Paradise Lost Part III – The Nerve Centre
30 Nov 2008 0 comments. tbs.pm/2213
Studio Block – 4th Floor:
Telecine, VTR edit suites, Main Transmission and Continuity
This area was the nerve centre of the building, providing facilities for anything to do with VTR & Transmission. The 4th floor had been considerably redeveloped numerous times since the 1970s.
In 1997 you’d come up the main staircase: on your right you have two VT Edit suites, a Post Production Edit and Sound Edit suite, further along is the Film Transfer suite, behind that is the Sound Archive. This area had its own dedicated machine room. Also – now occupying the original MCR and Presentation suite – is the Promotions department, who had their own graphics department, edit facility, voice over studio and office.
A rule once laid down by the Head of Presentation for ATV – back at the Alpha Studios in the sixties – still stood in 1997. It was a requirement for the Assistant Transmission Director to view every piece of film, slide, and video tape in advance of transmission to ensure its technical quality and also that there wasn’t any material therein that might have caused offence. [How useful this would be today – Ed.]
The viewing areas for this were located in the basement, just opposite the main theatre.
The ATV central technical area was based on this floor – the department housed VTR areas and a 7-strong Telecine suite. An MCR transmission control suite (directly above the presentation studio, Studio 4) and a small voice-over booth used for out of vision announcements were also located here.
By 1983 Central had 9 1in VTR Machines, 4 U-Matic Cassette machines, an ACR (multi-cart machine) suite for promotions and advertisements, three slide scanners for transparencies and the Telecine department had been reduced to 6 machines.
As noted earlier, the floor was refurbished during the early 1990s, mainly to accommodate new technology, such as the new digital LMS suite (replacing the old 2in tape cart ACR machines), new Telecine equipment (now reduced to two dual 16/35mm machines complete with a slide mount).
There was, in 1997, still lurking in a very dusty corner, an original Ampex 2in quad tape machine – this for certain would have been one of the original machines installed at the centre in 1970. This highlighted the fact that Central were then still in the process of transferring archive 2in tape material. To this day that machine still remains.
VT Edit areas
Most video editing was carried out here – apart from any work required for Central News, which was located in another section of the building.
Also provided were facilities for editing anything from early forms of U-Matic, 1in C format (reel to reel tapes) to the latest Digital Beta-Cam and D2 cassette systems. There were facilities for adding special effects, sounds, dubbing and transferring material between formats.
VT Edit Machine Room
This area was served by a VT Edit Machine room which provided an edit controller mainframe; a unit for networking different edit controllers from different suites, as well as to provide printed out data for work carried out on any number of productions loaded into the system and facilities for editing material for Central Jobfinder (a regional programme for job hunters shown overnight). This area was supported by 2 small additional VT Edit control suites but could be patched into the supporting Post Production Facilities Sound Studio.
Sony DVR-18p D2 Digital Editing VTR
Sony DVR-10p D2 Digital Editing VTR
Sony BVH-3100 PS 1in C Format Reel-to-Reel VTR Machine
Paltex 56601000 Edit control Mainframe
Ace Perriot Graphics Chroma Keyer
Central jobfinder interface unit
Avitel TGE 2040 EBU/SMPTE Timecode generator
PPF Edit Sound Studio
This area was equipped for time-coded sound editing, special effects and music dubbing.
The main dubbing equipment consisted of a 24-channel sound desk coupled to a 24-track tape recorder; enabling up to 24 tracks of sounds, music and effects to be mixed to a 2 channel stereo mix for broadcast.
24:5:2 Sound Mixing Desk, c/w Neve 83046 Compressor Limiters
Studer A820 2 24-track Reel-To-Reel tape recorder
Studer A810 ¼in 2-track Reel-To-Reel tape recorder
Sony CDP-3000 CD Player and Remote control
Formula Sound 4-channel Audio Mixer
Adams Smith 2600 Synchroniser
Sony BVU-850p U Matic Editing VTR
PPF Edit Control
The Post Production Facilities Edit Control suite was again patchable to the VT edit machine room but provided addition video effects and vision mixing effects.
