I asked for "Confessions" from you - confessions of disasters that mostly went unseen or those that were slightly more noticeable! Quite a few have rolled in and from now (January 2005) I will add new ones at the top - we may even have to add more pages!

Manchester OB VT did not do their own maintenance like us London bods and sometimes it showed. The reason was that they moved from the van to the indoor edit suite on a random basis while we stayed put on a single van. On one OB John Wilson and I in LMVT3 were parked back to back for editing with Les Matthews and John Rothwell in their Manchester VT. Each van had one Ampex 1200 in it but we could do electric editing this way with a gangplank between the two trucks.
The machines needed a compressed air supply to run the video head air bearings and we all had a small compressor in the boot filling an air tank. Air was delivered by a long plastic pipe up to the machine.
Les noticed the pictures getting a bit unstable and heard the spinning video heads making a strange noise. He checked the air pressure which was fine so decided to change to the spare head unit. He removed the screws and lifted the unit off the machine.
At this point a beautiful high pressure stream of rusty water shot out of the machine, arced gracefully over the Sports PA's head and landed at the back of our van. No one had thought to drain the air tank. This system also gave problems in winter when any water in the delivery pipe would freeze so cutting off air to the heads. We would pull it out and heat it up in a bucket of warm water to melt the ice.
Ian Rutter

When OB VT work was slack and TC VT busy we would have the vans driven to the back of TC where there was a pedestal by the scenery block for connecting up to the world. The work was basic studio recordings normally but we were given the odd playout sometimes. This was work suitable for me as I was just an engineer and not an editor. I was on LMVT3 with the trusty Ampex 1200 and happily playing out some programme late into the evening. All was well until I noticed a strange green flashing light coming from the back of the machine. Still fairly new to the job I thought I should have a look. I went round the back of the machine and saw the glow coming from the vacuum pump which held the tape in the cruciform shape in the head guide. I watched horrified that my first job alone on LMVT3 was about to end in flames as the copper armature of the vacuum pump motor slowly burnt ever more brightly before collapsing and grinding to a halt at which point the green light died away with just a small plume of smoke rising. What to do ? The pictures going out were still steady even though there was no vacuum. I expected the heads to slice through the tape at any moment but all kept going to the end of the transmission which was thankfully the last of the day. I said nothing.
Ian Rutter

We were doing a 1 hour live transmission of 'Going Live' in 1991 from a steam train on the Watercress Line at Alresford. I had the easy job. All I had to do was play in the supplied opening titles and do a PasB of the programme. The whole scanner was derigged on to the train including a suitable power generator. At each station along the line the cables would be thrown onto the platform and cameras, sound and comms connected for the programme insert. On rehearsal day I decided I was not needed and talked my way into the cab of one of the two steam locos pulling the train. (see The 1990s, Mobile VT). I was having huge fun when the talkback on the Storno fired up with the immortal words 'Run VT opening titles'. I did not dare try to explain I was busy shovelling coal into the furnace.
Ian Rutter

Roger White and I were covering the Lord Mayor's Banquet with Willie Cave the producer. Willie brought in a very detailed script showing how he wanted the recording and editing organised - all on 2" with the Ampex 1200 in LMVT3 and Roger's Ampex 2000 in LMVT2. Roger and I looked at the details and found that Willi had decided for speed of access in the edit that we would record each section at a particular time on the 90' tape, all driven off the tape timer. No timecode in those days. Seemed a good idea as there were sufficient buffers built in if the recording was a little longer than expected. It was then that we noticed an extra column on the script. Willie had been experimenting with a stopwatch and made detailed timings on how many seconds it would take us to spool to the relevant part of the tape for each recording and designed this time into the proceedings !  The whole record/edit depended on these timings being accurate but Roger and I had never seen anything like this. Against all odds the system worked. Perhaps this was because Willie was the navigator to Paddy Hopkirk in the Monte Carlo rally where timings were rather important. Incidently Willie is still navigating on this rally at the age of 83 but could not do the 2010 rally due to snow cancelling the event.
Ian Rutter

I have a confession about the confession below - Geoff sent it to me in December 2008, and I've just found it - sorry, Geoff!

