The Old Curiosity Shop

Jim Gray

Jim Gray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Jim Gray on 4

Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Jim Gray on 4

Tony Wigley on crane, Keith Froggatt swinging

Tony Wigley on crane, Keith Froggatt swinging

Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Keith Forggatt swinging and Martyn Suker

Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Keith Forggatt swinging and Martyn Suker

John Couzens talks to director, Tony Wigley on crane, Richard Reynolds on boom

John Couzens talks to director, Tony Wigley on crane, Richard Reynolds on boom

Closing credits, Jim Gray back to camera

Closing credits, Jim Gray back to camera

Studio A

Studio A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright James French, no reproduction without permission.

The Old Curiosity Shop was a nine part series which went out in from December 1979 to February 1980. Barry Letts was the producer, Julian Amyes the director, Alistair Bell the script editor, William Trevor wrote the script adaptation, Michael Edwards was the production designer and Peter Booth was the lighting designer.

The cast included Sebastian Shaw as grandfather, Trevor Peacock as Daniel Quilp, Natalie Ogle as Little Nell, Granville Saxton as Dick Swiveller,  Wensley Pithey as the Single Gentlemen, and Christopher Fairbank as Kit Nubbles.

The photos are of:

  • Jim Gray
  • Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Jim Gray on 4
  • Tony Wigley on crane & Keith Froggatt swinging.
  • Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Keith Froggatt swinging & Martyn Suker tracking.
  • A typical set
  • John Couzens, with arms folded, talks to the director (Julian Amyes). Tony Wigley on Mole crane, Richard Reynolds on boom.
  • Doing the closing credits. Jim Gray back to camera. Scene hands’ names may be Dick & Phil?

Thanks to James French for sharing the photos.

Studio A. Jim Gray. Contributed by James French.

EMI 2001 Camera (Part 3) – Keith Brook (Scouse)

vlad1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Very Low Angle Dolly’ with EMI 2005, image copyright Vinten, no reproduction without permission.

EMI 2001 Part 3

Earlier I spoke about how the compact size of the Emmy enabled cameramen to be closer and more involved in the action when shooting drama.

This also applied to other programmes such as ‘Pebble Mill at One’, and one day we nearly got way too close and personal.

Somebody, either Bill Vinten or Telly Centre’s fabulous Mechanical Workshop, had built a VLAD. Very Low Angle Dolly. And they could only build it because the Emmy was small enough to fit.

This device was rather like a miniature go-cart. It had four tiny wheels, a short arm to mount the camera and a seat for the idiot manning this device. The base, and the idiot’s seat, was about an inch off the floor and was used, as the name implies, for really, really, low angle shots.

It was so low that the camera could easily go under the cantilevered part of the reception desk in the foyer.

The trick with camerawork is to use foregrounds to give a three dimensional sense in a two dimensional world. Thus, using the reception desk on the top of the shot would give an even greater sense of movement.

So, this particular day, Tony Wolfe was directing and he’d ordered the VLAD up from London. Muggins here was given the job of operating this bijou beastette and we rehearsed loads of items with a new angle that, frankly, was rather nice.

Then it came to rehearse the music.

Lovely perspective changes, over the 8 bars intro, as we slide serenely under the reception desk, and our eyes are drawn to the man in the distance.

As we break cover, the man in the distance sees me, sees the camera and, more specifically, sees just how low the camera is.

And I didn’t like the look on his face.

At that point, the full horror of what Wolfy had in his evil mind, struck me.

Those of you who can remember the 70s, and were occasionally there during rare moments of clarity, will know that Demis Roussos was, how can I tactfully put it, a tad abdominous.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he had more chins than the Hong Kong phone book and a stomach that, any larger, would require landing lights.

We, and I say ‘we’ because my brave tracker and I were a team, a team united in a looming catastrophe, were getting closer and closer and nervously waiting for the moment when Mr Roussos would throw a complete wobbler and storm off in disgust as we drew attention to his ample rotundity.

Now, you can imagine that, with the lens only two feet off the floor, the rather generous bits that surrounded his belly button would, eventually, ever so slightly, dominate the shot.

The music continues, and so do we, until eventually we reach the point of no return, where the poor man was almost bending forward to find the lens.

The look of amazement on his face gradually disappeared, replaced by a little smile which, in turn was replaced by hysterical laughter.

