Paul Richards – TK Operator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph by Paul Scholes, no reproduction without permission.

The photo is of Paul Richards, TK operator (now deceased). It was probably taken in TK A.

TK, stood for Telecine, it was the area in post production that allowed for footage shot on film to be viewed on video equipment.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Stuart Gandy: ‘TK was the second department I rotated into as a TA back in 1980. I was at first astonished at the sheer speed that Paul Taylor and Jim Gregory could lace up the machine. But they had to be able to. When TK was used for Midlands Today, it was quite common for the news film to arrive sometimes only seconds before on air time. Many times I can remember Milton Hainsworth rushing around to TK with the reel ready for lacing. In those days the filmed stories were edited into a continuous piece of film.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘One of the great tragedies of the use of film on regional news,especially in the 50s and 60s is that the original negative film was processed,edited and transmitted from TK which means that after only a few showings there was no way of getting a good quality archive copy which is why news clips from that era are of such poor quality. Shame after all the frantic and skilled work which was expended on getting newsfilm ‘on air’.’

Peter Greenhalgh: ‘I spent a few months in TK with Paul, Jim, Gregory, Dave Scholden, and John Duckmanton when I was a trainee about the same time as Stuart (1981). I remember it being a close, friendly team, and Paul gave me lots of good advice. I wasn’t allowed vinegar on my chips in the canteen though… I too remember how fast those guys were. The Sondor bay got me every time. If you forgot to move the top arm out of the way, when you got halfway though lacing it, it would rip the sepmag out of your hand and spool it back onto the reel!’

Peter Poole: ‘I didn’t know negative film was used for news. How was audio recorded? I remember reversal film being used in the 1970s. The quality of commag audio was poor. The TV farming programme was also shoot on reversal film due to its topical content. I often worked on the live TX from Studio B on Sunday mornings. Back then TK and VT needed a 10 second run up. The directors and PAs needed to run TK and VTs on time. If not the presenter would have to ad-lib to fill the gap. No wonder programmes from that time look rather slow.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘The negative film was used in the black and white period of the 50s, when regional TV news was started, and into the 60s up to the point when colour was introduced using as you say reversal film system. Black and white film used commag stock for sound, recorded in the camera and, this was often cut under pressure and any voice over links added usually live. Later there was a system called SEPMAG which, when the original camera audio had been copied across to the separate reel of film, enabled independent editing of pictures and sound and hence the introduction of dubbing suites. Unfortunately for news purposes it wasn’t always possible to re-unite the audio and picture onto commag so the separate reel had to be ‘locked’ or synchronised with the picture projector….a very hazardous and hair raising experience not only for the operators in TK but the studio director who would be often waiting for the ‘all clear’ that the locking up had worked !!’

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3 Comments

  • The negative film was used in the black and white period of the 50s , when regional TV news was started, and into the 60s up to the point when colour was introduced using as you say reversal film system. Black and white film used commag stock for sound, recorded in the camera and,this was often cut under pressure and any voice over links added usaully live. Later there was a system called SEPMAG which,when the original camera audio had been copied across to the seperate reel of film, enabled independant editing of pictures and sound and hence the introduction of dubbing suites. Unfortunately for news purposes it wasn’t always possible to re-unite the audio and picture onto commag so the separate reel had to be ‘locked’ or synchronised with the picture projector….a very hazardous and hair raising experience not only for the operators in TK but the studio director who would be often waiting for the ‘all clear’ that the locking up had worked !!

  • During my time in the newsroom all material – except for a few ‘features’ was shot on reversal commag stock. The main problem with commag stock was, of course, the separation of the gate and the recording head, meaning that cutting the picture in the right place was wrong for the sound and vice-versa, hence the need to transfer the sound to sepmag stock (Pete it was 16mm magnetic tape, NOT actual film stock, but it was perforated like 16mm.). If time didn’t allow for the transfer, then the cut mismatch had to be accommodated by either inserting a noddy (or the next actual reporter’s question preceeded by a pontifical (leading) noddy, or any one of a number of other technical fudges!). Or else it needed dubbing in studio 9 where we covering the bumps with suitable audio (commentary, SFX, music etc.) recorded onto sepmag stock in the TK machine, or occasionally dubbing it live if a last-minute network insert run live from London (more adrenaline than on a battle-field!). Not forgetting – as occasionally happened – to gently remind the TK operator to ‘pull it up 3 frames’ before TX.
    I don’t believe edited sepmag was ever laid back to the commag – apart from anything else, the resultant audio would have ‘bumped’ over the edits. Why would you bother when the commag track was about a 10th the size of the sepmag?
    Having had the opportunity to see other regional news mags, and how they coped with commag and all its attendant problems (usually live reporter v/o in the studio + live grams) I think studio 9 was an elegant and efficient solution, no matter how much some of the ‘proper’ dubbing mixers looked down their collective noses at us!
    The features, and the opt-outs were usually shot on either reversal (with the commag track not used, or used as either a guide track or occasionally a wild track) with sound on 1/4″ recorded on a Nagra or mute colour neg + 1/4″.
    What a faffy world it was before video/u-matic/Beta/digibeta, but I count dubbing shifts in studio 9 as some of my happiest times in Pebble Mill.

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