Pye Camera Demonstration

Pye Camera demonstration from pebblemill on Vimeo.

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Specially recorded video of former BBC Manchester cameraman, Malcolm Carr, demonstrating the Pye outside broadcast camera.

The video was recorded at a history of technology exhibition in Salford in October 2012. The restored outside broadcast scanner, CMCR9, built in 1969, which was Pebble Mill’s original CM1, before becoming BBC Manchester’s, North 3, was on display at the exhibition, and the Pye camera was part of this exhibit.

Keith Brook (Scouse) posted the following comment on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

‘Great to see Malcolm again. Last time I saw him he was gainfully employed with 360 media, the joint venture between Granada and BBC Manchester. We were in the canteen at GTV and he was keeping his head down to reach retirement without any problems!! My memory of those Pye cameras was that on really hot days, the sides had to stay up to give ventilation, otherwise they’d overheat!!’

CMCR9/ North 3 outings – Jerry Clegg

CMCR9/North 3 at Onslow Park, by Steve Harris












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

The restored former BBC-tv 1969 colour mobile unit, North 3 / CMCR9 was on display to the public at two steam and veteran vehicle rallies during August. The first one was at Astle Park near Chelford, Cheshire on August 11th/12th  and it was a scramble for Steve Harris and his helpers to prepare for that one as North 3 was fresh out of the paint spray-shop and there were only a few days to get ready.

The truck had been at the body shop since January for a major exterior renovation. The cab windows had all been out for replacement of the windscreens and the interior had gathered a huge amount of dirt during the rubbing-down process. All the external fittings had been removed for renovation during this process and these had to be re-fitted. Bright window surrounds were covered with gunge from the masking tape used during the spraying, which could only be removed afterwards by careful use of cellulose thinners!  Steve, the owner, was busy replacing the waist trims all the way round, right up to the last moment.

The weather was excellent for Astle Park and North 3 was gleaming in her new paint, which exactly conformed to the correct colours, the original codes for which were still visible, recorded on the cab facia. Visitors flocked to inspect North 3 and the static display outside. Two broadcast cameras were on display : an EMI 2001 and a recently aquired Philips PC80. A live picture and various other sources were available on the functioning vision mixer in the production gallery and wipes between sources could be demonstrated for the first time.

Two weeks later North 3 was on show at Onslow Park as a special guest at the 50th Shrewsbury Steam Rally. By this time the truck was sporting its authentic 1969 graphics, which had been  revealed during the rubbing down process and were restored by an expert graphic artist using genuine gold leaf. The weather was very variable with occasional heavy showers, but large numbers of appreciative visitors came to file through the scanner and see how OBs were put together 40 years ago. The ‘mains’ feed from the show organizer’s generator proved very troublesome and Steve brought his own 6.5 kva unit for the Bank Holiday Monday and stability was restored!

Shrewsbury was the farthest south that North 3 / CMCR 9  has been on display so far and we were pleased to welcome a number of former staff from Birmingham and Cardiff as well as Manchester. CMCR 9 was the Midland Unit for most of it’s operational life and former crew members came to renew their aquaintance with ‘their’ scanner. The visitor’s book is gradually filling up and makes interesting reading.

There is one more North 3 public appearance this year and it will be in Salford in October.  The scanner will be on display on the piazza at the entrance to the University of Salford building (next to the BBC) on Salford Quays. The event is an interactive exhibition called ‘From Semaphore to Smart Phone’, charting the progress of technology in communications over the years and it’s on Saturday and Sunday 27th/28th October. Details can be found using this link :-

BBC staff glancing out of the window of the Media Centre on those days may be startled to spot the last BBC Tel OBs mobile control room still on the road.

They thought it was all over !

Jerry Clegg

John Kimberley blog

OB Scanner CM1 (1980s)












I joined Pebble Mill in 1974 and was a staff Studio and O.B. engineer until we lost the O.B. fleet in 1992, after which I became a freelance engineer. I did do some contract work at the Mill afterwards until 1997, then I became a full freelancer working for Sky, BBC and ITV via various O.B. facilities companies. I retired this year, but if offered an O.B. which appeals to me, I guess I’ll take up the offer! Regional Engineers, as we were known were expected to work in Telecine and Videotape as well and we were trained to work in Communications (‘Comms Centre’ and Radio Links) if required.

