Electra

Editing in the BBC was fairly unique in that the editor did all the sound work as well. This discipline had evolved from the days of the razor blade before time code synchronisation and VT capable audio dubbing suites ( (SYPHER). This was especially necessary with quick turnaround programmes. Additionally dexterity in sound mixing over the edit point was the only way to avoid a fairly nasty edit. This involved the use of a ¼" sound machine (TR90 or Studer) to lay off the sound over the edit and would require the ability to perform an audio only record on the edit machine at a point not necessarily linked to the video edit point. Commercial systems did not allow this as a standard feature and those that claimed it as an enhancement were not straightforward to use.
A facet of electronic editing, both two machine remote start and EECO time code controlled edit suite, was the presence of the 'play-in' man, who operated the play-in machine/s and performed the duties of the editor's assistant. This way of working, although sometimes seen by production as cumbersome, was beneficial in the training of editors as the assistant could learn the job hands-on before being cast loose on his own.
EECO was no longer available so the desperate need to introduce several new edit suites and the arrival of C format (1 inch) provoked much investigation of edit controllers, and, bearing in mind the above requirements, it was decided the only viable solution was to build a custom edit system - this was Design Department's Electra. They had already perfected timecode synchronisers and these were in use in both the SYPHER audio dubbing system and also in two and three machine quad edit systems with time code selection using thumbwheels.!
Don Kershaw, along with operational editors and assistants were the main source for specifying the requirements and the layout of the control panels.


Prototype Electra panels undergoing tests with a VPR2
The picture above shows the prototype Electra panels undergoing tests with a VPR2. Sadly, the original photograph does not supply any information as to the names of the engineers involved, but we think it is Ray Taylor on the right and Simon Parnell on the left.
(November 2012 amendment: In fact it is Ray Taylor on the right and Chris Gray on the left - Chris has just contacted us with the correction - sorry Chris!!)
The picture below shows the panels before the facia panels were added.
Protoype Electra panels

Edit Suite 2
Two sets of panels in Edit Suite A. The upper photograph shows the editors panel, while the lower one is of the assistants panels, controlling two machines.
The beauty of Electra was its versatility - a closer examination of the editors panel reveals the ability to start the play in machines from a wide variety of reference points, and the options availably for remote start of external devices (the title GPI was not thought of then!).
The play in panels were fitted with sliders for slow motion control which could be programmed. It was a very reliable system indeed - any problems were more than likely due to defective original time code (and, of course, finger trouble!).
Electra play in panels

Edit Suite G
Electra installations reached their zenith with the construction of Edit Suites G & H, with four machines (VPR6 - see bottom picture), a specially modified Ampex AVC21 vision mixer and Slidefile stills storage.
AVC21
VPR6 twin

Electra technology was also used in a two machine editing system, Editrace, for more information see the separate section from the Editing sub menu.