Glass Shot – The Long, The Short and The Tall by Andy Woodhouse

Programme making continually evolves taking advantage of new technologies and processes. Such evolution allowed many previously studio-based drama productions to move to location-based. During a location shoot a very wide angle shot may be required, one that includes unwanted scenic elements. A modern production can employ low-cost off the shelf software to remove the unwanted elements.
Studio-based drama productions made before the low-cost tools had to use a different approach, painting out the unwanted elements as the pictures were captured and recorded. The following picture shows part of a set in Pebble Mill Studio A that required such a wide shot. At the top of this picture we see the studio lights and at least one scenery winch. These elements were removed from the recorded TV camera pictures by using a “glass shot”.

Photo by Andy Woodhouse, no reproduction without permission.

A TV camera is placed outside the physical set, the lens angle and focus are set. A large piece of clear glass mounted in a solid wooden frame is placed between the camera and the physical set, as shown in the following picture. The areas of the scene that are to be hidden are masked out by painting the required content onto the glass.

Shows the camera at the left side, with the artist, Steve Mitchell, painting onto the glass to add the scenery extensions. The artist’s monitor showing the composited image is just to the left of centre. Photo by Andy Woodhouse, no reproduction without permission.


The large EMI 2001 TV camera is just at the left of the picture centre. Just to the right of the camera is the high quality TV monitor the artist uses to check the composited image. Two artists are working on the painting. One paints the scenery on the front of the glass, the second paints an opaque mask on the rear of the glass to ensure solid details in the painted area are not diluted by any light falling onto the rear of the glass.The picture below shows more detail of the scenery that is being added to the scene. If the glass is moved, or the camera moved or otherwise adjusted, the entire paint process has to be restarted.

Cutout in the scene cloth, the glass in the frame, and the two artists at work. Photo by Andy Woodhouse, no reproduction without permission.

The final picture shows more detail of the painted scene elements. The tops of the trees are aligned to the trunks on the picture of the physical set.

Detail of the painted glass. Photo by Andy Woodhouse, no reproduction without permission.

The glass scene painting is a highly skilled job, any error would break the illusion of a full physical set in the studio.
Andy Woodhouse

Bob Hubbard on camera













Bob Hubbard on an EMI 2001 camera. Photo by Robin Sunderland, no reproduction without permission. The photo probably dates from the early 1980s.

The day the Pebble Mill studio opened

This link is to a clip from Nationwide on 15th June 1971. Midlands Today presenter, Tom Coyne gives a guided tour of the brand new Pebble Mill studios. Included in the tour are Studio B, the home of Midlands Today; Studio A, where many dramas were produced; and the Radio studios, home to The Archers, we also see Radio WM in action. There is no mention of Pebble Mill at One, because the programme had not yet been planned.

Thanks to Malcolm Hickman for sharing the link.

Still from Tom Coyne’s piece on Nationwide. Copyright BBC.











The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Keith Warrender:’The EMI cameras were still going in 1983 when they were replaced with Link 125s. Link are long gone but the old factory is still standing unused in Andover.’

Sue Astle: ‘Such an amazing exciting time for us then, we were privileged to have worked there. Susie Bancroft. Ex make up’

Sarah Tongue: ‘My mom ran the Library!’

Helen Smith: ‘Loved watching that, my Dad was the cameraman at the beginning of the clip.’

Michael Fisher: ‘Radio Birmingham as it was at the start!’

Andy Marriott: ‘What was the little mini cart system they were using for spot effects, called?’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘It was a device called a P.E.G. Programme effects generator. They used a spool of tape in a case with a metal loop fitted at one end. When you inserted the cartridge, the machine grabbed the tab and cued the effect. It had loads of slots so a sequence of effects could be built up. A BBC designs department product, IIRC.’

Sue Welch: ‘Actually remember Tom Coyne from Tyne Tees Television. A very long time ago.’

Malcolm Adcock: ‘Happy memories, joined Top Gear in 1988 and our production office was later in the old Pebble Mill at One studio area.’




CMCR9 on show at Shrewsbury Steam Rally

Photo by Steve Harris, no reproduction without permission

Photo by Steve Harris, no reproduction without permission














The veteran TV OB scanner North3 / CMCR9 will be on show next weekend at the Shrewsbury Steam Rally, Onslow Park, Shrewsbury. Details may be found on their website :-

Please note that the show is not open on Saturday, but only on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. The Shrewsbury Rally is easy to find and a great day out, with something to entertain all the family, young or old!

Eric’s generator will be powering us and it is hoped to have either the EMI 2001 and/or a PC80 camera working into the scanner. Fingers crossed for some good weather!

Jerry Clegg

CMCR9 at the Kelsall Steam Fair

Steve Harris with North 3. Copyright resides with the original holder.

current owner, Steve Harris with North 3. Copyright resides with the original holder.













The outside broadcast truck, BBC Manchester’s North 3/ Pebble Mill’s original CM1, CMCR9, will be on public display at the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Fair, between Tarvin and Delamere, Cheshire, next weekend 27th and 28th June. Details of the show may be found on their website:

The EMI 2001 and Pye PC80 cameras will be on static display only, owing to severe power limitations. However, pictures will be available from a couple Ikegami HL79s, and most of the scanner will be working (touch wood)!

We will be very pleased to see any friends or former colleagues who can make it there. Kelsall is a super show with lots of attractions.

Jerry Clegg