I am a space geek, this is Apollo 15 during July 26 1971, and ended on August 7 1971. At the time, NASA called it the most successful manned flight ever achieved. I love everything to do with space and its technology especially how on earth they could transmit live video footage from the moon ?
This is a little bit of video production history as well as video camera archive, I started filming with Super 8mm cine cameras all the way up to a Chinon 255XL Super 8mm with sound during 1975 it had a Chinon Reflex Zoom f: 1.7 \ f9-22.5 mm and a zoom ratio of 2.5x
The JVC KY1900 as seen below was a cracking camera for its day. I fell in love with its orange body, I had never seen a brightly coloured camera before, almost 30 years later I bought one on EBAY and to my astonishment it still produced a picture…this says a lot for JVC !
Hands up if you ever used one of these ? When I started in this business many moons ago I joined a video production company called Flashback Video and they were using two JVC KY 1900 cameras almost identical to the KY 2000 camera (USA version), this was the Dawn of Corporate video production as we know it today.
My first recollection was at Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow and Chris (my ex-boss) and Ron Seeth were filming a band, I was there in my Radio Clyde capacity photographing the up and coming bands for John MacCalman (Radio Clyde producer & Jammy Records).
Chris and Ron were filming the Kelvingrove Music Festival and the thing that stood out was the orange JVC video cameras, I thought they looked the business. They were feeding long BNC cables into the back of the stage into two low band U-matic mains machines the size and weight of a small horse.
These days were the start of all our sore backs, I don’t know one cameraman who does not suffer from a sore back through years of holding and lifting various pieces of heavy video kit.
Soon after that music festival I went for an interview with Flashback and was offered a job as a sound-man, as I had worked for Radio Clyde I must know something about sound, that’s the impression I gave as I was desperate to get into video production.
Registration…in the early days of tube cameras we had to register the camera every time you transported it using a registration card. Tube cameras were very susceptible to go out of alignment, so you had to carry a small screw driver and a convergence chart. The camera had 4 small “pots” recessed near the front and you would look into the viewfinder and tweak the 2 colours till the lines converged i.e. These were not RGB what you were doing was aligning the tubes Blue-Vertical, Blue-Horizontal, Red-Vertical, Red-Horizontal… in other words all your black horizontal and vertical lines were totally black not fuzzy.
During my 4 years at Flashback we eventually moved over to the Sony M3 camera this had the 21 pin connector into a High band U-matic Sony portable recorder. The lead acid batteries were a pain and the 1st thing you had to do when finishing a shoot was to leave the two ton tessie batteries on charge.
The Sony M3 Three tube camera
Chris “Sony’s M3 camera offered the first really decent quality for industrial use. Actually a lot of these cameras were used for budget broadcasts around the world, although we were under no illusions that it was a broadcast quality camera. This was the first tube camera to give you auto registration, no more jewelers screwdrivers just point the camera at a registration chart, one press of a button and you were ready to go.
The other thing the M3 had was a really good remote control unit (which as far as I know is still used for later cameras – we certainly used it for our later M7 one of the first industrial cameras to use a 3 CCD chip set). This facilitated multi-camera studio shooting with proper genlock, colour matching and remote exposure control. There was even a fairly sophisticated scene memory facility, only a little less capable than today’s Picture Profile settings on the EX camera range.
I ordered Flashback’s Betacamcorder without having seen it ! STV were using the previous model BVW-200 and Sony announced an improved BVW-300, which I knew was going to outperform that model (one of the rare occasions when Sony sold a ‘2’ model number!). We waited six weeks for our brand new model to arrive – yet it became obsolete in a couple of months! (though it still works today as far as I know.)
In 1995 the Imix Turbo Cube cost £55k, but it generated so much heat that we had to install a £5k air-conditioning unit, so the investment was £60k. If I remember correctly, the base unit stored one hour of video and two hours of audio. I cannot tell you the Mb capacity, sorry. We added additional RAID storage modules to triple the capacity and backed up critical material to DLT high-capacity tape cartridges, which frequently failed for no apparent reason! Although now defunct, due to significant advances in digital image processing, the Turbo Cube remains the most productive NLE system I have ever worked with, as well as the easiest to master. It enabled us to achieve remarkable productivity, such as the complete post production of ten short broadcast slots or a half-hour documentary in a day.”
We had some good times working for Flashback in fact sometimes it was hard to call it work ! There can’t be many people who can experience the birth of their trade, yet Flashback Video was one of the pioneers of professional video production in Scotland and I was a big part of it. Possibly our wackiest job ever was to produce an advert for Tunnock’s Tea Cakes.
We had a small studio which had to be turned into a lunar surface, this is very hazy but I remember a lot of pyrotechnics going off at the wrong times, take after take after take and I can’t to this day remember what the end result looked like but a lot of paper mashie and matt paint should give you a better picture of our 1st break into the land of TV commercials.
1986 Clyde Cable Vision…
I decided during 1985 to apply for a job with Clyde Cable Vision a brand new cable television station, producing local content for the Glasgow Channel.
It had been decided that the cable laying was to start with Drumchapel in the west of Glasgow. These were exiting times, the latest video equipment, three machine computer controlled editing using a Convergence system.We had a small studio with 2 Hitachi Z31 cameras both with Autocue. The 3rd Z31 was used for filming news stories out in the field. The Z31 was a 3 tube camera but performed very well indeed. As you can see from the picture below it was built like a tank.
