The final edit at Pebble Mill

The final edit at BBC Pebble Mill from pebblemill on Vimeo.

 

This video was recorded by Colin Fearnley on November 23rd 2004, which was the last evening of editing at BBC Pebble Mill. The editors had a get together to mark the occasion. Colin recorded the editors reminiscing about the programmes which had been edited in the VT area, including dramas, like The Brothers, and factual programmes like The Clothes Show. The video finishes with Mike Bloore inviting Tony Rayner and Steve Critchlow to jointly carry out the final edit: attaching the credits on an episode of Dalziel and Pascoe, which Chris Rowlands was editing.

Tony Rayner & Steve Critchlow carry out the final edit

Tony Rayner & Steve Critchlow carry out the final edit

D3 and Beta SP machines

P7121397Photo by Ian Collins, no reproduction without permission.

The photo shows a Panasonic D3 machine, and an Ampex Betcam SP machine.

D3 was a 1/2 inch videotape format which lost very little information between generations, and was hailed as a great revolution. It was brought in, in the early 1990s. I remember how excited everyone in post production got about D3, because you didn’t lose picture quality in going down a generation – although some thought that it would make production staff even more lax in their editing, because it didn’t matter if you had to go round again! Ironically, the tapes did not stand the test of time well, meaning that much of the BBC archive had to be digitised. D3 tended to be an editing and delivery format, rather than a shooting format.

Beta SP was also a 1/2 inch videotape format, and was the standard tape used in the late 1980s, and early 1990s for recording portable single camera location pieces.

These machines were in post production – probably in the machine room between VTC and VTE.

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

Paul Vanezis: ‘We had three D3’s in VTE but 2 machines everywhere else. We did totally mad pre-read edits on Top Gear and The Clothes Show. But the maddest was a Motor Show Special. It was 10 minutes before TX on a Sunday afternoon in 1992. Steve Neilson was editing and dropped out of record in the middle of a pre-read edit. The look of horror on his face was something to behold. I got him to redo the edit as audio only and pick the vision up later! We did make it on air and there were plenty of examples of that going on.’

Alan Miller: ‘I believe the D3 saga has an interesting ending in that the BBC has thousands of tapes to archive but there are not enough D3 head assemblies in the world to copy them to another format!’

Adam Trotman: ‘And you had to line them up properly or you would get a hop in the picture. …’

Russell Parker: ‘They retired there, but I think this photo is either VTE or Edit 17’s machine room.’

 

Timesheet – Reaching for the Skies

Charles White's timesheet

Charles White’s timesheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This timesheet is from Charles White, who was involved in the post-production of the documentary series: Reaching for the Skies, a history of flight. The twelve part series was transmitted in Sept-Nov 1988. It was a co-production with John Gau Productions, the series producer was Ivan Rendall, with different episodes being produced and directed by different people, including Tony Salmon and Dennis Adams. The editors included Greg Miller and Mike Duxbury.

The timesheet shows an over 80 hour week for Charles, meaning that he would have accrued an awful lot of overtime payments, or time off in lieu!

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

Jane Green: ‘I have my Clothes Show and Howards’ Way timesheets. 20 hours days filming – no joke!’

Ruth Barretto: ‘I can remember the days when I used to process all of productions timesheets and Expenses. 4 consecutive days in excess of 12 hours and on the 5th day 4 hours then you earn a day off in lieu…. Oh so sad that i still remember that!!!’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘I can imagine the hours as it was a big production. I worked on it for a few days filming at RAF Coningsby on tornadoes. It was fantastic.’

Victoria Trow: ‘Long hours? Over 100 one week on the dreaded Witchcraft. But nobody ever minded over time – time and a half + less than 10hr break….. Those were the days. My first job at Pebble Mill – in a portakabin with Fiona Haigh syncing up the rushes.’

Mark Heslop: ‘108 hrs on same series, unfortunately no proof, but everybody worked stupid hours on that programme.’

Rosalind Gower: ‘I’m still rather horrified he was scheduled a 60 hour week! I know we all worked crazy hours when we had to but it does seem very wrong that he was officially down to work for five consecutive days of 12 hours per day, big production or not.’

The Clothes Show

The Clothes Show, Jeff Banks, Selina Scott JR

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Thanks to costume designer, Janice Rider, for sharing the photo.

The photos shows The Clothes Show presenters, Jeff Banks and Selina Scott. The item obviously had a 1950s rock and roll theme.

The Clothes Show was a fashion magazine show, which went out weekly on a Sunday between 1986-2000. It was devised and produced by Roger Casstles. The series became well known for its high production values and stylish inserts, which often used innovative DVE transitions, canted shots and contemporary chart music.

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

Annie Gumbley-Williams: ‘Ivor Williams, and Brian Watkiss plus other editors on the Clothes Show won a BAFTA for editing the Clothes Show, and were also nominated a second time. The BAFTA disappeared from Pebble Mill when it closed. Anyone know where it went?’

Jane Clement: ‘It was a rock n roll edition of The Clothes Show back in our era – I remember they had a local rock n roll club there dancing, who are probably the people in the background. Roger Casstles and Claire Stride producing, of course, and Janice Rider would have been on wardrobe – fun job for her. Can’t remember who else worked on it though.’

