TV studio 1974 – 1983
Mike Luckwell, head of MPC, had originally planned to study at the London School of Economics. Following A-levels, to gain some experience of the real world, he took on a junior role in the Stock Exchange and was soon offered a more senior job but decided to take a short break doing something completely different before starting it. So he worked as a runner in a film production company and immediately decided that this was the world he wanted to be in. Moving swiftly upward, he became assistant director on a number of films in the early 1960s and even worked with special effects genius Ray Harryhausen.
Following a few years with World Wide Pictures, a documentary and commercials production company, in 1968 he became chairman and managing director of HSFA, another company doing similar work. Following a reorganisation in 1970, HSFA became The Moving Picture Company (MPC).
MPC opened for business in Soho on April 1st 1970, with a USP of making film and TV productions as cost-effectively as possible. TV was just opening up to independent production companies and the market for producing and editing commercials was expanding. The BBC was also short of colour editing capacity at the time.
In 1974 Luckwell noticed that in the US they were developing computerised video editing equipment and in Germany Bosch had brought out new lightweight video cameras. He decided to invest in this kit – not imagining that all commercials would immediately start to use video rather than film but knowing that having this new technology would position his company ahead of the competition.
They found these premises in Noel Street that had previously been a Jewish restaurant but had been empty for a while. The studio was created on the ground floor – one assumes in the space previously occupied by the restaurant. Kitting out the small studio and investing in 3-machine editing suites cost £300,000 – a huge sum in those days. However, the gamble paid off and within 2 years, virtually all commercials were edited on video, even if they were originated on 35mm film. The studio was equipped with 3 Bosch Fernseh KCR-40s. They also had a Bosch KCN-92 and one of the first Sony BVP-330s, which they used with a small OB unit.
The technology MPC offered meant that a retailer could make a marketing decision on a Wednesday, shoot a commercial on the Thursday, edit on Friday and deliver the result via land-line to the ITV network on Saturday morning.
Another achievement of MPC was that all Margaret Thatcher’s party political broadcasts were shot in their studio, including the last one to go out before her election victory in 1979. The first version was not good so Luckwell and Tim Bell of Saatchi and Saatchi worked with a team of editors late into the night to fix it prior to its broadcast the following day.
Neil Wilson worked there between 1981 and 1983 and he recalls various programmes for Channel 4 being recorded in the studio as well as lots of commercials. A number of pop videos were also made here, utilising the advanced post production techniques that MPC were developing at the time.
Luckwell formed a close working relationship with Michael Green, who was keen to invest in the world of television. In 1982 he had purchased Transvideo, based at St John’s Wood Studios, and changed the name to Carlton Television.
In 1983 between them they agreed a friendly takeover of MPC by Carlton Communications. Mike Luckwell became Carlton’s managing director. The Noel Street TV studio was closed and became a motion control studio – using the latest technology. The studio at St John’s Wood effectively took over the commercials, pop videos and other work previously done here. (See elsewhere on this website for more details.)
Paul Round has written to me – he worked at MPC between 1984 and 1994. He tells me that MPC was equipped with the most advanced post production equipment available at the time. They had 5 edit suites – four used 1 inch machines (later Sony D1) but Edit 5 was the first digital edit suite in the UK. There were also 2 telecine suites and a Quantel Paintbox.
When he left, the basement housed bookings, a kitchen, 4 edit suites and 2 Harry suites. Harry was the first digital non-linear editor, controlled via a pen and tablet and keyboard. This technology transformed the way video was edited and was particularly useful when cutting commercials.
MPC moved from here to Wardour Street around the turn of the century. These premises are now occupied by post house Halo. I have been there several times to grade sitcoms I have lit, like Upstart Crow.
MPC currently of course enjoy a reputation as one of the top SFX companies in the world with an impressive CV of major award-winning movies to their credit. In 2004 MPC was sold to Thomson (now Technicolor.)
Do you have any more info about this studio? Please let me know if you can help.
Some of the above information gratefully taken from ‘Greenfinger: The Rise of Michael Green and Carlton Communications’ by Raymond Snoddy.