View Full Version : What did broadcast color television look like in 1954 through 1957?


etype2
07-10-2016, 10:23 PM
I suspect that today's modern color HD broadcast equipment, cameras etc. broadcasting today's OTA signals down converted to analogue and viewed on a properly adjusted CT 100, 21CT55, CTC4, CTC5, etc. will look much better then the original broadcasts back in 1954 to 1957 or longer. Am I wrong?

I was a bit too young (9) to have a vivid memory, but I remember seeing my first color cast about 1956. I remember, green tinted somewhat fuzzy, dim images. I think only the engineers and television technicians knew how to properly set up a color set back in those days. I know they were difficult to adjust and most people used rabbit ear antennas. You had to get the antenna just right, then fine tune and most folks over saturated the color control. The average Joe was probably perplexed and had to call a repairman a lot.

I do not know a thing about the original color cameras and their capabilities. So what did the original color casts look like starting in 1954?

sampson159
07-10-2016, 11:27 PM
i remember the 1st time i saw a color broadcast.i think it was in 1955.new years day.the rose bowl parade.the image was magnificent!the overall picture was bright,clear and finely detailed with deep reds,emerald greens and the bluest of blues.it was in the window of hoermles appliance on parsons ave in cols ohio.few color programs available until the later 50s.the real coming of color televisio was in the 1963 to 1966 era.the coming of the zenith color sets.they raised the bar.

dishdude
07-10-2016, 11:49 PM
I guess my question for people that experienced both, was there a big difference between the early color broadcasts and the last analog color broadcasts 10 years ago?

etype2
07-11-2016, 12:03 AM
I remember the color sets looked good in the Department stores, but not so good in people's homes.

The first time I saw color TV, it was amazing.

old_tv_nut
07-11-2016, 12:58 AM
The big changes in color image quality were in several areas, some improving gradually and some in steps.

Color phase and intensity - tended to vary considerably with tube broadcast gear, becoming more stable as transistorized equipment came in.

Signal to noise: this was marginal with the original color cameras, taking a big leap when Plumbicons were introduced and another big leap with solid state pickups. Image orthicon noise, being independent of gray level, showed up strongly in the shadows due to being amplified there by gamma correction. Noise near black is also partly rectified in the picture tube, resulting in a raising of the picture average black level and hiding shadow detail. Besides the basic image orthicon noise, the early camera preamps were contributors, later improved by converting to transistor preamps. The noise level influenced how much gamma correction was practical, so the earlier cameras had much less contrast range, losing details in the shadows. This was compounded by the light-colored screens of the early color picture tubes, which reduced the contrast in the home unless you turned out the room lights. The lack of 100% DC restoration in receivers also contributed to contrast problems, dark scenes getting washed out towards gray and very bright scenes clipping the blacks. In a side by side comparison of pictures with late analog gear end to end vs. early gear, you would immediately be struck by the improved contrast and shadow detail.

As a result of all this, early cameras did not have full gamma correction, but used the same technique Kodachrome and Technicolor used of increasing the contrast to make up for the loss of contrast and color saturation due to all the effects that tended to wash them out. This works OK if the camera exposure is adjusted just right, but makes it more critical than it would otherwise be. This method of increasing saturation was necessary because the early cameras did not have color matrixing, which would have introduced additional noise. Plumbicon cameras included matrixing to make the color saturation match the CRT phosphors independently of gamma and contrast adjustments.

Geometry, color shading, yoke ringing (alternate light and dark bars near the left side of the picture), and RGB registration drift were all problems with the image orthicon cameras. RCA improved these things as time went on by building more precision orthicon magnetics. Another shortcoming of the early cameras is that the shading adjustments were added waveforms only, mainly affecting shadows, while Plumbicon and later cameras could have both additive and multiplicative shading adjustment. The high end studio cameras eventually had built in optical test patterns and control software that automatically adjusted all these things; plus, the lens characteristics were programmed in so that lens distortions were automatically compensated as the zoom setting was changed.

The problems with shadows, I think, were a main reason why the early color experimental broadcasts depended on a human subject (Marie McNamara, "Miss Color TV") for a final set-up check. Not only her skin tone, but especially her auburn (dark red) hair would have been affected by shading and RGB black level balance problems.

Analog video tape also contributed to noise and various beat patterns, again improved gradually over the years, and eventually replaced by digital recording.

