Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ghosts in the Television

Ghosts in the Television

In our modern age we take television for granted, and with that the special effects that come with it. If Special effects are really good, you wont even notice they are there.

In 1949, Australia had yet to see television, we didn't get that big old box in the living room until September 1956 - and that was only after our Government of the era had instigated a Royal Commission to decide how we, the public, should accept our TV broadcast, how many channels Australia should have, and a vast number of other issues the government thought they should control.

Even though television had not yet hit our shores, we still had production houses making movies, and won our first ever academy award in 1942 with the documentary movie "Kokoda Front Line!, and we also had some world famous movie actors including Otto Heggie (From Angaston), who I have written about in a previous blog

On 2 November 1936, the BBC began transmitting the world's first public regular high-definition service from the Victorian Alexandra Palace in North London (this is now considered to be the birthplace of broadcasting)
Meanwhile in the USA, television made its breakthrough with 1939's Worlds Fair, but wasn't generally accepted by the American public until after the Second World War, when mass production of television sets begun. In 1948, Television broadcasting, as we accept it now, really took a hold in the USA, and the most popular man on television at the time - Milton Berle

So now we have got some history out of the way, I thought I would share this little newspaper story from 1949 describing how to create a ghost for television. There were no photoshop programs, no home PC editing tricks, no "green screen" or Chroma Key settings to talk of, everything had to be done "In Camera", generally live to air!

So how did they do it?

A Ghost On Television
When 'Bli the Spirit' was televised by the BBC recently, the problem arose as to how to produce a ghost for the television camera. How they did it is shown in the diagram below.
The actress who played the ghost, stood between black curtains. This meant that only her form and no other objects were reflected into the mirror at A. The plate glass (B) picked up the reflection from the mirror. The photographer was then able to photograph through the plate glass, picking up the reflection of the 'ghost' as well as the live actors.
Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), Thursday 24 February 1949, page 44