Written by Simon Lloyd Category: Projects
Published on 03 January 2001

The TV studio at Harefield has been around for a long time now and we are always trying to keep up to date. We have always had two choices in the way we run the TV studio; we could use simple new or nearly new domestic video equipment, or try and operate with professional gear and work in a completely professional manner. Right or wrong, we have always tried to do the latter. Since I joined the Hospital TV team in the very early days, more that ten years ago, I have been struggling to keep ageing cameras and video recorders going.

A couple of years ago we realised that most of the video machines and cameras we were using were completely 'past it' and we were never going to get them back into good order. The time had come to re-build the studio and update our technology. This was a bold statement for an organisation with a couple of hundred pounds in funds! We didn't use the studio very much and it had become a giant junk store. The plan that emerged would cut the studio area in two, providing us with a smaller studio, technical control room and an office. A grand plan indeed, but with an even bigger flaw. We didn't have any of the equipment that would finally go in it!

We started making appeals for everything we needed from the countries broadcasters. For several months we had no success whatsoever. Then all of sudden things started to move. Within the next few months London Weekend TV donated a sound mixer, a broadcasting college gave us an old vision mixer and the BBC offered us some studio cameras and some working video tape machines, at a knock down price. We had a large section of what we would need to build the studio but we still lacked lots of the very technical bits that go with this equipment to make it all work. A few more months went by without a lot of progress before we had our biggest slice of luck. One day I took a phone call from the man at the BBC who had arranged for us to get the cameras. I listened, aghast, as he told me that the main BBC 1 and BBC 2 transmission areas were about to be decommissioned and asked me if we "would be interested in everything they didn't want!" I thought Christmas had come early. Over the next weeks and months we spent all our spare time in the darkest reaches of the BBC while we removed van after vanload of all the equipment we could have dreamt of.

We were now ready to re-build the studio but now had a rather unexpected problem. We were storing all the new equipment in the studio area and we could hardly move, let alone start building walls and ceilings. Over the next few weeks we started frantically trying to tidy up. We filled every nook and cranny in the studio, we used space in some of the hospital outbuildings and piled up furniture and the largest items outside, covering them with tarpaulin in the vain hope they would stay dry.

The day finally came for the building work to commence. We were to use professional builder to build the walls but funds didn't run to any more than this so we were all to learn very quickly how to build false ceilings, partition walls, raised floors, door and window frames and much more. It means that every thing takes a long time but our own time and effort comes free!

After the building work came the technical fit out. I think that we have all been taken by surprise by the amount of work we have given ourselves here. The first area we tackled was the technical control room. The desks that came out of the BBC needed cutting down to fit our space. The framework to hold the dozens of television monitors we would eventually require needed converting as well. The work continued slowly as the huge steel "bay frames" that would in time hold all of the electronics, needed lifting off of the floor so that cables would pass underneath.

By this time we were being overwhelmed by the work. Winter was coming and we don't have heating in that part of our building yet. We needed a break from what had become a chore. All the members of Harefield TV do this for fun, and this just wasn't fun anymore! Working on the principle that "a change is as good as a rest" we started work on one of the smaller rooms. The main videotape editing room is at the warm end of our building so this winter we have working on that. The room is almost self contained so the project could be kept under control. There was a feeling we had been here before when we started putting in false ceilings and insulated stud walls. The desk of course needed to be cut down to fit. Naturally, it had come from the BBC and they do seem to use very big desks!

As this magazine goes to press we are finishing the edit suite and have started work on the control room again. I don't think that any of us know exactly when it will be finished but we are all committed to getting it done as soon as possible. We know it will take another year but if we all wish very hard maybe we could get a few more volunteers to speed up the work.

If you are interested in helping please give us a call.

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