AP mast (2K)


by Arthur Dungate


The Television Newsreels

8.30pm tuning signal (5K)

The evening transmissions used to start at 8.30pm, but by the time I joined television, that had been advanced to 8pm, - and later still it was to start even earlier at 7.30pm. Wow - television was expanding!

7.55pm tuning signal (6K)
TNR title (4K)

So we started the Tuning Signal at 5 minutes to 8, and then at 8pm ran the new edition of TNR - Television Newsreel, and this was a 15 minute very popular magazine type programme made by BBC Film Unit and modelled on the cinema newsreels. The main and end title sequences became quite famous, as did the title music, which was a march by Charles Williams called Girls in Grey. (Available on this CD set)

However in recent years when the recording was issued on CD, it didn't sound the same...... And this was because the re-issued recording, originally on a 78rpm Chappell mood music disc, was played at normal speed. But on TNR it was played fast - and this was to make the first section of the music fit the sequence of the title letters going round the mast, which takes approximately 19 seconds...... Hearing it today, I prefer it fast - but then that's perhaps because I used to hear it that way several times a day.....

label of Chappell disc C193 (8K)

A similar thing had happened on the radio with - "Dick Barton - Special Agent!", a very popular 15-minute detective adventure serial in the late 1940s. I discovered this when I met the guy who used to do Grams on Dick Barton in BH before he came over to television. The title music was The Devil's Galop (on a Chappell disc) - and this was another piece by that great composer of British Light Music, Charles Williams. It was also run fast, but this time it was to increase the excitement! And that got our attention for each thrilling episode, which always ended with some sort of nail-biting cliffhanger.....

But back to television and TNR -

TNR main title (RCA logo) (4K)

Notice the RCA credit at the bottom of the frame. Television Newsreel started in 1948 before the days of magnetic recording on film, and so the soundtrack was mixed direct onto optical film. By 1952, when I got there, separate 35mm magnetic was in use, saving time by not having to have the soundtrack developed and printed, giving better sound quality, but needing to load two reels of film to transmit it.

After the change to magnetic sound, the RCA logo was replaced by a "BBC Film Unit" logo.

TNR main title (Film Unit) (4K)

The use of 35mm magnetic film gave me an idea. Quite often the magnetic sound of TNR would arrive as a full 2000ft spool, but since TNR ran for only 15minutes, there were about 500ft of unused magnetic film at the end. So I made up a jig holding a razor blade which was clamped to the Cintel sound unit and sliced the film as it came out of the soundhead. I arranged it so that 1/4" was sliced. Moving the razor for each runthrough, gave me three lots of 1/4" to use in a tape recorder. As film is around three times the thickness of ordinary tape, not a lot could be put onto a tape spool, and the edges of the "tape" were a little rough, but it did provide a source of "free" recording material....

Newsreel music
In those days a lot of library music (or "mood music") was used, from publisher's discs, and each news story, just like the cinema newsreels of the time, had its own introductory music. There was music for London stories, tragic events, sea and naval stories, Russian, Scottish, sports etc. Quite often, if it was a naval story, you knew it was going to start with Battleship Grey (by K.L.Smith) or possibly Atlantic Breakers (by Charles Williams). Most probably a countryside one would start with Village Green (by George Cruikshank). Proud Capital (by Arnold Steck) and State Occasion (by Robert Farnon) would often introduce royal and ceremonial stories. All Sports March (by Robert Farnon) might well be used for a racing report. Light music is not heard so much these days in this context, which seems a pity, because I found the newsreels were more enjoyable then! (For further information on Television Newsreel and the music of that period click here)

TNR Monday title (6K)

On Saturday mornings from 10am to 12 noon we ran the week's 5 Television Newsreels - which had previously been shown Monday to Friday evenings - as one compilation programme. There was no editing, we ran down the opening title of the next TNR to a predetermined point, and then ran it up just as the last item of the previous newsreel was about to finish, and then changed over.

But the sound didn't always finish exactly when the picture changed, so one day I tried plugging both telecine sound channels together so I could fade from one to another, and this worked smoothly, - until I forgot to fade out the outgoing reel, and the ending of Girls in Grey began again, which I hurriedly faded out. No one seemed to have noticed, but when all was quiet I tiptoed around to the sound bay and furtively pulled out all my plugs..... I didn't try that one that again.

Usually, the last story in a TNR was a collection of miscellaneous short items under the title of "Here And There". This always used a piece of music called Bowin' and Scrapin' on a Francis Day & Hunter disc and so at the end of this item would follow the newsreel end title. But one day we were fooled because it wasn't the last story..... Another item followed it, and as it was a Saturday, and we were doing the compilation, we very nearly changed over to the next film too soon.....

