cyc trench for ‘infinity’ effect

Studio 8

The largest of the production studios, used for productions, such as The Upper Hand and Thursday Night Live.

7000sq ft (27.1m X 24.1m)

Grid Height: 36ft

Cyc Rail Height: 27ft 9in

Audience Capacity: 500 (Retractable seating available for 235)

Cameras:

4 x Sony BVP 375 cameras

3 x Sony BVP 570 cameras

Lighting: Saturated Lighting grid & Strand Galaxy 3 studio control

Sound: 72 Channel Calrec Sound Desk

Vision:

BTS DD30 Digital Vision Mixer

Quantel Picture Frame

Aston Ethos

Abekas A57

Also to complement this:

Studio 5

A small presentation studio located on the 1st floor. For a short while during the mid 1980s, this area was used for pan-regional in-vision continuity announcements due to Industrial action over changes at the Birmingham studios.

Studio 9

The home for Central News – East.

The News facility was a separate operation to that of the studios – albeit in the same building.

Studio 10

Was added in later years, by converting some disused offices: in regular use by Carlton Digital.

The site housed some of the most up to date facilities in ITV – and was completely backed up by a full production and technical support department.

Music Studio

2099sq ft

48 Channel Music Recording Studio & Dubbing suite, Neve console with Necam automation.

8 channel personal foldback system

AMS Audiofile editing system

First Floor

Housed most of the Technical Support areas, as well as Central News – East and the Newsroom.

Also based here was Junior Television Workshop, a drama club for children, to introduce fresh young rising stars to the world of Television. JTW began life in 1983 – founded by Sue Knott – and the club gave many young stars their first experience on TV in shows such as Murphy’s Mob, Woof, Sunnys Ears, Boon, and Auf Wiedersehn Pet

In addition, various sized conference suites were also added (each suite named after various sub-districts of Nottingham) during later years, as the site was made available for many corporate conferences and events, not related to the Broadcast and communication industry.

The 1st floor also contained the sound effects library, Graphic Design Dept & Rostrum camera, Picture unit, The VTR area, numerous edit suites and the presentation studio, Studio 5.

Editing Facilities

Edit 1

2 x Digi-Beta machines

2 x Beta SP machines

Grass Valley 241 Edit Controller

BTS Diamond Digital DD30 Vision mixer

Abekas A57 DVE

Soundcraft 16 channel Sound mixer

Aston Ethos

Edit 3

3 x Digi-Beta machines

3 x Beta SP machines

Grass Valley 151 Edit Controller

BTS Diamond Digital DD30 Vision mixer

Abekas A57 DVE

Soundcraft 16 channel Sound mixer

Aston Ethos

Edit 4

2 x Digi-Beta machines

2 x Beta SP machines

Grass Valley 241 Edit Controller

Grass Valley 110 mixer

Abekas A57 DVE

Soundcraft 16 channel Sound mixer

Aston Motif XL

Edit 5

3 x Digi-Beta machines

3 x Beta SP machines

Grass Valley 151 Edit Controller

Grass Valley 200 vision mixer

Abekas A53 DVE

Soundcraft 16 channel Sound mixer

Aston Motif XL

Non-Linear (Offline)

2 x Lightworks

6 x AVID

Non-Linear (On-line)

1 x Avid 1000Xl

3 x Avid Xpress

Sound Post-Production

4 dubbing suites

3 Track lay areas

Sound Prep and Foley Studio

48 Channel Logic 1 fully automated Dubbing suite

30 Channel Dubbing suite with automation and Dolby surround sound

20 Channel Dubbing suite with Akai 1500 Editor.

Fully integrated Audiofile system in dubbing and track lay areas with OMF file transfer from Avid and Lightworks

Sound effects and preparation area, library and V/O and transcription.

2nd Floor

The Second floor housed the Accounts office, meeting rooms, two conference rooms and a training room.

In 1996, the first of the major alterations were made at the studios – the Library and vault were constructed to house the soon to be re-located ATV / Central programme, film and stills library from Birmingham. This was constructed over a section at the rear of the ground floor, along with an addition mezzanine level added as a film vault, accessible via a goods lift and steel staircase.

By 2000, yet more alterations at the Studios were made to accommodate what was to be the final ITV major production from the studios: the revived version of Crossroads, which went on air in March 2001 and ran until 2003.

The show utilized the exterior of the Carlton Studios, by having a purpose built canopy constructed, a pond and also extra landscaping which doubled as motel exteriors.

Inside, the music studio was the first to go, along with a small portion the props store – that in the end was converted into extra studio space for additional bedrooms and suites for the Crossroads Motel.

By 2003, all production work at the studios was dwindling as ITV was undergoing major changes. Some floor space was hired out to the BBC on odd occasions. But ITV had decided to wind down operations and sell the complex, which created controversy amongst the 200 strong workforce at the studio, the Journalists Union the NUJ, and 27 local MPs who signed a petition to keep the studios open.

The idea was to relocate the Central News – East operation to a new purpose-built office and studio in Chilwell, on the outskirts of Nottingham. This new office opened in February 2005 – named Terry Lloyd House after the ATV/Central/ITN Reporter who tragically lost his life while covering events in Iraq in 2003. This is only a regional office – Central News – East in actual fact is broadcast from Birmingham. Back to where it all started then?

In 2004, ITV finally sold the complex to its current owners, Nottingham University, and it is now their 6th campus – the deal completed in mid-March 2005.

Today the complex houses a small café (in the place of the Sports & Social Club), the original staff canteen, and most studio floor-space has been converted to office and lecture space.

Studio 6 does still exist and plays host to the BBC’s Question Time on regular occasions.

The ATV / Central regional news and regional programming library – now run by MACE, Media Archive for Central England – is still housed at the site, but is soon to re-locate to Leicestershire.

  

Roddy Buxton

Contact

More by me

Have Your Say