WTVT Facilities

Channel 13 has a reputation for using the latest and finest broadcast equipment. Here's a look at the Channel 13 facilities and equipment over the years.

In 1955, RCA and General Electric were primary suppliers of studio equipment. NBC stations tended to favor equipment manufactured by RCA. This seems logical since the network was owned by RCA at the time (ironically, NBC is now owned by G.E.!). You would assume that CBS affiliates would follow their network's lead and buy G.E. cameras, but that wasn't the case. RCA cameras were just as popular with CBS and ABC affiliates. Channel 13's chief engineer Daniel H. Smith opted to start operations with two RCA-TK11A cameras, and two TK-30A field versions in their remote truck.

In Channel 13's single studio, Camera 1 was mounted on a standard Houston Fearless pedestal. The H/F pedestal was a rather heavy, clunky device, but it did allow the operator to steer and dolly in a professional manner. Increasing or decreasing the height was accomplished by rotating a circular wheel attached to the base of the pedestal. It was practically impossible to do this smoothly while on the air.

The camera was equipped with four fixed-focal length lenses mounted on a turret. The lenses ranged from wide angle to telephoto. One of the challenges of this arrangement is that changing lenses required the operator to remove his hand from the focus control and turn a handle mounted beneath the viewfinder. As the handle rotates the turret the camera's image is blanked out as one lens passes out of view and another racks into place. Then, the operator must re-focus using the control on the camera's starboard side. Often, the camera would end up on-air during the rotation.

Camera 2 was mounted on a tripod, preventing any on-air changes in height. Normally, tripods are used in field operations, but it's possible that 13 did not want to invest in the cost of two pedestals. Camera 2 had a Zoomar, which was a primitive version of our modern day zoom lens. Compared to the focal lengths of Camera 1's lenses, the Zoomar could not provide the same wide angle or telephoto shots. Zoom lenses of the period tended to be medium-wide and medium-telephoto, with a 4 to 1 zoom range. The advantage, however, was that the shot could be changed smoothly from wide angle to telephoto (or reverse) without racking a turret.*

These mid-50's style cameras used image orthicon tubes to create NTSC television pictures. The I.O. tube was a workhorse of the broadcast industry for twenty years, but early versions suffered from image retention. If you left the camera aimed at static image for too long, it would 'burn in' to the I.O. tube. The image would be retained for a moment once the camera was repositioned. Production manager Dan Boger recalled the use of 'orbiters' to prevent the burn in. Apparently, the orbiter was a mechanical device placed on the lens turret that moved the image in a subtle manner, and thus preventing a burn in. The cameras typically required about 150 foot candles to produce an acceptable picture.

This rare color slide from 1959 shows the crew preparing for Roy Leep's weather segment. Notice the "Radar Weather" logo and the brightly colored weather map that translated to shades of gray on monochrome receivers

Audio equipment consisted of the standard desk top, boom, and lavalier microphones of the period. Studio lighting consisted of 'scoops' supplemented by 1K and 2K focusing lights from the Century Lighting company.

A 16mm film chain was installed in the master control room. Through a system of mirrors, 35mm slides could be used for station I.D.s or commercial announcements. Unlike the studio cameras, the film chain did not use image orthicon tubes. Vidicon tubes, invented in the early 50's, were used instead of I.O.'s because of their longer life and stability. The vidicons required much more light then the I.O.'s, but were cheaper and less prone to 'burn in.'

Video tape recording was introduced by the Ampex Corporation in 1956, and it's reasonable to assume that 13 did not get the first allocation. A date for Channel 13's use of video tape recording is hard to pin down, but a newspaper article from the fall of 1956 states that the delivery of a first generation VTR would occur within months. Until then, the only method of recording studio programming was by kinescope, i.e.: Aiming a 16mm sound camera at a monitor. 13 preserved some early programming in this manner.

The first mobile unit seemed to be there right from the beginning. A small truck (similar in size to one of our present day UPS vehicles) was used for remotes. Two cameras and a microwave transmitter relayed the signal back to the station. Obviously, the remotes could not be out of the line-of-site of the original single-mast tower, or there would be no signal. In 1955 Tampa, there were no buildings really tall enough to make a microwave relay practical. That changed in the 60's, when WTVT mounted a microwave relay on a Tampa's First Financial Bank.

