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Peter Croft – Evolution of transmission facilities

Posted by ken On March - 19 - 2009

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Peter Croft (TVW 1966-1999)

Peter Croft – Describes the evolution in broadcasting facilities from an autonomous local identity controlling program presentation and content to an automated operation under a centralised control, rebroadcasting delayed network programs emanating from the eastern states.

Peter Croft worked in Engineering and Operations at TVW from 1966 to 1999, during which time he participated in the pioneering black and white era of valves, right through the technologic transition of transistors, integrated circuits, colour television, stereo sound, automation to centralised networked programming.

During this time he both operated and maintained the equipment, and was involved in many station rebuilds as Peter’s remarkable collection of photographs document. A number of the photos were also contributed by colleague Peter Partridge.

The operational areas of Master Control, Telecine and Videotape were originally spread over two floors. Most of the early studio equipment was manufactured by PYE, with the exception of RCA videotape machines. It was very much a labour intensive manual operation, but that was to change.


1959 Master Control – Photo: Frank Evans


Ray Calley and Peter Buzzard in the original Telecine area

By 1971, all the broadcast equipment was consolidated in one operational area, with the building expanded to accommodate it. This included a combined telecine and videotape area, a partitioned off master control area, which by now was semi automated, employing the Master Control operator in the dual roles of Presentation Coordinator, and senior technician.

Peter Croft describes the facilities in use…

Below is a 1971 view of the Ward TSA250 stored program control desk which switched vision and sound to air. This was one of the first automated switchers in use and held 12 preset “events” entered by the operator beforehand according to the program log. There were no computers then and all the storage was done by discrete logic gates in RTL and DTL. There were no LEDs or LCDs either, and all the readouts were done by rear projection modules (the black rectangles, centre) with tiny lamps and film transparencies. These were from aircraft control panel manufacturers.

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The exact time of each commercial break and program start time had to be noted by the operator on the log, for later billing, along with any problems encountered. Keeping to time was also the task of the operator, with slippage a constant problem. The News had to go to air at EXACTLY 6pm, no matter what.

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Video recording technology evolved considerably over the 33 years in which Peter spent with TVW. On the left is an example of valve operated 2 inch RCA videotape equipment, whilst on the right is an early example of transistorized RCA replay equipment.

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A 1971 view of the Videotape area with Peter Partridge operating

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Most programming came on 16mm film in the early days

Telecine in 1973 involved the use of a colour RCA telecine “chain” consisting of two film projectors, one dual drum slide projector and two cameras (one in cabinet, not visible, the other on the right of the slide drums). The device between the projectors is a system of mechanically interlocked mirrors called a multiplexer. Logic controlled which mirror was raised or lowered to direct any projector into either camera, so that the entire film and slide load could be carried by this one chain. The action of the mirrors was fast enough that a change could be made on air.

Most programming came on film in those days and the ladies in the film department cut the films and spliced in the commercials according to the program log given to them by the “Traffic” department. They did this with utter reliability, almost never making a mistake.

The spliced reels were left on a trolley for the operators to collect and lace up on the projectors. Each reel had one of these sheets showing exactly where the reel started and finished, all numbered in sequence.

The splices were made with black splicing tape, just like sticky tape, which held strong enough to go through the projector but not too strong to be removed again the next day.

By 1975 the videotape and telecine area was undergoing changes with the addition of two Ampex ACR25 2 inch videocassette machines.

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Ampex ACR25 2 inch videocassette machine

By this stage the place was looking rather cluttered.

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The sliding Compactus racks in the background held the hundreds of 2″ videocassettes for the ACRs.

December 1975, shows an operator at the Ampex AVR1 reel to reel VTR, with the RCA reel to reel TR70 between it and the Ampex ACR25 videocassette to the left. The AVR1 and the ACR25 were closely related in design and were triumphs of VTR development at the time.

