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Circled in the center foreground is the N.B.C. Studio section of Radio City. The executive offices are in the tower building.

Interesting Previews of the World's Greatest
by Samuel Kaufman/Radio News, December 1933

The world's largest and most modern broadcasting studios will be opened for their inaugural broadcast on the evening of November 15, 1933, when the National Broadcasting Company officially enters the elaborate studio suite in Radio City, New York's huge realty development devoted to entertainment.

Covering some 400,000 square feet of floor space, in an 11-story wing of the RCA skyscraper, the new NBC studios embody most up-to-date broadcasting ideas. The entire world was combed by network engineers and research men for innovations that would help improve the gigantic radio headquarters from technical, decorative and practical angles.

The new studio layout far surpasses the facilities of any radio station or network in the world. Even the model Broadcasting House of the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, long considered the best studio center in the world by radio experts, is outdated in the New York project.

Until Merlin Hall Aylesworth, president of NBC and Radio-Keith-Orpheum recently took New York radio editors and columnists on a tour of the nearly completed studios, a veil of secrecy surrounded the enterprise. O.B. Hanson, NBC Manager of Plant Operation and Engineering, once delivered a paper on the studio planning before the Institute of Radio Engineers, but the finished studios were far ahead of all advance ballyhoo.


Of the thirty-five studios in the Radio City plans, sixteen will be functioning by the opening night. The remaining nineteen will be opened at later dates. The studios range in size from intimate speakers' chambers of small dimensions to a huge auditorium measuring 78 by 132 feet and three stories in height. The large studio will contain a semi-circular stage capable of accommodating a 100-piece orchestra. About 1,000 guests will be able to watch the proceedings from the main floor while 250 more will be accommodated in the second floor-level balcony, which faces the stage.


The second largest studio will be used for dramatic programs. It is two stories in height and measures 50 by 89 feet. The stage utilizes a glass-curtain similar to the one introduced in the NBC Times Square studios atop the New Amsterdam Theatre Building. When the curtain is lowered, studio visitors will hear the program over amplifiers while viewing the actors through the huge glass window. Eight additional studios are two stories in height. Two have floor measurements of 50 by 80 feet, two 25 by 40 feet, and four 30 by 50 feet. Side galleries are provided for guests who may view the programs through glass windows. Special galleries of smaller sizes are provided for clients who wish to view broadcasts, auditions or rehearsals.

The large auditorium studio as it nears completion. It is three stories in height, 132 feet long and 78 feet across. The huge balcony on the far side will allow visitors to watch and hear the programs as they are broadcast.

One of the unusual features of the Radio City undertaking is a group of four studios built around one central control room of circular design. The control room floor consists of a giant turntable so that the equipment may be swung about mechanically to face any of the four studios.

"It is possible," Mr. Aylesworth said, in speaking of the unique studio arrangement, "that this may be of great, use in the future for television broadcasting since all that would be necessary to shift scenes would be to swing from one studio to another. For the present it will be useful in certain types of programs, where an orchestra may be put in one studio, a speaker in another, and so forth."

A special children's studio will be used for juvenile broadcasts. A separate lounge room for the youngsters adjoins the studio and both rooms are appropriately decorated.

A small section of the air-purifying system for the new studio building.

Two of the most important engineering problems to cope with in the studios' design were air-conditioning and soundproofing. The absence of windows or direct natural ventilation in the studios necessitated the installation of the largest air-conditioning plant in the world for the NBC's use.

The studios will have the largest air-conditioning system in the world. Below is the control panel for regulation of temperatures in all studios and other parts of the building.

The air-conditioning plant occupies the greater part of the tenth floor in the NBC wing, while the refrigerators for cooling the air are in the basement. The air conditioning control board, a panel of sixty-four giant dials shows a continual graphic report of temperature at every section of the building. The operators can keep the air condition constant by observing and correcting variations due to the number of persons in the studios and other causes. At the operator's will, the air can be circulated, washed, humidified or dehumidified.

Mr. and Mr. Aylesworth explained that all of the studios, through the special soundproofing are virtually "floating" free from the building. All of the studio floors, walls and ceilings are separated and insulated from the building framework. Each studio is surrounded by tons of Rockwool, Transite and textiles. Pads of heavy Felt are placed at all points of contact between the studio and the building, with enough slack to take up possible vibrations in the steel framework. A perforated composition acoustic material is used either visibly or behind decorative cloth in the studios.

