Paradise Lost Part II – Main Studios 

26 October 2008

This is where it all happened! When it opened in 1970, ATV Centre was described as the best equipped TV production facility in Europe. The facility cost nearly £3million pounds to equip alone.

Studio Block – 2nd Floor – Main production Studios, Dressing Rooms, Makeup, Wardrobe

This was the area which contained the main studios, a medical centre, dressing rooms and wardrobe department. Audience access to this area came via a corridor taking you back towards a staircase the Exhibition Hall and reception area to Central Square. The corridor also led you to the canteen and executive offices at Central House.

Pictures of Central productions and idents also covered the reception area & corridor to the studios. In the centre of the reception was a large glass display cabinet which contained a brass and glass constructed Central globe and mid-1990s style ITV ident in a 3D weather vane style model.

There were 4½ main production studios at ATV Centre. Three main production studios, and a presentation studio located on the 3rd floor.

Studio 1

The largest of the 4 studios – at 6000sq feet and complete with 200 capacity tiered audience seating, 320 lighting circuits, 8 camera points and additional floor space that could be added, via rolling back a concertina door to Studio 1A. This studio was perhaps best known for use for The Golden Shot and New Faces.

Studio 2

Had a floor space of 3000sq feet, had 160 Lighting Circuits. For some reason, this was the only studio to have a large window between the production gallery and studio floor.

Studio 2 was used for editions of Here and Now, Crossroads and also the final editions of Central News to be transmitted from the building.

Studio 3

Has a floor space of 2000sq feet and best known for its use with Tiswas, Team at 6, ATV Today, Central News and Venture. The production gallery to Studio 3 was altered during the 1980s, with its staircase from the studio floor being removed and a small balcony built into the corner of the studio – this was to accommodate new technology. A spiral staircase to the production gallery and lighting grid was added at the opposite side.

It is perhaps interesting to see how little in the studio areas themselves had actually changed. There was some wear and tear but the areas had been very well looked after and kept as they had looked back in 1970.

Studios 2 and 3 were both served by their own Scenery and Equipment run, which led into the main loading area – accessed from the ramp on Bridge Street. Studio 1 had access to the loading bay via the rear of Studio 1a. In total there were 24 dressing rooms, 1 make-up/hairdressing room and a medical centre also located on this floor.

The Wardrobe department also ran parallel to Studio 1,

Studio Block – 3rd Floor – Studio Control Rooms

This contained the Studio Production Galleries, located off one long corridor. Also on this floor was the small presentation studio – Studio 4 – which was the home of the ATV ?in-vision? continuity announcer – the studio thus being located below the Master Control Room on the floor above.

Also on the 3rd Floor originally was the Newsroom, Sport and Regional programming offices – these were all relocated to the Exhibition Hall area in around 1982.

Studio 4


Only 300sq feet: this was the in-vision continuity studio, as first used by ATV in September 1969 and which remained in use until around 1985 when a new continuity studio was constructed.

During both ATV and Central years, Studio 4 was also shared for News Bulletins and Public Service Announcements (PSAs). PSAs tended to be recorded here; but as news bulletins went out live, links and announcements were made from a voiceover booth on the 4th floor.

A new Presentation Studio was in later years built upstairs on the 4th floor. I am told this was a controversial move at Central, particularly with the Electricians? Union. As a result, pan-regional in-vision announcements had to come from Studio 5 in Nottingham and out-of-vision links came from Studio P or 8 as it was also known (on the 4th floor) in Birmingham.

There is a myth that viewers could tell which announcements came from where by the design of the set. It is alleged that announcements from Birmingham had a Central “cake” logo behind the announcer and announcements originating from Nottingham had a 3D Central caption with angled coloured lines behind the announcer. There may be an element of truth in that myth, as the Central brand was supposed to have an “East” and “West” style – and supposed to have their own sub-regional announcers linking programmes for that part of the region.

Helen Lloyd and Linda Cunningham were to be the Central faces of the East Midlands- while Mike Prince, Stewart White, Verity Martindill and others looked after pan-regional announcements and those aimed at the West Midlands.

During the mid-1980s, Children?s ITV moved into Studio 4, where they remained until the early 1990s when they too were moved up to the 4th floor.

Very little in Studio 4 had in fact changed – the original lighting controller was also still in use. In its later years, Studio 4 was used for Chromakey work, and Weather Bulletins.

Studio 1 Control Room

The Studio 1 control room was separated into three areas: Sound, Vision and Production Control. Evidence of Central?s intention to keep up with the times when it comes to technology was apparent throughout the building – particularly here.

Vision Control

Central Dynamics 4800 vision mixer.

Cox 450kb VT Clock

Seltech PT 26 Production Timer

48way talkback panel.

Production Control

Central Dynamics 24:5-switch panel

DTL Production Controller.

DTL Lighting Control Desk with two 320 x 10way Pin Matrix boards.

Sound Control

Neve 48:4:1 Mixing Desk

Dolby SP series Noise Reduction Unit

Studer A820MCH 24track 2 audio tape recorder and meter bridge

90 x 48 microphone patch panel.