If you want to see some of the early stuff, look for DVDs of the Bell Telephone Hour, the color episodes of the Howdy Doody show, and/or Peter Pan with Mary Martin. It is interesting to see what gross errors were hidden in the corners of the pictures in some cases, and were not visible at home due to the round picture tubes.

The early image orthicon cameras were very finicky to set up, and some studios' crews learned to do it better than others. I think it is generally acknowledged that NBC on the west coast got more consistently good results than NBC New York.

There were additional more minor improvements in going from Image orthicons to Plumbicons to solid state pickups. Image orthicons had problems with bright highlights (reflections from jewelry or brass instruments) producing a dark halo. In monochrome, this was deliberately used to give an approximate gamma correction, but was not good for color, where the halos would be in different colors. I remember seeing programs where someone wore a bright red dress or shirt that caused a cyan halo to spread around it and onto their face. Plumbicons had problems with extreme highlights causing "comet tails" trailing the moving bright spots. Plumbicons were also subject to differences in resolution of leftward diagonal lines and rightward ones, due to a phenomenon called "beam sharpening."

In a nutshell, things improved gradually or sometimes in steps over periods of years, and at a slow enough pace that most people could not accurately recall what the quality was like five or ten years earlier; but a comparison of the beginning and end should be instantly obvious to the most naive viewer.

etype2
07-11-2016, 02:13 AM
I remember seeing the black flare around metal objects and bright objects that reflected into the camera lens on old black and white telecasts in the 50's. I think you could see it in some of the President Kennedy live assasination coverage if I'm not mistaken.

Old tv nut: Very interesting information. Were you in broadcasting or did you work for one of the major television manufactures?

I never saw color full time until it came into my home in 1966. The quality was generally very good, but I liked the Technicolor stuff the best.

You confirmed it, folks really did not see color on their brand new 1950's color sets like we can see it today on the same old restored sets viewing much higher quality color content. This also confirms my very early memories of color TV. I would very much like to see some of the old color content you mentioned.

dtvmcdonald
07-11-2016, 09:49 AM
I first saw color, as best I remember, not OTA but on studio monitors. This was 1954.
Later that year I did see it OTA quite a bit, however, the TV was at my uncle's house
a half mile from the tower, so the signal was perfect. This was all on 15GP22s.

I recall it looking just like it does today on my CT-100. I vividly remember the
image orthicon "halo" effect on B&W TVs, but never on the color ones, at least
not on locally originated shows (which most color ones were of course in those days
in Ft. Worth.)

andy
07-11-2016, 10:33 AM
...

If you want to see some of the early stuff, look for DVDs of the Bell Telephone Hour, the color episodes of the Howdy Doody show, and/or Peter Pan with Mary Martin. It is interesting to see what gross errors were hidden in the corners of the pictures in some cases, and were not visible at home due to the round picture tubes....

Even on some relatively late programs look surprisingly bad. The early seasons of All in the Family have all kinds of camera problems including registration errors and shadows in the corners. Does anyone know what kind of cameras they used? I'm guessing they were old at the time.

old_tv_nut
07-11-2016, 11:20 AM
...
Old tv nut: Very interesting information. Were you in broadcasting or did you work for one of the major television manufactures?
...

Nine years with Motorola Consumer Products (until they were sold to Matsushita), and forty years at Zenith.

jsowers
07-11-2016, 03:04 PM
If you want to see some good early color content, tune in to the Dinah Shore Chevy Show on the Jewish Life Channel, if you're lucky enough to have that on cable. It's on at 2pm and 4am every day. So far the shows I've seen have been from 1959-1961.

No Chevy commercials, but they do sometimes show the ending where she sings See the USA in Your Chevrolet, doing her trademark "umm-wah" kiss, and they show the latest Impala or Corvair. They're not too strict on timing on this channel, so allow some extra minutes before and after the show to get it all if you're recording it.

I am no expert on early color, having first seen color TV in 1969, but the color reproduction looks very good to my eyes, considering the age of the shows. You can tell they tried to be very colorful in their sets and costumes. The show I saw the other day with Dinah singing Deep Purple would be great for showing off an early color TV. It was the 12-6-59 episode with Carl Reiner, Mary Costa and Mahalia Jackson.

I do notice the black "blooming" areas around reflective things, which may be more a result of early videotape reproduction or it could be coming from the cameras.

lnx64
07-11-2016, 03:18 PM
It's 1958, but I found this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKqHZcXvUAs

old_tv_nut
07-11-2016, 04:36 PM
If you want to see some good early color content, tune in to the Dinah Shore Chevy Show on the Jewish Life Channel...
I do notice the black "blooming" areas around reflective things, which may be more a result of early videotape reproduction or it could be coming from the cameras.