The mobile unit was not very practical for breaking news stories. In addition to the line-of-sight limitation, the cameras used vacuum tubes that required a half hour to warm up and stabilize.

In August of 1956, Tampa TV sold Channel 13 for around $3,500,000 to the Gaylord Broadcasting Company, a unit of the Oklahoma Publishing Company and publisher of Oklahoma City's daily newspaper. Gaylord's flagship station was WKY-TV in Oklahoma City, originally an independent and later an affiliate of NBC. Another Gaylord property at the time was WSFA, an NBC affiliate in Montgomery, Alabama. In later years, Gaylord would also own Channel 13's sister station, KTVT, in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, WUHF (rechristioned WVTV upon the FCC's approval) in Milwaukee, KHTV in Houston, and KSTW in Tacoma.

Gaylord brought fresh capital to WTVT and a new General Manager from WKY-TV, P.A. "Buddy" Sugg. Sugg soon made plans to expand the already crowded facility. Fortunately, the original building was on a large piece of property, about 1 city block square. There would mean plenty of room for future expansion.

This 1956 plan takes the original restaurant and adds a studio and office space. The building would serve until its demolition in 1989.

On the station's west wing, the new Studio Bwould accommodate larger productions. Offices for traffic and productionwould border Studio B on the second floor. On the east wing, new offices would be builtfor the station's management, along with a conference room and screeningroom.

Most notable in the plan is the twin tower holding microwave equipment andweather instruments. The tower as pictured is much shorter than the final 150 foot version, and does not bear the station's call letters or Roy Leep'sdomed radar unit. The original single mast tower would remain in useuntil the twin tower was completed, and then be dismantled.

At left, the new twin tower under construction. Note the original mobile unit parked below, and the single-mast tower used to microwave signals to the main transmitter in Baum. There are no satellitereception dishes, since it will be 1962 before the first communicationsatellite (Telstar) is launched into orbit.

The Twin Tower in 1966. Note Roy Leep's original radar with plexiglass dome, and a microwave receiver aimed at the St. Pete studio

The new twin tower antenna housed a microwave receiver (for remote reception) and a microwave transmitter aimed at the main transmitter in Baum. Roy Leep's new radar, so powerful that its range covered all of Florida, was positioned at the top and center of the tower in 1961. Shortwave antenna for radio/telephone communication with reporters sat adjacent to the radar. Finally, the tower was used as a terrific marketing tool. The call letters were positioned vertically, and read correctly when seen from either east or west.

The expanded studio in 1987. The only difference between this photo and the way the station looked in 1960 is the newer model radar and the late 70's '13' logo on the tower and above the curved driveway.

The production staff was happy to gain a new studio. The original 'dining room' studio was labeled Studio A, and the new, two story studio became Studio B. Studio B's dimensions, around 49' x 62' feet, was a vast improvement in space for production. Two additional RCA cameras were purchased for the new studio. They sat on more sophisticated versions of the Houston Fearless pedestals capable of changing height electrically at the touch of a switch. The control room serving both studios was neatly placed between Studios A and B, with angled-glass positioned so that the producers, directors, and audio engineers could easily see into either studio. The entire renovation would be completed by August of 1957.

The most dramatic change for production was in the creation of a new, roomier mobile unit. Chief Engineer Bill Witt supervised design of the 30 foot long trailer, which was capable of handling up to four cameras. The silver and red mobile unit contained a 12 foot long control room with switcher, monitors, and audio mixer. Adjacent was an 18 foot long engineering room with a 2" quad VTR, camera control units, microwave controls, and various pieces of support equipment.

Chief Engineer Bill Witt looks from the mobile unit's control room into engineering. Ed Shaw is seen operating a 2" Quad VTR.

The rear door of the unit opened wide to allow a camera platform. The platform was electric-powered and could raise equipment to the roof, where another camera platform was located. The roof camera and operator were seated on a swivel that could pan 360 degrees.