Studio 2 Control Room

Studio 2 was a much smaller studio, but equipped in a similar fashion to Studio 1. The outboard sound control also included electronic telephone ringers – an electronic device that can ring a telephone by the press of a button, which also producing ringing styles from different countries. Many of these contraptions were designed and manufactured “in-house” by both ATV & Central technicians.

Sound Control

Neve 8:2:1 Mixing Desk (8 inputs, 2 group outs, one monitor)

2 x Studer A810 ¼ 2 track reel-to-reel tape machines, with centre-track time code.

System 2600 3 channel Tape synchroniser

Marconi Telephone Ringer c/w Power Supply

Studer Telephone Hybrid Ringer

Dolby SP Series Noise reduction unit.

IT Stereo Cart Player

AKG BX-20E Reverberation Unit

All outboard effects and power supply units were housed in one 19in x 36U Rack.

Vision Control

Again equipped in a similar fashion as to the other main production studios.

Cox 450 VT Clock / Keyboard

Aston 4 Mainframe and Keyboard

Central Dynamics CD-1080 Vision Mixer

Control Room

A DTL 20 Channel Lighting Controller, c/w 160 x 10way matrix.

A 2 Channel 16A Follow spot Dimmer

2 x Central Dynamics 24:5 Camera Switch Panels

Studio 3 Control Room

The smallest of the main production areas – no Phantom Flan Flingers or even a chance of getting buckets of baked beans thrown over you from the Tiswas team.

I remember watching Tiswas avidly on cold damp Saturday mornings; the whole studio appeared to be much larger that it actually was. Having seen clips of the programme recently, it must have been very cramped in there. For the auction, Studio 3 was used for the display of lighting equipment, mostly location equipment and its associated cables. It was interesting to note how much ATV equipment was still in use – especially lighting wise. Many of the 5kW Fresnels and 5kW Twisters all had ATV logos sprayed on to them. Again, this studio was equipped in a similar fashion to the other main production areas:

Production Control

Marconi Telephone Ringer

IPK Time code Balance/Unbalance unit

2 x Neve 6 x 2 Camera Switch panels

60 x 32 Microphone Matrix

DTL 20 channel Lighting control desk

Vision Control

Evertz PT26 Production Timer

Cox 450-KB VT Clock

Central Dynamics 480-KB 3-layer vision mixer

The lighting systems

Lighting equipment was what we were there to view. I noticed the computerised lighting desks fitted in all the main production studios were actually Rank Strand Galaxy 2 control desks – but badged up as DTL (the installation contractor). The Galaxy range of control desks was designed initially for use in television – though many were installed in theatres during the late 1970s.

I estimate that the Galaxy 2 desks were fitted sometime between 1979 and 1986. The desks fitted previously would have been the Rank Strand MMS desks – the first computerised desks that could save group memories. Strand, BBC and ATV jointly designed these desks in the late 1960s when both companies were upgrading studio equipment for the introduction of colour.

The lighting dimmer racks for the main studios were the Rank Strand JT range – these were the original racks as fitted in 1970. Many are still in use in older TV studios and theatres today. They were designed and built to last and replacement parts are still available.

Again these dimmers were perhaps the first to utilise electronic dimming, using silicon rectifiers, and were also modular, so you could add/remove extra circuits as required – you could even allocate channels to be able to handle loads of 5kW, 2.5kW, Inductive loads (lights with transformers in) and also dim fluorescent fittings. Up until then most lighting dimming in both Theatres and Television studios had been via resistance dimming – using large frames (which could take up a room) consisting of levers and wheels and each light could be operated via a rheostat. More sophisticated systems utilised clutch systems to enable one operator to control many circuits.

At ATV Centre all studio control rooms were fitted with a pin matrix patch panel – this enabled the lighting engineer to patch sets of lights on to one fader – for instance, all of the red lamps on one, all of the blues on another etc. Also by inserting different pins, you could select which load to run each dimmer at – longer pins for 5kW, and shorter pins for 2.5kW.

As well as provide flexibility, it also provided safety- in the past ?patching? lighting circuits had been via large connectors (one for each circuit carrying 240v – this again could take up a room). With the pin-matrix system, it would take the space of one small cupboard in the control room; and also the circuits were patched via low voltage signals of no more than 10v DC.

Lantern wise, technology hadn’t really advanced since 1970. Central were still using (in many places) 5kW Fresnel lamps and 5kW flood lamps – many of which were brand new as of 1970. This is usually the case for equipment fitted on to pantographs – the lanterns often stay in service for as long as the bulbs are still available.

In addition, it’s quite interesting to note that many years ago, lighting for theatre, TV and film were three different matters – all using slightly different types of equipment, different techniques and mainly having different requirements. These days, though the techniques still differ, there has been a great crossover in technical equipment: equipment you’d expect to find at a theatre or rock concert is now being used in TV and vice-versa. This was the case at ATV-Centre – especially during the latter years.

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1 response to this article

Nick Oliver 23 August 2013 at 2:10 am

Re: the Central East/West continuity. Before the ‘cake’ logo was introduced, both in-vision announcer sets had the angled coloured stripe logo behind them. The Nottingham/East set was painted grey with a grey sofa and the Birmingham/West was all beige. I remember split continuity happening during the weekdays as I used to watch the east versions from the Waltham transmitter, but it was pan-regional from Birmingham at the weekends.

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