Thanks for the info. The black halos are definitely a well-known image-orthicon effect.

sampson159
07-11-2016, 04:37 PM
as television technology progressed.so did the color picture.the first zenith roundies had outstanding,movie like quality.rca wasnt not quite as good but very acceptable.the real highest point for me was the hybrid and early solid state days.zenith,sylvania,philco and of course rca.they all produced amazing pictures with the sylvania taking the nod to me.as far as quality,zenith and rca were the top servicewise.the broadcasting quality advanced too.to see a movie shot in technicolor or perfect pathe on a 25v hybrid or solid state set was the pinnacle of color television to me.always and still amazed at those sets.when i fire up the e48 superset or my flat chassis to watch a movie,it still get the same feeling as i did back then.

etype2
07-11-2016, 06:17 PM
It's 1958, but I found this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKqHZcXvUAs

Yes. This is a perfect example of what old tv nut was talking about with the flares.

etype2
07-11-2016, 06:47 PM
If you want to see some good early color content, tune in to the Dinah Shore Chevy Show on the Jewish Life Channel, if you're lucky enough to have that on cable. It's on at 2pm and 4am every day. So far the shows I've seen have been from 1959-1961.

No Chevy commercials, but they do sometimes show the ending where she sings See the USA in Your Chevrolet, doing her trademark "umm-wah" kiss, and they show the latest Impala or Corvair. They're not too strict on timing on this channel, so allow some extra minutes before and after the show to get it all if you're recording it.

I am no expert on early color, having first seen color TV in 1969, but the color reproduction looks very good to my eyes, considering the age of the shows. You can tell they tried to be very colorful in their sets and costumes. The show I saw the other day with Dinah singing Deep Purple would be great for showing off an early color TV. It was the 12-6-59 episode with Carl Reiner, Mary Costa and Mahalia Jackson.

I do notice the black "blooming" areas around reflective things, which may be more a result of early videotape reproduction or it could be coming from the cameras.

That channel is not available here. I remember watching the Dinah Shore show but in b&w. I had to go to department stores in the 50's to see color TV.

holmesuser01
07-11-2016, 08:19 PM
Mary Costa, mentioned on the about Dinah Shore Show from 12-6-59 is my cousin. She had an incredible voice in her day.

colorfixer
07-14-2016, 02:15 AM
It's 1958, but I found this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKqHZcXvUAs


That looks a lot like the color on the 70's Lawrence Welk shows that ABC ran.

holmesuser01
07-14-2016, 09:09 AM
If I'm not mistaken, Lawrence Welk was taped with Norelco cameras.

The color footage of Ike looks really good. Thanks for the link to it.

Steve D.
07-14-2016, 11:43 AM
Excerpt from The Dinah Shore Chevy Show 1959: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1fIhPW9hns. You have to know that color video tape was by then exceptable for time delay broadcasts. However the original over the air live broadcast were far superior when viewed on a well set up color receiver w/a good roof top antenna system. In the mid 50's, before videotape, OTA live broadcasts provided exceptional color pictures. I'm old enough to remember these early color shows both studio & remote sports broadcasts. RCA, for one, didn't want anything less than the best color images on their NBC network. The were trying to sell color TV sets to a weary public and it was a tough sell for many years.

-Steve D.

holmesuser01
07-14-2016, 02:28 PM
I think when they changed the red phosphors in the CRT is when color TV didn't look as good as it did before.

I've got a CYP22 that has much deeper reds than the FBP22 ever did. Same for the FJP22's.

etype2
07-15-2016, 03:25 PM
If I didn't make myself clear originally, here is my point.

I collect micro television and roundies. The other day was looking at one of my Sony Trinitron micro color sets receiving an ota HD signal down converted by a digital converter box. Trinitrons always look amazing, but that particular color broadcast looked better on that set then anything I remember seeing in the late 60's and 70's. I thought it must be the higher quality content and hardware in the broadcast chain of today.

Thinking about the color broadcasts, say from 1954 forward to maybe 1957 or 1958, and knowing a little about the old color cameras, videotape, etc. from that era, I can't imagine that those old color broadcasts would look as good as today's much higher quality color content and the higher quality equipment in today's broadcast chain if viewed on the same properly set up color televisions like a CT 100, 21CT55, CTC5 etc.

So I was reflecting back to the mid 50's when I saw my first color broadcast. I was only 9 when I saw the first color broadcast, so the memory is foggy.

