And so, goodbye TC

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Bernie
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And so, goodbye TC

Post by Bernie »

This was the tech-ops goodbye to Television Centre yesterday. 120 of us -

Image

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Tim D
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Tim D »

The end of a golden era of television history.

The majority of this video is an original creation by the author, however moderators, if this link is deemed to transgress the rules, please remove the link. A search for the term "BBC TV CENTRE - Goodbye!!" should suffice.

http://youtu.be/U4exvzKpMGc

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Bernie »

It all has a feel of not just goodbye TC, but goodbye BBC also. I'm glad we were there for the best of it.

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B

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Tim D
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Tim D »

I like that bottom picture Bernie. It's almost as if Ariel cannot bare the sight of what is happening to TVC.

There's some interesting images and ideas being captured during this sad period. Here's a link I received via Facebook to more photos.
http://www.roberttimothy.com/television-centre

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Paul Hayes
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Paul Hayes »

It's very sad, of course, even just from the point of view of someone who's never worked there and merely enjoyed programmes produced there.

But time moves on, styles and eras change. Savoy Hill, Alexandra Palace, Lime Grove... All these long gone or vacated, but the BBC marches on. At the end of the day, it's made up of its people, not its places.

And all I can offer is that, from my standpoint - a tiny corner of the BBC, away from London - it's still chock-full of dedicated, creative, hard-working people determined to do the best they can for the audiences they serve. As long as that continues to be the case, then we're doing all right.

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Bob Richardson
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Tim D wrote:It's almost as if Ariel cannot bare the sight of what is happening to TVC.
It's Helios, the sun god Tim, but I imagine he feels the same way.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

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Tim D
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Tim D »

I never was any good with my Gods! lol

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Bob Richardson wrote:
Tim D wrote:It's almost as if Ariel cannot bare the sight of what is happening to TVC.
It's Helios, the sun god Tim, but I imagine he feels the same way.
Hi Bob,
Did you end up at the Channel 4 Presentation Graphics. Red Bee, or not?

Regards ~ Robert

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Brian F »

I've just watched the last BBC News Channel broadcast from TVC. Nice exit of presenters, fade down of studio lights and switch off of background screens sequence to end it all.

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Bob Richardson
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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image45 wrote:
Hi Bob,
Did you end up at the Channel 4 Presentation Graphics. Red Bee, or not?

Regards ~ Robert
Neither. I think they thought I was probably too old for all that cutting edge stuff.

I'm now working full time as a library assistant in Fleet Street and loving almost every moment (apart from the crappy rush-hour tube journeys). I recently found a long-lost BBC radio programme in the library archives and I'm in the process of returning it to Perivale for digitisation. It's nothing that anyone on the Forum will remember, but in January 1946 there was a one hour documentary broadcast on the BBC Home Service to mark the centenary of the "News Chronicle" (defunct 1960). The programme looked at the most momentous events of the previous 100 years (1846-1946). Someone at the "News Chronicle" commissioned a posterity copy of the documentary and it was recorded on eight (double-sided) shellac discs at Star Sound Studios in London, apparently quite independently of the BBC. The library (stbride.org) holds many archives relating to Fleet Street institutions of all kinds, and has a massive collection of printing artefacts including presses, original drawings and sketches by the likes of Eric Gill and even the original models of our road signage system, made for a presentation to the Ministry of Transport c.1959.

The discs are in what appears to be immaculate condition, having been carefully wrapped in acres of tissue and brown paper, tied up with string and festooned with cobwebs and thick dust. I just hope that there are some rare interviews in the programme.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

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image45
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Bob Richardson wrote:I'm now working full time as a library assistant in Fleet Street and loving almost every moment (apart from the crappy rush-hour tube journeys).
Great to hear your working full time. When you left the BBC you said you had taken your BBC pension early. Something you were not too happy about as it was heavily discounted when staff claimed before the official due date. Are you still stuck with this now, even with the full time work?

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Bernie
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image45 wrote:as it was heavily discounted when staff claimed before the official due date.
A mad system, probably government originated. When I accepted redundancy in 2001, they were eager enough to get rid of people that they were offering "pension as if you were 60 if you go now". I went with alacrity at 53. A few years later my wife had to take a miserable pension when she went early.

B

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Bernie wrote:
image45 wrote:as it was heavily discounted when staff claimed before the official due date.
A mad system, probably government originated. When I accepted redundancy in 2001, they were eager enough to get rid of people that they were offering "pension as if you were 60 if you go now". I went with alacrity at 53. A few years later my wife had to take a miserable pension when she went early.

B
I have heard of other companies offering pensions as if you were 60, when in your early 50’s to accelerate employee labour turnover when required.

From what I can gather most former employees are glad to no longer be working for the BBC, since the days of been valued and loving going to work have long gone.

The real rot seems to have started in April 1993 when John Birt introduced producer choice, giving programme makers the power to buy services from outside the BBC.

