Film: 1951

Media | 1950 | Sound | B/W

Synopsis:

Early Television in U.S.A - this is a programme made by Bell - the American telephone company in the 1950's

which shows how television is transmitted from the studio out across the U.S.A. Begins showing a girl watching a TV performance of a classical ballet and we are shown how it made its way from the New York studio to her home in Waukenshaw. Very good explanation of how TV works, relay stations, lines transmitted, coaxial cables etc. Plus good shots of a 1950's TV studio and old turret lensed studio cameras. Also good shots of an affluent middle class American home of the same period.

Caption over a silhouette of a female ballet dancer : Stepping Along with Television - a bell system presentation (orchestral music plays Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet),

We see the screen on an old black and white television set of the 1950's - on the television are a group of ballet dancers performing - the male lead dancer picks up the prima ballerina and carries her aloft in a pas de deux. We now see a young teenage girl sitting on a padded armchair, watching the television programe thoughtfully - she is in a middle class living room of the 1950s, quite well to do - and she wears a quite prim outfit of blouse and skirt - the commentary tells us she is a young lady living in a world of enchantment all of her own. We now see a wider shot of the living room with plush sofa and armchairs - draped net curtains and Venetian blinds - a lampshade and flower display in evidence and ornamental plates on the walls - the girl continues to watch the television ballet but then rises from her seat and starts emulating the ballet dancers moving her arms gracefully.
Watching television, watch television, watches television, watching tv, watch tv, watches tv, watching t.v., watch t.v., watches t.v.

