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Sound at the BBC Television Center (part 2)

Alongside the console there are various bays and trolleys and pieces of standalone equipment: graphic equalisers, parametrics, compressors and limiters. Every studio is now equipped with six channels of radio mics, “They are used so often that there is no point in dragging them in and out all the time”...

Alongside the console there are various bays and trolleys and pieces of standalone equipment: graphic equalisers, parametrics, compressors and limiters. Every studio is now equipped with six channels of radio mics, “They are used so often that there is no point in dragging them in and out all the time”. Monitoring is invariably BBC designed LS5/8 loudspeakers built by Rogers, and typically four or five picture monitors, all of which are selectable. “The transmission monitor can be selected to network output so you can see yourself on the air”. The output selector for previews is a remote controlled matrix in the vision area so any sources can be shown. “We don’t have a picture from every source because, as you would see from the vision control room, it’s a wall of glass, we just don’t have room for it. If we need to have more individual previewable cameras when the studio set is complex then we bring in extra monitors. The rack is big enough to support them”.

The rear half of the control room is devoted to the tape and grams operator’s area in which you would find anything from two to five tape machines. “All of our tape machines are twin track format, which means they have a wide guard band down the middle, and in every control room there is at least one which is centre track timecode capable and has a synchroniser with it. In all of the control rooms we have provision for a twenty-four track recorder which can record from the desk. There aren’t as many about as there are studios so we just trundle them in as necessary. There’s a plug in position for them”. The twenty-four track recorders come with Dolby A, which is still the BBC’s standard for noise reduction.

“We will have anything from two to four standard record playing turntables, EMT 948s mostly, and a couple of CD players which are mostly Sony 3000s, two players operated from one controller. We are increasingly using DAT machines, which are technically stores bookable items but you’ll find that most of the time there will be one in every studio because you end up using them all the time. We have a large stores with one or two of a lot of things which people take as they need. A lot of these items are directly involved with programme work, additional equalisers or extra small mixers or distribution amplifiers or whatever. There is also quite a lot of communications equipment because much of our work is comms. Some programmes have relatively straightforward programme sound but very complicated communications. There isn’t very much sound in programme terms in Grandstand for instance, which runs for four or five hours on a Saturday afternoon, but the communications exercise is enormous so for that reason it’s done in a particular studio where we have even more comms equipment than we normally use, and we use more than most people. If you had gone into TC5 when it was the hub for the Winter Olympics coverage, you would have found additional bays of equipment standing there with huge numbers of double enders plugged up. The number of circuits in there was quite extraordinary. That was special but it’s becoming increasingly frequent. All these major sporting events have this kind of hook up, everybody expects to be able to talk to whoever they want whenever they want freely around the world, and it can be done”.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004