Thames TV: did they have mobile VTR units and wireless mics in early 70s?
The big problem is that they can suffer from terrifying levels of corrosion. I've heard tales of an ex-BBC unit where there was major concerns that if any of the equipment doors were opened, the vehicle superstructure would collapse. Not helped by the bodies making extensive use of aluminium to keep them within weight limits.
The big problem is that they can suffer from terrifying levels of corrosion. Not helped by the bodies making extensive use of aluminium to keep them within weight limits.
Dreadfully so- not helped either by being parked in the near-marshy long-grass fields adjacent to venues like golf-courses and horse-racing for days at a time during events in typical British weather, adding to the road-salt and wet road hazards any vehicle metalwork has to endure. At least a transport vehicle in commercial service is on the move most hours of most days with engine heat added to slip-stream to fight chassis damp. The lower lockers of broadcast vehicles suffer particularly with slip-streaming drawing road silt and salt and brake-lining dust past good-when-new seals to make a horrid corroding sludge around, over and under heavy components such as batteries (one series of vehicles I worked with had 4x 6V 250Ah batteries in a locker to run standby inverters), PSUs, AVRs etc that were placed low down for the sake of handling. It wasn't unusual to find aluminium lining panels disintegrated into frilly, fragile remnants with badly corroded steel framing- and anything with large, lead-acid batteries in was worst affected of all. More than once, I heaved on a reluctant locker door to have the whole thing clatter to the ground courtesy of rotted hinges or their disintegrated backing frame. It wasn't unusual to have an elderly vehicle spend a long time over the pit having extensive chassis welding and repair done. Also, it was seemingly traditional for OB vehicles to be both over-loaded and under-engined, so they were absolutely on their knees and knackered as well as rotted by time they went out of service.
I don't know if Brian Summers (beamcurrent elsewhere) is a member here, but he could give chapter and verse on just keeping an old "scanner" anywhere near roadworthy.
I seem to recall that Type 5s can rot for Britain...
Yeah, from the TV tech point of view, ground-breaking and long-serving stalwarts but a bit of a (paunchy) camel from the automotive stance. "Events, dear boy, events" meant that several served far longer than the assumed 10-ish year life-span of a typical OB main truck. One threw a rod on a long, steep hill and was out of service for some time while much of the front was cut away to access and replace the engine (there was a heavy hinge-up cover in the cab for dip-stick and valve-clearance sort of stuff, but anything more extensive or untoward wasn't catered for). One time returning from a Continental show, another shed its exhaust beyond the Y-combiner (Perkins V8), the driver, anxious not to miss the ferry and get back home after a stint away, roared on around the Peripherique in the early hours- "Gawd, the racket it was making, them poor bxxxxy Frenchies must have thought the Germans were back...."
I was impressed (as someone who once prepared various signal distribution and routing equipment to go into scanners for a now defunct company) that A Smith of Great Bentley is still in business today...
Well, blow me down!- I found myself in one of those Smith's shots.
Smiths have acquired themselves an excellent reputation for well-built and long lasting specialist trucks- the BBC went through a sort of headless chicken period of going for the cheapest bid on replacement OB chassis and then pressurising the nameless US-origin contractor to just cut a few more corners while they were about it. The result was a joke of a shoddy trailer that became known as the chicken shed and also became known for leaving substantial chunks of itself on various motorways and events venues.... It was scrapped after just a few years. I'm not certain of the exact subsequent politics and course of events after that but I believe that someone got wind of a decidedly swanky OB trailer that had been produced for a Middle East customer (Saudi Arabia?) by an outfit that we were sort of vaguely aware of called Smith's of Great Bentley- apparently, the contract had fallen through and it was up for bids. Its original destination conferred two very important benefits- it had been specced with a blank cheque-book and it had no-messing air-conditioning that would freeze the nuts off a polar bear. (Air-con had always been an Achilles' heel of OB trucks, with consequences ranging from "irritating" to "catastrophic". The air-con isn't for the crew (primarily), it's to keep the sometimes extraordinary equipment power density from inducing melt-down!). The new toy proved to be a delight to work in and with, liked by both crew and customers- the latter crucial. Smith's got many subsequent vehicle contracts from the Beeb and the subsequent purchasers of their OB section, SiS Live. Plus many other OB outfits.
Note that the biggest units in that Smith's brochure are substantial trailers, rather than the rigid-body Type 5 of yesteryear- there was a shaggy-dog piece of wisdom about that I was never very convinced of that the London Fire Brigade required even big OB trucks to be self-powered rigids, so that they wouldn't represent an immoveable hazard outside inner-city venues such as the Albert Hall and Royal Institution. I never saw anything in black-and-white to that effect, and it certainly isn't followed now. Possibly, it may have had a grain of truth long ago that suffered "three'n'fourpence" corruption, plus with scanner-speccing and -building there was a degree of "this is how we've always done things". The Type 5s were 36 feet long, as long as they could be under UK regs, the subsequent Type 8 took advantage of EEC (as-was) harmonisation to stretch to 12m. In the latter case, the limitation was stretched to the utmost in the provision of removable tie-down screw-eyes at the front and rear of the vehicle (necessary for ferry crossings, the fleet did many Continental and further afield shows, including 105 tons-worth of firmly-tied down trucks all in a monstrous An-124 transport plane for the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth games), the eyes normally stowed in clips on the cab engine cover. In the Type 5, a few inches of body length were lost to fixed tie-down eyes.
Well, blow me down!- I found myself in one of those Smith's shots.
So you are!
I think you're projecting what was possibly Australian practice onto the UK.
Low-band U-matic was deemed unsuitable for broadcast (certainly by the BBC) so high-band is more likely, unless there was a portable 2" VTR in use - and if the cameras were lightweight, they were more likely to be Bosch-Fernseh KCR-40s than anything Japanese. It was still British first, followed by European manufacturers in the UK broadcast industry then. I can't remember if Drive In was a segment within a longer news programme or a stand-alone show though.
Thames did take TV cameras out on to the streets in the late 60s/early 70s, so had some experience; some exteriors of the original two series of Special Branch are very obviously on VT rather than film, which was the BBC's preferred method. When Special Branch reappeared in 1973 with a new cast it was the first outing for the new 'Euston Films' and shot entirely on film.
Marion - you still get little plug-in transmitters for conventional microphones: I encounter then at work, and those I can't fix at work I send to Doz for repair!
Good lord... a plug... Should I post up pictures of my "vintage" Raycom RTBs?
The venerable RTB3211D - in production from 1984-1987, still works. and a very rare RTB6211D in white (you'll never see another)
The RTB4211D - production from 1988-1999, many still in use.
The very last of the current RTB6211D's .. It's replacement was due in March (the imaginatively titled RTB7211D) , but this thing called Covid came along.
I don't have an RTB5211 here, but sadly they're largely unserviceable now. Still many out there working though. Went out of production 11 years ago.
To be found in all decent OB trucks everywhere 😉
Why, in the UK only, are OB trucks referred to as "scanners"?
I can think of a few possibilities...
Yep. Thought it might be Baird. Thanks for the confirmation.