You can’t believe how relieved I was that he saw fit to see the funny side of what we were doing.

And yes, we did the shot on transmission. Twice.

That Emmy has a lot to answer for.

Keith Brook (Scouse)

 

EMI 2001 Camera (Part 2) – Keith Brook (Scouse)


EMI 2001, Bob Langley, Keith Brook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission. (Keith Brook on camera, with Pebble Mill at One presenter, Bob Langley)

EMI 2001 Part 2

In Part 1 I gave a little background to how the Emmy became the size it was by having the Angénieux lens inside the camera.

Here, I’ll show how the compact design had implications that went much further than just the technology and positively affected the quality of programmes, especially drama.

With the early colour cameras, one of the major problems of having a large lens hanging out the front was that as you panned there was a pronounced side-to-side tracking effect from the front element swinging through a large arc. This was most unnatural on drama and some cameramen compensated by tracking the ped in the opposite direction. Not an easy feat with such a cumbersome camera.

On the Emmy, the front of the lens was much closer to the pivot point, as was the cameraman at the other end, and with the steering ring back to its original size, the whole beast became far more compact and manoeuvrable. There are probably loads of other benefits that my colleagues will remind me of, but for me, with the cameraman closer to the drama, the most important of all was that the cameramen became actors in the scenes.

You may find this a strange concept but it was Tim Hardy, ‘Siegfried’ in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ (yes, that’s his real name), who told me this. He also said the crew gave the cast reassurance, often simply by the body language we were giving off as scenes progressed. Other actors had said the same. I vision-mixed ‘All Creatures’ and I was also surprised when he told me that occasionally the cue lights helped him pace a scene.

The fabulous US anti-terrorist series ’24’ stars Kiefer Sutherland. He has often said that Guy Skinner, their excellent cameraman, was the third actor in the scene.

And it was with us as we danced around the sets, with our ‘short’ Emmys on Vinten peds, matching the actors moves.

Malcolm Carr, ex-BBC Manchester, did an wonderful piece here about the Emmy and mentioned the ‘shot box’. It’s impossible to underestimate just how important that magical device was, especially on drama.

Earlier I said that we often had only a few words, sometimes less than a second, to change the shot size. Zooming manually, you couldn’t guarantee matching the other camera, so EMI kindly added the ‘shot box’ to Monsieur Angénieux’s lens which allowed us to pre-set the lens angles and reproduce them every time. It had 6 memories; 1 and 6 were set to the tight and wide ends and the middle 4, using a chart, were set to match the angles of the old turret lenses 9, 18, 24 and 36 degrees. This wasn’t some attempt at keeping the ‘old tradition’ but rather a nod to the artistic reason why the fixed lenses were the size they were.

A quick word on ‘lens angles’. If you imagine lines coming from the lens and going out to the objects that you see on the left and right of the frame, that’ll give you the lens angle. It’s more intuitive than talking focal length because you can visualise it as you look over the top of the camera.

Ah, I digressed again.

These four lens angles gave us a number of ‘natural’ frame sizes, when related to actors, and they are, CU (close up, 9deg), MCU (medium close up, 18), MS (mid-shot, 24) and MLS (medium long shot, 36). The reason they’re natural is that they enable the actors eyes or centre of interest, as the shot gets wider, to stay on the golden third. The ‘thirds’ split a frame into three equally horizontal and vertical parts and are found in all aspects of art.

So, from one position, we could quickly select the CU, MCU, MS and MLS sizes. That’s not to say we didn’t move the cameras, but keeping things simple enabled a drama to play out inside the ‘natural’ frames with no distractions.

As a result, such dramas as ‘Poldark’, a 50 minute costume drama, were recorded in 50 minutes. Yes, real time!!

Knowing that a mis-frame, wrong lens, wrong position from a camera and a mis-move, wrong line, wrong position from an actor would mean that the whole caravan would have to stop certainly concentrated our minds and cheeks. Keeping that up for 50 minutes was so exciting and, I believe, produced the highest quality drama.

There are many people nowadays who say that those programmes are boring but they forget that the essence of a good drama is that the viewer is immersed in, and not distracted by, the system that they’re watching. If you analyse cinema films, they generally let the actors move inside a static frame. This represents what you would see if you were in the same room. Your head would stay level and you’d watch the actors killing each other. Sure, action films shake the camera quite violently, but you must first know the rules before you can break them.

