Unfeasibly large flatscreen TVs in 1980s news studios

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Mark Wright
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Unfeasibly large flatscreen TVs in 1980s news studios

Post by Mark Wright »

The BBC One O'Clock News set from c. 1987 as featured in this YT clip (in particular, 2:24 and 2:31):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5IcnXjoF-M

Forgive my naivety, but it's only just occured to me that the sort of large flat panel displays that began cropping up on studio sets around this time, must surely have been nothing more than wooden props with bits of blue/green cloth in the middle? I realise that the use of chromakey/CSO is a longstanding staple of news presentation, with superimposed slide-scanner driven shimmering "windows" behind newsreaders being something of a cliche, but I was totally fooled by the whole "punters will buy this as a space-age telly only available to broadcasters" design.

At least, I presume I'm right? If so, at 2:31 in that clip, is the Buerkmeister really conducting his interview with John Biffen via a bit of painted wood and blue cloth? It's clever stuff, because the unfeasibly large flat screen telly is not front-facing, it's at a jaunty angle. Paintbox trickery? With a live insert? If I'm wrong and such large flat panel displays really did exist in 1987, wouldn't they suffer from 50hz flicker when used on set? If they were even PAL compatible?

On a similar note, what were the contestants in 1980s Catchphrase looking at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-p7MMgBQJE

as the "big screen" was obviously nothing more than a big blue cloth. I always thought it strange that the contestants *never* looked at the screen that we could see.

Any other examples? Any (brilliantly technical) details? :-)

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Bob Richardson
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Re: Unfeasibly large flatscreen TVs in 1980s news studios

Post by Bob Richardson »

Probably an overlay using Charisma (which is mentioned in gallery talkback). Charisma was "downstream" of everything else on the mixer (apart from the capgen, which was usually downstream of all vision sources). Charisma coukd be adjusted to create perpective effects, so an angled "monitor" would have been relatively easy to match. The success of such a shot would rely upon a camera being lined up and locked off, and possibly remaining untouched for the duration of the bulletin. Sometimes it would be possible to give the cameraman a viewfinder mix of his shot plus Charisma, allowing the camera to be freed up for other shots. At the time this bulletin was TXd BBC News were still using a mix of TJs (35mm slides) and cardboard captions. Paintbox wasn't acquired by the BBC until 1981-82. Photos/maps/diagrams were pinned to a large board on the studio floor and a camera framed-up on the relevant image. BBC Scenic Projection could also provide a service to project 35mm slides onto a glass panel with a frosted surface (the projector operator would be behind the set) but the image was comparatively weak in a brightly-lit studio. And then there was Eidophor (qv) which could provide a very large, bright, projected image, normally in monochrome. I'm guessing that News just used Charisma.

The contestants on Catchphrase are looking at a floor monitor in front of them. The large "screen" would have probably displayed nothing more than the series logo. It didn't need to be CSO blue as the computer was overlaid, rather than inlaid, so no chroma-key was needed.

Dave Jervis will know how this was all done and will be able to correct my non-technical contribution...
"Forfar 5 - East Fife 4"

fatcat
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Re: Unfeasibly large flatscreen TVs in 1980s news studios

Post by fatcat »

The displays would not suffer from flicker because they sync locked to the rest of the studio equipment,but you would get it on a handheld camera running around the place because they did not have a wireless link in those days.

The newsroom display screen is probably coming from a Barco projector pointed at a mirror and bounced up to the screen at the back of the set?

For bigger displays like on Catchphrase a GE lightvalve projector or even a Cavendish laser projector could have been used in that era .

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Roll ACR
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Re: Unfeasibly large flatscreen TVs in 1980s news studios

Post by Roll ACR »

I think you're mistaken. The old "One O'Clock News" set surely just had rear projection Mitsubishi TVs as in-vision monitors, dressed to match the set. "Newsnight" used to have them too, either a very large NEC TV or the "double mitsi" (2 smaller Mitsubishi rear projection TVs). Such TVs were readily available at the time - for a price. You'd see them in certain pubs and other establishments as big screens before video projectors became more affordable and less temperamental.

As said the Charisma DVE is used to "fly in" the images for headlines and teases but the other images are simply fed via an M/E bank of the mixer down a studio wallbox tieline to the input of the monitor.

Nothing very fancy at all.

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