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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image45 wrote:From what I can gather most former employees are glad to no longer be working for the BBC, since the days of been valued and loving going to work have long gone.
As with any industry, I'm sure it varies depending on who you are, where you are and what you're doing.

I love working for the BBC, and feel very lucky to be fortunate enough to have a job I enjoy.

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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image45 wrote: The real rot seems to have started in April 1993 when John Birt introduced producer choice, giving programme makers the power to buy services from outside the BBC.
Probably true. The BBC had, historically, largely promoted from within, and those from outside had a real affinity to BBC values. Birt was some kind of Dalek and alienated almost everyone. Still. does, I believe.

Producer Choice was, though, was a rather extreme and destructive way of implementing changes which needed to be made. As a producer, and one whose budget was paying, I very much resented arriving in VT to people saying "f***ing Pres is here again", and working with bad tempered condescending incompetent Ealing film crews who were on overtime before they left base. All that changed very rapidly - we didn't use Ealing crews at all any more, and the place closed. The VT department went on customer care courses, and were suddenly eager to get the coffees. Had PC been done in a less harsh way, stopped earlier and been less extensive in its reach, it would have been a good thing. Having to go to Shepherd's Bush market to use budget cash to buy CDs because it was cheaper than going to the library was just stupid.

B

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Bernie
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...and of course, Producer Choice - or the over-enthusiastic use of - accelerated the end of Television Centre.

Politicians - self serving as ever - periodically make the BBC move to new bases around the country. Their own, or some colleagues, constituencies would be good, if possible (MP for Salford?). So the BBC managements of the times, ever naive and over-enthusiastic themselves, built large studio complexes they couldn't fill without taking away programmes from the London studios they already had, and which were highly efficient. This made TC less cost efficient than it was when built, as many studio days were no longer filled - Howard's Way in Birmingham etc. It wasn't totally a disaster, because the BBC had built the studios to be used, and they weren't a cost centre, just a below the line cost to budgets. If TC4 was available, you could use it.

When Birt came along and brought in PC, studios not only became a cost on show budgets, they had to carry the endless overheads that the BBC had because it's a national broadcaster, that Fred Bloggs Studios or whatever doesn't. At the same time, if you keep cutting budgets, producers have to find the cheapest way to get the show on the air, and that's to go to Fred Bloggs. So it got much cheaper to go to SSVC or Teddington or wherever. PC didn't give any advantage to internal facilities, even though they were just downstairs, fully operational and empty. BBC money just went out of the BBC. People built studios in their own offices, rather than use the perfectly good studios. Birt didn't seem to see this as a bit of an error.

B

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Bob Richardson
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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As a BBC Graphic Assistant in the late 1990s I was charged to Sports department at £35 per hour. That "money" went to Graphic Design Department. In turn they paid me £8 an hour but couldn't make a profit as it cost them £42 an hour to employ me under the Producer Choice rules. These were figures given to me as a union rep to justify why I was made redundant in June 2000 (my first BBC redundancy).

When we asked for a breakdown of that £42ph figure we were given a list which included cleaning, security, catering, car parking, business rates, depreciation on equipment values, decorating, maintenance of TVC facilities and a long list of other charges which had to be borne by my parent department. It was ludicrous, which is why we lost so much internal business to freelances who walked in and charged £20 an hour (undercutting the internal charge by £15 an hour) and made a good living. Producer Choice crippled the internal market because servicing departments had to operate with one hand tied behind their backs.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Another thing that fell to pieces around that time was training. Once upon a time the BBC trained the UK tv industry, and now nobody does. In a freelance world everyone hangs on to their jobs, and tries - for the sake of their mortgages - not to let anyone else know what they know. A number of cameramen I know are nearer 70 than 60 and still working away. A BBC HR woman asked "why are the cameramen so old?" - "Because you haven't trained anyone for 15 years"

Now, for those who can tell, it's beginning to show, and various concerned groups are trying to do something about it. The problem, as ever, is money.

Bernie

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Paul Hayes
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Quite enjoyed last night's programme.

What I found most interesting was Alan Yentob demonstrating the machinery that used to lift up and down massive scenery backdrops for painting. He explained how it hadn't been used since dramas stopped being made at the Centre in 1994.

Has it really stayed in working order with nobody using it for 19 years? And didn't any other types of shows ever need such backdrops?

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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I'm told it stayed working - just that no-one used it. Cycs are part of lots of tv shows and of feature films. It's a whole lot cheaper to use a painted cyc when you can get away with it than use green screen, which needs a lot of post production.

I expect that somewhere around there are cyc painting companies which don't have to pay BBC costs "....included cleaning, security, catering, car parking, business rates, depreciation on equipment values, decorating, maintenance of TVC facilities.... " .