Stan Pow and I were cut editing MOTD on VTs 3 & 4. Stan had cut and was transmitting the first half and I was doing the second.
It was about the time they had just replaced the TMC duplexer changeover button (which was the same sort as the buzzer button) for the twin-segment, rectangular Honeywell buttons (as used by RCA on their VTRs).
Needless to say the PA had squeezed in as many edits as possible and as I got back on cue, Stan gave me the run cue from VT4.
I started VT3 and, as we counted down from 10, he sauntered over from his machine.
As we got to zero, I pressed the buzzer button .... Stan, seeing what I had done, leaned over and pressed the duplexer button.
This meant that we came in very hard on the first words of the second half commentary, such that the intake of breath was clipped but no words lost at all.
However, our eagle-eyed, bat-eared supervisor (no names but first two initials the same as mine), relaxing in the control room, watching the Tx, rose, wandered into the channel and casually remarked, "Bit of a tight changeover that!".
My friend Stan replied, "Geoff pressed the wrong button but I saved the day."
Totally unperturbed GRT came back, "Makes up for your cock-up on Wednesday's Sportsnight then." (See SP for details about 10" cues to 10" cues!) I don't think anyone else ever noticed anything!
Geoff Higgs

Before Roger Castles invented The Clothes Show he produced the British Fashion Week from the Chelsea Barracks. I know absolutely nothing about fashions but learnt a lot about the female form when walking through the dressing rooms to get to the toilets. I enjoyed doing this show !
We had finished the edit remarkably early as Roger was very organised and he treated me and Bob Spence to a very nice dinner before the transmission.
I left the tape cued up so that all I had to do was to nip in and press the button.
While we were eating the riggers derigged the scanner which drove back to Kendal Ave leaving LMVT4 the only vehicle on site.
The Lee generator was rewired direct to LMVT4 + circuits and control lines.
Our merry band weaved back from the restaurant and I put the key into the door to unlock it. At this point I was thrown across the car park.
In the dark re-rig the generator wires had been muddled and the outside of LMVT4 was at 240 volts.
What to do with just a few minutes before transmission?.
I had an idea.
There were steps up to the door mounted onto the van but just clear of the ground. I ran and jumped up and was just sober enough to not fall off, opened the door to hear phones ringing and Pres squawking on talkback.
The others jumped in and the tx was fine. With the modern attitude to 'ealth 'n safety'  I wonder what I would do today?
Ian Rutter

We used to cover the Earls Court Boat Show and, as I love boats, this was one of my favourite programmes.
I was the new boy on LMVT3 with John Wilson editing with a razor blade. John was very quick with the blade and Brian Robbins (Noddy), the producer, was impressed that we had finished with 30 mins to spare. John hit the rewind button to spool back to the start while everyone congratulated each other on how clever we were. 
We weren't ! 
How many people have heard that terrible graunching sound which happens when the tape expands beyond the 90 minute spool rim to hit the head cover before coming to a very solid stop - somewhere in the middle of the programme !
Ian Rutter

I used to do the Welsh Eisteddfods as they had not yet received electric editing.
This new fangled invention was magic to them and we completed the edit much faster than they were used to. Unfortunately the PA was quite incapable of working out how to keep up with the timings and one insert was far too long. The only way was to razor blade the tape which I did and assumed that the PA had made a note.
Unfortunately she had not and, when the director asked how much I had removed, she had no idea.
I heard this on talkback and told her to come over to my van. The removed bit was in the bin and I said " across the field holding this end and stop when it goes tight."
She knew the English were mad but did as she was told. I ran after her counting the yards, did a rough calculation and told her I had removed 22 seconds.
I can still hear her telling the director that I had done this with that note in her voice of total disbelief. Luckily I was only about a second out.
Ian Rutter

