In Nine Months TV Transforms Wembley Studios


Switching Wembley from film to television ready for the launch of ITV

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From Kinematography Weekly for 29 September 1955

IN less than nine months the old Wembley Film Studios have been transformed into the Wembley Television Studio Centre, headquarters for the ITA programme-making activities of Associated-Rediffusion, Ltd.

Only last January work was still in progress at the old Wembley on the film “The Ship That Died of Shame,” but by September 22, the new Wembley was ready for the start of commercial television.

In that comparatively short period the original building has been virtually demolished, one large stage has been converted into four (which are, incidentally, about half as high again as the original), with their complementary multiplicity of control rooms and electronic equipment, involving the installation of close on 20 miles of sound, vision and control cables.

What can best be described as the “technical area” is partly a two and partly a three-storey structure within the main building. On the first floor are the operational control rooms for the stages, and on the second floor is the master control room and the remote control of the lighting equipment. The telecine room is a separate building, but immediately adjacent.

Floor Accommodation

1957 trade advertisement for Vinter studio equipment

Apart from the studios themselves, the ground floor is occupied by viewing rooms, camera and lighting control rooms, technical stores and work- shops. First floor accommodation includes further control rooms and announcer’s quarters.

The four stages so far completed (a fifth is planned for a later date) are rather smaller in superficial area than is normal in a film studio, and one, No. 3, is really no more than an insert stage.

All, however, are equipped with spot-rails and the flooring is of a special hard grade of rubber, which, it is hoped, will obviate the dangers of buckling and consequent bumping during movement by cranes and dolleys.

As it is common for a television studio to be made more acoustically “live” than the equivalent film studio, a large area of the original acoustic treatment of the walls has been covered by perforated hardboard.

An innovation that might well commend itself to film studios is the addition of visitors’ galleries. These glass-fronted compartments provide an adequate view of what is happening on the stages, but are so well sound-proofed that it will be possible to fit them with low-level amplifiers so that onlookers may hear as well as see what is going on.

Such an arrangement could be a boon to harassed film directors, especially those allergic to sightseers while they are working!

Marconi Mark III cameras, with 44 in. pick-up tubes are being used for studio operations, and similar cameras, but with 3 in. tubes are employed on outside broadcast work, for which there are two magnificently equipped self-contained vans that will, when necessary, have a micro-wave link with the studio. Altogether 21 cameras will be in operation or on call when programmes are going out.

The vision-mixers are of the Marconi relay-operated type, which handle eight inputs. All the sound-control equipment has been supplied by Marconi’s, with optical groove-locator turntables that allow the pick-up to be dropped on the precise required point on the record by an optical plotting system.

The telecine apparatus, made by EMI, is of the 16- or 35-mm. “flying spot” type, and a control system, claimed as unique in this country, has been devised so that the machines (once they have been loaded) can be operated from a remote position.

In addition, there are some RCA Vidicon apparatus similarly available for remote control. In this equipment, the projectors throw their outputs on to a small camera, via an optical multiplexing unit. It enables miniature slides and small opaques to be shown rather after the fashion of the epidiascope.

The master control equipment supplied by Marconi’s provides for the simultaneous switching of sound and vision from eight input channels to two transmission channels, with adequate pre-viewing facilities. Two monoscope cameras provide the setting-up signals.

Lighting Equipment

Of particular interest is the fully remote-controlled lighting equipment supplied by Strand Electric. The control console, a remarkably compact piece of apparatus, allows the whole of the studio lighting set-ups and changes to be operated by one man.

Lighting plans are pre-set and single buttons on the console control a maximum of 10 lamps each, so that changes are achieved with the great flexibility and almost infinite variety required for the televising of continuous live shows.

Dimming is also dealt with from the same console, again on a pre-set system. Lamps (with the exception, of course, of the fluorescents) can be dimmed either individually or in combinations on an infinitely variable period change ranging from 2 secs. to 45 secs.

The control also has a “memory,” which means that lighting plans can be repeated as required.

Because of the sensitivity of the Image Orthicon cameras less lighting can be used than is common in film studios. The lamps themselves are mainly Mole-Richardson incandescents. There are, also, at present in use a number of banks of fluorescents, but it is planned to eliminate these as soon as possible because their narrow spectrum is inclined to give a “noisy” picture.

As the studio is being used for a combination of film and live TV, conventional cameras are necessary as well. To date, most of the film work has been shot on Cameflex, but this is to be supplemented by Mitchells.

Other equipment includes Vinter Pathfinders, Mole-Richardson and Debrie dolleys and M-R booms.

The programmes from the studio go by Post Office land lines to Associated Rediffusion’s headquarters at Television House, Kingsway, and thence to the ITA transmitter at Croydon.

About the author

Kinematograph Weekly was a trade magazine for people in the film distribution and exhibition industry

1 thought on “In Nine Months TV Transforms Wembley Studios

  1. I was an apprentice electrician with Strand Electric,putting in the lighting equipment,and later studio 5.The man in charge was a lovely chap,Bernie Finch.One day I went to personnel asking if there were any jobs with Rediffusion,”here is one,in the sound department,at Television house”I was lucky to have been given the job,and here we are some 50 years later,and I still do the odd days work in T.V.

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