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Transmitters Studios
Early Color Television

British Experiments with NTSC Color

Britain retained its 405 line TV standard after World War Two, while the rest of Europe and America adopted higher resolution systems. In 1953, the BBC experimented with field sequential color. When the NTSC color system was adopted in the U.S. in 1953, British manufacturers experimented with adopting it for the 405 line standard. Ultimately the BBC decided not to proceed with color using the 405 line standard, and finally adopted the PAL color system with the switch to a 625 line standard in the 1960s.

Pictures from the 405 line BBC tests
1954 Marconi Brochure and Slides (courtesy of Ronald Camp)
Article about Marconi and NTSC color (courtesy of Ronald Camp)
Colour TV Experiments (405 Alive article)
Autumn 1955 Colour Tests (405 Alive article)
BBC website page about NTSC experimental broadcasts of 1954

Here are comments from Simon Vaughn, Archivist at the Alexandra Palace Television Society:

A black & white telerecording of a BBC Television experimental colour transmission on 31 January 1957, which was broadcast and shown to a large audience of Members of both Houses of Parliament on six receivers installed in a room in the House of Lords, can be viewed on our YouTube.

This telerecording is MUTE for the first two minutes.

The BBC had been carrying out research and development on colour television since the resumption of the television service in 1946.

On 7 October 1954, the first 'compatible' type of colour television picture was radiated from the medium-power transmitter at Alexandra Palace. The pictures included slides and 16-mm motion pictures.

During the winter of 1955-6 a regular series of transmissions were conducted at Alexandra Palace, with the primary purpose of testing the compatibility of the pictures on a comparatively large sample of domestic receivers. Again, only slides and pictures from 16-mm motion film were used. In the meantime Studio A at Alexandra Palace had been equipped with a single three-tube colour camera of Marconi design, and the first occasions on which colour pictures including scenes from the studio were broadcast occurred on 3, 4, and 5 April 1956.

By the autumn of 1956, Studio A at Alexandra Palace had been equipped with a second experimental colour camera and, a little later, a 35-mm Cintel film scanner was installed to supplement the slide and 16-mm film scanner. With this equipment and with the enthusiastic help of programme staff, an ambitious and comprehensive series of programmes were broadcast and were observed in people's homes on specially developed experimental colour receivers and also on a large number of black-and-white domestic sets.

During the winter of 1957-8 a further series of experimental programmes were broadcast from the studio at Alexandra Palace and was seen by a rather bigger audience on colour receivers than in the previous year. At the conclusion of these tests in 1958 the studio at Alexandra Palace was dismantled and the cameras installed temporarily in a van which carried out two outside broadcasts. The slide and film-scanning equipment was moved to the Lime Grove Studios where a regular series of transmissions outside normal programme time were given, beginning in the autumn of 1958.

David Boynes is restoring a Pye color set built for this standard.

Paul Pelczynski wrote this to us:

Your story on color television transmission tests from Alexandra Palace in London reminded me on my 1953 work at Marconi Company. There, as a design engineer, I worked on a color camera and studio control equipment for the BBC. The system was capable to be switched to operate on three television standards (405, 525 and 625 lines) for evaluating purposes. An interesting item was a studio color monitor, using three CRTs with images combined using dichroic mirrors. The program was conducted under RCA license. operating equipment was installed in the Alexandra Palace studio in 1955.

From a 1957 book entitled "The Boy's Book Of Radio Television & Radar"

Courtesy of AK member Aussie Bloke

Picture Post, March 13 1954

Courtesy of Keith W