The date is a bit hazy but I think it would be the early 70’s. I was condemned to a spell in Tape Servicing as per rota for TA’s in those days.
My partner in this crime I think was one of the Pete’s, either Pete Sandison or Pete Spink, not sure maybe someone else will confirm.
Well we know how boring a job this was so when it got to that point I decided it would be a good idea to use the rather wobbly machine that had appeared at the back of the room which was colloquially know as ‘The Italian Job’. For the benefit of others, this was a dodgy Italian made contraption, which was meant to service 2” videotape by spooling it at some speed past some air blown columns and some fixed heads. I don’t think it ever worked, but my main interest in it was the rather powerful spooling motors which we could use to spool off tapes onto a flangeless hub and junk them.
Of course it would have been too easy and equally boring just to lace it up and do that; so a challenge was envisaged to thread the tape around a bit before wrapping onto the flangeless hub. Sooo, first it went across the room and through a handle on a 19” bay door, then onto the front panel of the first VR1000 and through the chrome handles and then onto the second VR1000, across the room again to another bay and finally through the loop handle on the entrance door before going onto the take up spool. It all looked reasonably feasible so I pressed the go button and stood back to see what the out come would be.
Well there was a fair bit of friction in this arrangement so even the Italian Job had a bit of a struggle winding up to speed but as it did so the tape started flapping a bit and the machine was shaking about quite a lot. Just when I was beginning to loose my nerve on this enterprise, and before I could stop it, the entrance door opened to reveal Dah..Dah…Daaa; Charles Paton the Head of the Department. Was it his reddish complexion or just his Scottish-ness which made him always seem angry and formidable? Anyway this time luck was on our side, as the door opened it broke the tension on this preposterous loop and the tape snapped; by the time he saw into the room it was wildly thrashing around in all directions. CP characteristically said something like, "eeh what’s going on laddie2. For once I summoned up an instant excuse and said we were just using the machine to spool off a tape and it seemed to have gone wrong!! He responded by saying we shouldn’t have been using it as it hadn’t passed safety tests and ordered it to be covered up until it had. Unbelievably we seemed to have got away with it. At least I think we did, who knows, he may have sussed the jape all along and decided to say nothing rather than sack us both.

Alan Dixon, still a BBC Editor.

"I was to transmit a Second City Firsts, thirty minute plays made in Birmingham. It was booked on VT 12 which was a multi purpose machine with a separate monitoring control desk from where you had remote access to all the play/record/shuttle buttons etc, also you could select talkback, buzz,speak to network etc etc.
I did all the usual line ups at the machine and was ready to offer to network. I set up on cue and pressed the remote button and sat down at the control desk. Black and silence was always selected to the input so if the machine should stop on air only black and silence would be transmitted. About ten minuets before TX, network gave remote start for pre TX run. Pictures were there but the sound was very quiet. The generic titles of Second City Firsts consisted of a montage of ticking clocks so it was obvious something was missing. Funny really, I had heard the opening when the VR2000 was on local so it must be something to do with monitoring. Whoops! No! The audio only record button on the control desk was jammed in so the more you played the more sound you wiped. The next few minuets were very busy while the experts took over. Derek Fawcett and Neil Pittaway saved the day. That was probably my first lesson in 'carding out'. "
Dave Hambelton

In the days of 1" 2 machine edits for Newsnight there were busy nights and quiet ones. Well this was a quiet one with all the pieces ready on cue and plenty of time to put our feet up before transmission. That was fine until it was time to put my feet down, at which point I hit the power switch on the VT. Not such a problem until you remember that those were the days you wrote all your cues in tape time in chinagraph on the head cover, and when the power goes off the counter is reset and all the cue times are gone! Steve Knatress had some suitably pithy comment on my abilities that evening!
Nick Pitt