I think old tv nut explained the progression of color broadcast equipment well. The old stuff had some problems which improved over time.

etype2
07-15-2016, 03:33 PM
Excerpt from The Dinah Shore Chevy Show 1959: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1fIhPW9hns. RCA, for one, didn't want anything less than the best color images on their NBC network. The were trying to sell color TV sets to a weary public and it was a tough sell for many years.

-Steve D.

I believe that.

philcophan
07-20-2016, 12:47 PM
My experience indicates that the old sets just keep looking better and better as transmission methods improved.
My first look at a color set was in late '56 or early '57... color looked "oooh and ahhh", B&W not so much... Many years later, I became the repairman for that set (my Uncle's set) and set it straight... It was an old CTC-5 with doors... "The Chandler" if I recall... the deluxe chassis... what a playin' fool!!! That set just kept looking better and better thru the years as the camera/transmitting technology improved. The old sets had the ability, but not the quality signal... just my opinion... View some of the old shows today, and the color is outstanding... most likely because they went out of their way to make it as colorful as possible. Bonanza, Lawrence Welk, Hawaii 5 O and more.
I'm still tickled when I see an old set performing well!!!

oldtvman
07-26-2016, 03:15 PM
Based on the pictures from sets I've restored and viewing of early color video I have to believe like Steve said the pictures were breathtaking. I was a small child and did catch a glimpse of color in the stores, but the sets weren't set up properly. It was magic in the air.

Sandy G
07-26-2016, 10:03 PM
Yeah, B/W signals viewed on one of the early roundies looked worser than Death " eatin' a Cracker." Those ugly purplish/green outlines on EVERYTHING were pretty bad. I think in the larger cities, you had a REASONABLE chance of having yr set "Set Up" like it SHOULD be, but out here in Greater Bugtussle, you were pretty much on yr own. I'd hazard a guess that set-up problems did their fair share of keeping roundie sales down..

old_coot88
07-27-2016, 02:02 AM
Yeah, B/W signals viewed on one of the early roundies looked worser than Death " eatin' a Cracker." Those ugly purplish/green outlines on EVERYTHING were pretty bad.
Yes, back in the early days of color, it was common for BW programming to be transmitted "in color". That is, even when the pic material was BW, the chroma carrier and burst were still being transmitted. This kept the chroma chain in the TV receiver switched 'on', allowing color artifacts to appear on the BW image. You had to turn the color control all the way down to get rid of them.

Sets had an automatic 'color killer' circuit, but it depended on the absence of the burst signal.

Electronic M
07-27-2016, 07:47 AM
Yes, back in the early days of color, it was common for BW programming to be transmitted "in color". That is, even when the pic material was BW, the chroma carrier and burst were still being transmitted. This kept the chroma chain in the TV receiver switched 'on', allowing color artifacts to appear on the BW image. You had to turn the color control all the way down to get rid of them.

Sets had an automatic 'color killer' circuit, but it depended on the absence of the burst signal.

Probably why Zeniths had a push pull manual color killer assist switch on the chroma level knob for the first several years of roundys.

old_tv_nut
07-27-2016, 11:20 AM
Probably why Zeniths had a push pull manual color killer assist switch on the chroma level knob for the first several years of roundys.


I also suspect there were cases where sets were used with deep fringe area signals, so the automatic color killer could be set to favor "color on" so that the color wouldn't flash on and off while the user "enjoyed" a very snowy color signal. The color could then be turned off on a known black and white signal.

I wonder how many calls there were to dealers/repair shops to complain of "no color" because the switch had been turned off.

etype2
07-27-2016, 04:46 PM
There was also the problem of how far away the transmitter was and adjusting the rabbit ears antennas that most people in the mid to late 50's were using to bring in color.

Multi path distortion (ghosting) was a problem then and still was a problem in the 60's. In 1966 I installed the largest, strongest roof top antenna I could find with a rotator to minimized the ghosting. I was also DX'ing the Chicago stations from Milwaukee 90 miles away.

Once you had the rabbit ears just right, then one had to constantly fine tune the set. There was no AFT or auto circuits. The signal would drift and had to be adjusted. Another problem was vertical sync. I remember getting up constantly to stop the picture from rolling.

Then there was the problem of NTSC color (never the same color). Often people would have a green cast to their faces.

sampson159
07-28-2016, 07:44 PM
numerous "no color" service calls.9.95 to turn the color back on.it paid me pretty well back in those days