During my first few years at the Mill, Studio A was usually working 6 days a week, with 2 sets of 2 day dramas and 2 days of Pebble Mill at One; during the latter there would be a complete scenery and lighting reset for the following production. I worked on the last series of Poldark, various series of All Creatures Great and Small, Angels, Juliet Bravo and countless Plays for Today. Amongst memorable Studio A productions were a series of live dramas for BBC 2 around 1980. We were using the very first colour cameras, EMI 2001s, and the first incarnation of the studio technical facilities. Despite the age of the equipment, all the plays went out without a hitch, and much alcohol was consumed afterwards as we all came down from the adrenaline ‘high’. A great breakthrough came with the inclusion of Light Entertainment programmes in the late ’70s, a welcome change from a constant diet of drama productions. I thoroughly enjoyed the specials with Showaddywaddy, Elky Brookes and Don McLean and have very fond memories of doing Basil Brush shows on Saturdays. Oh, and I nearly forgot Saturday Night at the Mill! In the 80s, drama became a single camera operation, usually on location rather than in the studio. However, the studio seemed to be just as busy doing many other productions like Telly Addicts, The Adventure Game and Young Scientist of the Year. When London decided to kill off Pebble Mill at One, there were many spin off daytime programmes involving D.I.Y., fashion (The Clothes Show), and cooking, mainly done using Gallery C. A house was built in the back quadrangle for some productions! Studio B shouldn’t be remembered as only doing Midlands Today – I worked regularly in there on Farming Today and various programmes for Asian immigrants. There were often innovative ideas for the regional opt-out programmes, some of which went on to be networked – Top Gear being a good example. We even did a rock music show in there, and on one occasion, the sound travelled through the building and was picked up on the microphones in Studio A which was doing a Play For Today at the time.

I worked briefly with CMCR9 during my first ever O.B. stint in 1980, but it was moved to Manchester to become ‘North 3’ during that time, and we had CMCR10 for a few months until our new scanner, CM1 arrived. An O.B. stint then was very varied in programme type. It would include football, rugby, swimming, cycling, snooker, horse racing, cricket, party political conferences, inserts to Pebble Mill at One or to drama productions. After I went freelance, all I seemed to do was football!

I have so many lovely memories of my life at Pebble Mill, and it’s great to see that everyone else remembers it fondly and that we are all keeping in touch. I remember that when I left in 1992 I felt like I had suffered a divorce and a bereavement at the same time and it took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that I no longer worked there. I must say that I don’t feel that way about retiring now as the industry has changed so much and has completely different principles from those with which I’m familiar. I completely agree with the idea that we saw the Golden Age of Television in the 70s and 80s!

John Kimberley

CMCR 9 (CM 1) – Ray Lee

CMCR 9 after restoration, Aug 2012













Photograph by Ray Lee, no reproduction without permission.

CMCR9 was built in 1969 and equipped with Pye PC80 colour cameras. It was originally based in Acton, but I believe moved to Birmingham when Pebble Mill opened. It was already in place and in use when I arrived in 1974. In 1979 it was moved to Manchester to become “North 3” which is the name most of the articles refer to it as. It remained in Manchester until 1982, when it was sold to another company.

At some point the PC80 cameras were replaced by EMI 2001 cameras. I can’t remember if that was done in Birmingham, or in Manchester, but I think it may have been in Birminham, as the studio cameras were all EMI 2001, and it would have made sense to have all the same type. I only went out with the vehicle on two or 3 trips, and one trip was to Jolly’s Club Stoke on Trent for the World Darts Championship, and I thought EMI 2001s were fitted at that time.

It covered O.B.’s all over the country and was heavily used during its time in Birmingham. Gardeners’ World at Clack’s farm was a regular venue. Match of the Day, and racing from Cheltenham, Motor racing at Donnington Park, Songs of Praise, in fact think of an O.B. Venue and it probably went there.

CMCR stands for Colour Mobile Control Room, 9 was obviously the 9th one. While in Birminhham it was known as CM1 (Colour Midland 1) when it got to Manchester it became North 3 (as their 3rd O.B. control room) They were generally referred to as “Scanners” but I don’t know exactly why.

Speaking to Steve Harris and his colleague at the show (Onslow Park Steam Rally, where the scanner was recently exhibited) I was reminded of a “joke” played by Birmingham staff when the scanner went to Manchester. As well as putting all the faulty modules they could find, and keeping the good ones for Birmingham, the interior was covered in fake cobwebs of the sort obtained from joke shops in spray cans. Apparently Manchester were not very amused!! It took them some time to get it all working again, and goes down in the legends of engineers’ tales.

Ray Lee

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Pete Simpkin: ‘SCANNERS. They were called ‘scanners’ for historically the very first OB van was built by Baird to transmit the Derby to London cinemas in the thirties and the vehicle’s entirety consisted of the great scanning disk which whirled round at a frightening rate converting the scene into TV signals, so the vehicle was the ‘camera’ or as such things were called in the ealy days the ‘scanning apparatus’. So for ever afterwards even when staff could get on board with their electronc system the name remained. CMCR was never quite as pioneering or exciting!’