Phillips 1/4″ machine












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

The photo is of a Phillips 1/4″ audio editing machine, apparently from Radio Stoke.

The following exchange took place on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Keith Brook: ‘Ah, the Phillips ¼” machine. Absolutely the best editing machine ever!! Most came with a dark green BBC waste basket on the right!!’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Keith are we speaking of the same machine..the Phillips I know and hate was in a grey box and was very good at stretching and spilling tape whilst editing. The official green BBC waste box I am sure was on the trolley mounted TR90 which really WAS the best editing machine!…or am we both suffering from Tempus Fugit.’

Keith Brook: ‘Pete, I’ve been searching for a picture of the Phillips beast but TR90 does ring a bell. I first used them in local radio in the late 60s and then when I arrived at Pebble Mill as a cameraman, they were at the back of Studio B gallery. They had a slanted shelf on top for scripts. The best part was that you marked the tape on a pillar and then just dragged the tape to the block. The brakes came off as you pulled the tape making editing very quick. Some of us just used our fingernail to push into the pillar, thus saving valuable seconds. Is that the one?’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Yes that’s the Phillips!’

Keith Brook: ‘The reference to the waste bin on the right hand side was that journos, in typical last minute haste to make the story appear important, would throw me a 5″ spool with their piece and a bad carbon copy of the link before rushing into the studio.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘One of my dislikes of the Philips was that one election evening I was intake tape operator and had just recorded a declaration and was splicing a leader on to it when the producer called for the replay immediately, because of the floppy take up on the machine as I attempted to line up the start again, I nicked my finger with the razor blade which I was still holding and as the declaration was replayed there was blood pouring out of the head box!!’

Keith Brook:  ‘Just to the right of the pinch roller is the marking post, with a line in it, that you refer to when you’ve waggled the sound about to find the edit point. You make a china-graph mark on the tape and, thanks to the lovely braking system on the Philips, you can easily drag that mark to the edit block which is just under that guy’s hand. You cut it at 45deg on the block and leave the right hand part there. Now, you can easily pull the left hand, incoming tape with your hands and listen until you’ve reached the next edit point. Mark it, pull it to the block, stick some editing tape over the join and you’re done!! Some of us pre-loaded 1″ strips of editing tape onto the backs of our hands for speed. Journos weren’t very good at this, or anything else for that matter, and cut on the end of the outgoing sentence and the beginning of the incoming sentence. Leaving the breath in before or after the edit made it sound much more natural and didn’t take up any extra time.’

Paul Freeman: ‘That is STILL my favourite reel-to-reel machine: I bought one on Ebay a while back but, not being an ex-BBC m/c it lacks the framing and top shelf for keeping your script on, and the pegs to hold the leader and sticky. If you didn’t bite your nails it was easy to edit on this without a chinagraph, you picked up the tape in both hands, lining your rt thumb-nail with the pillar mark, and transferred it to the edit block lining your thumb-nail with the line on the block – Simples! Wish I had one of these machines I also need the Philips pre-amp set for it if anyone ever comes across one. Curiously, it seems the neon record light, and the sleeve around the red button are BBC mods too.’

Keith Brook: ‘Yes, the thumbnail trick was a good one, but I just kept the tape running after I’d stuck my nail in and that gave me enough tape to pull over to the block.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Any sweat…sorry perspiration…. on your fingers would have covered the coated side and made the joins audible because of the loss in top frequencies as the tape passed over the repro head!’

Keith Brook: ‘Pete, we used white gloves at Radio Merseyside. Didn’t everybody?’

Paul Freeman: ‘Pete, either we had tape stock which wasn’t susceptible to sweat, or we had preternaturally dry hands! Besides, who’s touching the edit? I’m handling it 8 inches either side ! The only person I ever saw wearing white gloves was Milton Hainsworth, and that was to grip the film to remove the chinagraph marks as he rewound the make-up, usually at far too few minutes before TX!’

Keith Brook: ‘Most of this discussion is about editing on the Philips. Here’s a close up of the marker post we keep talking about. See? It even has a groove for Paul Freeman’s finger nail!!

Phillips 1:4inch KB

Delia Derbyshire editing on the Phillips 1/4". Photo from Keith Brook

Delia Derbyshire editing on the Phillips 1/4″. Photo from Keith Brook
























Keith Brook: ‘Here’s a picture of Delia Derbyshire, the wonderfully talented lady who created the Dr Who theme from Ron Granger’s original notes.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘OK Keith if the Philips tape M/C gave us Dr Who’s theme what can I say! Great discussion though!’

Paul Freeman: ‘One of the great things about these machines was their simplicity: both in loading and function, important factors in news operation. They laced up so fast it was quite possible to go from a tape in a box (or more likely with a page of cue jammed in it) to pressing the play button in under 2 seconds. In a REAL emergency, you didn’t even need to spin it onto the take-up spool, you could spool it unto the floor – something you couldn’t do with those wretched Studers, and you certainly couldn’t lace a tape onto a Leever-Rich in under about 5 seconds. They were tolerant of small inserts (like a 30″ sound bite, for instance) on standard 5″ spools whereas many of the other machines would snatch if it wasn’t on a ‘W’. All in all, a shining example of something fit-for-purpose.’

Studio Operations (Part 8) – Ray Lee

Studio Lighting Studio B

Studio B lighting was a much simpler setup.  All the lights were on sliding pantographs, which had tracks running from one end of the studio to the other. The luminaires were mainly dual source again, but from what I remember the lighting circuits had switches on a panel in the studio, to allocate them to faders on the desk in the gallery. There was no memory system, and all changes had to be done manually. Considering the complexity of some of the programmes to be made in Studio B it was a testament to the ingenuity of the TM’s in arranging the lighting. One of the problems was that the height of the studio was insufficient in many cases to get the lights as high as would have been liked, and there was a real danger in some cases of tall people walking into lights where they needed to be fairly low to obtain the desired lighting effect.

