A few weeks ago I was watching television and caught a bit of 'Top of the Pops ' from 1984, and I thought, 'Was this one of the programmes I worked on? ' I was privileged enough to be a staff cameraman at the BBC for 20 years, during that time I was able to work on many great shows: Only Fools and Horses, Blue Peter and Two Ronnies to name but a few.
Watching TOTP led me to consider how many new entrants into the broadcasting industry would have the talent or skills to work on these types of programs today? But are these skills still required in the broadcasting industry or are they dead or very limited like coppicing, woodcarving or thatching?
Music shows are still being produced but is there the training for the operators of the future? I was told that the crew of 'Strictly Come Dancing, has been same crew for 10 years, so no chance of training there.
So how did a typical, Top of the Pops ' studio go?
The crew arrived in the studio at 9:30 to begin the rig, there were mainly three camera cranes, a Nike ', a 'Mole ' and a 'Heron ', I remember using many types of cameras but finishing with Thompsons.
The Nike was a battery operated crane, for quietness, it was constantly being charged from the mains. It had a crew of four, a tracker, two people on the arm and the cameraman on the front, it could accelerate very quickly and move very fast probably by about 10 miles an hour.
The 'Mole ' was made by Mole Richardson it had a three main crew, a tracker, arm swinger, and the cameraman. It was powered from 110 V DC supply, it could track quite fast and with the column pumped up it could reach to quite a height.
The 'Heron ' was an incredible piece of kit built by Vinton with a crew of two and was powered by a three phase supply. All the drive mechanism and craning was hydraulic and it could track forward backwards and sideways. The camera operator used his feet to operate the crane and rotated the camera so it was panning, zooming, focusing, craning all at the same time!
On the show there was also a ped and a handheld camera. The rigging usually took around 45 minutes as all the cameras were kept in the camera store beside the studio, the cranes were delivered beforehand by the mechanics who maintained this equipment.