Bob was my entre into the television business.
We became fast friends when I first joined WGBH as a BU Scholar in 1959-60. He and I worked the weekend shift together; I at Master Control and him as the Engineer on Duty. We had a great time together. Later he trained me as an engineer when I was hired full time at WGBH.
Bob was very smart – his obit says he went to Tufts, but I seem to recall him being at MIT. He was consumed with broadcasting and left MIT/Tufts to work at WGBH to begin a career in broadcasting.
I have been trying to locate him for years to invite him to attend our Alumni Reunions and more importantly to reestablish our friendship but I was never able to locate him. It is interesting to discover that he was living in Exton, PA, the community adjacent to the town my daughter now lives in in PA. If only I had known he was so close, I could have visited him many times when I was in the area visiting my daughter.
This is a very sad day for me. Bob and I were very close, we drifted apart when he left Boston and now he is gone. We were never able to reconnect. There is a lesson here I think.
On hearing of his passing, I was quite surprised to find that Bob and I were the same age. Robert — “Bob,” “Bobby” — Hall and I came to WGBH-TV within a year or two of each other and ultimately became very close co-workers.
He was originally one of the general engineering staff — but a very bright one. He filled, with great aptitude, various engineering positions at the station from projection to master control supervisor in the evenings.
But it was as video operator that he really made his mark. Getting all the cameras to look exactly the same (and keeping them that way all the way through a production) was, in our day, a very difficult and attention-demanding job. Bob was a natural, and an absolute expert, particularly at the CBS method of shading,
(The NBC method dictated that the camera’s lens iris be stopped down to a setting where the image fell just in the straight part at the middle of the s-shaped exposure curve, which was ‘by the book’ from RCA, and was supposed to yield maximum image quality. This approach, though, caused the picture to look somewhat muddy by forcing the blacks a bit into compression, and retarding the highlights from really sparkling.
With the CBS method, on the other hand, we set the lens iris 1/2 stop more open than that and pushed the Image Orthicon tube a little harder. This shortened the life of the tube a little, but it gave the picture an overall brighter look, forcing the highlights up into the ‘sparkle’ area. It was a particularly good approach to making kinescope recordings, and just looked great on-the-air. Greg Harney taught Bob that practice from his years as a lighting director at CBS, and Bob became an absolute master at it.)
Bobby and I did countless shows together. I (as cameraman) knew Bob as a blessing to have behind me at the controls. I (as director) found him a constant and ever-dependable support in front of me at the controls. Bob was simply a gem. Everyone wanted him as ‘video’ on their shows, and he was so alert always that he saved many a director’s bacon. As a video operator, Bob came to be considered the equal of the best in New York, and in the years I did TV after leaving WGBH, both in NY and on the west coast, I never worked with a better.
Bobby and I were very close at work … more so than in our personal lives. (Though he did like to hang out with us all, scholars and studio crew, at the Zebra Lounge after hours.) He was cheerful and highly effective at everything he did. Bob was a real friend, and sighting him under his blond crew-cut as I entered the building always gave me a shot of confidence that the day would go well.
It seems we all lost touch with him after he left the station. I knew nothing of his later, outstanding, technical achievements, but I’m not surprised that he scored so high. I did speak with him briefly on the phone in 1970, when I was in California and he in Philadelphia. That was our last contact, but I never did forget him.
And now Bobby, a truly memorable figure in the station’s history, is gone. Nevertheless, he’ll always score high with me, and many others who will remember him fondly. Don Hallock.
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