The mobile unit's roof camera position allowed camera operator Nick Stratman to pan 360 degrees. Part of the electric lift and 2nd camera platform is seen through the open door. Pulse news man Joe Loughlin holds the antenna for a wireless microphone. The mobile unit seen in these photos was on duty to record opening ceremonies of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

The term 'mobile' unit was no exaggeration...the entire unit was powered by a 25,000 watt generator located behind the driver's cab. That meant the unit could record while actually moving on the road. This capability came in handy during the opening ceremonies of the new Howard Frankland Bridge. The WTVT mobile unit tracked a Cadillac carrying Florida Governor Leroy Collins, who sat in the back seat while being interviewed by Pulse anchor Joe Loughlin.

Governor LeRoy Collins and WTVT's Joe Loughlin follow the mobile unit across the new Howard Frankland Bridge

WTVT repainted their original mobile unit to act as a backup and maintenance vehicle.

The WTVT mobile unit was used by CBS as the pool feed for early NASA Mercury space program ocean recovery missions.

Channel 13 camera setup for the St. Pete "Festival of States" parade. Note telephoto Zoomar lens and rear control near the operator's chest.

The first splashdown and recovery videotaped for later playback was Gus Grissom's 1961 sub orbital flight. Taken aboard the aircraft carrier Randolph, the WTVT mobile unit was accompanied by 13's Ken Smith, Marvin Winn, Dan Boger, Ed Shaw, Jack King, Larry Eskridge, and reporter Joe Loughlin. Cameraman Joe Wiezycki was on deck and snagged some wonderful closeups of Astronaut John Glenn as he completed a historic 1962 orbital mission. The unit was later used for recovery of Gemini 4 and 5, which marked the first time a satellite uplink was used to feed a live signal back to the United States.

Channel 13 camera crew on the aircraft carrier Randolph

The next major change in studio equipment came in 1966...COLOR!

Channel 13's original planners had stated that color would be part of the design when it signed on the air in 1955. Apparently, the cost of color equipment, CBS' lack of interest in providing regular color programs, and the low percentage of color receivers in the Tampa Bay area prevented WTVT from seriously considering it until the mid 60's. The station was capable of broadcasting a color signal received from the network, but this only required a rack of colorplexer equipment in master control.**

Across town, WFLA had been showing local color from their film chain since 1954, but studio programs remained in black and white. Except for one day in 1963 when an NBC color mobile unit provided live color for WFLA programs, it would be 1966 before they too would make a permanent commitment to local live color.

NBC had pioneered color programming in the 1950's, and slowly added more color shows until announcing that in September of 1966, they would be "The Full Color Network." CBS and ABC apparently saw that color was where the industry was heading and planned to have their prime time schedules mostly color in the fall of 1966. The price of color television receivers had steadily fallen over the years and by 1965, a 21" set could be purchased for under $500 (still a good amount of money, since a middle class family earned in the neighborhood of $150 a week). In 1964, the number of Tampa Bay area viewers with color receivers was around 4%. Two years later, it would be 14%, the 'magic' number that made it logical for Channel 13 to provide local, live color.

Four manufacturers were selling broadcast color television cameras in 1965: RCA, Philips, G.E., and Marconi.

The Norelco PC-60 was good for CBS...WTVT played it safe and ordered domestic.

G.E. PE-250. Sure, they can make a good light bulb...can they make a good color television camera?

RCA was flooded with orders for their TK-42. Deliveries were months behind schedule.

Marconi cameras from the U.K. were also contenders for the U.S. television market. Their monochrome counterparts were used on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The cameras made by Philips (carrying their Norelco trademark) were selected for use by CBS, and history has proven their superior color picture over all competitors. Bill Witt opted to stay with the familiar, and in the fall of 1965 placed an order for four color cameras from RCA. It is possible that price (around $65,000 per camera), delivery schedules, or a concern over foreign-made equipment and their reliability might have been involved in his decision. Three TK-42s were delegated to the Tampa studios, and one to be used at the St. Pete studio.

Channel 8 also put in an order for the same RCA cameras, while across Tampa Bay, the new ABC affiliate, WLCY, Channel 10, ordered G.E. color cameras.

