AP mast (2K)

DIRECT TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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The Demfilm, Cintel, and music....

Cintel telecine at AP (6K)

Our first job when we started in the morning was to switch on everything so that the equipment had settled down ready for the Demonstration Film, or "Demfilm" as we called it, to start at 10am. The Cintel flying spot telecine scanners were so well-built and reliable that hardly any 'line-up' was necessary. Cintel's top designer was a man named Nuttall. He was an absolute Genius. He was never wrong - a fact which his own staff found particularly irritating......
[See also Demfilm contents and music]

We had two machines, called "Blue" and "Amber" so that long feature films could be run without a break just as in the cinema, using the standard changeover dots to do so. Running the Demfilm every morning day after day I became so used to it that I could do the changeovers just by listening to the soundtrack, not watching the screen at all! (And I think I used to show off a bit with that).

Cintel telecine (4K)
Cintel control console (6K)

Although well built and giving superb pictures, they were designed by engineers and not operational staff, so sitting at the control position, the picture monitors were right up at the top, and so the operator tended to get a stiff neck from looking up at them.......

It had seemingly been overlooked by the designers that viewers at home looked at pictures and not waveforms displayed on a tube.

However, on my first day in Central Telecine - I was given the job of loading a Tuning Signal, and I was a bit slow doing it, and when the starting buzz came, I hadn't quite finished. "We must start" said someone, so the machine was started, and 500ft of 35mm Tuning Signal splayed out of the machine and into a large bin - almost going all over the floor.....

film over floor (6K)

The unofficial music transmission:

For the first year I was living in the BBC Hostel in Bayswater, London, and in the mornings I and some other colleagues also staying in the hostel went by the Underground (Circle Line) to Baker Street, where we caught the BBC bus from BH up to AP. This was a free service to staff, for conveying personnel, files and light equipment to and from the various BBC buildings.

Central Control Room at AP (8K)
Central Control Room (CCR), AP

I was collecting records, 78rpm discs in those days, and I used to take a selection to work from time to time to play during the lunch break from the gram desks in Central Control. Since tv closed down at 12 noon after the Demfilm until the afternoon programme at 3pm, I thought this was quite safe - until I met someone at the Hostel one day attending a course, who worked at the Holme Moss transmitter.

He said how much they all liked the music which came up the line at lunchtimes, and that on one occasion they'd left Holme Moss transmitter on air, so my records had been broadcast to the whole of Northern England..... I dare not think how much the Copyright fees should have been.....

Television came on again in the afternoon at 3pm for an hour of programmes for women. Some of them were compered by Jeanne Heal. She was a lovely lady, but she couldn't see anything without her glasses, but would not wear them in front of the camera!

Jeanne Heal (4K)
Emitron tv camera (12K)

And the cameras in Studio A were the original 1936 Emitrons. During the war years from the end of 1939 until 1946 they had not been used, though it seems the equipment had been powered up occasionally.

However, when it was decided to re-start the Television Service in 1946, all the original apparatus had to be completely overhauled to put it back into working order. According to Douglas Birkinshaw, Television's Senior Engineer, many of the components, such as all the electrolytic capacitors, had to be replaced in every piece of electronic equipment.....

Studio A telecine, or "A Mechau" looked into an Emitron camera and to line this up a few frames of Test Card C on 35mm film were put into the Mechau. The illustration shows the original Test Card A, (from an actual frame of 35mm film), which had an aspect ratio of 5 x 4.

Test Card A (7K)

It was not until April 1950 that the aspect ratio was changed to 4 x 3 to conform to the cinema standard.

'Tilt' and 'Bend'
One of the characteristics of the Emitron cameras was that it suffered from spurious signals. These produced areas of shading on the picture which could be largely compensated by controls in the racks equipment. Each camera had its associated equipment with an operator controlling it individually.     more

These operators became extremely skilled in quickly adjusting the controls to minimise the "tilt" and "bend" shading effects. However, when the AP camera crews came under the Lime Grove camera dept, a rota was introduced so that crews would circulate around the studios. Thus those crews, used to the more modern cameras at the Grove were somewhat at a loss to operate the unique controls of the Emitrons at AP, and picture quality suffered.

Joan Gilbert (4K)

Another women's programme in the afternoon was presented by Joan Gilbert. She and the Producer didn't get on..... Listening to the comments made over the talkback could be rather exciting (to say the least)..... Publicly, she was well known for her "unpredictable effervescence".

At the end of the hour's programme, tv closed down again until 5, and it usually finished with a title slide, that is, a frame of 35mm film stationary in the Mechau film gate, and about the last 20 seconds of Eric Coates' Television March on a 78rpm BBC pressing played from CCR Grams.

Tv end title slide (4K)

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