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Tom Hall

History of the Tom Hall “Eclair” 16mm Camera   and  TVW 7 Pye Studio Camera “Tube”.

Thank you to Quentin Hall for the donation to AMMPT and for providing the biography of his father.11 Oct 2018

 

 

Bev Gledhill, and the Halls at Ron Armstrongs

 

 

BIOGRAPHY

Thomas George HALL (November 1926—May 1993)

Development and printing of school buddies films.

In the Naval Reserve WW2 aged 17/18 years

Mentor photographer was “Master” Jack LITTLE (from the Newcastle Morning Herald)

Worked as photographer Newcastle Morning Herald (where his father was head engineer on the presses) 1943 at 17 year of age, until 31st Aug 1951.

Started a small firm named “Avion Views” which took aerial photography of farms in the Newcastle area. Sales tax killed that business.

Worked as photographer Sydney Morning Herald approx. Sep 1951 – Apr 1953

Did “piece work” for MovieTone news with movie film.

1953 Perth mid 1953 — onwards

West Australian Newspapers 1953-1955  (where he met his future wife, Bolettë BRIGGS – daughter of the West Australian Newspapers Canteen manager, William “Bill” BRIGGS.)

1955 – Married and for honeymoon they both headed to England.

Tom used his newly purchased (in Aden) “wide format” Rolleiflex camera (others in the press still used “plate” cameras which required you to change a single exposed film after you had taken the shot – so multiple shots were hard.  Typical photographic camera of the day was a brand called “Speed Graphics”. \

On the trip across in the Mediterranean Sea, their ship came across another which was sinking. Armed with his new Rolleiflex and flash, he took photos of the crew rescuing the passengers of the stricken vessel.  A person came around the ship asking who had just taken the photos and these were purchased for Fleet Street newspapers.

When Tom arrived into London, he tried to get a job as a press photographer on Fleet Street – but as there were no jobs going and ended up working at Kodak (film) in London.

1956 – Returned back to West Australian Newspapers and continued as a press photographer.

1956 – He was asked by West Australian Newspapers on behalf of the soon to be formed TVW Channel 7, to check out the “state of television” before it’s arrival in Perth by going to Melbourne to see preparations by the Melbourne TV stations working on the Melbourne Olympic Games before TVW 7 starts in Perth in October 1958.

1959 Starts work at TVW 7 for the first television for Western Australia as head cinephotographer. Worked with TVW Channel 7 in Perth on before their official founding (started work there 1/6/1959) after being “picked” from the West Australian Newspapers due to his knowledge of movie film (then 16 mm he first tried out commercially in 1945 – and some MovieTone news footage).  Harry Butler and Rolf Harris’ “outdoor” work was normally filmed with Tom.  Harry Butler did his children’s “nature” programme by walking across the street from the TVW 7 studios at Tuart Hill and into the bush to “find something” to talk about.

1961 Hand processed fire footage taken at Dwellingup, West Australia in 20-24 Jan 1961 for showing on Channel Seven television evening news. Shown straight to air, no editing.  Message from Mr Caruthers thanking him for his splendid work (excess footage of this event has been given to the WA Library for their archives by Quentin Hall, his son).

1967 – One of first people to purchase Eclair 16mm film camera instead of then popular Ariflex cameras. Went freelance from TVW 7 in the mid-1960’s to start “Studio 7” with a partner (Roger Moore) with their offices situated in Hay Street, East Perth, near Halse Photo’s (and in those days 6PR and next door to the R.A.C.).

Formed “Hall & Pannell” in late 1960’s based in the “lower ground floor” of Halse Photographic’s building, Bennett Street, East Perth. Bollettë HALL (his wife) joined as sound recordist when John Pannell left to work as a lecturer at W.A.I.T (West Australian Institute of Technology – later to become Curtin University). He worked as a “Stringer” (a freelance cinephotographer) mainly with the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC-TV) until video took over from work being done with traditional film cameras.

1972 Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980

HALL, Thomas George, 19 Jutland Parade, Dalkeith, Cinephotographer, M

1980 Australian Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980

HALL, Thomas George, 307, Onslow Road, Shenton Park, cinema photographer. M

1990 – Worked for Taimac (with Ross MacDonald who had been the senior engineer whom he worked with during his Channel 7 days) as sound mixer at the Perth and country WA horse races in the 1980’s until he became too ill to work.

 

 

Eclair 16mm NPR Cine Camera

Designed and built in France.

