The first outing of 2011 was the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Rally, near Chester. It is a nice short trip, and near enough to leave the truck over the weekend, going back each day. This time with the help of another friend, we took the 6.5KVA generator in the back of his Volvo estate and positioned it behind N3, leaving the tailgate open so the genny could be left running whatever the weather.
Saturday morning looked a bit miserable and it had rained heavily overnight, and when we powered up the results were disappointing- the mixer was completely dead, the one working colour monitor was flashing over and the newly fixed waveform monitor had packed up. I blamed it on the one night without the dehumidifier, but the road trip may have been as much to blame. Anyway, in true OB spirit we lashed up a display with the DVD player and the HL79 camera outside. The Sunday proved again to be the busiest and warmest day, with a continuous stream of visitors including some of the Birmingham crew.
The Wilmslow Show
Straight afterwards we had an invitation to appear at the Wilmslow Show, and after having doubts about the distance involved and the short time to prepare, we accepted the challenge. It proved a great if very arduous day- and early start, nearly two hours drive (only 45 miles!) and a busy day with an almost constant stream of visitors, followed by de-rig and then the drive back. This time we had the mixer and some other equipment working, and were able to put on a good show for the many interested spectators. We even found time to help out the Fire Service who had electrical problems with their mobile display unit.
The organiser of the show is a fomer BBC Audio Unit Manager, and was delighted to get back in the SCR. We had a fantastic spot right next to the arena, and with the Ikegami rigged on a tripod at the ringside we were able to put pictures of the action (including the flypast of the RAF Dakota) onto the TX monitor.
Although there was a heavy rain shower, generally the weather was fine and again a very good day. Hopefully we will be back next year.
The next event was the Astle Park Steam and Vintage fair, which was a great event with a lot of interest shown on both days. Our Visitors Book is gradually filling with a long list of current and former BBC staff from Manchester and Birmingham who have been to inspect our progress, and have so far also donated quite a number of interesting items for the project- including a pristine BBC Avometer, an LS3/4 monitor speaker, an EMI 2001 cue light, a comms. portable telephone and a pile of White Units some of which will be direct replacements for some of the corroded ones in the test bay.
At Astle Park we had the set-up of a working HL79 camera, with some programme material on DVD, and I took along my BVP7 to take some shots on the day. We were able to lash this up to give another picture source on the mixer, which was performing acceptably this time, although the troublesome processing amplifier is still making the signal worse rather than better. Still, the more the equipment gets used, the better.
Northop Hall Hotel
The next event was a special presentation for the local meeting of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club, at the Northop Hall Hotel in Flintshire. We took North 3 over during the day, and rigged in the afternoon, the EMI 2001 for display, and the HL79 and a Sony BVP7 to provide pictures both of the exterior and inside the hotel. The vision mixer was on good form, so we were able to show it in operation, selecting either camera or DVD playback onto the TX monitor.
A total of 6 monitors were operational, and we took a video feed to a floor monitor in the hotel, which was mainly used to show a short film about the history and restoration of N3 as part of the presentation. It all went well and the members were very interested, everyone coming out to inspect the real thing even after it started to go dark.
Theatre of Dreams
North 3 became a film star in October, when we were hired to take part in a feature film, a drama based on a story about Sir Matt Busby. N3 was to be an OB unit shooting a junior football match around 1984, and part of the action was to include the camera and operator, and they also wanted to use some of the 'period' TV pictures as possible inserts. They specifically asked for an Ikegami HL79 camera, which was fortunate, as we have 2 working ones (which just about overlap time-wise with the era of the Type 2s). The output was recorded on a small 'clamshell' digital tape unit.
The location was Salford FC, a local football club, and the requirements were for one day with just myself and camera equipment, and another day with N3. The filming went well and we were very fortunate with the weather, which was some of the best of the year. The film is called 'Theatre of Dreams', starring Brian Cox, Natascha McElhone, Anne Reid and James Callis.
We had set up to be able to operate both cameras and show the pictures on all the working monitors in the PCR, but the logistics of the film were such that they did not have the material yet which was to be seen on the screen. In the event, the monitors were just switched on with the rasters turned up to give a key area, the pictures to be inserted in post production.