In 1966, the race was on for local TV station's conversion to color. Stations across the country were clamoring for delivery of their gear in order to secure 'bragging rights' of being first in their market with local, live color. By December of 1965, RCA was inundated with orders.

"C'mon, Earl...let's get these babies finished and out to WTVT!"

TK-42 assembly line at RCA's Camden, N.J. factory.

Color television cameras are more difficult to make than sausages, and the RCA factory struggled to meet with the demand of 300 cameras in 1966. In a December, 1965 St. Petersburg times article, WTVT officials hopefully predicted that their color cameras would arrive by January, 1966. That date was more than optimistic, and RCA finally shipped four TK-42 color cameras to WTVT in late April. WFLA received theirs a few weeks later.

Engineer Adrian Snow adjusts the RCA-TK 42. Note built-in zoom lens.

The WTVT engineers spent several weeks studying the engineering requirements of the new cameras. The TK-42 was an entirely new design, combining three vidicon tubes (red, blue, and green) with an image orthicon (monochrome channel). Lighter in weight and more transistorized than its TK-41 predecessor, the new TK-42 came with a built in 10 to 1 zoom lens.

Inside a TK-42...3 vidicons and 1 image orthicon. Note rear zoom control (left handle) and focus control (right handle)

An odd design choice was made by RCA for the zoom and focus controls. Monochrome turret lens cameras had a single handle to allow the operator to 'rack' to different lenses. RCA engineers carried this motif onto the TK-42 by making the zoom and focus controls appear as dual handles built into the rear of the camera. It was a decision that would later be uniformly rejected by the users of the TK-42.

The camera would fit onto the standard Houston Fearless electric pedestals, but a new, larger control ring was needed for steering. The TK-42 required almost twice as much light as the older black and white models. 250 foot candles was the norm, and in some situations, even more lighting was required.

13 also ordered color film chains and color video tape recording equipment, to make the conversion to color complete.

Trade ad featuring the TK-42

At the end of May, 1966, Channel 13 became the first bay area station to premiere local live color. Fearing that rival station WFLA would be the first on-air with local live color, the unofficial debut of Channel 13's color telecast occurred on May 30th during a Saturday 6p.m. Pulse newscast. According to former news anchor Hugh Smith, engineers hastily removed one TK-42 and camera control unit from the packing case. The camera was placed on a wooden crate and aimed at Smith, who was the only talent to appear in color.

The official debut was made the following Monday, May 2nd, during the 6p.m. Pulse News, which started in monochrome as Smith announced that color was only a few minutes away. First, color film was introduced by a ceremony recorded at the WTVT film lab. Gene Dodson, the station's general manager, was shown on black and white film as he reached for a switch marked 'color.' At the moment the switch was pushed, the scene changed from monochrome to color...and a new television era began. Back in the studio, Hugh Smith appeared in color and introduced a special message from Ray Dantzler.

Dantzler's topic was the history of color television, and how proud WTVT was to be the first bay area station with it. Unfortunately, Dantzler's speech had been pre-recorded on one of the new color VTRs, and the playback levels were not adjusted properly. Dantzler's skin tone appeared in different bands of color, due to the mis-adjustment of the four heads of the playback machine. It was a minor fault, but pretty unsettling considering that the subject was color television. All was forgiven as the station plunged ahead with color programming.

The newsroom had been freshly painted and new furniture installed. A clear plastic outline of the world's continents covered a light blue wall. The entire set was dubbed "The Color Communications Center."

Back in 1958, a window had been installed in Studio B that allowed a camera to see into the newsroom. A TV-screen shaped frame was placed over the window to provide a dramatic new open for Pulse News by showing a TK-42 as it positioned for a shot of Hugh Smith. As the announcer started his opening copy ("From WTVT's Color Communications Center...This is Pulse...the heartbeat of a changing world"), the cameraman would adjust his zoom lens for a 'push in' to Smith.

Color Communications Center (1966)

Viewers could now enjoy news, sports, and weather in color, in addition to Ernie Lee, Sandy Miller, "Shock" Armstrong, and syndicated programs. For the first time, "The Adventures of Superman," the classic 1950s series starring George Reeves, was telecast in color.***

Superman was one of the first syndicated shows telecast in color
over WTVT. This hand-tinted still of George Reeves came from the archives of the Ch. 13 art department.

