Studios & Systems


The Studio and Systems business would have to develop all the equipment needed to produce a Television programme.

B.J. appointed a brilliant Electronic Engineer, Les Germany, who had joined Pye in 1937, to lead the design team with Don Jackson as the leader of the mechanical design team. It was soon realised that the television camera was the key ‘must have’ component of the Studio System and its development was immediately started.

Don Jackson with a mock up of a miniature TV camera

Les Germany, third from right, with Pye TVT colleagues


In order to fulfil C.O.’s wish to demonstrate television to the world a mobile two camera studio was built into a Humber Shooting Brake which became the first Pye Outside broadcast vehicle. It was first used to give demonstrations of a complete television system in Brussels.

The camera used an Image Iconoscope tube developed by Pye and called “The Pytron”.

Humber OB at Pye

Humber OB in Brussels 


The first practical television camera was the MKI Photicon. It was fitted with a special miniature Image Iconoscope tube called the Photicon, developed by Pye Cathodeon, which enabled the camera to have a classic profile.It also had an electronic viewfinder rather than the optical one of earlier cameras.

The combination of Photicon tube and camera was unique to Pye and fitted in the Humber. Full scale demonstrations with 50 TV receivers and a  transmitter were given in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Photicon camera pick-up tube

MKI Photicon Camera

Image showing viewfinder


Pye Cathodeon improved the Photicon and introduced the Photo Electric Stabilised (PES) Photicon with improved picture quality. B.J. went to America to discuss co-operation in the design of an advanced camera using the new Image Orthicon tube with General Precision Laboratories.  Les Germany also went to America to discuss colour television with CBS Laboratories who had developed the Field Sequential System.

B.J. set up Dept 24 (so called as this was its telephone number) at Haig Road to manufacture broadcast equipment.

PES Photicon

Image Orthicon Camera tube

Department 24

Manufacturing the Cathodeon Photicon and the MKI Camera


MKI cameras were supplied to the BBC for their Lime Grove entertainment studio as well as a Telecine and sound equipment. The MKI was also demonstrated in Australia.

B.J. had set up a demonstration team under Reg Thompson that was tasked with showing the Pye products around the world. The sequential colour MKI  camera and six large colour monitors were used to give colour demonstrations in Hilversum, Milan and Berlin.


MKI in Lime Grove Studios 

   MKI Colour camera in action


Collaboration between Pye and GPL engineers resulted in the most famous Pye camera the MKIII which used the Image Orthicon Tube.

The MKII camera would use the PES Photicon and now be built into the MKII mechanics but would soon be withdrawn. The MKIII  became the basis of the success of Pye Outside broadcast vehicles many of which would now be exported. Ironic in today’s situation MKIII cameras were sold to the Japanese broadcaster NHK.

MKII Photicon camera 

MKIII I.O. camera 

MKIII on the Eifel Tower 


Demonstrations in France

Department 24


This was the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and Pye was to play a major part in the televising of the ceremony.

Pye had supplied the BBC with two MKIII camera equipped OB vans and these cameras were positioned along the route of the procession. Most significantly a Pye colour camera was positioned on the roof of the Foreign Office and pictures were transmitted to the children's hospital in Great Ormond Street.

Colour Camera on the  Foreign Office roof


Pye was now leading in the concept of Turnkey Systems as it now had all the equipment to produce them, which was the original aim of B.J. and C.O. The catalogue contained a detailed specification and equipment list of such a system with circuit diagrams included.

So much interest was generated world-wide that the sales dept would quote: “One TV System complete,  price £1,000,000”. 

Pye had set up a company called High Definition Films (HDF) and it moved to premises in Highbury. The studio utilised a special camera which scanned the picture with more than 700 lines to create a very detailed result.

The pictures were displayed on a precision picture monitor and filmed using a 16mm camera. Many of the engineers who worked on this system would move on to positions in the commercial TV companies yet to be launched.

Telecine showing 35mm, 16mm and slide projectors

High Definition Television

1954 - 1959

C.O. had been lobbying for the introduction of commercial television to increase the sales of TV sets and he was to be rewarded when ITV started in London with Associated Rediffusion and ATV. Pye had a considerable investment in ATV and it used mainly Pye equipment in its studios.

The iconic show Sunday Night at the London Palladium was produced by a Pye OB vehicle and MKIII cameras. This became the norm for the life of the show. ITV was to benefit both the sales of Broadcast equipment and TV receivers.

Two new cameras were developed . The Studios Staticon Camera which was based on the Pye Cathodeon tube and expected to be  a low cost product. Unfortunately it suffered from a lack of sensitivity and only a few were sold to the Admiralty.