As this is about the camera itself, I haven’t mentioned physically moving them around the studio on peds, that may be another missive!!

Anyway, back to the plot. The Emmy wasn’t just an innovative engineering design, it also enabled cameraman to produce fluid moves very quickly allowing the crew to be significantly involved in the intimate world of drama.

The EMI 2001, what a wonderful camera.

Keith Brook (Scouse)

 

EMI 2001 Camera – Keith Brook (aka Scouse)

photo by Robin Sunderland no reproduction without permission

photo by Robin Sunderland no reproduction without permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo shows a rehearsal of ‘Pebble Mill at One’, Donny MacLeod interviewing Harry Carpenter, FM Nick Patten, cameraman Brian Cave)

Ah, the EMI 2001, what a wonderful camera.

First, a digression.

In the black & white days, cameras had a single tube called an ‘Image Orthicon’. Basically a bloody big vacuum tube, or ‘valve’, with a flat end onto which the image was shone. Inside the tube, a beam was fired at that image, in the same raster scan as your TV set, which was reflected back stronger or weaker depending on the brighter or darker parts of the image. These tubes were huge, 4½” in diameter (a few were 3″), and almost the full length of the camera.

Four lenses were positioned on a ‘turret’ which was ‘swung’ either by manually rotating a handle at the rear or, in one case, by flicking a switch to electrically drive them in either direction. Focussing was done by a lever which moved the tube backwards and forwards. Thus, the lenses stayed still and you moved the tube to focus.

Now, introduce colour and it’s a whole new can of worms. It would be almost impossible to move three large tubes, Red, Green and Blue, complete with prism block to split the colours, and keep the whole lot registered. CBS had a go and the BBC experimented too, but they were attacking the problem from the wrong direction.

Perhaps keep the tubes still and move the lenses? Equally impractical with a bunch of them on a turret.

Eventually, two elements conspired to make the late 60’s, early 70’s, colour camera a reality.

Firstly, the invention of the ‘Plumbicon’ tube which reduced the size to about 1″ in diameter and 6″ in length.  This allowed a compact block and tube assembly.

Secondly, with a smaller image size on the tube front, reasonably sized zoom lenses became a practicality.

So far so good.

Unfortunately, cameras were designed by engineers who really didn’t consult cameramen. Thus, we were given a camera with a large body and a monster zoom lens, the same size again, nailed to the front.

This had a number of bad effects.

Firstly, to balance it, the whole weight would be shifted rearwards compared with a black & white camera. This made it very difficult to reach the steering ring on the Vinten peds. A larger ring was eventually fitted, but not before many cameramen had their backs ruined.

Secondly, the whole package, including the cameraman at the back and the minimum focussing distance at the front, was about 10ft. Not good, especially when crammed into the broom cupboards of Children’s TV in Pres A or ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ in Pres B at Telly Centre.

Did I digress?

Oh yes, the EMI 2001.

Now, I’m not an engineer or a technician, but I’ve spent a lot of my career with my head buried inside these Emmys and we do have to know a little bit about them in order to help the engineers, especially on OBs where they can’t easily get to the camera. So, please forgive any ‘technical’ inaccuracies. I’m trying to explain the concept.

So, after you’ve chatted to cameramen, how do you make a camera that’s about the same size as a black & white one?

EMI’s approach was to find a lens that would fit inside a small-ish body and then figure out where to put the rest of the stuff.

Angenieux came up with a design that was compact enough to meet the size criterion including all the motors and electronics to drive the thing and throw in a 10:1 capability as well.

That still left the problem of the tubes and electronics to drive the camera. Fairly important.

The solution was very elegant.

Only have the tubes and prism inside the camera with the rest of the electronics at the other end of the cable, up in racks. Ok, you need some electronics but they were wrapped around the hole that the lens sat in.

Then, make a prism that allows the tubes to ‘fan out’ at almost 90deg to the light path from the lens. That way you can stuff them in the four corners of the box and only add about 6″ to the whole package.

Stick a few cameraman controls at the back and you’re good to go.

There’s another very clever element that EMI designed in. These tubes were horrifically expensive and to have three in each camera, four cameras in each studio, and so on, meant that the BBC bosses would have to have smaller bonuses.