Purchased new.  The agents are not known to his son, Quentin but it would have not been any surprise if he imported it straight from the manufacturers overseas.

It probably was the first 16mm unit in Australia – as it was a very modern “single cassette” design which made changing rolls for a fresh film very fast (probably under 20 seconds). From memory it was self threading as well with minimal “light proof bag” for removal of exposed film.

It’s main claim to fame would have had to be the QUIETNESS of this unit. No longer did you require a large sound proof box (called a “Blimp”) to silence the camera when also recording “live” sound.  The camera could be only a couple of metres from the sound source without drowning out the entire production with the sounds of gears, sprockets and various other film pathway systems found on other contemporary cine-cameras of that era. Some cine-cameras sounded like chaff-cutters when in operation making the need to re-record sound in a sound proof audio studio later (called dubbing).

Paid several thousand dollars to have both the Eclair and the Nagra IV sound recorder “crystal synced” which avoided the need to have an long umbilical cord to keep the perfect sync between vision and sound recordings. This opened the path more “long shots” than could have been done before without extending cables.

During this time he purchased telephoto lenses and other items to further enhance his equipment, along with lights (back then, Quartz Halogens – very hot and prone to explode when hot if you had put your fingers on the bulb – the oil in the fingers was enough to make them expand at different rates until the glass shattered).

Batteries to power the Eclair camera were of the early Ni-Cad (nickel-cadmium) variety and needed long recharging after every shoot. You probably got 30 minutes per battery charge whilst filming.

 

FACT:— For a period of time, Tom Hall lived at 19, Jutland Parade, Dalkeith from about 1966 to 1975 – just down from the Sunset Hospital (which was then an active “old men’s home”) where the camera is now on display.

Most Western Australian 16mm Black & White stock was developed back in the late 1960’s and 1970’s by Ron Armstong’s (who owned “Armstrong’s”) in Bennett Street, East Perth.

 

FACT:—Ron ARMSTRONG then owned the famous boat shed in Crawley bay which still brings flocks of tourists.  Ron wasn’t allowed to rebuild it (a rule dictated by the Swan River Trust – which preached “no private building was allowed anymore anywhere on the Swan River” and once an existing building became unstable, it had to be permanently removed). So he built another shed WITHIN the the outer shell, then dismantled the outer, rusting “shell” – and he got away with it. He kept his launch in there for many years and this boat shed is now a huge tourist icon for visitors to Perth.

Company History

http://tfgtransfer.com/intro.html

 

Items Eclair Camera Filmed Over the Years.

“4 Corners” stories when ever the requirement of a local crew was required. Known as “A stringer” (ABC TV)

“Today Tonight” (and it’s fore runner – “This Day Tonight”) ABC TV – when they had run out of local film and sound crews – or required a crew to leave Perth. Getting the occasional film job was known as being “A Stringer” and the forms from the ABC (a job sheet) were always returned on a “Stringers” Form.   This camera filmed aftermath of damage of the Meckering earthquake which was a very big Western Australian quake which even Perth felt.

“60 Minutes” when a local Perth crew was required for Channel 9 weekly news programme.

Hundreds of commercials – mainly for Perth or Western Australian consumption. Normally Tom (and often his sound recordist wife, Bolettë) were hired to do these jobs. One or two full day jobs were enough to keep the family financial. Often the call came at a moments notice when equipment or crew problems were encountered.

Promotion footage for various large firms (like West Australian Tourism Commission where we were allowed to drive the VW Combi van over Lake Karrinyup’s Golf course with my father and camera hanging on as my mother drove the VW Combi from one hole to the other!) and hundreds of television commercials with various production houses around Perth. Bryan Williams Productions were a mainstay in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

“The Inventors” – ABC TV.  Tom had worked with “The Inventors” director, Beverley Gledhill, whilst she was a director in the early days of TVW 7.   This camera filmed Ralph Sarich’s famous “Orbital Engine” in his garage at the back of his house for this programme.

CSIRO and the moulting of the exoskeleton of the Western Rock Lobster.  The CSIRO installed an aquarium in the house of Tom Hall to film for the first time, the moulting of the exoskeleton of a Western Rock Lobster (then known locally as a “crayfish”). The scientists had informed Tom that this particular Lobster was about to moult anytime within the next 24 hours.

