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by Arthur Dungate

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Television News

In 1957 I found myself back at AP, but this time in the Dubbing Theatre, where I was to remain until I finally left the BBC. By 1957 however, Television News, which had replaced TNR in 1954, was now fully established as a proper professional news programme using both Studio A and a similarly re-equipped Studio B.

Preview Theatre B (4K)

There were Preview Theatres, cutting rooms and a Black & White film processing laboratory handling both 35mm and 16mm. We referred to this as the "Soup Kitchen".

the 'Soup Kitchen' (4K)
the 'Soup Kitchen' (7K)

Some of the processing machines weren't all that reliable, and would occasionally mangle the film.

One of the operators often got fed up when something went wrong and would repeatedly kick the machine in desperation, saying "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you".

the 'Soup Kitchen' (4K)
water tap kicked (6K)

On one occasion while kicking it, he accidentally hit the water pipe and it came off, and there was a flood all over the floor.....

The "Soup Kitchen" was situated on the ground floor, and right next to it was the Gents toilet. Quite frequently a film editor in a hurry would inadvertently use the wrong door and enter the "soup" with his flies already open.....

 

One of the cleaners was an elderly portly man named Percy Gunn, and talking to him one day I discovered he had been a cornet player in his younger days. He described a recording session when the band he was with had combined with other bands under the name of "Grand Massed Bands". I was even more intrigued when I found that the records he had made had been some of my favourites for years, and I had them at home.

They had long been out of the Regal-Zonophone catalogue, but with the help of John Duncan ("Dunc") in the sound recording suite at AP I was able to get copies made for him, which pleased him a lot.

sound recording suite, AP (18K)

In the above picture, at the back are two Presto disk recorders. At the front, extreme right is the 3-speed LP player with, just alongside it, the twin turntable TD/7 replay unit (78rpm).   more

One year, John Duncan returned after his summer holiday with a very sunburnt face so we dubbed him "Mahogany Dunc".

It was a good posting for Dunc as he lived in an apartment block at the bottom of Avenue Road, just down the hill at the back of AP. He was once an ardent motorcyclist and used to say that given a motorcycle and sidecar combination he would demonstrate going round the car park on two wheels. We never did get to see this.....

"Auntie BBC"
In television in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s, the Corporation, affectionately known as "Auntie" really was one.

BBC Staff books (17K)

We were all issued with substantial Diaries every year and looked after quite well, including having a nurse on duty at all major premises.

BBC diary (4K)

There was a good Internal Mail service, and on one occasion, when I got a communication about income tax I didn't really want I re-directed it to myself at "BBC Glasgow". It was about 3 weeks before it came back to me.....

Although "auntie" was an affectionate term, there were certain prudish attitudes within the Corporation in those days. One of which was in relation to music. Any "arrangements" of classical music were frowned upon. Indeed such arrangements were banned from being broadcast! Such as a popular song made from a melody of Chopin.

In the days of LP records, discs issued to programme Producers would have a sticker on the label such as "Track 3 is not to be transmitted".

Private films

There was a very friendly atmosphere everywhere and generally in those days no one minded what one did, - so long as things happened when they were supposed to.

Thus I found that in the periods of free time when we in the Dubbing Theatre were waiting for a news story to come to be dubbed, I could go up to a cutting room and do some private editing on my own films. And so during my time in the BBC I learnt not only film recording (which I was being paid for) but also editing, scripting, shooting and much of the business of film making.

I made a few black and white 16mm films, shooting on "short ends" of negative film thrown away by the newsfilm cameramen. Thus, with all these facilities around me, the only actual cost was the final married print.

One 15-minute film I made around then still has inside the can - "Please take care of this print as it has cost 12.10s"..... (the cost today would be ---- ouch!)

reel of film (3K)
film camera (2K)

"Short Ends"

A 400ft roll of 16mm film, running at 25fps (frames per second) would last approximately 10 minutes. If a news cameraman had used only, say, 250ft on an interview, it would be inconvenient to go out on the next assignment with only 150ft of film in the magazine so a full roll was loaded, and the "short end" of 150ft was thrown away. This was economic sense in that the time saved in not having to reload after only a few minutes of recording was worth far more than the cost of the unused film.

But I wasn't the only one making private films..... At AP when pictures were needed to illustrate news events for which there was no film available, still photographs were prepared in the Stills Department.

This was done by a talented guy named Barry Deamer, who liked making experimental films during the lunch breaks..... Here he is (twice!) in a double exposure shot.

Barry - double exposure (5K)
Barry's werewolf (5K)

But his main delight was in horror films. This is a blow-up of a 16mm film frame showing him as a werewolf about to "devour" one of the make-up girls.

He seemed to have an obsession with monsters and all his films, later shot on 8mm in colour, had some aspect of this.

Werewolf (4K)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (8K)

He did his own version of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and in this frame Dorian Gray is played by a projectionist, Dave Houghton, and the painter is one of the dispatch riders, Fred Shepherd.

And there were other things that went on at lunchtimes - One of the engineers would use our film transfer suite for a completely different purpose.....

barber (4K)

  Stereo sound
Edward Pawley's book BBC Engineering 1922-1972 gives some details of the early test transmissions. more

Stereo sound
At this time the BBC was conducting experiments in stereo radio using the FM transmitters of the Third Programme for one channel, and the Television sound transmitters for the other. These tests took place on a Saturday morning when both services were normally off the air.

Having the facility of recording and replaying two separate film tracks in sync in the film transfer suite at AP gave John Colomb the dubbing mixer the idea of using our equipment for running two film tracks to give stereo sound for the OB of Trooping The Colour, at least for a special recorded repeat of it.

It would have required a bit of thought and co-operation to do this plus various technical problems to solve. Had we pursued the idea it would have been a "first" for BBC Television.

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