Try as I might, I can't think of a boob of mine worthy of note (maybe others can). Now I don't put that down to personal perfection, rather than the recognition that a successful career in TV consisted of lurching from one disaster to another. The clever bit was making each boob look like it was intended and convincing the production staff that it was, in reality, a magnificent piece of spontaneous creativity.
However, I can contribute "My most humiliating experience". I was asked by Doug Parsons to keep Professor Sir George Porter, FRS, entertained for 30 minutes until his booked playback, or whatever, was available. "Give him the usual tuppeny tour," was the instruction. I quickly discovered that this man had a brain the likes of which I had never before encountered in my life. Within five minutes he had sucked me dry of everything I ever knew and completed a wholesale intellectual demolition job, not maliciously, but in a spirit of interested questioning. I had never felt so insignificant in my life. BBC boards thereafter held no fear!
Howard Dell

The true story of Sherlock Holmes episode "The Dancing Men".....restarts on air and all!
After the studio recording (editec) the programme was not complete so it was edited both in-house (Geoff Taylor confesses to this!) and at an outside facility house. Despite all this work it was still overlength by a couple of minutes and I suspect there was a bit of horsetrading to try and get the duration accepted - which it wasn't, as, on the morning of transmission, it was booked in for a cut edit to bring it to time.
The director (or producer - not sure who) did a paper edit using the script, and found two 'chunks' to get the programme to time. RDH was the editor who drew the final short straw (sorry, got the booking), and he removed the two bits, and then they spooled the tape end to end to get a duration, which was obviously OK.
RDH also had the 'luck' to transmit the programme as well later that day. He went on air and, after a while, the progress of the story stopped, everyone sort of hung about on the set. Presentation were taken aback by this and it took them a finite time to go into a breakdown mode, with a caption etc. RDH was asked to find where the action re-started and cue back ten seconds. Presentation then re-joined the programme and RDH sat back with a quiet "Phew!"........ until a little later, when the next break occurred!
RDH & Geoff Taylor

There's a scene in "Pennies From Heaven" in which Gemma Craven is seen alone in bed, topless, with large daubs of red lipstick around her nipples. It's all to do with trying to turn on her husband, but we'll let that pass. That scene always was going to be questionable and, it being a Dennis Potter play, the final review had to be shown to the Head of Drama, then James Cellan-Jones. Predictably, James Cellan-Jones said that it was all fine apart from the shot of Gemma's nipples and, equally predictably, there ensued the usual heated argument about dramatic integrity between James, Piers Haggard (director) and Kenith Trodd (producer).  Eventually, James partially relented and said the shot could stay but it had to be cut right down in length. He rose from his seat in the suite (Rip-Scratch) and said he was going back to his office and we should call him back when it was done. In the suite we had a cup of tea and watched the clock. The tape reels remained stationary. After a decent interval we called James back to look at the "shortened version".  In a very tense atmosphere, the Head of Drama watched the screen. "Play it again!"  "And again".  He looked hard at each of the faces in the suite - he clearly had a feeling he was being stitched up. "Play it again."  Finally, "Yes, that's better. It's OK" and he walked out.  And that's how the scene featuring Gemma's nipples got on the screen uncut and at its full length.
Howard Dell

A similar process to the above was applied during "Sports Review of the Year" when J. Martin was programme editor. He would come over, view an item and then make comments - duration, shots etc. We would them send him away 'while we made the changes' - usually he went back to Kensington House. We would go to the teabar/canteen/shopping and, after a suitable time, ring Jonathan at KH. He would come over, view the 're-edit' and usually make the comment 'Why didn't you edit it that way in the first place". Same process applied to Harold Anderson, although he eventually caught on!
Chris Booth

