Mark Steele

I started working at WGBH on March 3rd of 1986. The online room that I worked in had The Incredible Mach I editor and 4 BVH-1000s. It was quite a room. At that time, the room finished most of the shows that aired on PBS. We did This Old House, The Victory Garden, Masterpiece Theatre, FRONTLINE, Mystery, NOVA, Evening at Pops, Championship Ballroom Dancing, and An Evening of Championship Skating to name a few.

I saw the beginning of New Yankee Workshop, The American Experience, The Aids Quarterly, Antiques Roadshow, Long Ago and Far Away, Adventure, Nova Science Now. We used the room do the first live transmission for The Bridge between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Mark Steele
Mark Steele and Mark Steele

Eventually the old 1” machines gave way to new digital formats.

During my time I saw the introduction of D-3, D-5, and Digital Beta tape formats. The edit room upstairs off the scene dock was added to accommodate all the work we had. The rooms worked day and night, weekdays and weekends. WGBH was the hub of production for most of PBS. I guess it was a “hey day” of sorts. I don’t want to believe it was THE hey day, or the only peak in a long history of public television, but it certainly was one.

I encouraged the management to build a new all digital edit suite across Western Avenue and I worked there from the day it was built. The need for High Definition was upon us and the only realistic way to get it done was to build an AVID DS suite next to the linear digital suite. I supervised the building of the HD room and the purchasing of the equipment to be used in it.

The room was completed and NOVA was the first show to use it. Over the few years that the room lived on Western Avenue a lot of HD programming went through there. NOVA, American Experience, Masterpiece, Julia Child’s Biography come to mind.

The move to Guest Street brought a lot of changes. New edit rooms were built, a new studio was built and a nice looking glass beam was created to bridge Guest Street and to house the offices of the new WGBH.

On May 11, 2010, I left WGBH and am working out of my home. For me the glow was over at the foundation and a new day was starting to take hold.

I wish my old friends who are still there all the best, and to the new faces coming along I hope they have the rewarding life experience that I had while working at WGBH.

7 thoughts on “Mark Steele

  1. Great little piece Mark. Got any real great stories about some of the disasters, triumphs in the suite?? More, more. Thanks, Fred

  2. During those years, Mark, that edit suite was the hub around which the national (and international) presentation of WGBH’s public identity was organized.

    The consistent quality was something that some folks took for granted, without knowing how much work it must have been; man, I remember having nightmares about h-shifts in match-frame dissolves halting an edit session. Compared to today’s technology, you and your colleagues — including all the directors, assistant directors, tape operators, maintenance staff — made rudimentary tools sing. You can see the visual conventions developed during those years in today’s program packaging.

    If you’d be willing to share some of the stories about the lesser-known and more complex experiences — especially, for instance, the Bridge to Moscow and assembling the Symphony Hall concerts — I’m sure many folks would appreciate it.

    • There was a moment when Phil Morrison, MIT Professor of Physics and well known peace activist, was sitting in a chair in the Boston studio looking at a monitor of his own image as it came back from Russia. Always the scientist, Phil would wave at the camera and note the length of time it took for the image of him to wave back.

    • I was the PA doing the logistics for the original “Spacebridge to Moscow” back in the ’80s. One of our main ways of communicating with the Soviet Union was through teletype. Seems ancient now. The day before the broadcast, I double checked the EEN lines through Connecticut. The person in charge was out sick, so someone else was working and found a major mistake in routing that save the day. If that person didn’t get sick, the whole broadcast with the Soviet scientists would have been in jeopardy. Sometimes you get lucky.

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