The day the Pebble Mill studio opened

This link is to a clip from Nationwide on 15th June 1971. Midlands Today presenter, Tom Coyne gives a guided tour of the brand new Pebble Mill studios. Included in the tour are Studio B, the home of Midlands Today; Studio A, where many dramas were produced; and the Radio studios, home to The Archers, we also see Radio WM in action. There is no mention of Pebble Mill at One, because the programme had not yet been planned.

Thanks to Malcolm Hickman for sharing the link.

Still from Tom Coyne’s piece on Nationwide. Copyright BBC.











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

Keith Warrender:’The EMI cameras were still going in 1983 when they were replaced with Link 125s. Link are long gone but the old factory is still standing unused in Andover.’

Sue Astle: ‘Such an amazing exciting time for us then, we were privileged to have worked there. Susie Bancroft. Ex make up’

Sarah Tongue: ‘My mom ran the Library!’

Helen Smith: ‘Loved watching that, my Dad was the cameraman at the beginning of the clip.’

Michael Fisher: ‘Radio Birmingham as it was at the start!’

Andy Marriott: ‘What was the little mini cart system they were using for spot effects, called?’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘It was a device called a P.E.G. Programme effects generator. They used a spool of tape in a case with a metal loop fitted at one end. When you inserted the cartridge, the machine grabbed the tab and cued the effect. It had loads of slots so a sequence of effects could be built up. A BBC designs department product, IIRC.’

Sue Welch: ‘Actually remember Tom Coyne from Tyne Tees Television. A very long time ago.’

Malcolm Adcock: ‘Happy memories, joined Top Gear in 1988 and our production office was later in the old Pebble Mill at One studio area.’




Link 125 cameras

Link 125 camera on Pebble Mill at One

Link 125 camera on Pebble Mill at One













Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission. Thanks to floor manager, Eurwyn Jones, foreground in this photo, for sharing it.

The photo shows the Link 125 cameras during a rehearsal with cook Michael Smith, on Pebble Mill at One, circa 1981.

The Link 125 cameras replaced the EMI 2001 cameras, which were extremely popular with cameramen. The Links did not enjoy the same popularity.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group about the camera:

Keith Brook: ‘Luckily for me I left before the Links came in. My ex-colleagues told me how bad they were and how difficult it was to focus. If you wound up the peaking, the camera noise became a white fog over the whole viewfinder. If you turned it down, the focus was likely to be soft, but you couldn’t tell. Engineers chose cameras and cameramen had to make do with what they were given. Despite far, far better cameras being available from Japanese manufacturers, the BBC had decided to ‘do the patriotic thing’ and use a British company. Fortunately, the Links didn’t last long.’

Matthew Skill: ‘The patriotic thing being to use a camera company that hadn’t been around that long compared to the real camera-makers…? And then to eventually indirectly/inadvertently drive same late-comer company to the wall as it tried to satisfy BBC requirements for a ‘modern’ studio camera (130) to replace the 110s and 125s. A curious tale all round….’

Stuart Gandy: ‘That’s certainly true what Keith says about the Links. After the crispness of the 2001’s, they never seemed sharp. There was also an odd condition that could happen that resulted in a strange slight loss of focus in the middle of the screen, which became known as the ‘teardrop’, because of its shape. The cause was never fully explained, but I think adjusting the registration controls fixed it – for a while. Even now, I remember the words of the late Mike Lee, when he would come across the line up area and say quietly, ‘we’ve got a teardrop’.’

Developments at Pebble Mill 1984


Eng inf 1984:5 PP Studio B PP








































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

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing these pages about technical developments, including a new dubbing and sypher suite, and Studio B control room refurbishment, at Pebble Mill in the internal BBC Engineering Newsletter from 1984/5.

The following information was added on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Keith Brook: ‘The original 1/4″ location sound was transferred onto special 16mm separate magnetic, sep-mag, film. Now, the film and the sound were the same ‘size’ and could be edited together by the film editor. If it was drama, for example, you’d end up with a complete film and dialogue track but minus the music, sound effects, wild-track and so on. You would them make a second, or third, sep-mag track that had the music, effects and so on, all in the right places but with extra lead-in and lead-out.

Dubbing was where you took that 16mm film, its matching 16mm dialogue track, the other tracks and put them on a huge machine that kept everything in sync. You would then run the whole lot through a sound mixer onto a final track, fading the effects in and out according to a dubbing script that matched the frame counter.

SYPHER was a video system and is a BBC acronym for ‘SYnchronous Post-production using Helical-scan video and Eight-track Recorder’. Essentially, it worked like film-dubbing, but the 8-track sound machine was kept in sync with the video player by time code rather than mechanically as in film. Again, once you had the dialogue track and all the other bits in the right places, you would have a final ‘dub’ where you put it all together onto the audio track of the video recorder. The clever bit with SYPHER was the motorised faders on the sound desk which, again using timecode, would remember their settings at each moment during the final dub.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘Good memories of those times. This was during a period of 3 – 4 years of major refurbishment of the studio and VT areas. From the vision viewpoint in the studios , it was the change from the stalwart EMI 2001 cameras to the Link 125.’