Disc label FDH 039 (6K)

Children's Newsreel

Chappell disc label C323 (7K)

As well as the evening Television Newsreel, there was a weekly one for children, CNR, Children's Newsreel. Its title music was "Holiday Spirit" by Clive Richardson. CNR was dubbed at Lime Grove and used Mary Malcolm and David Lloyd James as the narrators. Don Smith, CNR's Producer, liked to control the sound effects (which came from Grams) himself, so the dubbing mixer used to give him the output of the Grams on a fader, and he would fade the fx in and out to picture.

Don Smith was responsible for that famous film " London to Brighton in Four Minutes", made in the spring of 1952, originally as an item for CNR.

film title (3K)
view ahead (4K)

It used trick photography to make, as David Lloyd James noted on the soundtrack, an average effective train speed of 765 miles per hour. Don said that his cameraman had sat in the cab of the locomotive hand-cranking the 35mm camera at 2 frames per second (instead of 25fps).

view ahead (4K)
train driver (4K)

When he ran out of film and had to reload the 100ft magazine, the sections of the journey missed during this procedure were covered by inserting a cutaway of the train driver at the controls.

This item achieved immediate popularity and became a short film in its own right. However it is not generally realised that two versions were made - the first, as an item in CNR, and then TNR included it as an item with the title of "Go slow on the Brighton line". Unlike the original CNR version, in which the narrator just intoduced and ended the sequence, with the actual journey covered by sound effects, the TNR item had a different narrator, and he announced some of the stations on route as they were passed.

Freda Lingstrom, though, didn't like CNR, and after she became Head of Childrens TV Programmes she axed it. I think Don died not long after that.

Newsreel Cameramen
All film shot for both TNR and CNR was 35mm. It was not until later in the 1950s that Television News went over to using 16mm as the main film gauge. So the television newsreel cameramen (a number of whom had come to tv from the cinema newsreels) used a variety of battery driven and clockwork cameras as had been used during wartime.

newsreel cameraman (5K) newsreel cameraman (4K) newsreel cameraman (5K)
newsreel cameraman (5K) newsreel cameraman (4K) newsreel cameraman (7K)

An account of a typical dubbing session in the 1950s.

A description of the AP Dubbing Theatre

Dubbing TNR
The AP Dubbing Theatre had started in 1950, being the first one in BBC Television. Previously film dubbing work had been taken to the RCA Re-recording Theatre at Hammersmith where the BBC had installed a pair of TD/7 Gram Desks for quickly adding music and sound effects to the newsreels.

Film Dubbing Theatre, AP (8K)

Recording the newsreel "in house" was a much more convenient arrangement than having to use outside commercial facilities.

In the mixer room are TNR producer Philip Dorté and, to his left John Byers the dubbing mixer.

The main Narrator on TNR was Edward Halliday, who had just the right voice for this purpose. In his "other" occupation he was a well-known portrait painter.

Narrating TNR at AP (5K)
narrating TNR (7K)

Edward Halliday narrating TNR in the Dubbing Theatre, AP.

On the left the lady has her hand on the cue light key, which notifies the mixer in the room behind when to fade down music/effects just prior to the start of a passage of narration. On the right is Michael Henderson who in 1993 was to found the AP TV Society.

Dubbing Theatre (5K)

The scripts would often be rewritten in the theatre. One of the scriptwriters at the time was a certain Paul Fox.

Paul Fox (4K)
Dubbing Theatre (6K)

The narrator makes notes while the recording staff in the mixer room behind, wait.....

On this occasion Frank Philips is doing the narration, with Vernon Phipps at the mixer.

Music and sound effects were played from Grams, as most news stories were shot silent. Usually only "talking heads" were shot with sound, as these required lip-sync. In those days, film sound recording equipment was cumbersome and heavy, needing a large van to house and transport it.

Dubbing Theatre - Grams (6K)

The TD/7
The twin-turntable reproducing desk, known as the TD/7, had been designed in 1935. It used variable-speed Garrard turntables which could run at a wide range of speeds, though mainly they were used at 78rpm. The pickups were EMI Type 12, with sapphire stylus, and were mounted on a parallel-tracking arm with a vernier adjustment for precise groove location.

Although the EMI Type 12 pick-ups had replaced the earlier and much heavier BTH ones, they were still referred to as "groove straighteners".

The TD/7 desk was originally designed to replay commercial gramophone records, but when the BBC recording characteristic was established, a key switch on the front panel enabled this reproducing characteristic to be used when replaying BBC direct disks. The "up" position of this key introduced a 4dB attenuation and a low-pass filter to reduce surface noise on commercial records. The 4dB attenuation was because in general, BBC recordings were made around 4dB lower in level than commercial pressings.

I once looked round the back of a TD/7 desk and saw a small metal plate with the inscription "Turntable Desk TD 3702". TD - seven?



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