There was a huge attrition rate in the manufacture of these smaller tubes with only a fraction passing the full broadcast test.

EMI’s engineers realised that the human eye is less sensitive to colour than to monochrome. That’s why, in the dark, really dark, we can’t see colours.

Their solution was to have four tubes. An expensive one that gave a full spec monochrome picture, and three much cheaper, lower quality, ones that were subtracted from the ‘white’ tube to give the colours. Brilliant!!

As it happens, that’s how the NTSC/PAL system works anyway, so it was an extremely elegant system.

So, you get a cameraman’s camera. You get great pictures for the time. And you get a device that enabled us to work on drama in a much more intimate way.

How that affected us is in Part 2.

Keith Brook (aka Scouse)

 

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

Dave Bushell: ‘EMI 2001 – the tinted monochrome camera – never a fan (but I was an engineer, not a cameraman).’

Matthew Skill: ‘Surely they can’t be described as tinted monochrome, almost the reverse in fact; colour with added luminance detail, a-la the original technicolour 4-strip before they ditched the fourth film ( mirrored decades later in the 2005 only having 3 tubes ). I was a TA, then novice engineer, when we had them too in Newcastle. Remember the 2001s for the BBC allegedly had a different matrix fitted to lower the overall saturation, as either the powers that be were apparently worried about being as ‘gaudy’ as ITV, or BBC engineering wanted to keep chroma content at a ‘safe’ level for the subsequent chain. Beautiful pictures seen ‘raw’ at the Grade 1 connected component/RGB to the CCU, all we see now is composite quad/1″ recordings so the comparison with modern cams isn’t fare based purely on those.’

Andy Walters: ‘There was an EMI 2001 with it’s rack on display in the foyer of Breedon Wing at Wood Norton last time I was there. They had them at ATV Broad Street too back in the day.’

Keith Brook: ‘I think almost all stations had them. I was lining up an Emmy up on the gantry at Wembley stadium because one of the engineers was flashing the cue lights. After a while I asked his name because I didn’r recognise his voice. That’s when I realised I was lining up an LWT camera!! We didn’t mind so I carried on. They all looked the same from the back!!’

Malcolm Carr demonstrates the EMI 2001 camera

Cameraman Malcolm Carr demonstrates the EMI 2001 camera from pebblemill on Vimeo.

Specially shot video with cameraman Malcolm Carr demonstrating the EMI 2001 studio and outside broadcast camera. The camera dates from the 1970s, and was a favourite amongst cameramen.

The camera was on display at a history of communication technology exhibition held at Salford University in October 2012.

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

Peter Poole: ‘I used these cameras when on attachment to Norwich as a Tech Op. Like most of their equipment they were in poor condition. I spent hours trying to line them up. But the pictures still looked poor. I was glad to get back on sound!’

Alan Griffiths: ‘Nobody seemed to mind if you spent two days lining them up properly. Nowadays there would be an inquisition if it took that long!’

David Short: ‘Used this camera at TV Centre. A cameraman’s camera, if ever there was one. Everything in the ‘right’ place. A joy to operate.’

Keith Brook: ‘Well done Malcolm, good demo. If I may add a comment. 

Probably because of time, he missed an important point about the shot box and its use on drama. 

There were six buttons, with the ‘middle’ four generally set-up to represent ‘natural’ lens angles, 9deg, 18deg, 24deg and 36deg which gave you CU, MCU, MS and MLS. All the cameras, each day, were set up on the same chart. 

In a fast cutting sequence, this was the only way to accurately change shot sizes and still match the other cameras. 

Without that shot box, we wouldn’t have been able to shoot drama anywhere near the standard we did. For example, we did Poldark, a 50′ costume drama, in 50′. Yes, really. Manually zooming would have created so many retakes that the rhythm of the drama would have been lost, the momentum would have gone and we’d have been there all night. 

Incidentally, those lens angles, 9deg etc, were exactly the same angles as the four lenses on the old black and white cameras thus allowing the skills to transfer easily. 

Thank you EMI, for understanding cameramen. And thank you Malcolm.’

Pete Simpkin: ‘EMI were very good with TV camera design.In Southampton news we had the little brother of the one Malcolm was demonstrating , the 201… we had two operators there working three cameras so they had to be literally ‘handy’!’cameraman Malcolm Carr

cameraman Malcolm CarrSave

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