Commentary tells us we are in Waukershaw, Wisconsin. The young girl dressed in striped blouse and full skirt of the 1950s continues to dance around the living room. She pirouettes in front of a set of shelves where we can see ornaments and other evidence of a very middle class, affluent household of 1950s U.S.A – she dances to an area where there is a small bureau, on the wall is a barometer or clock and some ornamental plates. The television screen is seen – a large boxy set with big knobs – and , on it are female ballet dancers, still dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet on a painted set showing classical columns and a flight of stone steps with painted hills in the distance. The young girl watches the TV and continues emulating the onscreen dancers; she pirouettes away. We see an ornate sideboard of an antique type with an ornate porcelain lamp on it – more decorative plates on the wall – the young girl pirouettes past. We are now back in the corner of the living room where the TV is as the girl dances into shot doing graceful arm movements – commentary explains we are going to find out how television pictures get transmitted. We are then in the television studio where the ballet is being danced – the prima ballerina and the lead male dancer are dancing a pas de deux in front of the corps de ballet – the commentary tells us we are in a New York film studio – and the camera pulls back to reveal cameramen seated at their turret lens cameras of the period – one of the cameramen is mounted on a dolly which is being pushed by another technician and we can also see the lighting gantry. We see the studio from another angle as we look out of the set back into the studio where technicians and dancers are seen watching the action – flats, ladders and the other paraphernalia of a television studio are seen as the dancers perform in our foreground – the prima ballerina is wearing a classical net tutu and her partner wears ballet tights and a sash – we move past them deeper into the studio approaching the orthicon cameras (on the dollies) and other personnel – a sound boom is seen overhead – we move closer to the main camera where we see the turret lenses and the cameraman wearing headphones and dressed in suit and tie: commentary says the camera picks up light waves which are transformed into electrical waves which travel down electrical cables – we follow the cables and see them looped on the studio floor. Next we are in the studio gallery where there is a bank of three monitors – we see the backs of three technicians who are watching the monitors – two of the men wear headphones – on the monitors the ballet continues with a different shot on each screen. From sideways on we see four “technical men” sitting in front of the monitors – microphones extend out of the desk in front of them and camera scripts are in evidence – one of the men speaks into the microphone and issues an instruction to the person sitting next to him. Next, we go to another technician who, we are told, is working to check the pictures and adjust them as necessary in MCR (Master Control) – this man wears headphones too and has a desk of buttons in front of him – he is adjusting the television pictures. Now we jump to an office where a man in a suit is working at a desk in front of us – behind him we see a metal filing cabinet, an office chair, a lamp shade and various photographs on the wall of transmitters – a black 1950s telephone is also on his desk – we are introduced to Bill Carter who is going to tell us about the pathways over which the television picture travels – he introduces himself as a telephone engineer and tells us that his company has many engineers who check the TV pictures as they are transmitted – he says sometimes they travel by coaxial cable – he gets up and moves to a table at the side of the office where a portion of co-axial cable is lying – he picks it up. Now we see a close up of coaxial cable in cross section with the copper tubes in evidence – he turns the cable around and we see all the small cables splaying out – we are told a cable like this can carry 5400 telephone conversations and still leave two tubes free for transmitting television programmes. We go back to Bill who is standing in front of a large photograph of land being dug up for the laying of cables – he says television pictures can also travel by radio relay. We go back to the master control engineer in front of his desk and the camera moves over to a wall of knobs and dials. Next comes a graphic of a skyscraper in cross section and we see a visual representation of the TV signal moving from the studio along underground cables to a local TV transmitter which is mounted on top of another high building. We see an aerial view of New York with a graphic representation of the radio waves emanating from the transmitter. Back to the graphic of the transmitter where the television signal moves underground again to the telephone communications building many blocks away. We are now inside that building where technicians are standing in front of racks monitoring the television pictures – both men are in suits and ties. We look over the shoulder of one of the men as he watches the ballet dancer on a screen which has a wave monitor and control wheels underneath it – the dancers circle around the prima ballerina. Another view of the telephone company’s control room with three men in suits standing in front of control banks – one is on the phone and is writing something down – all are men in suits with short back and sides – all very 1950’s. Now we see the graphic again as the signal is shown moving back underground. Another graphic now of New York’s skyscape with a representation of the TV signal travelling out of the city and away across the United States – it is shown arriving at Philadelphia “in the twinkling of an eye”. To another graphic depicting the signal arriving in a building in Philadelphia – another telephone control room. We see the picture of the ballet dancers on a monitor – they are still performing in Romeo and Juliet. Back to the graphic where the signal travels to another transmitter where it is transmitted locally. An aerial shot of Philadelphia in the 1950’s with the signal shown graphically emanating from the transmitter. Graphic again with the signal moving underground. A graphic showing the signal moving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We now see another telephone company engineer from Bell inspecting the incoming transmission. On his screen we see the male ballet dancer and some of the corps de ballet – his hand moves a control wheel – the prima ballerina leaps into the arms of her dancing partner as the music swells. A graphic shows the signal moving from Pittsburgh and then onto to Cleveland, Toledo and Chicago. A graphic showing a building in Chicago where the signal moves underground to another telecoms building. Inside that building yet another engineer monitors the picture of the ballet. A closer shot of the ballerina as seen on his control monitor – she dances and pirouettes on the set as the music continues to play. Then it’s back to the graphic again as we close in on Chicago. We are told we now move to another method of transmission – microwave radio relay. We see the top floor of a Chicago building – the telecoms headquarters in that city – and move into to see something which is mounted on the roof. We see a “square face giant horn” which is an antenna which is used to concentrate the radio waves into a very narrow beam which is sent to a receiving tower. We see a graphic of countryside as the beam is relayed to a tower on the horizon. Another graphic of a similar horn on top of the second tower capturing the signals, amplifying them and sending them on. A graphic shows the signal moving between the two towers and then onto to further towers in a relay. Back to the antenna on top of the Chicago building and we see radio waves being beamed from it – we are told it can go west or north to many other cities in this manner. A graphic showing Chicago from above with the signal being sent to relay transmitters to the north as the signal moves to Milwaukee. A drawing of a skyscraper in Milwaukee as the signal is shown arriving. We see a man inside the Milwaukee control room – he carries a clipboard in one hand and in answering the telephone with the other – he is in a smart suit and tie with a handkerchief in his jacket pocket – he puts the phone down and considers the image on his monitor. We see him watching the dancers on his screen and twiddling his knobs and then writing some notes on his clipboard – we are told the dancers are “as bright and clear as when they started”. The graphic reappears and it shows the signal moving to an underground cable. A graphic of a local television station with transmitter above it – the signal arrives via the coaxial cable underground, goes up the transmitter and is beamed out in all directions. An aerial view of Milwaukee with the signal being beamed as a graphic in all directions. Next we see the rooftop of a house with dormer windows – a TV aerial is mounted on the gable end – graphically we see the TV signal arrive at this aerial which we are told is in Waukenshaw – we then see the rest of the frontage of the house – a well to do, middle class, detached house with well clipped topiary in the front garden. A shot now of the TV screen in the living room of that house as the dancer is seen continuing her performance in her diamond tiara. Now we see the young girl from the first scene continuing to dance in front of the television set in her living room – we told the picture has made its way here in just about the two hundredth part of a second. The girl dances into a different part of the living room. We see her in a closer shot in very Anne of Green Gables type clothes as she moves her arms above her head in balletic style. A wider shot again as she continues to pirouette. Now we see a young boy of about nine years old drag a chair across a hallway, he puts a box on top of the chair and then climbs onto it in order to reach a wall mounted telephone of a very old design. We see him from below as he picks up the receiver which is an old tube style contraption from the days when talking on the telephone was a great novelty, we are told, We then see a graphic depicting the numerous telephone wires that used to cross the sky. Another image of many wires which twist themselves into a thick cable “not much bigger than a man’s wrist”. We see a graphic of a cross section of this cable. Then a map of the whole of the United States of America with a graphic showing the telephone network of the 1950’s. Back to the ballet dancers on the television set. Then we see three people, one man and two women sitting in a living room watching. Again, an affluent household with fresh flowers in vases and plush furniture – the man has a newspaper on his lap and we see white painted stairs in the background. The ballet continues on their television set. Next we see three working men on top of a roof – they are mounting one of the horn type transmitters we saw earlier – these men in working clothes, jeans and checked shirts. Another view from the rooftop and two of the men fix a thick cable or pipe to the antenna – below them we see flat countryside extending for miles. Now a well lit control room with men in casual shirt and T shirt, again monitoring equipment in a control room. A shot of horn antennae mounted on a rooftop. A shot next of a metal tower with the antenna on top – a small control station below it and one house in the background. Back to the television screen as the ballerina continues dancing and twirling around to the classical music of the ballet. The young girl is seen again in her living room with sofa and armchair in evidence – she is still dancing as the shot widens and we see the whole room – she curtseys and then sits on one of the armchairs and puts her chin in her hand dreamily. Caption comes up “The End” – produced by Caravel Films, inc, New York – a Bell logo in the top right hand corner Fade to black as the symphony ends.


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