“Tele-Talkies” in Color Latest Feat in Radio (Dec, 1929)

“Tele-Talkies” in Color Latest Feat in Radio

Radio’s latest surprise, talking pictures in color, will soon be available to every home. Artists are now to literally stage performances in your living room.

A VERY pretty girl in a fancy dress of many colors sat before a transmitter in a certain section of the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City the other Jay. Just a few steps away, in an adjacent room, a group of famous scientists and journalists, evincing the utmost curiosity, concentrated their attention upon a television receiving apparatus.

Their interest was soon rewarded. Sweeping across a large magnifying lens, connected with one of the most modern types of radiovisor, could be plainly seen the dress, features and form of the charming girl, in the original colors!

Here was an accomplishment indeed. Not only did it mark the first time movies in full color had been broadcast successfully in this country, but it gave promise of a time not remote when Mr. Average American, seated before an inexpensive radio set, will be able to view world events, thousands of miles away, in all their colorful majesty.

This triumph of television research is only one of the many introduced to an astonished America during the past few months. The famous British radio inventor, John L. Baird, has just opened an office in New York, where his American representative, Captain W. J. Jerrard, plans to introduce something entirely unique to Yankee television enthusiasts which he refers to as the “tele-talkie.” Meanwhile, C. Francis Jenkins of Washington, D. C., world-noted pioneer in radiomovies, has lately made three outstanding contributions to the new science: a quartz rod drum to take the place of the customary scanning disc used in television transmitting; a novel television camera making it possible to accomplish airplane broadcasts; and a unique system of transmitting, as a regular procedure, movies that in appearance are not so remote from those we now see in the average motion picture theatre.

Color tele-movies is the achievement of Dr. Herbert E. Ives of the Bell interests. A point be likes to stress about his invention is that it does not require entirely new apparatus—it utilizes the same light sources —- scanning discs, synchronizing systems, etc.—and the same type of circuit and method of amplification as are used in the monochromatic method. However, Dr. Ives explains that there are needed a different type and arrangement of the photo-electric cells at the sending end, as well as of the neon and argon lamps at the receiving end.

Dr. Ives points out that for the ordinary human eye any color may be repre sented by the proper mixture of red, green and blue—the three fundamental colors. In order to mix these colors effectively a method has been used known as “beam scanning.” Explains Dr. Ives: “To apply this method to color television, three sets of photo-electric cells are employed in place of the one set used before. Each of these sets is provided with color filters made up of sheets of colored gelatin. One set lias filters of an orange-red color which makes the cells see things as the hypothetical red sensitive nerves of the retina see them; another set has yellow-green filters to give the green signal, and the third set has greenish-blue filters which perform a corresponding function for the blue constituent of vision.

“The scanning disc and the light source are the same as with the beam scanning arrangement used in monochromatic television. The only difference is in the photo-electric cells, and thanks to the tri-chromatic nature of color vision, it is only necessary to have three times the number of cells used previously to reproduce all colors. Three sets of television signals, one for each set of cells, are generated instead of one, and three channels are used for the transmission of the television signals. In the new photoelectric cell container, twenty-four cells are employed, two with “blue” filters, eight with “green” filters and fourteen with ‘”red” filters. Large sheets of rough-pressed glass are set up some distance in front of the cell containers, so that the light reflected from the subject is well diffused.

“For color television the images must be received in their appropriate colors and viewed simultaneously, this reception being similar essentially to our method of monochromatic television. The surface of a disc similar to that used at the sending end is viewed, and the light from the receiving lamp is focussed on the pupil of the observer’s eye by suitable lenses. To combine the light of the three lamps, they are placed at some distance behind the scanning disc and two semi-transparent mirrors are set up at right angles to each other, but each at 45° to the line of sight. One lamp is then viewed directly through both mirrors and one lamp is seen by reflection from each (see diagram).

“The receiving apparatus at present consists of one of the 16-inch television discs used in our earlier experimental work. Behind it are three special lamps fable to work at high current densities), and a lens system which focusses the light into a small aperture in front of the disc. The observer looking into this aperture receives, through each hole of the disc as it passes by, light from the three lamps—each controlled by its appropriate signal from the sending end. When the intensities of the three images are properly adjusted he therefore sees an image in its true colors and with the general appearance of a colored motion picture.”

