Riley capgen questions

Discussion of television and radio technology - professional and domestic.
Post Reply
Clive
625 lines
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:53 pm
Location: Stockholm

Riley capgen questions

Post by Clive »

Just watching "Swap-Shop (28/2/1981) TC7 Gallery Tour" on Youtube and at 15:43 we see a Riley cap-gen demonstrated by a nervous operator. It looks really primitive, but I was wondering that when he is selecting captions, you can hear relays clicking away. Does anyone know what these relays are doing ? It all sounds like there must be something mechanical in there producing those captions.

Also, at the end when he types in his own name "Bob" to appear on the screen, it takes around 5 or so seconds before it actually appears. Was this due to the slowness of the Riley machine in getting captions to screen or would it have been the gallery who were just a but slow displaying it in that example ?

I know some of you have worked on these things and may have some ideas.

User avatar
Bob Richardson
625 lines
Posts: 492
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm
Location: Gallifrey west

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bob Richardson »

Ryley was cutting-edge technology at that time. Its predecessor was Anchor which had a crude, monospaced face which looked awful. Ryley was invented by a man called Derek Ryley and was a solid state system. Inside of the main frame were lots of printed circuit boards and each character A-B-C etc was clearly visible as a pattern of components, rather like embroidery on each board. The system recorded captions (a maximum of 384) onto a 7 inch floppy disk. The sound of the "relays" you heard was the read/record head of the disk drive moving to the disk sector where the data was stored. The drive was VERY noisy, and when we worked on "Panorama" we were on the studio floor behind a soundproof screen because the presenter's mic picked up the "whirrrr-klunk" of the drive as a guest's name was selected. Indeed, when "Panorama" was in Lime Grove studio D the Ryley would often be on the floor of studio E, next door, because of the noise issue. I would sometimes sit there alone in that vast space while a man painted the floor around me for the next programme to be recorded there. Even though floor paint is water-based, the fumes could be overwhelming and even intoxicating (nothing to do with having spent several hours in the BBC Club).

The "Bob" in the video is NOT me, but another Bob (Smith), who was terrified by the experience of being interviewed by Noel Edmonds. We still wind him up about it today. The delay in seeing Bob's name on screen is nothing to do with the Ryley - the vision mixer took her time cutting the caption to air.

A favourite trick to play on new capgen operators was to shuffle the boards around, so the "A" key would produce a "Q" on the edit monitor, "B" would be a "W" etc.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

Clive
625 lines
Posts: 278
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:53 pm
Location: Stockholm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Clive »

Ahh so, that was the clicking ! Thanks ! The Riley operator did seem to be a lonely occupation hidden away behind all the action. It did make me wonder if "Bob" was the Mausoleum's favourite caption creator. I guess you could prepare all the captions earlier and pull them up as required from the floppy.

User avatar
Bob Richardson
625 lines
Posts: 492
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm
Location: Gallifrey west

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bob Richardson »

Clive wrote:I guess you could prepare all the captions earlier and pull them up as required from the floppy.
Yes, as was often the case. It could be nerve-wracking if you were sub-titling a live opera and had a stack of disks which had to be changed at intervals throughout the performance. Normally a producer (with libretto) sat alongside and gave me cues to change the captions.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

markboulton
405 lines
Posts: 56
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:35 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by markboulton »

Bob Richardson wrote:Ryley was cutting-edge technology at that time. Its predecessor was Anchor which had a crude, monospaced face which looked awful. Ryley was invented by a man called Derek Ryley and was a solid state system. Inside of the main frame were lots of printed circuit boards and each character A-B-C etc was clearly visible as a pattern of components, rather like embroidery on each board. The system recorded captions (a maximum of 384) onto a 7 inch floppy disk. The sound of the "relays" you heard was the read/record head of the disk drive moving to the disk sector where the data was stored. The drive was VERY noisy, and when we worked on "Panorama" we were on the studio floor behind a soundproof screen because the presenter's mic picked up the "whirrrr-klunk" of the drive as a guest's name was selected. Indeed, when "Panorama" was in Lime Grove studio D the Ryley would often be on the floor of studio E, next door, because of the noise issue. I would sometimes sit there alone in that vast space while a man painted the floor around me for the next programme to be recorded there. Even though floor paint is water-based, the fumes could be overwhelming and even intoxicating (nothing to do with having spent several hours in the BBC Club).

The "Bob" in the video is NOT me, but another Bob (Smith), who was terrified by the experience of being interviewed by Noel Edmonds. We still wind him up about it today. The delay in seeing Bob's name on screen is nothing to do with the Ryley - the vision mixer took her time cutting the caption to air.

A favourite trick to play on new capgen operators was to shuffle the boards around, so the "A" key would produce a "Q" on the edit monitor, "B" would be a "W" etc.

Bob, how come they didn't just keep the Ryley in the gallery? Too noisy even for there?

User avatar
Bob Richardson
625 lines
Posts: 492
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm
Location: Gallifrey west

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bob Richardson »

Sometimes the capgen WAS in the gallery, but on a show where the operator was constantly dealing with production staff bringing updates and messages it was less distracting to gallery staff if the capgen was located elsewhere. Some studio galleries were quite small and Ryley/Aston capgens were attached to bulky metal trolleys which also had a coder and sync-pulse generator on board. The old Ryley trolleys were like small cars! The engineering porters would open the double fire doors in the corridors by crashing through them with the trolleys.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

markboulton
405 lines
Posts: 56
Joined: Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:35 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by markboulton »

Good grief...I knew the technology of this period was far from compact, but I always imagined the Ryley to simply look like an oversized VT (Video Terminal) console plus a rack or two of ancillary electronics and the disk drive. As for sync and coding, I assumed it would just be passive and slaved up by very long cables to generation equipment in fixed locations in the studio.

boblet
405 lines
Posts: 41
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:51 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by boblet »

Derek Ryley must have got a fair bit of business off the BBC - there would have been one CapGen for TVC, one for Lime Grove, one each for the Nations and one each for the three Network Production Centres. Any I've missed?