At the time of the introduction of EECO on VT15/16 (1972) - the days when you were lucky if the wretched thing managed to do two edits an hour - I was prematurely booked to edit a drama on it with Alan "Scruffy" Clarke. Sam Andrew was playing in.Day one had been a total disaster technically, the session being abandoned so that Maintenance could battle yet again with a lost cause. In an attempt to smooth troubled waters we promised Scruff that the following day would introduce him to a system of editing so advanced it would knock his socks off. As luck would have it, Scruff arrived the next day with a monumental hangover and wasn't entirely understanding of our explanation of the new and advanced features that had been added to the channel overnight, the most impressive being voice recognition and speech synthesis. "Good morning, Mr Clarke," said EECO from the little talkback speaker. "Hey up," replied Scruff. It was some time before Scruff twigged that the machine's varied comments, "How was that, Mr Clarke?" and "Shall we do the edit now?" were actually coming from Sam pressing the play button on a TR90 behind him.
Howard Dell

Not a confession as such, but an "I'll never forget that" moment from Ian Williams.
It was June 18th 1974 and the World Cup (my first) in the basement. There were 4 matches played simultaneously, and we were covering Brazil v Scotland live (England didn't qualify, so the Jocks became honorary English). Sport wanted half-time and full-time highlights of the 3 other matches, and Ian Low, Roger Harvey and Stan Pow were drafted in to cut-edit the goals as they happened. Stan got Yugoslavia v Zaire - it was 6-0 at half time! Poor old Stan, I wonder if he remembers this?
Ian Williams

In "Memories"Mick Goodenough mentions VT inserts in the wrong order - there is a link on that page which will explain all about it! However, here I will mention a further couple (or so) personal 'mishaps'.It was Burns Night and I was transmitting from VT13 (the RCA with the over designed monitoring console). The tape had arrived from Glasgow and I laced up, lined up and waited for Network to ident with me. Eventually everything was checked out, I ran the tape for them to have a look at the opening, and even received my supervisory pre TX check from Bob D (I think). We went on air with Ivor Emmanual singing "We'll keep a welcome in the hills" - a bit odd for Burns Night - but no-one said anything........ apart from a million irate Scots who had jammed the switchboard to complain. As we went into the next Welsh song Network rang to check the paperwork again (it was a cut edit and there was a lot of paperwork). Doug Parsons had arrived by now, and together we went through all the recording reports - and found the Andy Stewart Burns Night programme further down the tape - a lot further down the tape. This was in the days of "One programme, One tape". Network cut away, we spooled down to the Andy Stewart programme and away we went.
Another TX problem for me was in the TX Area late one evening. We were transmitting "Farewell My Lovely" (two reels) and, foolishly, we had been joking with network about the 'invisibility' of duplexes. Ray Johnson's voice, on the cue track, was counting me down to the duplex point and at -10 seconds I ran the second machine and flipped up the safety cover of the Honeywell changeover switch - as I did so the entire switch assembly came out of the panel, sailed over my shoulder and disappeared under the bays at the back of the control room. Ray was still counting down when I found the switch which I gingerly (didn't wish to blow the 50 volts) pressed back into the panel and which immediately changed over to the other machine - leader and all! Caustic comments over talkback "Didn't see that one!!" etc.
Chris Booth

Howard says he couldn't remember any "worthy boobs" of his own. Maybe we should remind him of his infamous Circus edit.... It was early December and about 20 shift one engineers (mostly hungover) came in at the crack of dawn. They loaded all the machines in the basement with 2" 90s and started recording export copies of Howard's Billy Smart's Christmas Circus edit. As the first hour of the megabooking approached, we were rudely awakened by Bob Gow on the intercom with the words - "haven't we seen this bit before !!" Although Howard was on shift two he was unlucky enough to be working overtime on that fateful day and had to endure a barrage of booing from a bleary-eyed shift one.
Mick Goodenough
Howard replies: "Absolutely right! I'd forgotten all about that. I do recall a certain amount of antipathy from disappointed recording engineers who had their enjoyment of another classic television programme cut short before the end of the reel. But, hey, most of them did have the opportunity to see it all again later."

