In December, 1954, Central Rediffusion Services Limited, the service and supply company of the Rediffusion Group, was appointed technical consultant to Associated-Rediffusion Limited and has been responsible for the planning and equipping of all Associated-Rediffusion studios and technical areas. With the completion of Studio 5 these services will cease.
No one would pretend that Wembley Studios are ideal, because the site is not large enough to contain all the service areas which modern television studios require. But one of the greatest problems facing Associated-Rediffusion when it was appointed the first programme contractor to the ITA late in 1954, was the speed necessary to equip and build studios and to train and rehearse personnel and artists.
In buying Wembley Film Studios, Central Rediffusion was at least able to make a quick start. Studio 5 is, therefore, an operational unit only – much of its scenery and services must be brought from elsewhere.
The building of Studio 5 started in December, 1958, and though the building contractors had the advantage of extremely good weather during the spring and summer of 1959, the national shortage of bricks caused a serious delay and necessitated continuous alteration to the planned progress. The final stages of testing of the studio and control apparatus have started and it is hoped that Studio 5 will be handed to Associated-Rediffusion during May so that training and rehearsals can commence.
Studio 5 is certainly the largest television studio in Europe and probably the largest ever built as a television studio. It has a floor area of 14,000 square ft [1,300m²] and a clear height to the inside of the roof structure of 40 ft [12m] with a clear height in the centre section, which houses the dividing partition, of 30 ft [9m]. Walkways are provided at the 12 ft [3.6m], 30 ft and 40 ft levels.
The whole of the building foundations and floors are divided into two sections and when the centre partition doors are lowered the studio can be used simultaneously as two studios of 6,700 square feet [622m²] each.
One of the most important features of the studio is the dual partition which is of lattice girder construction with external wind bracing on the cavity side. The acoustic slabs consist of two mild steel sheets 4 inches [10cm] apart with 3-inch [7.6cm] rock wool filling, one sheet is suspended free and connected to the main frame at the edges only. The two partitions, when lowered, are designed to provide an acoustic separation of 60 Db over the range of 50 cycles to 4.5 kilocycles.
The lifting and lowering of the doors, which weigh 25 tons each, is done by four specially designed units consisting of an electric motor coupled through a reduction gear to a wire rope drum from which the door is suspended. The doors, which are provided with several safety stops, will take about half-an-hour to raise or lower.
One of the great difficulties in television studios is providing sufficient ventilation to give cool air on the studio floor. There are separate ventilation plants for each half-studio to give seven air changes an hour, the ventilation ducts in the roof being large enough for a man to walk through. Adjustable nozzles allow the flow of fresh air to be directed. Another ventilation plant is provided for the control rooms and technical areas, and each equipment bay has its own supply, extract and filter.
Everyone knows of the problem of studio floors. In Studio 5 we have an added problem due to its giant size. The floor must be level to plus or minus ⅛ inch [3mm] At no point must it have a slope of more than 1 in 1,000. The length of the floor will change by ¾ inch [19mm] with normal temperature variation and yet no crack must appear between the two halves when the floor moves. Two special comb joints are, therefore, being fitted to the centre partition which will cause only very minor camera wobble as cameras track across these joints.
Each studio will have 340 lighting circuits fed from the lighting patch panels. These panels are next to the lighting control consoles which are arranged to be operated from a sitting position in the form of an organ console. Each studio will have 70 lighting hoist units driven by electric motors. The raising and lowering of each unit is controlled from a panel next to the lighting control rooms on the 12-foot gantry or from the studio floor by means of a wandering lead. Fifteen units can be selected and operated simultaneously and four such groups are available for selection and operation.
The control rooms, which are big enough to carry any extra apparatus required for colour transmission, are built along the northern side of the studio with the vision, sound and lighting control rooms at 12-foot level, and the camera control rooms, make-up rooms and service rooms at ground floor level.
The entire studio is being equipped with eight new E.M.I. 4½-inch [11.4cm] image Orthicon cameras and the vision system can be operated on 405, 525 and 625 line frequency. Each vision control room will have 14 21-inch [53cm] picture monitors to allow the monitoring of 10 sources in addition to transmission, off air and two previews. It will thus be possible to record programmes on film or tape which can be used overseas without further alteration. The sound equipment has been specially designed and has 26 low level channels and nine high level, divided into four groups. All controls and faders are mounted on a sloping panel of a sound console to facilitate operation.
One of the most important requirements is good communications in order to co-ordinate the team of people whose combined efforts make a television programme. The director’s talk-back system carries the director’s instructions to headphones worn by operators in the studios, and to loudspeakers in the control rooms. In rehearsal the director can speak to the studio through a public address system.
Programme sound is also distributed so that all may follow the programme and respond to sound cues when required. A separate sound balancer’s talk-back system connects the sound balancer with microphone boom operators. The director can talk to the floor manager by a radio talk-back system, thus avoiding trailing leads. The intercommunication facilities in Studio 5 are provided by a ‘Transicon’ equipment consisting of small transistorised amplifiers plugged in to rack frames, an arrangement which will ensure the rapid detection and righting of faults and contribute to the efficient working of the new studio.
During 1955 and in a space of less than 10 months all the original studios and equipment were planned and provided. It was not until 24 hours before the official opening that the first complete rehearsal was possible, and even then no commercial film inserts were available.
Studio 5 is the outcome of 12 months careful thought and 18 months building and equipping. The artists and personnel who use it will have at their hands the latest and the best. It therefore only remains for me to wish them all success.