24 hours became 48 hours.  Tom was getting tired and fell asleep whilst waiting for the lobster to moult and had “dozed off” for about 30 minutes. He awoke to see the lobster had started to break out of it’s old shell. He quickly pushed back in the lobster into it’s old shell and started the lamps and camera.  That’s the first time anyone has heard of what happened that day – the rare lobster that reinserted itself back into it’s shell for the cameras to film it. I’m sure many a wildlife photographer has similar stories.

 

 

PYE Television Tube from Studio Camera – TVW Channel 7

This unit gave Perth it’s first LIVE images during the months of testing before the “big opening night” of TVW 7.  Being an old style “vacuum tube” it had a limited number of hours life before it needed to be changed.  Tom Hall realised that this tube had some providence – and when Ross McDonald (the head Engineer at TVW Channel 7 at the time) was changing it at the pre-determained time, he asked for it. It was either that or the bin.

So since about 1959 this tube was moved with each successive house move from Forrestfield, to Nedlands and finally to Shenton Park. It’s taken nearly 60 years to return to the public.  Quentin Hall, the son of Tom Hall was told of it’s history.  It had lived in a series of cardboard boxes in attics for years.

TVW 7 has a much later sister tube of this one. Theirs is the one that gave the images out on the official opening night – but it was this tube which gave Perth it first live images so a bit more famous!

Tom Hall also filmed and took photographs of the building of the transmission tower for TVW 7 out at Bickley as well as the building of the Channel 7 studios out at Tuart Hill.

Tom took many photographs around the Channel 7 building during his time there – so almost any archival photograph from this era was probably taken by him.  He developed and printed these shots in the darkroom at Channel 7 studios.

 

Tom’s son Quentin’s Memories as a Young Child Growing Up Around Channel 7 Studios in the early 1960’s

Dad had been asked by the West Australian Newspapers, where he was a press cameraman in the late 1950’s to help out with the setup of movie cameras as he had experience with film.  He was sent to Melbourne to see how Television was working over there (as Melbourne was hosting the Olympic Games of 1956 and raced to get television for this event).

Early memories are of a very “sandy” area around the Channel 7 Tuart Hill studios.  It always seemed extremely hot out there in summer and under studio lamps it would have been very uncomfortable for any talent and crews.

Many a Tiger snake slithered it’s way in to the buildings as there was bushland all about – but not a tree was seen around the studio back then.

Most nights a “Channel 7” Holden station-wagon was parked in our driveway.  This would be seen as quite an important and special vehicle – television was very new, hardly anyone had a television set at home.  Back then, those who did have a television set suddenly would suddenly have lots of friends suddenly visit them to view “a show”.

I have memories of people crowded around display televisions left “on” in electrical shops who sold the TV sets – with the sound cranked up so folk could watch their programme – standing on the pavements of Perth. It was cutting edge technology – which looking back now was more of less “cross your fingers, lets hope this works”. Television was certainly a “buzz” to all – from the production to the viewer.  A television set cost many months of wages and had valves which would occasionally “blow”.  You got to know your “Hill’s TeleFix” repairman very well but they were repairable – unlike most of the television sets of today (“it’s broken, it’s not worth repairing, buy another one”).

We would normally enter Channel 7 through the carpentry/set building area around the side of the building – hardly ever did we go through the “Reception” entrance.  The set building area would have current TV show sets stored. Some of the magic of a show could be demolished by looking how flimsy a television set really was.  Many game show “score boards” looked like electrical death traps from behind – but no one ever died that I heard of.  There was an army of carpenters and painters building sets and props as most shows were locally produced here in Perth and not “brought in” from third parties from overseas or interstate – so there was lots of activity (except at “smoko” time).  I can remember being surprised that the sets were in COLOUR – as of course, television back then was only broadcasted in Black and White – the resolution wasn’t as “sharp” as what is about in the 2000’s.

Dad would be sent to places like Carnarvon when N.A.S.A. launched a rocket into space and was stationed near the Carnarvon tracking station where he would meet the occasional famous astronaut. That era was indeed exciting to everyone – TV was new and now we had the space race in full swing. The film “The Dish” got that era’s feel very well and I feel sorry for children growing up today that they don’t have any of these amazing projects happening in the world.