And apart from LWT (and possibly RTE) did any other organisation outside of the BBC invest in Ryleys?

GarethR
HD
Posts: 1160
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:18 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by GarethR »

boblet wrote:Derek Ryley must have got a fair bit of business off the BBC - there would have been one CapGen for TVC
Surely more than just one? With 8 studios all running at once, plus the news studios and Pres all having potential need for a capgen?

User avatar
Bob Richardson
625 lines
Posts: 492
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm
Location: Gallifrey west

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bob Richardson »

GarethR wrote:
boblet wrote:Derek Ryley must have got a fair bit of business off the BBC - there would have been one CapGen for TVC
Surely more than just one? With 8 studios all running at once, plus the news studios and Pres all having potential need for a capgen?
There were probably five or six Ryleys at TVC in the early 1980s. "Grandstand" had theirs at Lime Grove (and TC2) on long term hire from Kiwi Armstrong. There was the age-old nonsense of having no money for capital purchases but enough for rental, even though the latter far outstripped the purchase price. When Aston came along they were purchased outright and mounted on hefty metal trolleys with all the necessary gubbins on-board. An Aston 3 trolley was about the size of a small upright piano and was bloody heavy to push around. The trolley incorporated two or three CRT monitors for Edit/Output and studio TX, so you'll begin to understand why they were so large and heavy.

Pres had an ancient Anchor capgen (originally built for the moon landing coverage in 1969) and Chyron IV for promotions and trail-making (after a brief dalliance with Aston 2).
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

User avatar
Bernie
D-MAC
Posts: 553
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:49 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bernie »

Bob Richardson wrote: Pres had an ancient Anchor capgen (originally built for the moon landing coverage in 1969) and Chyron IV for promotions and trail-making (after a brief dalliance with Aston 2).
...and just to add - we didn't use Anchor for trails - just the other two, and very large numbers of paper captions also made by Bob and co. The Anchor - which I assume must be a BBC acronym - was used by Network to put up emergency captions or late sports results or whatever

Image

GarethR
HD
Posts: 1160
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:18 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by GarethR »

Bernie wrote:The Anchor - which I assume must be a BBC acronym
ANalogue CHaracter generatOR.

And if anyone wants to know how it worked, or indeed what it looked like - BBC Engineering Monograph 84 (October 1970)

User avatar
Bob Richardson
625 lines
Posts: 492
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm
Location: Gallifrey west

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bob Richardson »

GarethR wrote:
Bernie wrote:The Anchor - which I assume must be a BBC acronym
ANalogue CHaracter generatOR.

And if anyone wants to know how it worked, or indeed what it looked like - BBC Engineering Monograph 84 (October 1970)
Not true. It was AlphaNumericCHaracterORigination equipment. A clumsy acronym, but that's what it was officially called. Described in internal documentation as "BBC designed equipment enabling captions, titles etc. to be generated electronically and inserted into a television picture from a typewriter style keyboard. 82 characters including full upper and lower case alphabets can be made to appear at any of 384 positions in the picture area which is divided into a matrix of 12 rows, each with 32 character positions".
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

User avatar
Roll ACR
625 lines
Posts: 233
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:11 pm
Location: Winchester

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Roll ACR »

Up on the sixth floor, in the hallowed heights of News, there was a small room next to N2 gallery that was still referred to in the '90s as the "Anchor lobby", many years after the last time any such contraption last resided there.

boblet
405 lines
Posts: 41
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:51 pm

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by boblet »

GarethR wrote:
boblet wrote:Derek Ryley must have got a fair bit of business off the BBC - there would have been one CapGen for TVC
Surely more than just one? With 8 studios all running at once, plus the news studios and Pres all having potential need for a capgen?
Based on personal memories, but I don't recall News using a Ryley, or any other capgen/electronic graphics prior to the arrival of the Six in 1984. The exception to this was News Review which used Anchor for subtitles. Unless Bob R/Bernie know differently...?

User avatar
Bob Richardson
625 lines
Posts: 492
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm
Location: Gallifrey west

Re: Riley capgen questions

Post by Bob Richardson »

BBC News had their own Ryley from at least 1981 onward, but I don't know who operated it. For some strange BBC internal political reason "Newsnight" was serviced by TVC Main Block graphics at first, rather than News Graphics. The "Newsnight" Ryley was in the gallery of N2 ("Newsnight" was usually TX'd from TC6) and I would sit there listening to talkback from the TC6 director during rehearsal and TX.

Ryley was probably available in News from about 1977 as I know that it was used on the "Tonight" (Tuohy/McCormick/Singleton) show from at least then. One of my regular "Newsnight" chores was to collect the weather caption for the end of the show from the duty weatherman in Pres A. It was a 12" x 9" steel plate with a painted UK map, with text and temperatures on magnetic strips, as cardboard or "practical" graphics were still very much the norm until the mid-1980s and beyond. One of the reasons for that was the limited range of faces available (Ryley had 10 Helvetica variants on board).

Manual capgens were largely superceded in BBC News by Big Ted (later AstEd) developed by Bob Wilkinson. This was a specially written software package which partially automated the system for the production of name supers, although the "front end" of the system was still an Aston capgen.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

Post Reply