Geoff Higgs recalls a 'Sporting Moment'....... I'd Editec'd a Match of the Day's "talking-about-it-afterwards" bit, where the commentators jabber about things such as "that wonderful move where Player A ran down the wing and collected the ball from ... etc. etc." Of course these bits were always "painted" with the actual play (in video only). I had done the last one, as usual, at the last minute. Got back on cue, run it (at that time, non-sync cut on studio mixer). As we approach first cue I see the cue button flash and, in the 15 frames to come, I realise that I have left the Editor/Editec switched on. As I leap towards the console, the VT rehearses and cuts from commentator head talking, to m/c i/p - colour bars (video only). I grab the Start-Insert-Stop control, which of course is in "Insert" position, and flick it to "Start", knowing from experience that this will generate an "out" edit (rehearsal) and put us as back to tape (painted-in bit of match), with no huge disturbance that would occur should I have been foolish enough to try to turn the Editor/Editec off.
Result is a few seconds of colour bars only.
However, gallery talkback went something along the lines of:
"We've got colour bars"
"Stop VT, no keep running"
"Bloody hell we've got football now"
"Stop, keep running, rewind"
In the end we stopped, went back on cue (I turned the Editor off), Coleman apologised and we ran it again from the top.
So a 3 second loss of vision only was turned into a 3 minute break down. No-one never noticed that the sound made continuous sense and was never lost.
Geoff Higgs

I must add a couple of cut edit football reminiscences to that. Cutting a Sportsnight match with the late John McNicholas, we had put the 'flag' (a scrap of paper) in the reel to mark the 'in' - those of you old enough will remember that the tape counter didn't make much sense in a cut edit - and, with talkback sounding very intense we spooled back with seconds to spare (as usual). Unfortunately..... on the way back the 'flag' popped out of the tape and the 'in' was lost. Working by sheer guesswork we cued up on the opening crowd shot and immediately got the 'Run' cue. There was a lot of shouting in the gallery as there had been a 'funny out' from the previous item and a loud inquest was in progress. So loud that no-one in the gallery noticed that our crowd shot was still running after twenty seconds accompanied by D,Coleman coughing and clearing his throat. The gallery inquest finished just as he did one final cough and "Good evening and welcome to......" Nobody ever noticed!
The second 'moment' was also a football match for Sportsnight. I was cutting the first half in VT4 with, I think, Huw Joseph, and John Turner was next door in VT3 with the late Hugh Jones cutting the second half. As usual we had the folding doors closed so we could concentrate. It was a quick turnround so we had gone on air before the match was finished. JT and Hugh finished their edit just before the duplex and Hugh poked his head round the door "What's your last shot?"......"A wide angle of Wembley"........"Oh *#!, that's our In! Perhaps they will match and no-one will notice". At the duplex Hugh punched the button and the shots were 'identical'...... except the incoming shot was slightly reframed .... and green! The phone started ringing....
Chris Booth

Richarde Legg also recalls a 'Sporting Moment' from a Wednesday Sportsnight: "Back in 1984/5, can't remember which year, I was walking past VT 9/10 edit pair where a football match was being played out after being edited up to the last minute. After about a minute and a half the match started again as the front had been reedited and the wrong start had been cued up - ooops. Strange thing though, the gallery seemed not to notice, only the sports crew downstairs......
Anyway I was in on the following Saturday and, walking past VT9/10, heard from the very loud talkback that the match was going out in 2 minutes ..... Vivian K was there being the sports bod in charge of VT downstairs for Grandstand. I said, as I past there, that I hoped the front had been fixed, and she said in the very deep gruff voice she had "what are you talking about" and I said that the front had gone out twice on Wednesday evening and she said "I don't know what you're on about".........
So h
aving been put in my place for being a non person not worth talking to, I went to Green for a coffee. As I walked back into area one from Green past VT9/10 ....... "What the f**k is going on" issued from Vivian as the front of the match started again and the talkback went blue from the gallery...........

Richard Legg

More from you lot out there please!
Chris B