‘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)