The crew set up the tracks for shots of the crowd
This is 1984 costume, honestly- not just my normal outfit.
North West Tonight
It was very exciting to be part of history, taking part with North 3 in the last programme to be transmitted from the BBC Oxford Road studios- her former home. We were positioned in the old OB yard behind the building, only yards from the Scanner Hall which was the original base for the OB unit. We were set up to have as much working as possible, but as expected the actual time spent on the item would be quite short, and little would be seen.
The programme featured a link from outside N3 near the beginning of the programme, with reporter Dave Guest introducing it and telling the story of the connection with New Broadcasting House. Later on there was a short interview with myself, and towards the end of the programme a link from inside the VCR. The pieces were only briefly rehearsed just before the programme went live, so we didn't have time to optimise things- we could have had pictures on some of the monitors in the VCR if we had known in time, and it would have been better to have a 2001 camera in shot instead of the HL79- but this was a live news magazine show, not a drama. It all went well, and it was great to be involved in it, and to see the inside of NBH on it's last day of working, (apart from the weekend news headlines which were done with a minimum crew).
North 3 arrives at Oxford road studios, manchester.
she was last here 29 years ago.
'new broadcasting house'- opened by Jim callaghan in 1976
When NBH opened, it was part of an optimistic spirit within the BBC, that things can only get better. More facilities, more studios, more and better regional programmes. Here was a landmark that put Manchester on the map, the mothership of the BBC that tied together every home across a sweep of counties, reaching as many people as live in London, and capable of making network shows viewed by tens of millions.
It had a huge purpose built TV studio, several excellent radio studios, including a special sound studio designed to enable first class recordings to be made of the finest orchestras in the world, with movable baffles and special acoustic properties. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with any of it, but soon it will be reduced to rubble and scrap. The shiny new Salford complex is in reality little more than an office block. The BBC will probably never again have the money to build anything like this in future. They no longer own the buildings or most of the equipment they use, nor directly employ an increasing percentage of staff. The same of course goes for ITV- the next studios to go will be Granada, and then Television Centre. The technical advances which have made broadcasting easier to do, have planted the seeds of its own destruction, or at least mutation, into something we may not recognise- an amalgam of YouTube, Twitter and i-player perhaps?
setting up in the old OB yard. the windows to the left
were the north west tonight offices, apart from studio 'b',
the only area still in use.
Due to the big respray and refit, not to mention bad weather causing events to be cancelled, the first event of 2012 was Astle Park Steam Rally in August. The paintwork was done, but we were still fitting trims and cleaning the morning of departure for the show. The weather held out fairly well, and we had a little more working than last year. The vision mixer has had a lot of work and was now cutting, mixing and wiping (although some of the wipes were a little unorthodox).
We took an SP Beta recorder which was locked to syncs and genlocked the Ikegami so we now had more synchronous sources to show the mixer working. We also took one of the Pye PC80s originally from North 1 which we have just re-acquired, identical to those originally fitted to N3. It is not in very good condition, but we have two complete channels which it is hoped may ultimately be restored and refitted.
The Shrewsbury Steam and Vintage Rally, onslow paRK
This was our first visit to this superb event. The signwriting had only just been finished a few days before, so this was the first time out in her completed livery.
The show covered two days and we had a full crew including three staying on the site overnight. The weather was forecast to be poor on the Monday so many visitors came on the Sunday, resulting in big crowds and non stop visitors aboard N3 until around 6 pm. We had power supply problems all day, and brought our own generator for the Monday, which was still busy but not as mad as the day before.
Visitors queue to come aboard at Onslow Park. Everyone who had seen her before admired the new paintwork and signwriting.
Pye and EMI Cameras on display
Manchester Science Festival
'From Semaphore to Smartphone'
North 3 at Media City, Salford
?Our final event for the year was a trip to the Manchester Science Fair, organised by Salford University, to take part in an exhibition called ‘From Semaphore to Smartphone’, about the development of communications media.
This University building is located at Media City, on Salford Quays- adjacent to the new BBC buildings from which Sports, News and Children’s Programmes are now centred. Many of the BBC staff were relocated from the old Oxford Road site (now demolished), former home to North 3.