Studio Lighting the Foyer

Photo by Robin Sunderland, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Robin Sunderland, no reproduction without permission












Pebble Mill at One Lighting, was all fixed, and before Gallery C was built there were no dimmers or lighting control. A series of scaffold bars were suspended from the foyer ceiling, and all the lights rigged on those or on floor stands. The “soft lights” were basically a set of 6 car headlight type lamps, and the key lights a variety of spotlights including some CSI discharge lamps. The latter had the problem that if you turned them off e.g. to reposition them, you had to wait 20 minutes before they could be turned on again.! The TM had to guess on how bright to light the area based on what he expected to weather to be like at transmission time. Too bright on a dull day would make outside look like night, too dark on a bright day would make the outside burn out on the cameras. The one time the TM could never win was when the weather was variable, with sun and clouds.

I happened to be on the racks on one such particular day. The programme started well enough with bright fairly sunny conditions, and lighting to match. About 5 minutes into the programme dark clouds came across and it started snowing, It became so dark outside that the cameras outside were wide open with master gain added in order to get a bright enough picture. The shots on the inside cameras looked as if it was night time outside. After half an hour, the snow stopped, (now about 4inches deep!) and the sun came out again. The inside cameras now looked as if there were no lights on, as the sun reflecting on the snow provided a backlight many times brighter. The outside cameras were now well stopped down, with no master gain. This was the day that there was a parade of Easter bonnets! A group of lightly dressed girls in Easter bonnets were now parading in the snow trying not to look cold, as the programme came to a close. At the end the director said to the TM, “That’s just one of those days where you can never win!”

Ray Lee

Farming sig tune & Radio Birmingham jingles

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

Here is the BBC Farming signature tune, from the early 1980s. Farming was the predecessor of the current Countryfile series.

Also included here are some Radio Birmingham jingles, which probably date from the 1970s.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing these.

BBC Radio Birmingham













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

Stuart Gandy: ‘Flippin, ek! that recalls memories from a long time ago, from 1980 when I was doing racks in Studio B. The racks job for Farming was usually very simple. Apart from the opening introduction to camera and the goodbyes, almost all of the rest of the programme was on film. It was the telecine operator who had the much more to do, from the ops perspective.’

Lynn Cullimore: ‘Music always evokes memories…the Top Gear sig tune does it for me having worked there…it gives me goose bumps.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘Actually Lynn the Radio sig. tune version of the Farming programme always does that for me, I can still hear David Stevens announcing and then the strains of ‘I wish I were plough-boy’ took us into Tony Parkin’s introduction.’

Peter Poole: ‘I used to work on Farming with Peter Mellors. After a few weeks he asked if I would like to mix the programme . In my excitement I almost forgot to mic up the presenter. This was probably my first live TV programme. Great days.’

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


Studio Operations (part 4) – Ray Lee


Studio A EMI 2001 line up. Photo by John Kimberley, no reproduction without permission.

Studio A EMI 2001 line up. Photo by John Kimberley, no reproduction without permission.












The Cameras

Both Studio A and B were equipped with EMI 2001 cameras, which were unique in using four 1.25 inch camera tubes. Unlike most of the other colour cameras which used just 3 tubes, the EMI’s had a 4 way light splitter block (the ice block) which allowed a full spectrum image to the Luminance tube, and then split to red, green and blue for the colour images. The reason for this was that it meant only the luminance channel needed to be a full bandwidth channel, as this was the one channel to define the image sharpness and detail. The colour channels could get away with a lower bandwidth, and thereby were less critical. The downside was lack of sensitivity, as the luminance split effectively halved the sensitivity for the same amount of light. This meant Studios had to be lit very brightly, with a lot of lighting power.

Other manufacturers used only a 3 way colour split and had the green channel as the full bandwidth channel, to provide the detail information. This maintained sensitivity, but because the image was the filtered green image, this did not always work as well as a full spectrum image.

One of the problems of the early colour cameras was the lack of sensitivity to the red end of the spectrum, and this was particularly so with the EMI’s. It most noticeably showed up with purples and magentas which were invariably seen as blue by the cameras. Later cameras used extended red response tubes, and generally seemed to produce rather more saturated colours than the EMI’s could, but few seemed able to match the image sharpness and crispness which seemed so characteristic of the EMI’s

Prior to every studio booking the cameras needed alignment. This was because the electronics of that era tended to drift with temperature, and the camera tubes themselves drifted being thermionic devices. Also the length of cable between the camera and CCU had a big effect on the  camera signal, and had to be compensated for by the electronics. The cameras were all set up looking at a grey scale chart, and adjustments were made on the CCU to ensure that all the colour channels were giving the same signal level, in order that the combined output was neutral grey, at the different brightness levels of the chart. The light on the chart was adjusted to give a colour temperature of 2950 and a light level of 1600lux using a special light meter called a Collux.

The cameras were also aligned on a registration chart. This was a grid of lines which enabled adjustments to be made so that the images from each tube exactly over-laid each other. If these adjustments were wrong coloured fringes would appear at the edges of objects.

One of the first jobs I did after starting to work in studio ops. was to write up a set of alignment instructions for the cameras. It helped me to effectively learn more about the cameras and how they worked, and also gave a set of standardised methodical adjustments to aim to get the best out of the cameras, that all the engineers could use. I am grateful to Peter Hodges for pushing me to do this in the early days, as it really helped ground me in the basics. Whether other engineers actually found it helpful I don’t know, or whether they even referred to them, but at least they were available where before there was nothing written down.

Ray Lee