live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Spiny Norman
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live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by Spiny Norman »

There is an article online, that I can't put my finger on right now (a sister site of https://screenplaystv.wordpress.com or one of their contributors I thought), that argues that live recorded drama was often edited a bit afterwards. Most obvious example would be a second take on any scenes that went wrong.
So as a result, the telerecordings that we have today (plays from the late 1950s or early 190s) might be a bit more perfect than what went out originally. (We're talking about plays in the older days here.)

I wonder if anyone here can comment on that? I've also heared stories about time slots ending very strictly - so then there would be no chance to do a retake.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by Mark »

Can't say I can think of any examples, it would be very expensive to go to that trouble, many film recordings of recorded as live programmes have mistakes on view.

"The Avengers" for instance, an Actor being given his forgotten line, cameras bumping into the set, and there is one film recording which has a fly wandering about on the screen it was being filmed off.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by murphy1961 »

This is probably well known, but there were a few mistakes left in Hancock’s Half Hour (thankfully – as it makes it even funnier) but I don’t think that was broadcast live. But in principle it was probably similar in that they would have to do the whole scene over again, so didn’t bother, they just soldiered on like a live show would have. And wasn't edited later on, it would probably have been hard to do.

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by ian b »

It certainly happened for episodes of the QUATERMASS serials, as detailed in Andrew Pixley’s notes for the dvd set.

And “new” versions of scenes replaced muffed ones for sales copies of Z CARS too - see David Brunt’s excellent volumes on that series.

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Mark wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:25 pm
Can't say I can think of any examples, it would be very expensive to go to that trouble, many film recordings of recorded as live programmes have mistakes on view.
Retakes of major cock-ups would be done immediately after the live transmission, while whatever recording apparatus would still be running (or arrangements would be made to keep it running). These extras would then be edited into the right places before being sold abroad. It’s no different to original film sequences being inserted into sales copies.

"The Avengers" for instance, an Actor being given his forgotten line, cameras bumping into the set, and there is one film recording which has a fly wandering about on the screen it was being filmed off.
ITV though, where the bottom line was cost, (take a look at how sparsely the sets of ITV dramas can be when compared to a comparable BBC take).

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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But by that time, the Avengers were no longer performed live, surely? So that's another topic, strictly speaking, of mistakes that went uncorrected.

Many live recordings having mistakes - true, but that could also be a reason why they'd start to try and prevent that from happening. (In a French example I once heard one actor prompt the other, only I happened to be listening with headphones, so I caught it.)
ian b wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:07 am
It’s no different to original film sequences being inserted into sales copies.
In material terms not, but it's the production process that I was interested in.

So you're suggesting they "left the line open" as far as the telerecording camera to immediately do some retakes? Because I don't think they would suddenly start using film cameras.
Don't take me wrong, but is this speculation or based on knowledge?
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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I don't know about specific examples, but I was always under the impression that video tape editing was a very cumbersome affair early on, and we know that video tape was a costly process and there needed to be a good justification for the expense. This meant the norm was shows were broadcast live (warts and all) and if they were videotaped for a later repeat, they were still transmitted live, with the recording capturing everything. There would be no scope for correcting mistakes as they went, although if something serious did go wrong, but there would always be the potential to re-stage and record a section immediately after the original TX for editing in later. I say immediately, as you would have everything set up, and later would have been prohibitively expensive/impractical.

If this was done on video tape (if any examples exist), it would be fairly evident as I have always been under the impression that it was a crude, almost guesswork, scissors and sellotape, procedure. There is, of course, the potential for a recording to have been made in the same way as a telecine, by pointing a camera at a TV whilst transmission was in progress. Editing film would presumably be easier and more accurate, and there is no reason why a major fluff couldn't be re-staged after transmission, filmed in the same way, and then edited in on the print for re-use or sale overseas. Video tape wouldn't have been used for sales.

I may be remembering incorrectly, but wasn't 1984 TX live then there was a live repeat a few weeks later that was recorded? Could that have been misinterpreted as 'edited after transmission'.

The practise of recording 'as live', i.e. the technical or budget restraints didn't allow for post-production, went on for some time IIRC, so you do still see minor fluffs in shows.

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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stearn wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:47 pm
I have always been under the impression that it was a crude, almost guesswork, scissors and sellotape, procedure.
Until 1963, all videotape editing was done by physically cutting and splicing together the tape. For obvious reasons - the physical weakness introduced into the tape (at significant risk during playback) and the guesswork employed at the edit point. The tape could only be played and paused at normal speed during the edit. I think it was estimated only about 60% edits were successful, even when undertaken by the most experienced of technicians. The results were also initially far from precise.

