Studio B Gallery












Photo by John Doidge, no reproduction without permission.

I think that this photo is of the production gallery of Studio B circa late 1980s.

Studio B was the where Midlands Today was produced, but it was also used by many other programmes, e.g. Network East. The gallery was set up to take up to four studio cameras, and up to six outside sources.

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

Jane Green: ‘I vision mixed that desk, did some ‘sound duties’ too, and directed Midlands Today from there. OMG – it looks ancient now. I do remember though – the Technical Manager who sat to the left of the picture, who always had the last say on whether an item could be broadcast or not due to its technical quality – and I had stories dropped because the pictures were not 100% ok. How times have changed!’

Richard Murrell: ‘Yes Jane, I have been imagining how some of the old TM’s would have reacted to Skype video or mobile telephone interviews!’

Peter Poole, added the following photo of Studio B in the 1990s – notice the advent of computers, and updated phones!

Photo by Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission














Rosalind Gower: ‘I remember this gallery pre computers. Directing Midlands Today was a but of a hairy experience as we had to do our own vision mixing as well!’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘I remember being in there , especially doing Midlands Today and lots of regional TV as the production assistant. Memories.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘This is after the 1985 major refurb, but before Basis arrived, I think around 1990. This was also before the era of computer control. The control panels above the vision mixer controlled the sources on the Probel Matrix which fed the monitors, viewfinders etc, Later on in the early 90s computers took over this function, and one of the first instances of this was the control system built by John Macavoy, for the graphics sources, using Windows 3.11. What a shame we can’t quite read the screen of the presfax monitor bottom left, this would show the exact date.’

News Gathering Technology

Technology at PM












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

Thanks to Pete Simpkin for making this cutting from the BBC in-house newspaper, Ariel, available.

The article from 1985 is about how the BBC Micro computer has been helping the editing and transmission of News stories shot on portable single camera, instead of on other formats, like reversal film.

The following information was added by the members of the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Stuart Gandy: ‘I remember it well. The BBC Micro was put to good use here and was a software control system that was in use at Pebble Mill well before many of the later systems that have become the norm over the years. The system was designed and built mostly by John Macavoy and Ian Sykes and the other engineers who were based in G41, who at that time mostly concentrated on the Post Prod systems. (I’m not sure if we even called it post prod then?)’

Keith Brook: ‘John Macavoy told me that when the ‘boffins’ at SP&ID talked to him about interfacing his system with the 1″ machines, all they could come up with was a system controlled by relays!! They were decades behind John. Brilliant man!!’ SP&ID stood for ‘Special Projects and something Department. It was a bunch of technicians who designed equipment in-house for the BBC. They made vision mixers, edit suites and stuff like that before the era of buying gear off the shelf. Eventually, I suppose the regime of the awful John Birt closed them down because they couldn’t afford to pay an accountant. They designed the original vision mixing desks in both studios. They also designed the successor to the ‘Studio A’ type desk that was installed at TC and Oxford Road. It was a disaster and kept cutting to black. Not good for live ‘Brass Tacks’.’

Ray Lee: ‘I think a confusion of 2 names for the department have been made. Originally when colour started there were insufficient engineers to equip all the studios. A specialist department was set up called P&ID which was for Planning and Installation Department (known by some as Panic and Indecision Department) . All the first generation colour equipment was made in house by the BBC’s own manufacturing unit, which was part of the Research and Development unit. Later I think after the Phillips report in the late 70’s some re-organisation was done and the P&ID was renamed SCPD. (Studio Capital Projects Department). By this time the BBC was buying in some commercially produced equipment, and quite a lot of BBC designs were licenced out to third party companies.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘As well as SCPD, which was mostly concerned with TV there was also a section called RCPD, which was Radio Capitol Projects. At Pebble Mill, a projects department was set up in the mid 80s and run by John Macavoy and Ian Sykes, together with other engineers who rotated through. They were responsible for many of the bigger home done projects as well as becoming very adept at making the scoring systems for most of the game and quiz shows we did. I can remember working on a few of these quiz systems which usually consisted of a computer, often the BBC micro connected to big buttons for the contestants to press and lamps to show the scores.’

Pebble Mill Club – final days

Photos by Tim Savage, no reproduction without permission.

Tim took these photos on 23 Nov, 2004, one of the final days at Pebble Mill.

The photos include post production staff including: John Burkill, Jim Gregory, Amrik Manku, Brian Watkiss, Ivor Williams, John Duckmanton, Tony Rayner, Martin Dowell, Mike Bloore, Pete Shannon, John Macavoy, Dave Pick, Frank Stevens.

Please add a comment if you can identify others.

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

Stuart Gandy: ‘In image 1016 the guy in the blue shirt holding a pint is John Macavoy, Engineer, and in image 1017 I see Dave Pick in the check shirt and next to him is Frank Stevens, former engineering services manager.’

Keith Brook: ‘If I may take friendly issue with Stuart Gandy about John Macavoy. He wasn’t just an engineer, he was a god. He was able to invent magical cures for any crazy idea that production could conjure up. Even worse, he would undertand their mumblings and give them more than they ever dreamed of. I hate him. The best days were, of course, when the bar was on the second floor. Very few managers realised all the post recording toxic, adrenaline, hyper-excitement that could corrode a great day’s work was diffused with a few beers upstairs. Incidentally, a truly ‘involving’, ‘participating’ and ‘egalitarian’ system, as we had at The Mill, works in any organisation. British industry, banking and the NHS would be major successes if they applied the same rules.’