VTB Channel Record 1988

VTB ‘Channel Record’ 1988 from pebblemill on Vimeo.

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

The video is a bit of moving history, although it was shot mute for a music sequence. It shows VTB in 1988 doing a drama “channel record” from Studio A on a pair of 1” VPR2 machines. The programme is “Final Run” VTB1 is on the left, manned by series editor Steve Neilson, VTB2 is on the right manned by yours truly. Video drama on location was very much pioneered by Pebble Mill (“Blackstuff”) and it was practice that the recording engineer or editor would record both the studio and the location. The bottle of Bush Mills Whiskey suggests the studio was after our location shoot in Northern Ireland . The “main” recording would be on VTB1 and the “backing” on VTB2. This was a throw back to the days when VT recording was not that reliable and all studio recordings had a back-up in case of problems. The blank tapes were assemble edited from the studio allowing time code to be “time of tape” rather than “time of day “as was used in London. In the case of a drama series we used “multi-episodic” tapes which meant that we would change tapes to that of whichever episode was being recorded. So for a four episode series we would have four master and backing tapes being used at any one time. This saved a lot of time at the edit not having to change tapes, and relieved some of the inevitable boredom of awaiting rehearsals to turn into “takes”. The tape trolley had a four channel audio mixer in it for editing purposes, and if you wanted to add music at all during the edit, you had to order you vinyl disc from the library and have it transferred to ¼” tape in the transfer suite.

Colin Fearnley

CM2 and CMCR40 at Chester Races

CMCR40 Chester Races 1985












Photos by Robin Stonestreet, no reproduction without permission.

The photo shows Pebble Mill’s small-ish outside broadcast truck, CM2, with the larger CMCR40 truck at Chester Races in 1985.

The OB trucks were scheduled all over the country, depending on where they were needed, they covered football matches, cricket, as well as working on factual shows like Gardeners’ World.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Dave Bushell: ‘Pretty sure we had CM2 out on Vanity Fair in 1987 and other dramas.’

Ray Lee: ‘The cameras were Philips LDK14’s with the Triax adaptor LDK514. From memory there were 3 cameras, but whether there was a spare as well I can’t now remember. The cameras had a short multicore cable (10metres or so) between the triax adaptor box and the camera, then the base station in the vehicle was a modified LDK5 base station which powered the camera and adaptor box down standard triax. (at that time CM1 was a type 5 with Philips LDK5 cameras which also used triax but all the way to the camera) The front area had 2 VPR2 1″ videotape machines. CM2 was thus a complete production and recording vehicle, which meant for programmes like Gardeners World, the could leave site with a complete edited programme, apart perhaps from some captions.’

Bryan Comley: ‘Gardeners World has a very simply caption generator, so we did leave site with a TX tape, and this was 30+ years ago!’

IVC9000 slant track 2″ VT machine

JCB 30 37 10 76

Photo by John Burkill no reproduction without permission.

This photo from 1976 is of a 2″ videotape machine, a IVC9000 machine.

Ray Lee added the following information: ‘I believe this was the IVC9000 slant track which was used extensively on Pebble Mill at One. Unfortunately as we only ever had the one machine, much time was spent transferring clips to the Ampex VR2000 format and back again, as although both used 2″ tapes, the formats were completely incompatible.
None of the early VT’s had pictures in shuttle. It was not until the 1″ C format VPR2′s came into use around 1976-77 that it was possible to see pictures while cueing.’

Videotape in the 70s (part 7) – Ray Lee











Photo by Paul Scholes. Included are Brian Watkiss (blue T-shirt), Leigh Sinclair (shirt and tie), and Mike Bloore (far right)

VT Staff Changes

As I recollect, Tony Rayner was the first to leave becoming a director, and Mike Bloore to join VT as a junior. Steve Critchlow then became a VT editor alongside John Lannin. There was a period of stability until John Lannin became Operations organiser, and Steve Critchlow went I think to Planning. John Burkill, and Mike Bloore then became VT editors, and subsequently with VTC expansion Ian Collins became a VT editor. With the expansion  and promotions VT was quite short staffed, which is when I had a longer spell working in VT, and training others in the operation of Quad Machines. I don’t remember details but Tim Savage, Brian Watkiss and Ivor Williams all arrived around that time. Peter Wood-Fisher was in VT later but not at any time I was working in VT. I think Steve May and Martin Dowell came later, possibly when the VPR2’s first arrived. After that I lost touch with staff movements in VT, as I spent more time in the Studio end of operations, and from 1984 in Engineering Services.

Ray Lee

Videotape in the 70s (part 3) – Ray Lee

Photo by Tim Savage, no reproduction without permission

VT Expansion

Around 1975/6 VTC was created. A pair of AmpexVR1200 were installed into the new area, but because there were only sufficient lines on the Comms router at that time for one more VT they shared a single source and destination route, and one control line. When working with a studio or outside destination, they only saw whichever machine was switched to line, which meant that for programmes like Midlands Today, one machine could be cuing the next item, while one was playing, but normally it would need a brief return to another source so that the machine to line could be switched prior to playing the next item. I had a fairly extended period working in VT after VTC was created, and even did some training of others including Tim Savage. At that time Angela Ripon was the main presenter on “Top Gear” which was frequently edited in VTC.

Soon after that the IVC 9000 Slant track machine was installed in the former Telecine viewing room. More and more programmes were using VT and so any viewing of film material took place either in the viewing theatre run by Stan Treasurer, or in the Telecine cubicles themselves. The IVC 9000 used 2inch wide tape like the Quad machines, but recorded the tracks diagonally across the tape. The tape also ran at half the speed that the Quad machines used, so could accommodate longer continuous recordings.

It was slightly less noisy than the Quad machines and had a much quicker start up mode. (I believe it could be synchronous in 3 seconds instead of 10). This machine was used extensively by Pebble Mill at One, but because there was only ever one machine, it still required a Quad machine to do edits, and also any material that was on slant track format tapes, could only be played on that machine, which rather limited its usefulness. The idea of obtaining a second machine for an edit pair never materialised, as by this stage the Ampex VPR2 machines were starting to be installed in London, and subsequently at Pebble Mill, and these had the advantage of seeing pictures in still frame and shuttle mode, which enormously improved the location of edit points.

Ray Lee

Ray added this additional information on the Pebble Mill Facebook page: ‘VTC was equiped with VR1200s which Paul (Vanezis) is quite correct were older machines (than the VR2000s). Pebble Mill had them 2nd Hand I think ex London when they were just starting to install VPR2’s at TVC as far as I recall.’

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