Ampex of the US introduced 'Editec' in 1963, with basic computer control of a linear process i.e. you had to run the process in order from A to Z. It was several years before the system (and variants) became commonplace with British broadcasters. In 1967, the Electronics Engineering Company (EECO) developed the first 'time code' for electronic editing which helped considerably but you are still talking around the early 1970s before (a) the electronic equipment was all in place and (b) the process got beyond the unreasonable cumbersome and time-consuming stage (and was cost effective) on any significant scale given the tight turnarounds in television

It was the late 1980s before non-linear professional video editing, with high-end computer control, became a reality.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Were there many shows done live and taped?
I would have associated this more with telerecording, although that is just an assumption.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by stearn »

At a guess, I would say yes. What numbers, I haven't a clue, but video would offer a useful tool for repeats where the tape could be re-used keeping expenses to a minimum. Film, once struck, is relatively permanent, so unless there was a specific will to keep it for sales or continued re-use, it wouldn't be necessary. I'd also say that if something was struck to film, there would be a higher likelihood of it to continue to exist.

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by brigham »

Wasn't Coronation Street done live on Wednesday, immediately followed by the Friday instalment on tape?

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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stearn wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:13 pm
At a guess, I would say yes. What numbers, I haven't a clue, but video would offer a useful tool for repeats where the tape could be re-used keeping expenses to a minimum. Film, once struck, is relatively permanent, so unless there was a specific will to keep it for sales or continued re-use, it wouldn't be necessary. I'd also say that if something was struck to film, there would be a higher likelihood of it to continue to exist.
You mean the kind of short term repeats, just a few days later?

In Holland, where the national archive's database is openly available, film practically equals survival. But we all know that isn't the case in the UK...
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by Mark »

There's a 1967 BBC Training film on YT , showing the editing process on VT, with an edition of "Play School".

Should be Ok to link to it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZVaK2TKgFA
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:47 pm
You mean the kind of short term repeats, just a few days later?
I hadn't really got a specific gap in mind. If it was known it was definitely going to be repeated, so in the provisional schedule, I would guess that there would be some mechanism in place to avoid it eating up production budget. Where budget had to be allocated, it would either not be attractive to the production department, or there would be some long term plan for keeping.

In the case of Nineteen Eighty-Four that I mentioned before, Genome has the first TX as 12 Dec 54, and the second performance 16 Dec 54. The second performance was the one that the telerecorded. Obviously this was two live performances, with the second being recorded on film, but it shows that quick succession repeats happened. I'm more familiar with similar quick succession repeats of radio material, but that was more to do with the pyramid structure of the channels - Light Programme as the broad base, Home Service considered a little more high-brow, and Third Programme being the pinnacle. A play on the Third was repeated on the Home to encourage Home listener to progress to the Third, and Home comedy transmissions repeated in the same week on the Light. Those were recorded, and often not archived.

I don't know the ins and outs of the production, but both performances were listed in the same edition of the Radio Times, so were planned well in advance. There were complaints after the first TX, and the second was reviewed but allowed to go ahead, but someone else will have to confirm the reason for the telerecording. Was it like the later telerecordings of TW3 as a legal record, or was it to capitalise on the publicity the production had received and perhaps sell overseas?

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Performing a play live twice or, very occasionally, more than twice was very common in pre-war television in the UK and fairly common post-war up to 1954. Here are some figures, by year, of post-war second performances:

1946: 64
1947: 91
1948: 76
1949: 62
1950: 63
1951: 78
1952: 88
1953: 89
1954: 76

So well over one a week, on average, throughout that period, and a peak of at 2 every 3 weeks in 1947 and 1951-54. The figure had dropped to 17 in 1955. They'll mostly be plays but there might be the odd serial amongst them.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by fatcat »

I hope this don't break the rules as it's Network's own promo, but this gives an indication

of why it was a difficult process and most steered clear of using videotape in a complicated action drama with lots of editing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_QBaZVMxhQ

Presumably why 1980s programmes like say The Gentle Touch does not look as sharp and crisp as say Budgie was because editing was now the much easier tape to tape..but the downside was that it was now second generation.


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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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OK, but why the earliest were made is a slightly different topic. (The entire 1956 season of Billy Bunter is telerecorded too - I couldn't guess why.)

Hm, does anyone know, was telerecording a performance more expensive than re-staging?
fatcat wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:00 pm
I hope this don't break the rules as it's Network's own promo, but this gives an indication

of why most steered clear of using videotape in a complicated action drama with lots of editing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_QBaZVMxhQ
Well, SOME of the cuts are clean... (That is what you mean, right?)
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:21 pm
The entire 1956 season of Billy Bunter is telerecorded too - I couldn't guess why.
For repeats - as Simon’s listing up thread shows, the number of productions performed twice in the same week dropped dramatically after 1954. Now, without going looking, that’s either because same-week repeats weren’t such a regular thing, or because telerecording technology was now deemed suitable enough to be able to repeat the original production rather than remount it a few days later.


Anyhow, from Andrew Pixley’s viewing notes for the QUATERMASS release, about the second serial...

