Vision: pictures that qualify


A look at ‘ABC at Large’ in 1963 from the point-of-view of the vision controller.


An excerpt from ABC TV in Focus, a book given to potential advertisers in February 1963.

The pictures in television may only be waveforms to an engineer; but to the Director they are one of the plastic components of his art; to be moulded, selected, drawn upon at will.

They pass through to the Control Suite for his assembly from a variety of different sources. But, unlike sound which is fed into a programme from a microphone, the point of a pick-up stylus, or a magnetic play-back head, the initial television picture always starts in an electronic scanning device. The first, and most important of these in true television studio productions, is the camera.

In most ABC studios there are four 4½” Image Orthicon cameras; as many as six in Studio 1 at Teddington. And close technical links established between control centres allow extra cameras to be brought on to a set if specially demanded. Each camera is crewed by a cameraman who is solely concerned with switching lenses, framing the shot, and focusing on the action. Electronic control – the choice of picture density, contrast and brightness – is managed by the Vision Controller from the vision and lighting section of the control suite.

Here the cameras are ‘set-up’; their channels adjusted for matching performance during the next run.

Guardians of the picture: In the background a Vision Controller and assistant; in the foreground a Lighting Supervisor. Together they polish picture quality.
Guardians of the picture: In the background a Vision Controller and assistant; in the foreground a Lighting Supervisor. Together they polish picture quality.

Control is passed to the ‘joy-sticks’; simple-looking knobs that are designed to cope with final adjustments during ‘transmission’. Working closely with the Lighting Supervisor cameras and lights can then be adjusted for clear pictures in balanced sequences.

The joy-sticks: simple-looking knobs for running adjustments to picture key and brightness.
The joy-sticks: simple-looking knobs for running adjustments to picture key and brightness.

The Technical Supervisor’s desk

Left-hand panel: ‘Talk-back’ microphone, speakers, and switches, and sound level indicator (top centre). To the left is telephone and buttons for raising and lowering control suite lighting.

Right-hand panel, top to bottom: Remote controls for picture monitors in bank facing desk; remote controls for operating VTR and Telecine, and switching panel for instant line-standard changing – a built-in operational facility that is unique to ABC TV; emergency buttons for by-passing failed equipment, controls to maintain accuracy of vision wave-form leaving the control suite, and buttons for selecting picture for monitor and wave-form indicator (to the right of panel).

The Vision Mixer’s controls

Left: Caption machine controls. Vertical rows of selection buttons indicate caption held by two 16-spoke paddle wheels in scanner. ‘Tram’ handle fades from caption pre-selected on one row to caption pre-selected on the other. Centre buttons and indicator lights control selection between roller-caption equipment, VTR clock, and paddle wheels – all housed in one of three scanners. Horizontal buttons are for ‘punching up’ any picture available, for screening in monitor bank facing operator.

Centre: Ten vision inputs can be fed into these ABC control panels, and duplicated in the two banks of faders and ‘cut’ buttons. By using the faders an operator can mix from one inout to another on one bank, or from a group of inputs combined on one bank to a different combination on the other bank. Above are buttons for selecting electronic ‘wipe’ effects, and a fader for their operation.

Right, top to bottom: Buttons for selection of pictures for studio floor monitors, switches for selection of mixer inputs additional to cameras, and buttons for the control of electronic matte effects.

Beyond the ‘joy-sticks’ the pictures pass to the vision mixer and the banks of monitors facing the teams in the three control suite sections. From these the Director will make his final selection; cue the Vision Mixer in his electronic editing. And from these, through the check-point of the Technical Supervisor, will go the version to be seen on home screens.

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ABC At Large

Headlining the news: anticipating the problems of the region

Late afternoon in the newsroom of ABC At Large, ABC’s weekly round-up of the region’s news and affairs. The news staff are preparing for the evening’s programme while David Mahlowe, who introduces it, rehearses in front of the cameras.

The newsroom at ABC’s Manchester Studios is the nerve centre of this programme. Into it are fed pictures from the studio, film from telecine or live outside broadcast coverage of stories in the North and Midlands.

ABC At Large has been the first to highlight many problems in these areas, and has won a large audience for its liveliness and integrity.

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Comedy Bandbox

Variety from the North. Having a studio in Manchester gives ABC the opportunity of producing many light entertainment shows from the North. Comedy Bandbox is typical of ABC’s firm conviction that its audience, while appreciating the big names in light entertainment, still holds regional variety close to its heart. On a stage glowing with the warm colours of Victorian music hall, Jimmy James proves the point.

Big Night Out – an evening’s bill of top entertainment from Manchester – returns for the summer. Planned for the autumn is a new series starring another popular Northern comedian, Jimmy Clitheroe.

About the author

The Promotion Department, based at 1 Hanover Square in London, was responsible for promoting ABC programmes in the press and for explaining the process of television to potential advertisers.

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