13 even had their own version of the NBC peacock: an animated fireworks display was shown prior to any syndicated color program or movie.

Shortly after guiding Channel 13 into the color age, Chief Engineer Bill Witt was summoned by Gaylord to help makeover their latest purchase, WUHF-TV in Milwaukee. Lawton Metcalfe was promoted to Chief Engineer, and Adrian Snow was appointed Maintenance Supervisor.

The original 1955 transmitter in Riverview was 860 feet high. A new transmitter went on-line in the fall of 1966. Costing $1,250,000, the new transmitter was 1,549 feet tall and located about 5 miles southeast of Riverview in Baum. At the time, it was the highest man-made structure in Florida, and was expected to increase Channel 13's coverage area and improve picture quality for regular viewers.

A Promise is a Promise...

Looks great on paper...Channel 13's plans for a St. Pete studio

From the start, Channel 13 planned to have a satellite studio in
St. Petersburg. The studio plan above is a very intriguing concept. It was to be located on a triangular piece of property at the southwest corner of 4th Street and 83rd Avenue North. Plans included a studio space of 34' by 50', two offices, an observation lobby, and a carport for the station's remote unit. The idea was that when a live telecast was made from the studio, a remote unit would back into the carport and serve as the control room. A 100 foot tower would beam the signal back to Tampa. Unfortunately, the satellite studio was never constructed.

In 1963, Channel 13 opened a small studio inthe First Federal bank building along St. Pete's Central Avenue.The studio was little more than an office-sized space, but thecamera could move onto the roof for a panoramic shot. Thephoto below shows Channel 13's Tom Dunn with the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Herman Goldner, who is dedicating thestudio. In the background is Albert Whitted Airport.

In 1965, WTVT finally got around to making good on the promiseof a St. Pete studio. Like its Tampa counterpart, theSt. Pete studio was formerly a restaurant.The photo below shows the property, at the corner of2nd Avenue and Bayshore Drive (the road that leads to the Pier),under renovation. The reconstruction cost $31,000 and additional color equipment brought the tab to $200,000. Considering the waterfront location, the rent from the City of St. Petersburg was pretty reasonable...$200 a month.

Channel 13's St. Pete studio under renovation. The facility was used for 15 years before being turned back into a restaurant.

St. Pete Studio complete with weather instruments.

A permanent television camera was assigned tothe studio, which featured a large window overlooking the water. Theshot featured a terrific visual behind the St. Pete bureau's anchorman...boatslazily bobbing in the harbor of the St. Pete Yacht Club.

No, I wasn't a newscaster during 1966...I was just sitting in! Note the neutral density material covering the window. The camera has a nice view of the anchor and the boats at the St. Pete Yacht Club.

The studio was also anexcellent place for staging a rooftop shot of the annual Festival of States parade.By the late 70's, WTVT abandoned its St. Pete studio, and the property returned to being a restaurant.


Going Places! This color mobile unit received heavy use from CBS, ABC, and independent producers.

The black and white mobile unit required a vast engineering refit for color, so it was decided to gut the 1960 vehicle and create an entirely new one. Chief Engineer Frank Rankel supervised construction of the the new color mobile unit, which was capable of using four color cameras. Although not as lengthy as the '60 unit, the new mobile facility had the same compliment of master control room, director's room, audio room, and tape room.

Originally, the truck was equipped with General Electric PE-350 color cameras. Later, at the request of network clients, Norelco PC-70 cameras were installed. Although the Norelcos performed very well, they still had 1" thick coax cable connecting the camera to the truck. On stadium remotes, the runs could add up to hundreds of feet of cable that must be funneled, flown, or snaked from the truck to the camera platform. Cabling a location and then striking it later was the hardest part of all remotes, so it was a blessing for the crew when triax cable, only 1/4" thick, was introduced in the 1980's. The PC-70's were eventually replaced by Philip's LDK-5 cameras.