As rehearsals began on Monday 17 October, Cartier received a memo from Telerecording Manager Alan A Richardson. Because of the tight turnaround in preparing film recordings for Monday evening, the editors would only have a few hours from 3:30pm on the Monday to edit the film, and Cartier was urged to keep to a minimum the number of re-takes of fluffed scenes which he may chose to film record again after the live Saturday broadcast. Indeed, if more than two retakes were needed, Richardson claimed it would be better to re-perform the entire episode again to reduce editing costs.

Accordingly, for episode one just the pub scene was re-enacted and replaced for the repeat, (and is what survives).

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by fatcat »

Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:21 pm
Well, SOME of the cuts are clean... (That is what you mean, right?)
[/quote]


Yes, the clean cuts may have been natural camera cuts and the director was praying that he could get the whole scenes in without stopping, but working outside the controlled environment of a studio,they probably came across problems where they had to retake
and you can see it was a bit of a hit and miss affair in those days.

However there is also a possibility that the dirty cuts looked better on original transmission and it's just age taken its toll.


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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by ian b »

Spiny Norman wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:55 pm
There is an article online, that I can't put my finger on right now...
It’s this one...

http://www.britishtelevisiondrama.org.uk/?p=7284

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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ian b wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:59 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:21 pm
The entire 1956 season of Billy Bunter is telerecorded too - I couldn't guess why.
For repeats - as Simon’s listing up thread shows, the number of productions performed twice in the same week dropped dramatically after 1954. Now, without going looking, that’s either because same-week repeats weren’t such a regular thing, or because telerecording technology was now deemed suitable enough to be able to repeat the original production rather than remount it a few days later.
That's it, series 2 ( the 55 run) was also telerecorded, repeat performances of the earliest episodes were a couple of hours after the first one, sometimes with different production credits.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by Simon Coward »

Simon Coward wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 9:57 pm
Performing a play live twice or, very occasionally, more than twice was very common in pre-war television in the UK and fairly common post-war up to 1954. Here are some figures, by year, of post-war second performances:

1946: 64
1947: 91
1948: 76
1949: 62
1950: 63
1951: 78
1952: 88
1953: 89
1954: 76

So well over one a week, on average, throughout that period, and a peak of at 2 every 3 weeks in 1947 and 1951-54. The figure had dropped to 17 in 1955. They'll mostly be plays but there might be the odd serial amongst them.
A couple of small points to add, which I should have made yesterday.

Firstly, that 1946 was an incomplete year, of course, because television only returned part-way through the year. So the total there is in excess of two per week.

Secondly, the ratio in 1947 would have been the similar to 1946's but for the Fuel Emergency between January and April that year. There was around a month where no television was broadcast at all as a means of energy-saving, and on its return there was still a reduction in broadcast hours compared to the previous year. One thing that was regularly sacrificed during this period were second performances of plays, although a number of these were billed with a 'if government restrictions are lifted' proviso.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Mark wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:38 pm
ian b wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:59 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 10:21 pm
The entire 1956 season of Billy Bunter is telerecorded too - I couldn't guess why.
For repeats - as Simon’s listing up thread shows, the number of productions performed twice in the same week dropped dramatically after 1954. Now, without going looking, that’s either because same-week repeats weren’t such a regular thing, or because telerecording technology was now deemed suitable enough to be able to repeat the original production rather than remount it a few days later.
That's it, series 2 ( the 55 run) was also telerecorded, repeat performances of the earliest episodes were a couple of hours after the first one, sometimes with different production credits.
Right, although if I check genome, the repeats were many months later.
I guess at a certain point as you say the quality became good enough, and probably also cheaper than staging the show a second time?

Ironically one of the stories was re-made later in the series anyway! But it looks like they telerecorded the next series too.
Side note: There are some audio-only copies out there that are so good that I suspect they come from a private owner. You don't normally find home recorded audio from the mid '50s.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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ian b wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:09 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:55 pm
There is an article online, that I can't put my finger on right now...
It’s this one...

http://www.britishtelevisiondrama.org.uk/?p=7284
In my memory it was far more definite in its conclusions, but yes that's it. I see now that it ends more on a note of "sometimes it was done, we can't assume we're watching 100% the same thing".

I had overlooked so far that in one case, the original and the retakes still exist. Interesting.



The anoraks who do scene by scene comparisons sometimes dig up the strangest things. One shot was changed in a (long-known) deleted scene of Life of Brian, and no matter how hard I try, I can't think of any reason at all.
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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

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Spiny Norman wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:34 pm
You don't normally find home recorded audio from the mid '50s.
In the rare cases that you do, it is more often than not where it has been cut to disc.

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Re: live drama: edited after transmission or not?

Post by Mark »

I was looking at the KAL listing for "No Hiding Place", and one (Missing) episode, "Alexander's Ragtime Girl", had a fluffed line by Raymond Francis edited out of the Telerecording before being sold overseas, it was telerecorded off-air from a live transmission.
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