The announcement on Wednesday that the BBC has bought the Rank film studios at Lime Grove, Shepherd's Bush, in order to expand their television service will reinforce the belief held by many people in the film industry that television will, eventually, supercede films as a medium of popular entertainment.
For, whilst film production is dwindling and film studios are compelled to close down or work to very diminished schedules, television is taking great strides forward.
THE SHEPHERD'S BUSH STUDIOS WERE AT ONE TIME PRODUCING A FILM A MONTH, AND Mr SYDNEY BOX HAD ACTUALLY ANNOUNCED A PROGRAMME OF 19 FILMS IN ONE YEAR WHEN THE FILM CRISIS SET IN AND CURTAILED PRODUCTION.
At the moment one can only speculate on the effect the increase in studio facilities will have on television programmes. But one thing is certain: it will mean BETTER programmes and more of them.
At Alexandra Palace, the present transmission-production centre, there are only two studios, both very small, and producers have to work in extremely cramped space.
Plays can be rehearsed before television cameras only once, on the morning of the broadcast, and this has inevitably detracted from the smoothness of productions. There are also great limitations in the construction of scenery.
At Shepherd's Bush, with its many and spacious workshops where vast palaces have been pre-fabricated, there will be ample space, and no serious difficulties should be encountered in building any set that may be needed.
There will have to be very few alterations in the general lay-out of the studios.
The most important work will be the installation on each "shooting floor" - and it is planned to have five - of a producer's turret: this is an all-glass control room overlooking the studio, in which the producer sits during transmission, wearing headphones and directing his camera-men (who also have headphones) by means of a microphone before him.
He instructs them when to "track in", when to "pan", at what angle to approach.
Although each camera-man knows in advance roughly what is required of him from the detailed shooting script with which he is supplied, this business of commanding the unit whilst a programme is on the air inevitably makes for a great deal of suspense and tenseness which film-making cannot match.
TV programmes are actually edited whilst in transmission. The producer in his control room can, by the twist of a knob, cut from one camera to the other. Three cameras are usually in use, two lining up on the next scenes whilst the other is transmitting, and vice-versa on a relief basis.
The screens in the control room show the producer the scene that is on the air, and the scene about to go on the air.