The Use of Hand-Held Video Cameras in Television Broadcasting

By Roworth, Les | American Cinematographer, September 1975 | Go to article overview
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The Use of Hand-Held Video Cameras in Television Broadcasting


Roworth, Les, American Cinematographer


A state-of-the-art review of portable TV cameras - past, present and future-in competition with compact film cameras, indicates that they are making steady progress, but still have some distance to go

The hand-held or portable video camera is now becoming a common sight amongst the normal O.B. cameras. Various manufacturers produce their own versions and these are often modified by the users. The first thing I think we should do is to look back and see how and why video cameras came out from the studio.

The first studio camera in Great Britain which ventured outside was at Alexandra Palace in about 1937. This was an EMITRON camera which was a normal studio camera and was used for an afternoon programme introduced by Joan Gilbert. Then followed the coronation of George Vl which saw the use of the first O.B. van. These early cameras were very insensitive and the vehicle was very big.

After the war, with the advent of the IMAGE ORTHICON tube, cameras became lighter and more sensitive. But outside broadcasts were still thought of as actuality events, sports and great occasions. The main problem was that there was no good way of recording the output of the camera. Telerecording existed but the results were very variable.

In about 1956 the first portable cameras built round the VIDICON tube became available. These were the "Peepie-Creepies", or as our Japanese friends called them "Handee-Lookees". They were originally designed for use in the American Political Conventions. These conventions were covered exclusively on Network Television but with the existing Image Orthicon cameras there was no way of getting into the middle of the delegates. Here the "Peepie-Creepie" with its radio transmitter and battery packs succeeded.

The cameraman would be put into the middle of the delegates and left to wander round listening to radio talkback. When anything interesting happened he was there producing close-up pictures. These cameras then began to be used on other shows as well. In early 1958 Associated Rediffusion took delivery of the CSF radio camera. This was used on outside broadcasts, mounted in a car at Brands Hatch and at the Dorchester hotel at a Light Entertainment Show. The camera was also used without its radio unit with a video cable on "Cool for Cats". Here it was used to get interesting shots of the dancers which the normal studio cameras could not get. One minor problem on the show was that by 10:30 at night the studio was very hot. The hand-held was meant for an outside environment and so would get rather unstable. This meant the cameraman and engineer could be seen walking up and down Kingsway at 10:30 at night cooling the camera off before transmission at 11:30.

These cameras were portable but their picture quality did not match the 4 ½ Image Orthicon Cameras: When they were used on live programmes for special shots this was no problem. But then in 1958 came the video tape recorder and programme making changed. Before this anything recorded had to be telerecorded and if quality was required film cameras were used. Inserts into drama programmes were filmed using 35mm cameras.

The possibility of using television cameras throughout a production including the inserts was then available even if the pictures had to be relayed back from the O.B. site. The next stage was to place the VTR unit in a vehicle and this was available by 1959.

The hand-held was being developed at the same time and the Japanese produced a camera built round the 3" Image Orthicon. This overcame the sensitivity problem but was rather bulky.

Broadcasts in this country continued using the normal O.B. cameras, like the Marconi Mark III, for location work. They were cumbersome but once rigged could produce pictures matching the studio pictures.

The Americans were the first to use a colour hand-held camera and this was the PCP 70 which was based on the PC 70 introduced in 1967. The PCP 70 was first used on-air by N.

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The Use of Hand-Held Video Cameras in Television Broadcasting
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