The exhibition took place over a weekend, but on the Friday, a lecture had been arranged on the development of OB units for the media students by Richard Ellis, former Head of Engineering at Pye,who was actually involved in the design of the Type 2 scanners.
We arranged to arrive on the Friday to attend the lecture and show the students round North 3.
Our display inside the exhibition
A lot of organisation went into it, as we also had a display inside the University building, and had to transport heavy cameras, tripods and monitors, and set it all up. We have not really made much progress on the electronics since Onslow Park, but we wanted to have a ‘live’ camera inside the building and to have the vision mixer and some monitors working.
Retired camera supervisor John Chester
recalls using the PC80
The trip back went well, with a record speed of around 50 MPH being achieved on the motorway. She is going very well after fitting the new injector pump.
North 3 was not going anywhere for a few months now, so we were able to catch up on some of the restoration work.
Pictures from the Ikegami start to bring the vision
control room to life.
North 3 among the classic commercials at astle Park
On display at the Northop hall hotel
rolls-royce Club members get a tour of the vision
control area from Steve Jones (R)
Arri 'electronic film' camera set up for interior shots
james callis (Battlestar Gallactica) At the
production desk of North 3
Studio 'A', once home to 'red dwarf' and 'life on mars'
filled with surplus equipment and furniture for sale
to BBC staff- donations went to 'Children in Need'
Studio 'b', home to North West tonight, taken
the week after the last programme from NBH.
a sad end to a TV era.
some of the deserted offices
reporter Dave Guest ready to go 'on the air'-
live from outside north 3
Astle Park 2012
Stills from video (Jerry Clegg)
ex-N1 (C7) Pye PC80 on display
Action shot! - 40 MPH by hartford bridge
more visitors come aboard at onslow park
The event took place at the beginning of November, and I had been worried about even getting there if the weather was bad. There were also other worries, as a few days before on starting the engine for a test, I found that the air pressure regulator was stuck and the pressure was building up to a dangerously high level. In desperation I managed to remove the valve assembly and dismantle it, clean and refit it, aware all the time that if the seals were damaged, we would not be able to go.
Fortunately, it worked, but it didn’t help with stress levels driving on the motorway and round the centre of Manchester knowing that the air brake valve had been refitted with 40 year old seals. I plan to remove the valve again, along with other brake parts, and have them overhauled by a specialist over the winter.
To get permission to park North 3 outside the building over the weekend involved a deal of emails to all kinds of conflicting authorities and filling out the dreaded Risk Assessment. Our cables had to be covered to prevent people tripping over them, and assistance was provided by students on the steep acces steps. However, it all went off very well and nobody even stubbed their toe.
There were also a number of BBC staff who came to visit from the shiny new headquarters, and a few retired staff who came to re-acquaint themselves with the old girl. One of these was the former Manchester Transport Manager, Roy Davenport, who well remembered keeping the three scanners on the road. He recounted how one of the trucks seized while on the way to an OB. They towed it to the site and once connected up they removed the cylinder head and sump, took out the seized piston and liner, and replaced them in-situ!
Vanessa Jackson interviews retired BBC cameraman Malcolm Carr
We also had a visit from Vanessa Jackson who runs a website about Pebble Mill, she was delighted to see Birmingham’s old scanner back on the road, and took photos and video. Watch her interviews with: Jerry Clegg (former audio supervisor) and Malcolm Carr (former Manchester Senior Cameraman).
You can also see me wittering on in vision control, in another interview.
Richard Ellis has kindly offered to help us by attempting to restore an original Pye synchronising pulse generator, which we had put to one side in favour of fitting a more modern one, at least until we have most of the equipment working (Not sure when that will be, at the present rate). He should know more about it than anyone, as he designed it.
Former head of Engineering at Pye TVT Richard Ellis
who designed parts of the Type 2.
The exhibition was very successful, there was a lot of interest from the public and hopefully the event will be even better next year. As well as North 3 there were a variety of displays put on by interest groups and commercial firms. There were displays of telephony, including a working Strowger exchange, and the history of computing, which of course has a strong connection with Manchester. There was also a stand by the local amateur radio club.
We had a chance to play with one of the latest HD cinema cameras, and catch up with some of the latest developments in the broadcasting world, as well as meeting up with some old friends.
See Events for 2013 -14