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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 London’s 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 Goodson’s remit includes the presentation studios and also
the four studios at the BBC’s 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 Goodson’s
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 isn’t 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 can’t 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 couldn’t
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.”

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David Mellor