Sound at the BBC Television Center (part 1)
Larry Goodson is the Head of Sound at the BBC Television Centre, that glorious piece of 1950s architecture in Londons Wood Lane from which many of our favourite programmes originate, Blue Peter and Wogan to name but two. Operating a seventy-two fader console on a live transmission to nigh on twenty million people must be a fascinating and demanding job. Being a head of department at such a prestigious organisation must be another. At Television Centre there are eight major production studios and a number of smaller ones. Larry Goodsons remit includes the presentation studios and also the four studios at the BBCs Elstree site. In addition, there are four post production suites known as SYPHER suites - more about the name later - each of which has its own preparation area. Another part of Larry Goodsons operation at Television Centre is associated with outside activities. There is a separate department for major outside broadcasts but here there are a number of units which have lightweight single camera equipment, some based in vehicles, some not, which can cover everything from the kind of insert material you find in situation comedies and in Noel Edmonds programmes, to drama like The House of Elliot which was split between the studio and location.
During my visit to Television Centre I visited Studio 1 which is the biggest studio. Its floor area is approximately ten thousand square feet and it is high enough to build a three storey set and still light it from above! It is also the most recently re-equipped of the studios. I also looked at the most recently refurbished SYPHER suite, SYPHER 1.
The major items of equipment in the sound control room of Studio 1, or TC1 as it is known locally includes an AMS assignable desk which is well liked. (It was supplied during the period when Calrec was a part of AMS). The AMS is a seventy-two fader console, but with ninety-six actual channels since the faders can be configured to control more than one channel at a time. Two channels can linked together by software two make one stereo channel, or it is possible to have groups or channels without faders at all. If a number of inputs to the console are already controlled, if they are coming from the tape and grams area, then a fader isnt always necessary. Ninety-six channels and seventy-two faders cope with most shows but occasionally additional submixers have to be used! The other major studios have consoles (two of which are also AMS assignables) with fifty plus channels. The small studios get by with thirty-two to forty. Larry Goodson looks forward to desks with even more capability, but not at the expense of greater size:
In these days of stereo we are specifying stereo channels to save console area, because if you use two mono channels clipped together you very quickly run out of faders or you get a desk which is so large you cant reach the ends. At one time we had to press manufacturers quite hard to get them to make stereo channels with mic inputs. Stereo channels with line inputs were no problem but if you wanted stereo channels with mic inputs you suddenly found you couldnt have a stereo four band equaliser. That took a lot more pressure but now you can have a console with more or less everything you want.