AP mast (2K)

BBC TELEVISION from ALEXANDRA PALACE

by Arthur Dungate

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THE DEMFILM

The BBC Television Demonstration Film or 'Demfilm' as we called it, was shown each morning Monday to Friday from 10am to 12noon. It consisted of approximately 15 minute examples of programmes (which were updated from time to time) interspersed with 15 minutes of Test Card C. On Saturday mornings from 10am to 12noon, we showed the week's 5 editions of Television Newsreel (TNR) one after the other.

Test Card C (8K)
Test Card C
Frame of 35mm film with optical soundtrack (5K)
35mm comopt film

All the material (with two exceptions) was on black and white 35mm film with RCA optical soundtrack (ie 35mm comopt). The two exceptions were the daily Television Newsreel (TNR) and the weekly Childrens Newsreel (CNR) which were on b&w 35mm film with 35mm sepmag sound, the Cintels being able to run 'double-headed' with either separate magnetic or optical sound.

Telecine equipment

Originally, the Demfilm was transmitted from a pair of Mechau telecine machines near Studio A at Alexandra Palace.

Mechau telecines at AP (5K)
Mechau telecine

However, when Cinema-Television brought out the Cintel flying spot film scanning telecine the Demfilm was shown each morning on these high quality machines located in Central Telecine Room (CTR) in the basement of AP under the site of Baird's original tv transmitter.

Cintel film scanners (K)
Cintel film scanners

There were two Cintel scanners (or 'traction units') named 'Blue' and 'Amber' so that feature length films could be shown without interruption. A central console allowed remote control of sound level, picture brightness and black level, and motor start and stop. Standard changeover dots on the film were used (as in the cinema) to indicate to the operator when to start and change to the next reel.

Cintel control console (5K)
Cintel control console

When CTR at AP closed in 1954 prior to the move to Lime Grove studios in Shepherds Bush, London, the Cintel machines were returned to the manufacturer for refurbishment and the addition of a third scanner. Meanwhile the Demfilm continued to be shown, but from the EMI telecines at Lime Grove. Later, a separate multi-standard Cintel film scanner was hired, on which the Demfilm was run, with TNR and CNR using previous issues on 35mm comopt, as this Cintel could not run magnetic double-headed.

The following details are taken from typed and handwritten documents I have kept since the early 1950s -

The Demfilm, Edition 106
Reels 1-2 The Birth of television; Baird; Early pre-war programmes, incl. Lupino Lane on stage - 'Lambeth Walk', The Teatimers, Nina Mae McKinney singing 'Papa Treetop Tall', Stanley Holloway in a play - enters a railway compartment as a sales rep in 'pins, needles and metal fasteners'. Reel 2 ended with the Tarantella from the 'Facade' ballet.
Reels 3-4 Test Card C (introduced by Sylvia Peters)
On the soundtrack -
  1. Marche Fantastique (Lucas): Leighton Lucas Orch-Lucas (EMI EP122)
  2. Weiner Blut (Strauss): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EPX 74)
  3. Tritsch Tratsch Polka (Strauss): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EPX 73)
Reels 5-6 Childrens' programmes, introduced by Jennifer Gay, "one of the Childrens' television announcers", daughter of the conductor, Hugo Rignold. After showing a few excerpts from programmes she then introduced the current edition of the weekly Childrens' Newsreel (CNR).
Reels 7-8 Test Card C (introduced by Sylvia Peters)
On the soundtrack -
  1. I Hate Dancing (Bannister): Danceland Ballroom Orch (Danceland DL 564)
  2. Song of the Willows (King): Danceland Ballroom Orch (Danceland DL 576)
  3. Pila Pile (Melachrino): Melachrino Orch (EMI EP 17)
  4. Bobbysox Bounce (Melachrino): Melachrino Orch (EMI EP 10)
  5. Smooth Kisses (Melachrino): Melachrino Orch (EMI EP 10)
Reels 9-10 Sport (in an earlier Edition it was the 1950 relay from Calais)
The Sports section included a sequence on Roger Bannister winning the four-minute mile, the first time anyone had achieved such a speed, and during the interview, for some reason the camera tilts down momentarily to show the microphone being used (an STC 4017).
Music used:
Derby Day (Farnon) (Chappell C 464)
Reels 11-12 Test Card C (introduced by Sylvia Peters) who said: "If there is any engineer wishing to test or adjust a receiver, now's your chance, as we bring you Test Card C"
On the soundtrack -
  1. Cuban Moonlight (King): Danceland Rumba Band (Danceland DL 572)
  2. Ah! The Argentine (Warren): Danceland Samba Band (Danceland DL 571)
  3. Trip Tropicala (Franklin): Danceland Rumba Band (Danceland DL 572)
  4. Bang Go the Bongos (Lynn): Danceland Samba Band (Danceland DL 579)
  5. Part of My Life: Danceland Ballroom Orch (Danceland DL 50)
Reels 13-14 Expansion of Television - the building of the Holme Moss, Kirk O'Shotts, and Wenvoe tv transmitters
Music used:
  1. Blue Mink (Yorke) (Chappell C 466)
  2. Poodle Parade (Farnon): QHLO-Farnon (Chappell C 438)
  3. Fifi de Paris (Farnon): QHLO-Farnon (Chappell C 419)
  4. En Route (Farnon): QHLO-Farnon (Chappell C 460)
  5. Royalty (Farnon): QHLO-Farnon (Chappell C 463)
  6. Organ Voluntary, Westminster Abbey (BBC 13203)
  7. Skyscape (Harris) (Harmonic CBL 344)
  8. Panoramic Splendour (Duncan): New Concert Orch-de Porten (B&H
    O 2213) [or should this be 2233 ?]
Reels 15-16 Test Card C (introduced by Sylvia Peters) who said: "And now, for the benefit of any engineer who wants to test or adjust a receiver, here, once again, is Test Card C."
On the soundtrack:
  1. Pt of - 4th Mov Sym 4 (Mendelssohn): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EP 23)
  2. Pt of - 2nd Mov Sym 102 (Haydn): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EP 56)
  3. Pt of - 4th Mov Sym 104 (Haydn): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EPX 58)
  4. Scherzo (Mendelssohn): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EPX 17)