Cox 650 VTR Clock
Evertz PT26 Production Timer
Formula sound 8:1 Audio Mixing Desk
Paltex Elan 4/12 Editing Controller
Abekas Cox T8 Composite Vision mixer
The two supporting VT suites were also patchable into the VT edit machine room but also provided additional facilities for adding captions, special effects and also a Quantel digital graphics computer for slides and additional graphics work.
These areas could also be connected in parallel to record live production work from the studios downstairs and to produce edited highlights for use almost immediately.
VT Edit Suite 1
Nagra TC ¼ Reel-To-Reel 2 track, time code recorder
Aston Caption Character Generator
GVG Streamline Effects Controller
Paltex Edit controller
Amek ESM-32 Audio Mixer edit controller
Probel 24:3 Routing switcher
Amek 12:2 Audio Mixer
VT Edit Suite 2
As VT edit one apart from a Quantel DLS-6001 Digital Library system
The Telecine equipment had recently undergone quite a major upgrade. The new telecine equipment fitted hosted a variety of additional facilities;
A digital scene programmer – for setting selected scenes from films to transfer.
Cue dot detector – this facility was useful for when transferring cinema released feature films. Two Telecine machines could be used to show (or transfer) alternate reels of film. By using the printed cue dots at the end of each reel, the incoming Telecine Machine could be cued to switch over automatically.
A film cleaner.
Auto colour grading – to match differences in colour balance between adjoining scenes.
A built in slide mount for transferring 35mm slides.
The Telecine area could transfer to U-Matic, 1in C Format and Digi-Beta formats.
This type of equipment was had come a long way since 1970. ATV had installed 7 Rank Cintel Mk1 flying spot machines which at the time were the latest in telecine technology but not providing such elaborate facilities as the Mk 3s that were fitted as of 1997.
It’s perhaps a good place to note that at the original monochrome Alpha Studios in Aston, both ABC and ATV were sharing modified cinema projectors for their telecine operations – more on that another time!
As of 1997, the Telecine area contained:
Rank Cintel Mk 3 digiscan, 16/35mm.
Rank Cintel Ferrit 16/35mm Magnetic Film recorder
Sony BVH-3100PS 1 C Format VTR
Sony BVT-800PS U Matic digital time base corrector
Sony V0-9600P U Matic SP VTR
Visual Apparatus Room
A fair amount of ATV in-house manufactured equipment was still in commission in this area: much of the rack mounted Power Supply units, phase switchers had been designed and built in-house by ATV. As of my visit in 1997, this area just seemed to contain Test & Calibration equipment. A small workshop area was built to one side containing much of the test pattern generators, and test scopes.
The machine room could be patched to record the output from any of the main studio areas or even transmitted output via this area.
Main Transmission Areas
This area had two dedicated VTR machine rooms – one being the LMS suite which provided D2 multi-cart playout facilities for most of the commercials and idents / promotions and the other being the TAR machine room. Between them, these areas provided facilities for transmitting programmes as well as adverts and presentation/promotional material for regional and network transmission.
In the early days, the Presentation Director was often responsible for short local news bulletins and these were often broadcast from the Presentation Studio (Studio 4 on the floor below and later Studio P) with news items played out on U-matic machines operated by an army of VT engineers.
Many news items on ATV were played in directly from Telecine: the news film for the particular day was made up by News Film Editors into a continuous reel of film, using a countdown leader and film spacing to separate each item – this enabled ease of transmission (providing the running order wasn?t altered at last minute!) and any additional late items could be added quickly.
It wasn’t until the latter part of the 1970s that ATV had progressed into using U-Matic tape for its news items.
ATV also played many feature films into the network directly here. During much of ATV’s years, advertisements were on 35mm film and played in directly from Telecine, each reel for each advert break made up by hand which was a mammoth task; one error could cost the TV station a fortune.
During the latter part of the 1970s, the ACR machine was introduced. This was an early form of LMS suite and contained small 2in tape video cassettes. Each commercial would have its own cassette and these could be played in any desired order, making commercial breaks and station promotions much easier to output.
By 1997 many advertisements were shot and edited on 35mm film by independent advertising agencies. By the time the campaign reached the television station it would be on a more useable format such as BetaCam.
The LMS suite contained facilities for transfer from Umatic, Beta and 1in C format tape to D2 cassette (compatible with the LMS Cart system). Again this was supported with it’s own advertisement library and management system and Edit facility.
