Color Line

New York Times

Monday, January 4, 1954

Television in Review: NBC Color

Tournament of Roses Parade is Sent Over 22-City Network

by Jack Gould

Severe Test Passed - New Year's Program, a 'Bevy of Hues'

Color Line

Color television's most exacting test came with the National Broadcasting Company's outdoor pickup of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena California. The New Years Day Program was the first prolonged presentation of color video under circumstances where, unlike a studio show, neither lighting, nor movement could be controlled. All things considered, the results were exceedingly good.

The Tournament of Roses parade had the largest audience thus far, probably several thousand persons to see color TV at one time. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company, in a amazingly speedy engineering accomplishment, put together a color network of twenty-two cities to which the Radio Corporation of America had rushed equipment. A number of set manufacturers also held demonstrations of color receivers in different cities.

With so many sets in operation, each subject to relatively critical tuning controls and possible vagaries of electronics, the quality of the tinted images from Pasadena undoubtedly varied on some receivers. But, overall, there is no question that the essence of the parades panorama of color was projected successfully on home screens some 3000 miles away. In comparison the monochrome pictures seen on existing receivers seemed virtually meaningless.

As the two NBC color cameras scanned a succession of elaborate floats, assorted military units, and other parade features, the scene was a veritable bevy of hues and depth; at other times the close-up was better. Occasionally there were overcasts of one tint or another but these disappeared with movement of the camera.

To concentrate so much color information within the frame of a small screen would be difficult for even the most gifted artist doing a "still" painting. To do it with constantly moving pictures seemed pure wizardry. Especially interesting from a technical standpoint was the remarkable stability of the individual colors as the NBC camera moved quickly from left to right and back again. On one set at least there was no perceptible streaking.

The Tournament of Roses parade, received locally from 12:15 to 1:45 P.M., did emphasize several problems for the home viewer. In the broad daylight and sunshine, it was necessary to draw the shades and cut out all glare if the colors on the TV screen were not to be washed out. This frankly, was a nuisance.

Another difficulty related to the size of the picture. The disadvantage of a small color image - roughly 12 1/2 inches - was much more noticeable with the parade than with earlier studio programs. And, since it is necessary to sit much farther away than from a black and white set, one wonders how big a color tube will be practical. Finding a happy compromise between picture size and viewing distance could be tricky for the engineer and the viewer, particularly if the latter must start rearranging furniture again.


There was another major color show over the week-end - the Columbia Broadcasting System variety presentation, "The New Review" on Saturday Evening. Once again Dr. Peter Goldmark, CBS color head, came up with an advance. In several isolated scenes the color had a richness of tone and texture approaching the NBC color. Considering the greater economies of its camera equipment, CBS evidently really has something. The most pressing need at the moment is to improve the lighting in the CBS studio and to get away from pictures that are overly crowded with color. In trade jargon the CBS color is much too "busy".

Soon, incidentally, it is going to be time for both NBC and CBS to present color shows simultaneously so that a viewer can see what happens when he switches between the two. At the moment the two networks are using different hues for test patterns - which can be pretty confusing - and apparently there are other substantial variations. Maybe the engineers have all the answers, but the layman would be well advised to insist on making this basic test of tuning adjustments before plunking down $700 to $1500 for a color receiver.

Color Line