The “tele-talkie” of John L. Baird seems to rightfully deserve its unique title, for it consists of simultaneous broadcasts, on the same wave length, of the voices and images of living entertainers. This is being done, Captain W. J. Jerrard, Baird’s spokesman, explains, “on the present wave length facilities of stations and without disturbing their present apparatus, just as it is sent over ordinary radio broadcasting wave lengths.

  1. Rick Auricchio says: October 14, 20109:19 am

    A couple weeks ago, I saw a show describing the early mechanical TV (on TV, of course…probably Modern Marvels or a similar show).

    If I recall, many of the monochrome cameras had weak output. Actors used special makeup to accentuate contrast on faces, outlining eye sockets with black and the like.

  2. John Savard says: October 14, 20103:19 pm

    It’s quite true that the low sensitivity of disk scanning systems would have been made even worse by an attempt to provide full-color images as well. Still, the fact that they were making the attempt even in the infancy of television is a fact worthy of note. And not only the (eventually) successful innovation of color television is mentioned in the article, but also the “Foto-Phone”; as we know, the Bell Picturephone flopped, and it isn’t until computers started being used for Internet VoIP, or “smartphones” started being used on the cellular telephone network has there been, as an informal and almost automatic companion to data links, the opportunity to send pictures along with one’s voice in a telephone call or something resembling a telephone call.

  3. Toronto says: October 14, 20106:43 pm

    Great observations, John.

    Note the family group at the bottom of the first page, clustering in front of the lens. That’s probably a 1.5″ screen with two mirrors and a big lens to make it look bigger.

  4. Andrew L. Ayers says: October 14, 201011:38 pm

    Rick – that wasn’t the only time makeup had to be used. In the early days of color TV (and I think color movies), actors and actresses had to wear some really bizarre colored makeup so that their skin tones and such would show up properly on the television. IIRC, the makeup brand “Max Factor” essentially started this way, making this special blended weird color makeup for movies and TV, that would of course hold up to the very bright (and hot) lighting used on the sets.

  5. Jayessell says: October 15, 20108:54 pm

    Mechanical NTSC!

    I saw an illustration of a color Nikov disk with red green blue sprials.
    Frame rate was sacrificed for color.
    Frame sequential color?
    Already a bitch to sync, you’d have to get the color frames to match also.

    Yet another reason to go all electronic.

  6. Waynesburg Alumnus says: October 16, 20101:26 am

    The illustration of the actress viewing a Stanford football game is inaccurate.

    The first televised football game was played on September 30, 1939 (10 years later) between Fordham University and Waynesburg College on NBC station W2XBS in New York – at a time when there were maybe 1,000 TV sets in the New York area.

    http://www.americanspor… has some photos of the game and the equipment.


  7. Firebrand38 says: October 16, 20108:22 am

    I’d say it was very accurate. The article doesn’t say it was a general broadcast, but that the young lady is watching it at Bell Laboratories during an experiment. http://www.earlytelevis…

    The 1939 broadcast was in B&W as well, this article was about experimental color broadcasts.

    Seeing as how this is a scan of an article published in 1929 I fail to see how it could be characterized as “inaccurate” especially compared to Wikipedia of all things.

  8. John Savard says: October 16, 20101:26 pm

    I’m sure this article is accurate; however, since the audience was in an adjacent room to where the young lady was televised, the transmission very likely was by closed-circuit television, rather than being sent out, even experimentally, as a radio signal. That would allow the article and Wikipedia to both be right.

  9. Firebrand38 says: October 16, 20103:50 pm

    John Savard: Actually if you follow the link I provided there were both closed circuit and “radio” broadcasts. Waynesburg wasn’t commenting on the transmission of the young lady but rather the young lady watching the Stanford game in 1929. I have no doubt the first commercially broadcast game was in 1939, but using that to say an article written in 1929 is inaccurate is what I had a problem with.

  10. Scott B. says: October 18, 20106:07 am

    I’d bet any amount of money that the two images on the TV screens were composited on a negative by the magazine’s publisher. I sincerely doubt that the TV cameraman at the Stanford game got that close-up of the kicker during an actual game. I also doubt that the still photographer taking the very posed pic of the lovely Miss Hyams watching, managed to snap the shot at that particular moment. The giveaway is the angle of the horizon in the football image (and the clarity of the images on the TV screens).

    That’s not to say that this scenario didn’t happen; just that these pix were almost certainly staged after the fact, and the images composited for the magazine.

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