That parcelling out of overhead costs seems to make sense in the short term - what you have to pay out against what comes in - but I've never understood how the overall accountancy is supposed to work. Once you've made Bob freelance, and hired him back at £20ph, hopefully for at least an 8 hour day - how do you pay for the overheads now? Whatever building you're in, you still have to get it cleaned and lit etc. Perhaps the forum has a resident accountant who can explain....?

B

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Paul Hayes »

Thanks Bernie.

After seeing your post I did a Google search for pictures of the TVC cyc painting room. Rather movingly, there are several photos around of it from the past few years, when it had already been abandoned and unused for many years, which show open paint pots and paper coffee cups being used to mix colours, left abandoned as if it were only being used yesterday, and people would be coming back to it any minute.

Were there many parts of TVC that weren't officially closed or shut down as such, but just fell into disuse and were left as they had been? I would have thought most such areas would have been taken over for other purposes?

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Paul Hayes wrote:Alan Yentob explained how it hadn't been used since dramas stopped being made at the Centre in 1994.

Has it really stayed in working order with nobody using it for 19 years? And didn't any other types of shows ever need such backdrops?
No. Botney was wrong, but it made a better story. I wouldn't have called them "cycs" (cycloramas), which I always understood to be a plain coloured drape, stetched around a rail with stage weights to keep it taught. Same-coloured coving at the base created an "infinity cyc" if properly lit and painted.

LOTS of non-drama shows used scenic backcloths, especially entertainment productions such as sitcoms. There was a vast "library" of painted backcloths stored on racking in the scenery block, and an album was available to designers showing the full cloth with measurements. This meant that many dramas and sitcoms didn't need to have special scenic backcloths painted - they were taken from stock.The scenic artists studio was still being used 7 or 8 years ago (and perhaps even much more recently), although it wasn't working flat-out with two cloths being painted all day, every day. It was very hard to see into that area, but I did take a small group of friends into the Drama Building (former Scenery Block) circa 2005 or 2006 and saw one being being painted.

The plastics workshop was another neglected area which had an extended lease of life making huge polystyrene cut-out panels for "Hole In The Wall", only to disappear shortly after the series ended.

There were other areas such as the reference library and film rostrum which saw their work dwindle away gradually over a period of years, where staff were left idling the time away until the inevitable redundancies. The BBC's resident signwriters continued working there long after "leaving" as did the Special Projects guys who made some fantastic electronic scoring devices for game shows, although sometimes they'd have to form companies and rent space back from the BBC within TVC.

Space within TVC was always at a premium and areas were rapidly refurbished after being vacated, often to emerge from a make-over looking very different. My office at various times included a long room over the BBC Club & Film Despatch at Lime Grove, the former Cashiers Office at TVC, a large room in the Spur which later became the Newsnight production office and Room 215 Scenery Block which became a Drama production office when we left.
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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Bob Richardson wrote:............... I wouldn't have called them "cycs" (cycloramas), which I always understood to be a plain coloured drape
Agreed, I think the correct name was "Artist Painted Cloth"
If memory serves me correctly, that studio was regularly hired back by scenic artists well into the 2000s, but the level of the financial contribution towards the maintenance and certification of the motorised hoists became an issue.
dave

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

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dave j wrote:
Bob Richardson wrote:............... I wouldn't have called them "cycs" (cycloramas), which I always understood to be a plain coloured drape
Agreed, I think the correct name was "Artist Painted Cloth"
If memory serves me correctly, that studio was regularly hired back by scenic artists well into the 2000s, but the level of the financial contribution towards the maintenance and certification of the motorised hoists became an issue.
dave
I don't know about TV but in theatres I have always been led to believe a "cyc" was more or a curved solid wall that could be painted.

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Bernie »

In the BBC TC camera department we called them all cycs.

B

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Roll ACR »

Yes, if it's stretched and lit then it's a cyclorama. If it's just hanging freely and unstretched/not weighted, like a star cloth or blacks then it's generally referred to as drapes.

I remember once as a trainee, a fellow junior colleague of mine referred to the cyc as "curtains". The camera supervisor was Bill Jenkin who incredulously repeated "Curtains!" followed by one his famous expletive ridden phrases correcting the error and then, mercilessly taking the mickey out of Richard, he proceeded to refer to other things in the studio by domestic terms. He referred to the camera cable as "flex" etc. etc.

I guess you had to be there.....

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Bernie
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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by Bernie »

Bill organised the trip at the top of the page, and an excellent job he did.

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Re: And so, goodbye TC

Post by swills »

Sad to see TVC go, although I have nothing to do with TV / Production or anything such related, I was never clever enough when I left school, and now too old, and still not clever enough, I did visit TVC on a number of occasions, first ever was Not in Front of the Children, muts have to been to quite a few, so many that we ended up (temporary!) friends of Hugo, Roberta and the clan! then managed a few trips to TOTP, all of which have been wiped, a couple of Cilla's (inc Sheps Bush), Ain't half Hot Mum, and one Mt Family (playout) always seemed a friendly place, although security on our last visit (MF) was a lot more!

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