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)

 

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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Pye Camera Demonstration

Pye Camera demonstration from pebblemill on Vimeo.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Specially recorded video of former BBC Manchester cameraman, Malcolm Carr, demonstrating the Pye outside broadcast camera.

The video was recorded at a history of technology exhibition in Salford in October 2012. The restored outside broadcast scanner, CMCR9, built in 1969, which was Pebble Mill’s original CM1, before becoming BBC Manchester’s, North 3, was on display at the exhibition, and the Pye camera was part of this exhibit.

Keith Brook (Scouse) posted the following comment on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

‘Great to see Malcolm again. Last time I saw him he was gainfully employed with 360 media, the joint venture between Granada and BBC Manchester. We were in the canteen at GTV and he was keeping his head down to reach retirement without any problems!! My memory of those Pye cameras was that on really hot days, the sides had to stay up to give ventilation, otherwise they’d overheat!!’