Derek Smith Obituary

Pebble Mill Shoots 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photos from Jim Knights, of the regional Top Gear show, somewhere in Europe, no reproduction without permission)

(The following obituary for director, Derek Smith, has been written by his son, Graham Smith).

Derek Smith joined the BBC in Birmingham 1957, working as an assistant producer on the newly created Farming magazine programme. He worked at Gosta Green studios and Carpenter Road.
In the early 1960s he moved on to general programming, as director and producer. He made a number of films about the armed services, including Soldier In The Sun, a film looking at the Royal Anglian Regiment in Aden and Yemen (1964) (The film can viewed on BBC Four Army Collection and i-Player). Singapore Twilight (1965), The Last Outpost, (1965); Men Of Action, (1966); They Speak The Language Anyway (life at a US Air Force base.) (1967).
From the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, he made a number of single network documentaries. For The Flight Deck Story, the history of the aircraft carrier, he filmed on board both HMS Eagle and on USS Enterprise off the coast of Vietnam. The film was narrated by actor Kenneth More. (BBC1, Tuesday Documentary 1969)
Mission To Hell followed the Bishop of Birmingham, Leonard Wilson, returning to Singapore to tell his story of war time imprisonment by the Japanese. In the film, he met his former torturer. (BBC 2 1969)
Another military history film Derek made at this time was Jump Jet, the history of the Hawker Harrier. (BBC 1 1970).
A film for the series “The World About Us”, The Lost River Of Gaping Gill showed cavers Sid Perou, Mike Wooding and Tom Brown as they sought to discover the route of an underground river in the Yorkshire Dales. (BBC 2 1970)
Journey Through Summer was a series of six films with actor and writer P.J. Kavanagh, as he viewed Britain through long distance walks. (1974)
Four In Hand was a one-off film with HRH Duke of Edinburgh, demonstrating Carriage Driving. (1974)
A studio based programme Derek devised was Major Minor, a piano competition for 10-13 year-olds. A BBC Midlands programme, repeated on the network, it ran for three seasons and was presented by musician Steve Race.
In 1975, Derek returned to military matters with Return To Dunkirk. On the 35th. anniversary of the evacuation, the film told the story of the men who escaped from a massacre at Esquelbecq. (BBC 2 1975)
Just A Year was a film that followed three of the survivors of the Birmingham pub bombs in November 1974, on their long recovery from injury. (BBC 2 1976)
In March 1977, Derek created a new series for BBC Midlands, Top Gear. The programme ran for nine monthly episodes shown only in the Midlands region. It was presented by Angela Rippon with Tom Coyne. The following year, it became a network show, on BBC 2. Derek continued as series producer until 1986.
An original programme devised by Derek was Now Get Out Of That. It was a competition between two teams testing their survival abilities along with problem solving mental tests over two days. It was filmed on location, with documentary film crews on 16mm. The first two seasons used teams from Cambridge and Oxford Universities, while series three and four were a contest between Britain and the USA. The programmes spanned 1981-84.
After leaving the BBC, Derek spent two years in Saudi Arabia working as a programme controller. He then lived in Spain for five years before returning to Sutton Coldfield. Well into his 70s, he continued to work part-time, as historian on tours to the sites of the Normandy Landings.

Derek Smith. April 16, 1927 – March 17, 2015.

Pebble Mill Shoots 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Murray Clarke: ‘A very talented director – never afraid to stick his neck out and make interesting programme that really entertained. Yes, I was there with him at the birth of Top Gear in 1977. Love and condolences to his family.’

Conal O’Donnell: ‘A marvellous tribute to the kind of person who made the BBC & pebble Mill ..’

 

Scouse on Pebble Mill at One

Scouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The photo shows a very young looking cameraman, Keith Brook (Scouse), complete with hair, in rehearsal for Pebble Mill at One. In the background is presenter Tom Coyne.

Thanks to Keith for sharing the photo.

 

 

Pebble Mill at One running order

PM@1 running order Dec 1972

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

This is the running order for the Pebble Mill at One show on the 22nd Dec 1972. It was obviously a Christmassy choral show, with comedy sketches from Don Maclean and Tom Coyne. Bob Langley was the presenter.

Thanks to Keith Brook (Scouse) for keeping this running order safe, and for making it available.

Kay Alexander leaves BBC Birmingham

copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Midlands Today’ presenter, Kay Alexander, retires today from BBC Birmingham after nearly 40 years.  She began working for the BBC in 1974, and yesterday she presented her last bulletin, at lunch time.  Besides from ‘Midlands Today’ she has presented ‘Best in Brass’, ‘Children in Need’ for the Midlands region, ‘Miss Great Britain’, and ‘Life File’.   Although originally from Surrey, she became an adoptive Brummy after studying English at Birmingham University.

The photo dates from 1977, it includes the regional news presenters, left to right:  Guy Thomas, Kay Alexander,Peter Windows, David Stevens, (back row) Michael Hancock,Tom Coyne.  Thanks to Annie Gumbley for making the photo available.