The MKIV I.O. Camera had the task of replacing the very successful MKIII and although it was sold to Anglia TV there was a problem. The MKIV used a 3 inch I.O. tube but RCA had developed a 4½ inch I.O. tube with superior performance and EEV produced their version in the UK. It was the death knell for the MKIV and was a big mistake to have developed it.

This resulted in the tube being used in the MKV. Later the BBC produced the Specification TV95 and the MKVI camera was designed to meet it and used in a series of TVT built MCR’s for the BBC.

Sunday Night at the Palladium

Sunday Night at the Palladium

Staticon Camera

MKIV I.O. Camera


In this year the TV Transmission Division of Pye was renamed Pye TVT.

A crash programme was instigated to develop a camera using the new 4½ inch I.O. and Pye Cathodeon started work on the tube. The new camera was the MKV and became very successful and replaced the MKIV’s at Anglia TV.

Two new packages were introduced:

1.   The Cambridge Station a complete TV System costing £18,500.

2.   A local Radio Station in a Portakabin.

MKV  Camera

4 ½ inch I.O. tube

Princess Margaret being shown the Cambridge Station

Local Radio package

1965 - 1967

In 1966 The Postmaster General gave the go-ahead for the UK to use the PAL colour TV System.

ATV bought 4 Philips LDK3 world beating colour cameras, fitted with the revolutionary Plumbicon pick up tube.

In 1967 TVT introduced its new Range 70 line of studio products which included the fully solid state MKVII camera which was sold to ATV in two OB vans.

The BBC transmitted the first colour OB from Wimbledon in July using a specially designed Synchronizing Pulse Generator (SPG) developed by TVT.

MKVII at ATV on an OB. 

Range 70 Sync Pulse Generator

1968 - 1971

Both ITV and the BBC were moving over to 625 line transmissions but had to maintain the existing 405 line system. The BBC designed a 625 to 405 converter and TVT built around 100 under license. 

Philips now had a controlling interest in Pye and set about rationalising the Broadcast side of its business. In 1971 the Transmitter and Studio businesses were centralised in Cambridge. This was a life saver for the Studio business as it did not have a colour camera and Philips had the hugely successful LDK3 which was developed in its camera centre in Breda. 

625 to 405 line store converter

LDK3 Colour Camera


In this year TVT was going through  a difficult period and this brought a new Managing Director. Richard King who was a Pye apprentice and associated with consumer products became the new M.D. He was a charismatic leader and set about convincing Philips that TVT should be its centre for Broadcast Television business.

In that year TVT built another BBC design under licence which enabled the sound signal to be carried with the vision so saving cables. It sold in the UK to the BBC and ITV as well as many countries around the world as Sound in Sync (SIS).

Richard King

Sound in Sync Unit

1972 - 1975

In 1968 the Mexico Olympics had been broadcast live to the UK using a BBC designed standards converter which converted the American NTSC colour system to the European PAL system.  TVT built several of these massive units one of which went to Argentina.

In 1974 Philips introduced the revolutionary LDK5 camera using a tri-ax camera cable. This camera was sold worldwide and was the basis for a successful TVT Systems business for many years.

In 1975 TVT became The Broadcast Company of Philips under Richard King and capable of supplying major turnkey projects backed by the resources of Philips.

NTSC to PAL Field Store converter 

LDK5 Colour Camera


In this year TVT obtained its largest turnkey project so far. This was for a colour TV service in the Sultanate of Oman and was worth in excess of £10 million. Amazingly Oman went straight to colour with no monochrome service.

The key elements were :-

Richard King on-site with the customers


In 1982 TVT won the Queen’s Award for Export.

Two major contracts were obtained in Manchester. The BBC ordered a complete studio including the multicore LDK25 camera. TVT built a  large routing systems to distribute signals throughout the station for  Granada Television. 

By the end of the period digital TV was coming into the studio and new products were a Video Effects Generator and Computer Graphics unit.

BBC Studio Control Manchester

BBC Studio Control Manchester

Video Effects Control Panel 

1985 - 1986

In this period the Studio and Systems side of TVT obtained the largest contract ever for the supply of a complete system to cover the 1986 football world cup. This contract was worth £23 million.

Apart from 121 LDK6 cameras, 65 LDK14 cameras together with six large and five small OB vans a massive routing switcher was  provided. This linked all the main studios and stadiums as well as feeding outputs to many countries.

In spite of this achievement Philips decided to close the Studio and Systems activity in Cambridge and move to Germany and form a new company B T S.

Mexico World Cup System 1986