Claire Cotton: ‘Remember it well as one of BBC Birmingham’s big hits, with its spin off event Clothes Show Live still going. I loved working on it, with Jane Galpin running the London office and Colette Foster and Roger Casstles our Birmingham Office. I am still in touch with many ex Clothes Show people including James Strong (who went on to direct Dr Who and Downtown Abbey) and James Morgan who went on to do Springwatch, the Apprentice and won a BAFTA for Big Blue Live.’

Studio Operations (part 6) – Ray Lee

All Creatures Great and Small, Studio A. Photo by Tim Savage

All Creatures Great and Small, Studio A. Photo by Tim Savage

Saturday Night at the Mill, 1977. Photo by John Burkill

Saturday Night at the Mill, 1977. Pebble Mill courtyard. Photo by John Burkill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Programmes

Studio A had a lot of drama series, and one off plays, as in those days drama was more often than not recorded in a studio. Exterior shots were done on film for the most part, and played in from TK during the recording session.

One of the early drama series was The Brothers  which was a fairly dire soap opera about a set of brothers who owned a lorry transport business. I remember virtually nothing about the series apart from the lovely Lisa Goddard, but it was a regular booking and kept us all in employment. Rather more interesting were the Dickens classics – Martin Chuzzlewit and Nicholas Nickleby. Then there were several series of  All Creatures Great and Small adapted from the James Herriot books. The first few with Carol Drinkwater, and the later series with Linda Bellingham, as James’ wife Helen. Then there was Gangsters which was I think the first studio production to use a “handheld” camera. The camera was a Bosch Fernseh, which had a quite large camera on a shoulder pad, connected to a back pack by a short cable, then the cable from the backpack went to a further CCU which was rigged in TAR. The Camera / backpack combination was pretty heavy, so the cameraman tended to put it all down as soon as the required shots had been taken.

There were a number of plays for today, and several series of The Basil Brush Show. The latter was recorded on a Saturday evening with a live audience, but for the afternoon dress rehearsal, several staff members and their children formed and audience so that “Basil” had someone to perform to. My wife and children came on several occasions when I was working in the gallery or TAR.

We hosted Playschool for at least one series, possibly two. This may have been around the time when there was a union dispute regarding who was to start the clock! As I remember, electricians said it should be them as it was electrical, and scene hands said it should be them as it was a prop. I don’t remember how it was resolved, but it was that kind of union silliness that set Margaret Thatcher on her crusade against the unions.

Studio A hosted Young Scientist of the Year at least twice, and also The Great Egg Race  with professor Heinz Wolff. There were several series of  Angels a kind of forerunner to Casualty. Then there was the great Pot Black which really put snooker onto the map for the first time. This was recorded over four intensive days after Christmas (27th – 30th Dec) and then shown one game per week. The quote of note being “For those of you watching in black and white, the red ball is next to the green ball, just beyond the black” or something like that. The problem was there was little difference in the grey level of red and green balls, so identifying them virtually impossible. It really was a game that had been waiting for colour. There were just so many programmes that came out of Studio A, the place buzzed with activity.

In addition to that there were all the Pebble Mill at One programmes which came from both studio A and studio B gallery, with the cameras in the foyer area or outside both at the back and front of the building, and occasionally on the roof! From the camera rigging point of view it was like an outside broadcast, but with the fixed infrastructure of a proper studio gallery.

In early 1975 a pilot programme Pebble Mill at Night was produced. It eventually materialised as Saturday Night at the Mill but not until 1976. This likewise used the foyer area, and depending on whether Studio A had a drama booked in used either Studio A or Studio B gallery.

Saturday Night at the Mill had the dubious honour of causing 2 of the big windows to be replaced. I think it was the night that a parachute jump landed on the front lawn, and in order to get some additional lighting, the lighting director (TM) had 2 big lights shining through the long gallery windows onto the lawn. The lights were well back from the windows and he checked that the windows were not getting hot. However they would have warmed slightly. That night after the show we had one of the hardest frosts in a long while, and the thermal stress on the windows caused them both to crack (several hours after the lights had been switched off). The replacement of the windows subsequently featured on a Pebble Mill at One, although what may not have been seen was that the new ones were about 3/4 inch too short! The gap was filled with mastic.

Studio B progammes in addition to the regular Midlands Today, hosted the Asian unit New Life programme on Sundays, and Farming, (the forerunner of Countryfile). Pebble Mill at One on any days when Studio A was in use for drama, and several programmes that could be squeezed into the small space, including incredibly some with an audience. Sadly I cannot remember all of them but The Clothes Show certainly started off in Studio B. There was rarely any slack days, and Studio B (or its gallery at least) may well have seen at least 2 and often 3 different programmes during the course of 24 hours! The presentation annex was arranged as a self operated area, and close down was done from there every night, with just a couple of engineers manning the TAR end of things. David Stevens was one of the regulars, and used a series of colour slides for his close down sequence. Sometimes the slides jammed in the slide scanner, resulting in a somewhat curtailed sequence. One of the slide scanners took a pair of slide boxes from which the slides were pushed up into the scanner gate by a metal plunger known as the Sprod. Unfortunately this required consistent slide mounts to work properly, and David’s assorted slides were not quite as regular as required, so sometime it spat out a slide altogether, just leaving a blank white screen. When possible the other slide scanner was used for this as the slides were pre slotted into place in a pair of discs which rotated into the scanner gate. The disadvantage of that being that changing the order of the slides took much longer if they needed to be changed.  As there were only the 2 slide scanners, and both studios might need to use slides there was a lot of pressure on the engineers to keep them both in working order.

Ray Lee