Beachell, Chester, 1915-2002

Identity area

Type of entity


Authorized form of name

Beachell, Chester, 1915-2002

Parallel form(s) of name

    Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

      Other form(s) of name

      • Beachell, Chester Ernest
      • Beachell, Chester

      Identifiers for corporate bodies

      Description area

      Dates of existence

      1915-09-20 - 2002-12-21


      Chester Ernest Beachell was born in Winnipeg on September 20, 1915, and grew up in Rosser, Manitoba. He attended Dominion Business College in Winnipeg in 1933 before transferring to the University of Manitoba in 1934 to study engineering. He did not graduate with a degree but began working instead in 1937, maintaining projectors for Western & Associates Theatres in Winnipeg. In 1939 he was hired as a Studio Engineer by CJGX Yorkton to design and build consoles for their Winnipeg station, before moving to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, to design and build the station console there. In 1944, Beachell and his family moved to Ottawa to assume the role of Recording Studio Engineer at the Radio Bureau, Ottawa, where he recorded sessions with Members of Parliament for the program “Report from Parliament Hill.” In 1947, he accepted the job of Chief Engineer and Studio Designer for the new FM station CFRA in Ottawa, which may have been the first private FM station in Canada. He joined the National Film Board (NFB) in 1949 working first as a Sound Equipment Maintenance officer. A year later, in 1950, he was promoted to Chief of Technical Research and Development, and was appointed Senior Research Officer, Technical Research Division, in 1951. While in this role Beachell developed or modified technologies to support the work of colleagues at the Board. He earned 60 patents, including a patent in 1957 for the Sprocketape system, a lighter-weight sound recording technology to be used with portable cameras that enabled the NFB’s emerging cinema vérité style of shooting of documentaries on location. Beachell wrote about many of his innovations in the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. For his Sprocketape system innovation, Beachell was given a Civil service award for contribution to technical progress. In 1958, he was asked to provide technical assistance to the Sound Division of the Jamaican Film Unit. In 1961, he was elected a member of the National Research Council’s honorific group ‘The Inventors’ of Canadian Patents and Developments. Beachell and his colleagues built an automated, multi-projector system for the NFB’s contribution for Expo 67. He took up scuba diving as a personal interest, receiving his certification in 1969. This led to his development of the hydrophone and his involvement with many missions to capture sound for NFB and other projects, including: November 1970, Joe MacInnis’s underwater research station Sublimnos in Tobermory, Ontario; February 1971, MacInnis Arctic II expedition to Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories for the NFB project ‘The Sea;’ 1971, recorded dolphins at the Montreal Aquarium for further sound for ‘The Sea;’ March 1972, Spanish Honduras recordings from the Aquarius II vessel; camera and sound for the NFB production “We call them killers” on orcas at Sealand of the Pacific, Oak Bay, Vancouver Island; November 1972, MacInnis Arctic III expedition at Resolute Bay, sound at the Sub-Igloo research station; 1973 sound for Bill Mason’s film “In Search of the Bowhead Whale” that documented Scott McVay’s expedition off the coast of Alaska; 1974 for MacInnis Arctic IV expedition that was the subject of an NFB film and a television project called “Inukshuk”; 1975, Atiba I underwater habitat in Noyan, Quebec; 1976 underwater recording and photography for the film “Under-water Man” about the Canadian Forces submarine ‘Ojibwa’; 1977, underwater recording and photography of SDL (Submersible Diver Lockout) I certification, Canadian Forces Atlantic and US Navy Ocean Simulation Systems; and, sound recording and photography of archeological dive site of British Gun Ship Sapphire which sank in 1696 off Bays Bull, Newfoundland. In addition to or in response to these projects, Beachell designed: a monochrome underwater television system; a stereo sound recording system that could be carried by one diver; with his colleague Stan Cole, a water-proof housing so the CBC could use its Plumbicon Colour Television camera underwater; an audio cassette lip sync recording and playback system; with Stan Cole and Bert van Barneveld, a separate strip sub-titling system for home, television and theatrical use; and, a system to automatically control still photography of rail right-of-way to produce a set number of frames per mile. At the time of his retirement in 1980, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers awarded Beachell the John Grierson International Gold Medal and made him a Life Fellow. The Audio Engineering Society also made him Life Member. The National Film Board named its foley studio the Chester Beachell Foley Studio in his honour. Beachell died December 21, 2002, in Edmonton, Alberta.


      Legal status

      Functions, occupations and activities

      Mandates/sources of authority

      Internal structures/genealogy

      General context

      Relationships area

      Access points area

      Subject access points

      Place access points


      Control area

      Authority record identifier

      Institution identifier

      Rules and/or conventions used


      Level of detail

      Dates of creation, revision and deletion

      Written by A. Torrance, February 2023. Translated by Céline Mongeau, Larocque Linguistic Services, March 2023.




          -Beachell, Chester. (1992). My Life with Marg. “Fifty Beautiful Years.” CSTM Archives, Chester Beachell Fonds.
          -“Chester Beachell.” (December 28, 2002). Obituaries. Edmonton Journal. Accessed online 2021-08-16:
          -“Chester Beachell.” (2004.) Obituaries. SMPTE Motion Imaging, February/March 2004. Accessed online 2021-08-16:
          -Dewalt, Bryan. (July 24, 1996). A Technological History of Motion Pictures in Canada. Part 3: 1941 to 1995. Historical Assessment. Ottawa: National Museum of Science and Technology. Accessed online 2021-08-16:
          -Jaworski, Sarah. (2021). Draft Acquisition Proposal – Hydrophone No. 19. Ingenium. Personal communication.
          -Jaworski, Sarah. (2021). Draft Acquisition Proposal – Red Contempra Telephone. Ingenium. Personal communication.

          Maintenance notes