The Suppressor Film was also shown from time to time. Shot around Muswell Hill near AP it depicted a motorist buying and having fitted a 'cut-lead' suppressor in his car. The film ended with an old car, unsuppressed, causing severe interference on a viewer's tv such that the viewer in anger throws something at the tv screen, and the car outside explodes (it was the cameraman Brian Johnston's old car).

old car approaches (5K) man throws at tv set (6K) explosion (2K)
wrecked old car (4K) end title (4K)

Music used: Apple Honey (Paxton PR 533)
Read the full narration of this film.

Edition 102/3 -
Reel 14 Festival of Britain; Lime Grove; White City; the building of the Sutton Coldfield and Holme Moss tv transmitters
Music used:
  1. Samba de Paris: Danceland Samba Band (Danceland DL 560)
  2. Strings in the Strand (Burns): Harmonic Orch (Harmonic CBL 305)
  3. Iron & Steel: Metropole Orch-Linden (Paxton PR 540)
  4. Roundabout Scherzo: Harmonic Orch (Harmonic HMP 290)
Also, for the ending of the Festival of Britain sequence -
  • Champagne March (Henman): QHLO-Torch (Chappell C 385)
In later editions the Festival of Britain sequence was deleted and one on the building of the Kirk O'Shotts transmitter shown. (The music used including -
  • Pts of - Scherzo Sym 9 (Bruckner): Leighton Lucas Orch (EMI EPX 27)
Reel 15The building of the Wenvoe tv transmitter (introduced by Sylvia Peters):
Sylvia Peters (4K) "Since the end of the War, the BBC has built new television transmitters to bring the main centres of population, in England, Scotland and Wales, into the television service area. At the same time new studios are being built in London, and in the film that follows we give a brief report on this work".

The film was narrated by McDonald Hobley.
Read the full narration of this film.
Edition 105 -
Reels 9/10Paris OB's 1952 (introduced, and then narrated by Sylvia Peters):
Sylvia Peters (4K) "In the next quarter of a hour we're going to give you an impression of a rather exciting event in television. The very first occasion on which two countries with different languages and basically different television standards shared the same programmes.
July 1952 will long be remembered as the month in which programmes from Paris were seen not only in France but in England and Scotland too. And viewers saw a new emblem on their screens - a badge of an Entente Cordiale". Entente Cordiale (4K)

Music included -
  • The Film Opens (King Palmer)
  • Dance of the Ghosts (Montague Ewing) NCO-Torch: (FDH 014)
  • Out of the Blue (Robert Busby) QHLO-Torch: (Chappell C 355)
Read the full narration of this film.
Eurovision title (3K) Out of this first exchange of tv programmes with different standards, would, a couple of years later, be born the Eurovision link whereby programmes could be exchanged on a regular basis.

[See also the first experiment in cross-channel tv relay]

[NB: The current edition of TNR was also shown within the Demfilm, but I have forgotten just where it came.....]

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