We had a busy schedule to fill, two news stories had to be edited for the 1pm live news slot and a further story in the afternoon for News Plus our 6pm live news magazine program.
I vividly remember a breaking story that happened during 1986, I was sitting in the edit suite putting the final touches to a feature when I got handed a high band U-Matic tape from Ian, “look at this”. I nearly fell of my chair, it was a four in a block house that had disintegrated in a gas explosion just round the corner where I had lived only 6 months previous. 5 people were killed in the blast. We had a tie-in with Radio Clyde at the time who offered their news reporters if they were at the same news story. Brenda Paterson did a piece to camera for us and strangely in 1986 we let a lot of VT happen with no voice over so the viewer was left with the noise from the gun mic.
We were competing with STV and BBC Scotland at that time and I will always remember the amount of crew they sent out, Cameraman, Soundman, reporter, we all had these but the broadcasters also had lighting man, and director sometimes a runner. We were all multi-skilled in fact we invented the meaning of the word in the broadcast industry.
We were also scorned upon from other crews, nothing less than social snobbery, they were better than us at least thats what they thought. We were again pioneers, I was a VT editor, soundman and in the studio a cameraman, sadly today it’s gone too far the wrong way, you have reporters making a hash of filming themselves with nothing short of glorified domestic camcorders, this might cut down on crew but it brings broadcasters down to the lowest common denominator and further reduces what was once quality television.
Bean counters or accountants to you and me are to blame for the demise of quality television news in Scotland and it’s nothing short of a disgrace, especially health and safety which is now so compromised it’s an accident waiting to happen. Sorry I will get off my soapbox.
26 years later I met Ian, Clyde Cables cameraman at a large sensor day at BBC Scotland.
As I was about to use the DJI Osmo during December 2015 I bumped into my Clyde Cable Producer, George Cathro.
Clyde Cable Vision took me to 1988 then I left abruptly to start out on my own. My first camera was a Panasonic F10 which was one of the first CCD cameras to filter down from the Pro range. The camera had a 14pin connector which connected via a 2 meter cable to an portable S-VHS AG-7450 recorder.
The Panasonic F10 was upgraded to the F15 which came in corporate grey colour. Grey is the colour that Panasonic decided was their professional look.
During 1991 three years after starting out on my own I won the “Best Video Production” at the Institute of Videography after becoming a member, I stayed with the IOV becoming a regional director and executive member but all the travelling to executive meetings meant I had to hand in my notice as it was taking a toll on my paid work.
Surprisingly the F15 had a 2/3″ CCD sensor a horizontal resolution of 460 lines at centre and came standard with a 15x zoom lens, no reliable auto focus in these days. For the film look boys the F15 had an optional 35mm SLR adaptor and C-Mount lenses.
Our next big leap into pro cameras was the Panasonic WV-F350 camcorder with 1/2″ FIT CCD for smearless image reproduction and a horizontal resolution of 700 lines. This camera docked with the AG-7450 S-VHS VCR but the downside was its combined weight on your shoulder. Me sporting a fine set of legs filming on Arran with my Panasonic WVF-350.
We left Panasonic for a JVC GY-X1TC SVHS-C camcorder this was far smaller and lighter than the Panasonic and produced a cracking picture right out of the box.
The JVC was our main camera for over 2 years moving over to Sony who had created a storm with a new technology called mini DV. The only camera available at this time was the Sony VX-1000 which had a 3 CCD chipset in a very small body.
This was the first watershed in video technology Sony had produced a technology that would set the word digital on the map forever.
I was absolutely stunned by the pictures this camera could produce but my professional pride was taking a bashing as this camcorder looked and was for it’s time …domestic. No more big cameras with manual lenses sitting proud on one’s shoulder, this was a major break from tradition but even then I had decided this DV format was the future, and until HD… this turned out to be true. Fortunately Sony had also decided DV was the way to go and produced the DSR-PD150 with a hidden surprise.
No one knew but the 150 had a very bad tendency to err on the magenta. This came to light when we started to notice people with ruddy complexions looked alarmingly exaggerated, so much so that I began avoiding filming close ups of guests who were too much on the red side. Fortunately for my productions and people with reddish complexions, Sony became aware of this and soon updated the camera to the DSR-170 which was far closer to a neutral white balance and had the benefit of being better in low light. The other important feature of the 150/170 was the phantom powered XLR inputs and the fact that it recorded in DVCAM mode.
The next camcorder was probably my favorite to date the JVC GY-5000 Pro DV camcorder, it looked good, produced stonkingly good pictures but it’s achilles heal was a 4:3 picture. This was a good all rounder and was superb in low light. It was also one of the first pro camcorders to have a flip out colour LCD viewfinder. It was a joy to use and used not only mini DV tapes but standard DV tape up to 180 minutes. This was also the first camera I had owned that came with “V” lock batteries.
Because of the 4:3 issue more people were looking for 16:9 footage we went for the Canon XL-2…major mistake !
The XL 2 had three 1/3-inch CCDs that delivered a true 16:9 image without the use of artificial letterbox or vertical stretch tricks. It’s one major letdown was the crap viewfinder. You could not find focus with this and after giving up my trusty JVC with Hi Rez black and white viewfinder I was in a land of true dispair.
I don’t remember why I ever plumbed for the Canon…was it because it was white as most video cameras are boring black or regimental grey. The one thing about the early days of videography was that JVC had distinctive orange cameras and I loved this, cameras with attitude.
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