As of 1997, the area contained:
Sony DVC 1000s Library Management System.
This was fitted complete with 6 x D2 composite digital VTR recorders, Cart Controller, an NWS1850 News Network Station controller, and was able to take 1000 x 32minute D2 cassettes.
Sony DVC 600m Library Management System.
This was fitted with 5 x D2 composite VTR Recorders, Cart Controller, NWS-1850 News Network Station Controller with a capability of taking 600 x 90minute D2 cassettes.
Sony DVR-18p D2 Digital Editing VTR
Sony BVH-2180ps/04 1in C Format Reel-To-Reel VTR
Sony DVR-20p D2 Digital Editing VTR
TAR Machine Room
Both TAR Machine Room and TAR Control rooms were responsible for line switching, incoming and outgoing feeds to transmitters and also providing facilities to exchange material with the other two Central sub-operations and other ITV companies.
Also all VT clock signals, Time-Code and Sync signals for the entire building were generated from here – and also linked to serve as a master clock for the ITV network.
This area was the incoming point for the ITV ‘Redphone’ system – a conference call internal telephone system that linked all MCR control rooms throughout the entire ITV network – to enable accurate programme timings, and opt-outs.
In effect the TAR areas were the building’s telephone exchange for vision and sound circuits and link with the ITV network.
The MCR was linked to here for the Redphone system, incoming programme feeds, outgoing presentation output and to access the Teletext, Caption Generators and Digital Slide and Stills store.
The area contained:
ATV custom Station Timecode Synchroniser, master clock and analogue clock panel.
3 x Central custom Ducker mixer panels.
TVS custom Redphone system line interface
Aston Wallet General Purpose Stills Store
Quantel DLS-6001 Digital Library system mainframe fitted with Fujitsu M-2294N 354 M6 Hard Disk
Aston 4 Video Character Generator Mainframe
Probel Video and Audio routing Matrix
Aston TD10 Mk 2, Teletext Decoder
AVG Electronics 1006-522-402 Teletext Unit
Philips LDK-4210/01 Sync Pulse Generator.
TAR Control Room
The control room provided routing facilities for the three sub-regions of Central News – these could be switched to their respective area transmitters (West, East and South) and also interchanged, should technical problems arise from any newsroom.
The outgoing signal to transmitters was closely monitored for quality here.
Aston Adlog Modem
Aston Adlog Enhancer
Aston Adlog Decoder
Aston VITS Indent Encoder
Probel 20:10 and 16:8 Video Routing Switch Panel
Seltech SCH-710p Sync Sub Carrier Phase Monitor
Rintoul Electronics 730 Palert Colour Sync Verifier
Central custom News Facilities routing switch.
MCR Control Room
Sony LVA-8000p Component Laser Video Disk player
Audio Developments AD145 4:2 portable audio mixer
Vinten Remote Camera Control Panel
Central custom flexi cart 12 x 1 control panel
DTL 16:4 Routing Switch Panel
Sony RM-9000RP Programmable Remote Controller
Probel 24 x 2 Switch panel
As of 1997, the presentation department consisted of a reasonable sized in-vision continuity studio (Studio 8) – known as Studio P – which became the new home for Children’s ITV from the early 1990s. This had a large window between the studio and MCR (the Master Control Room).
Studio P was equipped with a remote camera which was linked to the lighting system. Each camera position or shot was pre-programmed with its own particular lighting state. So upon selecting a particular lighting state or shot, the camera and lighting would adjust to a previously programmed position.
If you look close enough on the lighting plot chart, you will see Tommy Boyd (of CITV fame) preferred camera shot memory number 66!
As we mentioned in the previous episode of this series, News Bulletins were moved from Studio 4 downstairs to the new presentation studio, Studio P, during the mid 1980s which sparked industrial action by electricians’ unions. It ended up with out of vision announcements coming from Studio P, and ?in vision? links coming from Studio 5 in Nottingham!
It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that in-vision continuity was switched to Studio P:
Sony BVP-5p 3 CCD Camera fitted with remote head.
Rank Strand 24way Tempus lighting control panel
Blue Upholstered Armchair
3 x Cyclorama Cloths
Opposite was the voice-over booth known internally as “The Crate”, used for main continuity announcements – this, along with the MCR, was the final technical area to close at ATV Centre in October 1997.