This is an archived website which has not been updated since 2002.
Some information may be inaccurate or out of date.

Old Television Programming FAQs
How programmes were made in the past

What’s the difference between the various kinds of film prints of television programmes?

A transmission print is a television programme which is made in advance of showing. After the programme is created (either on film from the outset or recorded from a television production), duplicate prints are created and sent out for transmission.

Programmes which were recorded on film when transmitted for later re-broadcast are called telerecordings in the UK and kinescope recordings in the USA. Occasionally these recordings were made from a video tape of the programme; the tape was then re-used.

A third type of film print is the P as B or Programme as Broadcast recording, which was made for reference or legal purposes, not for later re-broadcast. These P as B recordings normally include the end of the previous programme, the continuity links and, on ITV, the commercials, as well as the actual programme itself. To researchers these P as B recordings are the most valuable because they portray the atmosphere of how the programme was originally transmitted.

Finally, a film insert is a section made on film for insertion into a studio-based production, perhaps a play or a news broadcast. These films are not complete programmes and therefore do not normally have their own titles or end-credits.

What is a telerecording or film recording?

Both names refer to the same process, namely a TV programme recorded onto ordinary 16mm or 35mm film (even 8mm !). It was used to archive programmes from about 1947 to 1976 and was mostly done on b/w film. The BBC pioneered the first recording suite en masse. The 'cameras' were made from adapted Mechau German cinema projectors. These had a circular sequence of mirrors which removed the need for a 'shutter' in the camera. Without this device all the 405 lines could not be recorded. By the time tape was being used in 1958, the Mechau had been scrapped in favour of other methods. Popular belief holds that the quality was always poor, however much of the material recorded was good quality. The problem is that when trying to telecine the film back today, it is difficult to restore the original look of the film. Therefore if you watch a projected original Telerecording (I saw a 16mm one at the BFT last year) you will see that they are invariably better than watching a tape on TV of the same thing.

Andy Henderson.

What are 'TV prints'?

TV Prints are film copies of cinema films (features and cartoons) produced specially for screening on television. They have a lower contrast ratio than cinema prints because the television system has different gamma characteristics (too technical to explain here!) and cannot cope with the light and dark extremes of films intended for projection on a screen. If you project a TV print on a normal screen it looks rather grey and muddy, although still sharply focused. Similarly if you display a normal cine print on television, frequently either the highlights are over-exposed (white-crushing) or else the dark greys merge into the blacks (black-crushing), in both cases losing picture detail.

What is 'grading'?

The various sequences of a film will be shot in many different parts, under differing conditions. Some of these may turn out to be darker or lighter than other sequences and if edited together without alteration, would cause the 'look' of the film to change significantly. A skilled person can 'grade' the negatives and have some reprinted with more or less contrast to achieve a more uniform appearance.

Any film intended for telecine transfer also needs grading beforehand so as to avoid under- or over-exposure (see TV prints above).

And what is a 'Scratch Print'?

In television, a scratch or slash print is a rough print of a programme that has been made and edited on 16 or 35mm film. It will be scratched, marked up and will exclude any sections not yet completed, such as video inserts and so on. It is mainly used for preliminary viewing. When it is finalised, the master negatives are cut and the TX (i.e. transmission) print made.

And an 'Answer Print'or 'Approval Print'?

This is the print provided for final acceptance (giving an answer on) before printing transmission prints in quantity. Technically it starts out as a negative cut to match, on a frame number by frame number basis, the edited work print. This cut negative is then printed to make a show print for the producers, who examine the grading and decide if they are happy with it. If so, they give it their approval.

What are 'dump tapes'?

Dump tapes usually contain tape transfers "dumped off" from master tapes onto one spool.  

On which format were films distributed to television stations?

Generally speaking, British stations used 35mm for programmes played out from film; this applies to commercials as well. UK programmes that survive on 16mm are normally prints that have been returned from television stations abroad; 16mm was certainly the norm in the USA, as Ed Ellers explains…

Sadly, yes, 16mm was the standard until the 1980s both for cost reasons and because of fire code restrictions on the use of 35mm film (which didn't distinguish between nitrate and safety stocks). The major networks did use 35mm, but very few local stations had 35mm installations; also many, perhaps most, stations ran these "film chains" in full automatic modes that couldn't completely cope with changes in scene brightness or color balance and often did more harm than good. To make things worse, the standard telecine systems here used camera tubes, usually Vidicons, Plumbicons or Saticons, rather than the flying-spot scanners that have been used in the UK for decades. Cintel finally introduced an NTSC version of its Mark III scanner in the mid-1970s, and while it took some time to catch on there was a major shift in the 1980s to the practice of releasing filmed shows on tape, carefully transferred by (usually) a skilled colorist with scene-to-scene corrections, both for network and local broadcast, so today a lot of local stations don't even have film equipment in service because everything comes in on tape or by satellite.

Who or what is Foley?

In television, Foley is the name of a proprietary device used for enhancing images. It is mainly used for creating fake backgrounds, as in Star Trek. It probably reached the zenith of its use around 1989 and it is no longer de rigeur since better systems have come along. For example, you cannot add shadows to a Foley background, in the same way you cannot get shadows to appear on a CSO (colour separation overlay) background.

In films the term ‘Foley’ specifically refers to the matching of recorded sound, such as sound effects, to film visuals. It was developed so that filmmakers did not have to worry about maintaining controlled silence on a movie location - they could film the visuals wherever they wanted, disregarding any extra background noises that their microphones might pick up. Later on the Foley Artist would populate the soundtrack with only the sounds that the director actually wants the audience to hear (spot effects such as footsteps, rustling clothes and so on).

Many scenes in films are in fact shot without soundtrack and have the soundtrack added later (dubbed) in a recording studio while the film is projected on a screen. A person known as the footsteps editor supervises the 'footsteps girls' (as they have been known since the 1930s when they were always female), who add the sound of the footsteps to the film. Footsteps artists walk on small areas of gravel, wooden flooring, concrete, tarmac or whatever, in the studio while watching a play-back of the film to achieve the right effect. If Dracula strides across a stone floor, runs across a wooden bridge and slips in a puddle on a muddy road, the footsteps editor must co-ordinate these sounds to the film.

A footsteps editor is often called the 'Foley editor' and his artistes 'Foley artists' after the man who turned this process into an art. Foley editors sometimes have to dub dozens of sounds onto a film, using a combination of Foley artists and sound cassettes.

Back to FAQ index