John Jeavons lighting the Foyer or Studio B

John Jeavons photo from KB

Photo from Keith Brook, no reproduction without permission

Photo from Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission

Photo from Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission













The photo is of John Jeavons lighting either Studio B or the foyer.

Jeavons was relegated to working those two places because of an incident at a meeting Sidey had called.

Every department was there to discuss the viability of a simple little TV programme to be made in the foyer. As Sidey went through each section he was greeted with ‘Crazy, but we’ll give it a go’. Finally it got to Tech Ops, who said it was impossible to light, ceiling too low, not enough manpower, far too difficult, yada, yada, yada.

Good old Jeavons stood up and said if we remove the ceiling tiles we’ll have enough room and he’ll only need two sparks who can also do Midlands Today and stay within hours.

That slightly upset Head of Tech Ops, and not being the vindictive type at all, made sure that Jeavons only did those two shows.

Incidentally, he’s using a Weston Master V, the best exposure meter ever made. Which makes him a great lighter!! There’s a load of complicated stuff for still photography but in the TV world, these meters were used to maintain a consistency of light level. To that end, we only used the top window with the needle and tried to keep everything the same.

Keith Brook (Aka Scouse)

Studio Operations (part 3) – Ray Lee

'All Creatures Great and Small' set in Studio A. Photo by Tim Savage

‘All Creatures Great and Small’ set in Studio A. Photo by Tim Savage













Studio and camera usage

Studio A was the main drama studio, and at least initially had network drama bookings most of the time. The main drama booking days were Sun/Mon and Wed/Thurs  for usually Rehearse day 1 and Record day 2, allowing for set and light on Tuesday and Saturday and sometimes a quick booking on a Friday. Studio B was used every weekday evening for Midlands Today, and briefly on a Saturday for the sport report, and on a Sunday for either Farming (the forerunner of Countryfile) and/or the Asian network programme “New Life”. Farming went out at lunchtime on a Sunday, and “New Life” was recorded on a Sunday afternoon/early evening.

Pebble Mill at One used the cameras from Studio B on  Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as normally Studio A was in use for Drama. Studio A cameras were used on Tuesdays and Fridays when there were not normally drama bookings. If there were gaps in the bookings Studio A cameras were used in preference, as there was then an extra camera available. At that time Studio A had a complement of 4 cameras and a hot spare, whereas Studio B had just 3 cameras. In the earliest days the camera control unit (CCU) for one of the cameras was shared between Studio B and Studio A, which involved major re-cabling after Pebble Mill at One. By the time I moved to Studio ops, an additional CCU had been acquired, so this chore was no longer necessary. There was one additional camera and CCU in the back room of TAR, this was the “maintenance channel” and was used to repair faulty modules, and circuit boards. It was rare for it to be fully functional, and occasionally it was a case of checking whether the module or circuit board that had gone faulty in one of the studio cameras was better or worse than the one in the maintenance channel, or which might be quicker to repair! The cameras needed constant cosseting to get the best out of them, but when working well produced pictures that even against today’s cameras were very good.

Later on a further camera was obtained for Studio B which was permanently rigged in the presentation annex, meaning that there were always 3 cameras available in the studio area, and the practise of wheeling one into presentation for the end of Midlands Today was no longer needed.

Ray Lee


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.’

Studio Operations (Part 1) – Ray Lee


Studio A lighting gantry 1975, by Jim Gregory

Studio A lighting gantry 1975, by Jim Gregory


Studio A production gallery 1971, by Ivor Williams

Studio A production gallery 1971, by Ivor Williams

























I joined studio operations (as part of the operations engineers “merry go round”) around July 1974. For some historical reason by that stage Studio A was entirely staffed by operations engineers 3 in the gallery and 3 in TAR, whereas Studio B only the gallery was (1 or 2 engineers), the TAR staffing being done by Comms & Engineering services staff. I suspect it was largely due to power struggles / empire building by managers on the 3rd floor trying to justify their existence. At that time Bill Berry was in charge of operations engineers as Ops Organiser, a position which a little later (1976?) John Lannin took on. The Manager Comms. & engineering services at that time was Tony Pilgrim, who in later years was replaced by Doug Taylor, and later still Frank Stevens in the early 1980’s.

Studio operations staff also rotated onto CMCR9 to staff the O.B.s although it was only a sub group who for reasons explained later were often referred to as the Mafia. The staff who at that time crewed both studio’s an O.B.’s were John Bradley, John Moore, Ron Pickering, Steve Searley, Ray Sperry, Jim Cleland, John Abbot, Elson Godbolt. John Allison was the VCMS for the scanner, and Peter Hodges and Mike Lee the VCMS (Vision Control  and Maintenance Supervisor) for Studio A. In theory all 3 VCMS’s could work on the scanner, or in the studio, but in practice Peter and Mike, apart from a brief stint, stayed largely in the studio. Peter had only been appointed VCMS in early 1974, so was quite new in the job when I started working with the Studio A crew.  The other  Studio A engineers included myself, Dave White (who later moved to Norwich), Dennis Kiddy, John Kimberly, Peter Wood-Fisher, Ian Dewar,  and Brian Jones (who did go out on O.B.s’ later- I think he was the first to break in to the select group). There may have been others, and the staff movements were fairly fluid at that time around the studios, VT and TK, although there was no real movement with regard to scanner crewing until around 1977. Jim Howarth was basically the engineer for Studio B gallery, (I don’t recall Jim ever working anywhere other than Studio B) aided by one of the other ops engineers on his days off, and Pebble Mill at One Days. Jim Howarth could very often be found in the club bar, sometimes with only minutes to go to transmission, but always seemed to manage to turn up just in time!

Ray Lee

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