Some studios have sliding-wall panels, which are operated mechanically from the control rooms to vary acoustical effects by altering the extent of hard surface exposed.

Mr. Aylesworth said that in most modern broadcasting studios, it has been the practice to place the main control room in the horizontal center and have it surrounded by the studios. Because this was not practical in a building of this sort, the principle was retained in the vertical plane with the master control located on the fifth floor and the studios laid out on lower and higher floors. In addition to the master control, the floor contains the main equipment room, power and battery rooms, technical laboratory, maintenance and operations shops, telegraph rooms and switching booths. Visitors' observation galleries run through the technical departments as well as the studios, the NBC officials believing that listeners are interested in the backstage scenes as well as the studio settings.

For special news broadcasts, where parts of programs come from such remote points as airplanes, ships, pack-transmitters on the backs of announcers, or from foreign countries, a specially designed control room has been erected to handle the setting-up of the multi-point productions. Thus, the program director can keep in touch with as many as ten different pick-up points either by wire or short waves, and to switch to any of the desired sources momentarily. The apparatus also enables the director to talk back to any or all points of program origin.

Mr. Aylesworth is of the opinion the studio decoration is especially important because of the effect it has on radio performers and speakers. As a rule, he pointed out, interior decorators are hampered when executing studio assignments on account of acoustical requirements. The chief decorative materials, due to these acoustical needs. are textiles. A long period was spent in going over specimens of wools, linens and silks for the studio decorations. Cloth has taken the place of even paint and paper in the decorative scheme. Woven linen was found to be best for studio ceilings, backed by acoustical materials. The studios are of conservative modern design. Color, either harmonizing or contrasting, is the basic decorative scheme of each studio.

Four "speakers" studios utilize distinctive mood design. The scheme of one speaker studio is English Tudor with oak panels and a fireplace. Another studio is of Georgian style, a third of early American and the fourth modernistic.

Wood-paneling and fireplaces are also noted in the main reception lobby, sponsors' rooms and guest rooms.

The growing demand from radio listeners for permission to attend broadcasts and observe favorite stars in action at the microphone is the reason for elaborate provisions to accommodate guests at the Radio City studios. It has been rumored that a small admission fee may be charged, but it is understood that there are many obstacles in the way of this plan, as such a move might bring the studios under a theatrical rather than a broadcasting classification.

Studios are laid out to accommodate the largest possible number of visitors with minimum confusion. When the guests enter, through a large mezzanine rotunda, they will take special elevators to the second floor lobby where they will be directed by hostesses. There are several lounge and smoking rooms, opening out on terraces. Audition studios and sponsors' and artists' lounge rooms are also on this floor. Special elevators from the reception floor take guests to the visitors' galleries of the various studios.

A battery room where sufficient battery power is reserved to continue operation for seven days should a natural catastrophe or bombing disable the regular power plant. This reserve situated in bomb-proof chambers would continue operation.

NBC will move into the new studios gradually so that broadcasting will not have to be interrupted. The transfer from the old headquarters at 711 Fifth Avenue to Radio City has been under way for several past weeks. Although broadcasts may originate from the new site before November 15, it will be on that day--the seventh anniversary of the chain--that the official opening program will go on the air.

In another part of Radio City--the huge Music Hall theatre--there is another completely equipped broadcasting studio which has been used by S.I. Rothafel (Roxy) for his Sunday afternoon Roxy Gang programs over the NBC.

American broadcasting on the whole, benefits by the gigantic radio development in Radio City. Long the leader in the field of broadcast entertainment, America makes still greater strides forward in world radio pioneering.

Related Articles:
Tour San Francisco NBC Studios
Take a virtual tour of the NBC San Francisco radio studios of the 1940s. Complete with floor plan and photos of the building as it appeared when it first opened.

New Styles in Broadcast Studios
The networks and the large individual stations throughout the United States are investing heavily in modernized and enlarged studio quarters. It was natural that, following recent trends in programs and technical equipment, appropriate studio settings for the physical presentation of broadcasts should be provided.
(Radio News, April, 1936)


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