Trilion – Brewer St

1975 – 1986


I’m told by Antony Koeller that Trilion’s small studio was in the basement of the building with its main entrance in Lexington St and a goods lift to the studio in Poland St. VTRs, editing and telecine were on the first floor.  The studio was about 1,000 sq ft with a ceiling height of only 10 ft.  There were two (sometimes more) LDK-5 colour cameras and a b/w caption camera.  The camera crew included Dave Swan, Barry Dodd and Dave Barber (Rocket).  Most of the studio and OB work was lit by Mike (Sooty) Sutcliffe.

The work mostly consisted of pop promos (often directed by Bruce Gowers, Keith MacMillan or David Mallet) and commercials.  They sometimes did food pack shots – apparently using nitric acid for steam!  The studio was also booked by HTV (ITV Wales and west country region) for interviews for its local news.

Neil Wilson tells me that the studio had a production gallery but they used a small OB truck for technical facilities.  This was parked in the garage upstairs, which was shared with the Japanese restaurant next door.  He remembers the constant smell of fish being delivered.  Every time the studio was used, the vision mixing panel had to be removed from the truck and re-fitted in the production gallery, which was quite a job!

In 1978 Trilion also began to use the studio in the basement of De Lane Lea’s HQ in Dean St.  Unit 1 (equipped with LDK5 cameras) was often moved back and forth between the two studios to provide facilities.  In 1986 Trilion purchased Limehouse Studios and it seems likely that this studio was closed then.  After they left, these premises were occupied by Goldcrest.



Trilion was the result of a merger between Lion Television and Trident.  Trident had their Audio Developments factory at Shepperton Studios.  Lion were also based at Shepperton – see that section for more information.  Chris Mower, an old friend of mine, worked for a while as an engineer at Trident Audio Developments.  He recalls looking out of the tea-room window and watching various peculiar objects being delivered to the sound stage opposite.  These included what appeared to be a strange-looking helicopter and a load of old carburettors.  The dock door had a logo of a space helmet with a spinal column dangling from it.  It was several months later that he realised they had been filming Alien there.

Trilion rapidly expanded their operation, purchasing several OB units.  Trilion’s purchase of Limehouse Studios is covered elsewhere on this website.

I’m told that Trilion was a subsidiary of Centerdisc who in addition owned Trident Sound Desks.  Trident were also, it seems, the managers of Queen.  This was confirmed to me by Dennis Weinreich, who was a recording engineer on some of the band’s early recordings.  Dennis informs me that…

‘…the first Queen album was released on Trident Records before they were signed to EMI and got out of their deal with Trident. Trident was one of the most successful music studios in London which was (and still is in an altered guise) in St Anne’s Court in Soho.  It was owned by brothers Barry and Norman Sheffield who parlayed their success from Trident Studios into what became Trilion and the sound mixing desk company Trident [Audio Developments].’


Trident Studios were used by many major acts from the late ’60s onwards.  The impressive list includes The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Free, Genesis, Yes, James Taylor and Carly Simon.  The studios owned a 100 year old Bechstein concert grand that was known for its attractive and distinctive sound.  This instrument was used on many rock and pop recordings over the years, including The Beatles’ Hey Jude, Elton John’s Your Song, Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and was also played by Rick Wakeman on Bowie’s Life on Mars and Changes.

Chris Mower, the engineer at Trident mentioned above, reckons that it was punk that changed the fortunes of the recording studio.  They had prided themselves on high quality sound, with the best equipment and top engineers but punk bands began recording in garages with cheap kit and were happy with a much grittier (poor quality) sound.  Trident went from being booked 24/7 to having days at a time with no work at all.  Eventually the Sheffield Brothers offloaded it and the staff had to look for other work.  The Trident engineers had been working on a secret project to build what would have been the first digital audio mixer but this came to nothing when the business closed.  They had even put in a patent application for a digital fader but the final payment was not made so this potential money earner was lost.


I have been told that Paul McCartney inadvertently helped Queen to success.  Apparently he would block book the studio but then fail to turn up.  Since Queen were managed by the company that owned the studio they were able to use this down time without having to pay a rental fee and the result was the classic multi-layered Queen sound.  The famous Bechstein also features on several of their songs including Seven Seas of Rhye.  I was originally informed that  Bohemian Rhapsody used the Bechstein but it seems not.  They had stopped using Trident studios by 1975.



Several high profile OBs and events were recorded by Trilion, including the video promo for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody which was directed by Bruce Gowers.


The promo for Bohemian Rhapsody (’75) was arguably a milestone in television history.  Firstly, it was shown a great deal, since Queen were on the road when it was in the charts and could not actually appear on Top of the Pops or other shows.  Even if they could have, it was the kind of song that frankly would not have come over well, played live on TV.  Secondly, it was unashamedly made on video without any pretence at being ‘cheap film’.  It made use of optical and video effects, which although they had been around for some time (the opening titles of Dr Who had used a monitor howl-round many years earlier) they somehow captured the public’s attention. 

I have been given somewhat conflicting information regarding exactly where it was recorded but thanks to being contacted by the director Bruce Gowers himself I am now confident that the following is the case:


It was shot at Elstree Studios where Queen were already set up and rehearsing for their tour.  Mike Fitch was one of the cameramen and he tells me that they used some prisms from Telefex, a company owned by ex BBC cameraman John Henshall.  They shot it ‘in about 5 hours, the bleed off effect was done by multiple howlround.’   Mike recalls that the concert footage was from a recording at the Rainbow Theatre but this seems unlikely now since Bruce reckons it was all made at Elstree.

Bruce says it was shot quicker than five hours.  His memory is that recording began at 7.30pm as he was tied up on Aquarius at LWT.  Apparently they finished in time to get to the pub for a drink.  Fair enough.


Antony Koeller was an engineer on the Elstree shoot and he remembers that they used an EMI 2005 that came from Heathrow Conference Centre.  It was noisy and didn’t match.  What a surprise. 

Duncan Borrowman however recollects that some of it was made at Trilion in Brewer Street.  Well, maybe but that now seems unlikely.  He confirmed that the senior cameraman on Bohemian Rhapsody was Barrie Dodd and floor manager was Jim McCutcheon.

Kevan Debonnaire used to work at Trilion and asked his colleague Barrie Dodd where it was made.  He confirmed that it was shot at Elstree on one of the old stages now lost to Tesco.

Whew.  Mystery solved I think.  Unless of course, you know different…