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Ampex ACR25 VTR, with the RCA TR70 between it and the Ampex AVR1

In the years from the introduction of colour TV in March 1975, TVW seemed to be constantly expanding its equipment and alterations to the transmission area such as this seemed never ending.

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Frank Deusien (pink shirt) and Jim Barto (bending over).

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The revamped area in 1979 with Graham Basden to the left, leaning on the ACR, Deputy Chief Engineer Peter Niholls seated deep in thought over an RCA TR60 videotape machine fault.

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1979 – FRED the presentation desk in the early days of colour with Tom Mitchell at the controls

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The 1982 successor to the TSA250 (FRED) presentation switcher, Dexter Crowell at the controls.

Designed and built at TVW’s sister station, SAS10 in Adelaide, this was a fully computer (Intel 8085 !) controlled desk that could store hundreds of events ahead rather than just the 12 of FRED. This desk, of course, was known as New Fred. This photo was early in the installation with lots of gaping holes in the desk cabinets and a Logic Analyser (for debugging) almost permanently mounted on the desktop to the left. The design required months of work to make it reliable, but once settled in, it was remarkably good and lasted for many years.

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Master Control 1988

By 1988 the Master Control area was considerably changed. We were part of the Australia-wide Seven Network and this small desk and work area was occupied by a Master Control operator, sending and receiving news feeds via the Telecom east-west microwave system.

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Grant Salinger is at the videotape controls in 1988

1988 saw the Sony 1″ helical scan videotape almost banish the 2″ quad machines, as by then the AVR1s were gone. These Sony BVH2000s were unbelievably reliable and a dream to operate.

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1988 – Another pair of Sony BVH2000s at left, with Tom Kiekheffer in red and Grant Salinger in white shirt

In the centre of the above photo is a Rank Cintel telecine (blue doors), which uses a CCD solid state scanner, capable of 16mm or 35mm film. Unfortunately it was rare to get a complete reel scanned without a breakdown, hence it saw little use.

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1988 – Facilities to delay eastern states program for local broadcast

A small section was partitioned off to provide a VT area to record network programs. By now, most of our programming was coming from Sydney and an operator was constantly assigned to record the incoming programs. He or she could see the Sydney program controller’s schedule on the monitor in the centre and manually recorded at the appropriate times. The recordings were taken to a playback VTR for play to air two hours later, WA time and three hours in summer.

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By 1992, full networking was in operation in the Seven Network and this was the operator’s position. We were also in stereo audio operation by now, hence the dual speakers and meters.

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1992 – A further view of the Master Control area

The monitor at bottom left was a Control Data VAX computer terminal directly fed from ATN7 Sydney Master Control’s VAX mini-computer for scheduling of all the transfers each day for weeks ahead.

Note the computer tiled floor, covering many thousands of cables and allowing cold air to be ducted up through the equipment racks into the ceiling. The yellow stripey sign at the back was for placing over the holes when tiles were lifted!

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1992 – A reverse view of Master Control

This was extremely labour intensive and error prone videotape recording of eastern states program for replaying locally to suit WA scheduled times, was first replaced by an automated system in 1993, still using analogue videotape, then later by a digital hard disk/computer based system, totally automatic, by 1998.

Peter Croft Photographic Collection

Each photo is provided with a full description, which is available by clicking on the Flickr option when viewing it.

3 Responses to “Peter Croft – Evolution of transmission facilities”

  1. Les Johnston says:

    Facinating collection Peter, you have a great memory or kept great notes

    Regards Les

  2. Peter Croft says:

    Hiya Les. Yes, good memories are the reason. Taking a picture fixes it in my mind. Or should I say, these things are burned into my mind!!

  3. Mat Robins says:

    Hi Peter,
    Just wanted to know if the AWA console in your pics is still around? and if so would you know where it is or who owns it? I’m trying to find one….not an easy task. Im best reached on or 0405 312 061.
    I hope you can help.

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