The following comments are just some of those left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Ruth Kiosses: ‘Ahhhhh end of an era! Such a lovely lady with such a beautiful and distinctive voice.’

Julie Mayer: ‘All good things must come to an end, but they are shoes that will be hard to fill. Lovely lady and great friend.’

Pam Relton: ‘I always think Kay must have a portrait in the attic – she looks so lovely. Really is the end of an era. All the best Kay.’

Ros Gower: ‘A true lady and an enormous pleasure to work with. Happy retirement Kay.’

David Crozier: ‘I remember Kay as a warm, intelligent and immensely professional person. Happy days, Kay!’

Fiona Barton: ‘Happy retirement, Kay. Was so lovely to catch up with her and Brian earlier in the year. What a fab couple, so much fun…they didn’t look a day older than when I left Pebble Mill more than 20 years ago!’

Steve Peacock: ‘Fare well Kay and enjoy the next phase’

Dawn Trotman: ‘Always a joy to work with and a consumate professional. Glad to know I am also leaving the BBC in the same week as such a glamourous lady. Enjoy your retirement Kayx’

Telecine – Ray Lee (Part 2)

Telecine, BBC Pebble Mill

Photo by Ivor Williams, no reproduction without permission. Photo from 1971, of the Rank Cintel  16mm Flying Spot Telecine Machine.

The majority of inserts to Midlands Today, and Pebble Mill at One were on film in those days (mid 1970s), as this was before lightweight cameras, and film cameras were at that time the best means to obtain location shots. Studio inserts were often recorded on VT then played in live quite often without editing. Film was much easier to edit then.

The process of getting a news story involved a film camera crew going out, shooting on film with sound onto tape. The tape also recorded a pilot tone from the camera to allow re-syncing of the sound after editing. The film (usually reversal film) then went into Film processing while the tape was transferred to Sepmag using the pilot signal to lock to the sepmag bay, thereby giving the sound track frame for frame correspondence with the film. The two parts then came back together in the film cutting room, where the film editor selected the parts he wanted using a Pic Sync ( basically a set of about 4 sprocket wheels on a shaft, with an illuminated mini projector on the far end to see the film images. The sepmag track (or tracks) would be on the nearer sprockets. On either side was a film bin. Often a “wild” track sound was recorded (not sync to pictures) in order to add additional effects and bridge edit points. The Clapper board was used to sync the sound and picture together with giving details of what item this was. The film editor would look for the first frame on which the clapper was completely closed, and align that with the clap on the soundtrack, thereafter the sprockets would ensure that the sound and picture remained in sync.

With news stories there was not usually time to go into dubbing, so the edited film and sound track then came straight to TK and one hoped that the edits on the sepmag would hold together.

Where time permitted a dub the sound was often tracklaid. This allowed sound to be carried over an edit to smooth the effect. In this case the sound was edited into 2 or more rolls with film spacer being used to make all the rolls the same length. Each roll would have a leader spliced onto it with the familiar sync cross and then a 12 second count down.

At the dub, the film projector and the sound rolls on the sepmag bays would all be locked together electrically so the they ran synchronously. The machines would be laced and set with the cross in the projector gate and on the sepmag sound head, and then the lock button pressed which linked everything together. Due to the nature of the electrical locking, very occasionally the sepmag bay would go into runaway, and one needed to hit the stop button fast, otherwise there was a danger that the film sprockets would be damaged, and a lot of film could end up very quickly on the floor!

Dubbing involved balancing and mixing the soundtracks together, adding any voice overs, commentary, and spot effects, and recording the whole sequence onto a new continuous sepmag track. At the end of the process there would be a single continuous sepmag track and a single edited picture track, which could then be played by TK into the studio.

The process was the same for network programmes on film, although in this case the film was usually shot on negative film, and a rushes print made. This is what the editor used to compile the required shots and soundtracks. The edited rushes were then returned to the lab for a print to be made from the original negative, using the rushes edit to align the required shots. The lab also graded the pictures at this stage to match the exposure and colour balance to some extent. This print was termed the “answer print”. This was usually the one used be dubbing, and sometimes also for transmission, although some programmes had a Transmission print made as well. The answer print basically gave an opportunity to the producer to change his mind, and for the lab to further trim the grading of pictures, although as it entailed quite a lot of expensive processes, in later years the answer print was quite often the transmission print as well.

By the time it got to TK there was usually a picture roll, and a sepmag sound roll. In a few cases (usually prints of commercial films) the sound was an optical track on the picture roll, in which case there was no separate sound. However this gave rise to problems if ever the film needed to be cut and spliced as the sound head was separated by 16 frames from the film gate so the picture would change, and the sound continue, only to change about half a second later.

In the case of news it was not uncommon for the editor to rush in with the film and sepmag rolls with very little time to get it on the machine before transmission. The one occasion I particularly remember involved me, and I think Jim Gregory, lacing the sepmag and picture rolls simultaneously, hitting the lock button and running the machine without even pausing on the “10” while Tom Coyne padded until the film hit the screen. Usually there was a little more time, and quite often we had a quick rehearsal, prior to the programme going out.

R. G. Lee