Both my brother and I would be able to walk around Channel 7 studios without anyone batting an eyelid. They knew who we were. We could go into a studio with a recording in progress and just stand near the door way (which were fitted with huge doors so props could be brought in). The entire studio had lots of sound proofing material held against the walls with a wire mess.  The studio lights were numerous, hot and extremely bright – just what was needed for the studio TV cameras of the day which weren’t as “sensitive” to low light as a modern video camera.  With cables strewn about the floor for the cameras and lights, it could be a dangerous area to walk.  After 10 minutes, we were probably bored as yet another take was setup – or the talent or contestant messed up and the shot had to be redone.

I do remember seeing an episode of “Beauty and the Beast” with Stuart Wagstaff being recorded in one of the studios quite clearly.  I remember the first “freeze frame/instant replay” video buffering machine (as big as a washing machine) and marvelling to the “Telecine” machine which had film projectors throwing their image onto some piece of electronics which was then live transmitted.

Harry Butler had a wild life show which was filmed by walking across the road from the studios front doors and straight into he bush. Hardly fully planned, it was made up based on what was under the next rock that Mr. Butler picked up!

Rolf Harris’ shows were a combination of studio and “exteriors” which were shot on film, often by my father.

It’s no wonder I didn’t want to follow in my father’s footsteps – 10 minutes to setup a shot and a hour spent waiting for talent, lighting, sound or some other issue before anything could be recorded so a 30 second commercial could take 8 to 10 hours to film.

The Eclair film camera wasn’t a part of the Channel 7 equipment – this was purchased by my father after he left Channel 7 to become an independent film studio in the mid-1960’s. I can remember being asked to carry (drag?) the “sticks” (tripod) during school holidays – it weighed a lot for a small child to carry and I don’t think my father realised just how heavy they were.  They STILL feel heavy as I dropped them off to the Television Museum in October 2018.  Aluminium tripods didn’t exist back then.

FACT:  My father “hand developed” the exposed footage he had just taken of the Dwellingup (town) fire which destroyed almost all of that area in 1960.  On rushing back up to the TVW 7 studio’s he made a wooden frame to wrap the footage around and put the chemicals in a large bath which he then (in total darkness) developed, stopped and fixed (that was the 3 step process with developing film – all done with critical temperatures of the chemicals and most importantly during the developing cycle, time.  “Stop” was another chemical bath to “stop” any further developing of the silver crystals imbedded in the film stock.  The “fixing” stopped light interacting with any silver crystals which may still have been sensitive to light.  The process finished off with the film just sitting in a plain water bath which was occasionally “swirled about”.

From there he dried the film, rewound the strip of film back to a film reel and raced it through to “telecine” (the 16mm film to live video machine) where it was shown straight to air for the evening news – with seconds to spare – there was no editing of this footage as time didn’t permit it to be done.

FACT: Quentin’s great-uncle George BRIGGS and his wife Florence “Folly”, ran the TVW Canteen for many years from its “founding” until the mid-1960’s.  They had come over from the Maylands aerodrome after it closed where they ran the canteen out there for pilots and staff.  George’s toothy smile and distinct Cockney humour made him a favourite of all. George’s brother (my mother’s father), Bill BRIGGS ran the canteen at West Australian Newspapers – so we kept the media employment throughout the family.

FACT: Channel 7 didn’t have a film processing unit installed for sometime after it had started.  Exposed film was flown to Melbourne to be developed and sent back – hopefully – 24 hours later.  There are many stories of the Channel 7 first 16mm film processor, a daunting machine nicknamed “Fearless” – which I think was in reality called “Peerless”. It was always breaking down.

FACT: Before my birth, I managed to get into the newspaper (which ran articles on what was happening in television). A popular series on Channel 7 was “Maverick” (starring James Gairdener if I remember correctly) – the article went on to say that “Tom Hall is not going to call his next child ‘Maverick’”.  Nor was I.

FACT: Bolettë HALL (née BRIGGS) was Australia’s first female sound recordist with a Swiss made “Nagra IV” being her recorder along with a Seinnheiser “shotgun” microphone (covered with a windsock often called a “Wombat”) and a pockets worth of small “lapel” microphones to “wire for sounds” the reporter or actor.

One story has her arriving by helicopter on to an oil rig up on the North West Shelf of West Australia, the Rig supervisor said “Oh! A lady” to which the film crew happily retorted, “That’s no lady, that’s the sound recordist”.  Apparently NO women where allowed on the rigs back then and the flight manifest failed to mention she was female. If the helicopter had failed to fly out at the end of the days filming she was told that she would have had to sleep in the helicopter with a guard at the door.