Chief Engineer Frank Rankel and his corps of engineers kept the studios and mobile units humming

The WTVT remote truck eventually became one of central Florida's busiest color mobile facilities. Along with Ch. 13 cameramen and engineers, the mobile unit was used for numerous space launches at Cape Canaveral, and even appears in the motion picture "Marooned." CBS and ABC regularly used the mobile unit for regional football and baseball. KTTV, Los Angeles, rented the mobile unit and 13 crew for pre-season Dodger baseball. Other clients included "The Merv Griffin Show," "The George Jones/Tammy Wynette Show," and one of the longest running syndicated religious programs, "Day of Discovery," taped at Cypress Gardens.

All Systems Go! Live coverage from Cape Canaveral


By 1971, the RCA TK-42s had been in use for five years. Their zoom and focus controls had been modified early on when the crew realized the original rear control design was not practical. The zoom and focus were run via cables to controls on the starboard and port pan handles. This solved the operator's problems, but affected the zoom mechanism's movement. The cables had a tendency to crimp, and this would cause the zoom mechanism to stick, or 'chatter.'

It was also apparent from the start that the vidicon tubes in the TK-42 produced a somewhat plastic color picture.

The mighty Plumbicon tube! Better than the image orthicon and vidicon, Plumbicons produced a clearer picture with brighter colors. Eventually, all broadcast color cameras switched to Plumbicons (or tubes similar in design). The Plumbicon served the broadcast industry from 1965 until the early 1990's, when CCDs and chips slowly replaced camera tubes.

Plumbicon tubes, such as those used in the Norelco PC-70, were superior in detail and color rendition. 13 chose to replace the TK-42s with General Electric PC-400s, which used 4 Plumbicons.

G.E. PE-400 color camea

Although large and heavy like the TK-42s, the PE-400s had a very smooth zoom lens, because the zoom control on the camera's starboard side was linked directly to the lens, with no cabling to cause lens 'chatter'. New Houston Fearless counterweight pedestals were ordered for use with PE-400s, providing a smooth way to increase or decrease camera height. The only disadvantage is that the weight of the camera and pedestal was approaching 500 pounds. This meant that the camera required a good shove to move across the studio floor.

Ann Williams at the master control console (1977)
Computer aided station breaks were still a few years away. Ann calls for machines to roll while selecting the necessary 'take' button and fader on her switcher

Besides making reliable video tape recorders such as the VR-1100, VR-1200, and VR-2000, Ampex also produced an analog magnetic video disk recorder. The mobile unit held an Ampex HS-100, with a storage time of about 30 seconds. The studio used an HS-200 with about :30 of storage. The HS-200 worked with a simple computer that allowed for greater control of reverse, freeze, or slo mo playback of video signals. The disk was a big hit with sports productions, and was used often in studio sessions as well.

Rick Rea in the tape room with several Ampex VR-2000B

Master control received a new shipment of quad VTRs in the early 70's. The AVR-1, Ampex's most advanced VTR, was delivered and immediately improved the station's on-air look. Stabile and engineering-friendly, the station's two AVR-1s provided quad service until the mid-1980s, when 1" type C VTRs were introduced. Another innovation was the Ampex ACR-25, the first quad VTR that used a cassette-style cartridge. This machine was specifically designed for playback of commercials and spot announcements. It's unique vacuum design drew the tape out of the cartridge and wrapped it around the VTR's playback heads. The ACR-25 could hold 24 two-inch quad tapes in a carousel arrangement, and be programmed via computer for playback. By 1977, all commercials and spot announcements were played back by the station's two ACR-25s.

A Publix commercial in production (1972)
It took a lot of light and smooth blue backings to create a successful Chroma Key effect. Note that the woman pitching Jello and fruit cocktail casts no shadow because the switcher could not 'clip' subtle shades at the time.


In between live programming, Channel 13's studio crew would be used for commercial production (Publix Supermarkets were a weekly client) or the recording of public service shows such as "College Kaleidoscope" or "High-Q." The main drawback to this is that only 3 to 4 hours separated each live news cast, often interrupting the production. To create an entire separate production capability, Studio 13 was built behind the station adjacent to the former film lab.

Studio 13 (1976) Note one PC-70 on a Vinten crane, the other on a Vinten pedestal. Both cameras were equipped with servo Angienoux zoom lenses

Studio 13 had a modest size stage, about 50' by 50', and used the mobile unit's Norelco PC-70s. Vinten pedestals were imported from England, finally permitting a camera move that combined the ability to dolly, boom up or down, and zoom all at the same time.

Who's that on the crane? Yikes, it's me! Dig those crazy shoes.

A small studio crane was also employed, capable of shooting from a low height of 3', and a maximum height of 8'. A complete new lighting package was installed along with a shop for set construction.****

A sophisticated Ampex editing controller was installed with 3 new Ampex AVR3 quad VTRs, under the control of Studio 13's engineer Bill Napier. The first regular program produced out of Studio 13 was "McKay," a weekly sports program hosted by Andy Hardy and The Tampa Bay Bucs original coach, John McCay. Studio 13 was used sporadically for the first few months, with little revenue to show for the cost of construction. Competition from startup production companies may have doomed the venture a couple of years down the road.

On The Road Again...

Sleek, sassy, and loaded with 2 Hitachi cameras and 2 VTRs.

Another mobile innovation occurred in 1976 when WTVT purchased a General Motors recreational vehicle. The RV was adapted into a small mobile unit and equipped with 2 portable Ikegami HL-33 color cameras. This new generation of portability combined ENG with production. The cameras could be hand-held or mounted on tripods with complete headphone communication to the director's console. A small quad VCR, the Ampex AVR-2, was permanently installed, while a second VTR, the Ampex VR-3000, was capable of being removed from the RV and used on site. The director switched cameras from a small Grass Valley special effects generator. The new RV was used for commercial production, some 'event' news feeds, a regular church program taped on location at a local congregation, and for recording promotional spots in various bay area locales.

By the early 1980s, the aging mobile unit was in constant need of repair and maintenance. A laundry list of improvements from the networks would present the station with a stratospheric bill for updating the unit. Management decided the cost would be too much and got out of the remote unit business. At the same time, smaller and more cost efficient production companies were opening in the Tampa Bay area. Using portable Betacam units and boutique style editing systems, these local producers lured commercial clients away from Channel 13's studio.

Studio 13 was eventually shuttered, and the mobile unit sold. Channel 13 was essentially out of the production business.

The mobile unit's LKD-25s were moved into the studio in 1980, and equipped with permanently installed Teleprompters.


Gaylord sold WTVT in 1987 to Gillette Communications. In 1989, a new facility was constructed adjacent to the original building that was home to Channel 13 since 1955. Once the transfer of personnel and equipment was complete, the old building, along with the classic 'Twin Tower,' was razed.

Out with the old, in with the new. The original 'Twin Tower's' days are numbered as the new Channel 13 facility takes shape.



*A Zoomar lens is operated from the rear of the camera using a slim metal dowel. Pull back on the dowel, and the camera 'zooms' in. Push in on dowel, and the camera 'zooms' out to a wider angle. Focusing was accomplished by a disk attached to the cameraman's end of dowel. Twisting the disk left or right would focus the lens when it was in the telephoto position.

**In 1966, Channel 13 was owned by Gaylord Broadcasting, a unit of the Oklahoma Publishing Company. The flagship station of Opubco was WKY, an independent (and later NBC affiliate) in Oklahoma City. WKY had introduced local live color back in April, 1954! (Source: RCA Broadcast News, Dec. 1954)

***The Superman producers were prescient in filming their shows in color beginning with the 1955 season. Other series that originally aired in black and white but had color prints available were Science Fiction Theater, The Cisco Kid, The Lone Ranger, and Travel/Adventure Theater. All Hanna Barbera cartoons, beginning with Ruff n' Reddy in 1957, were filmed in color, as werethe Popeye cartoons from the 1961 batch. A fair amount of the original Popeyes produced by the Fleischer Brothers and Famous Studios were made in color and included in the package. Stingray, a new series from the producers of Supercar, premiered in color on WTVT as well. Syndicated talk shows such as The Merv Griffin Show also went color in '66.

****One of the more serious drawbacks at Channel 13 during the 1970's was the lack of a respectable scenic and prop department.