Doctor Who - Documentary s08e17 Episode Script

A View from the Gallery

LETTS: Here we go.
Ah, well, there you are.
The old place hasn't changed all that much.
Of course, it's probably technically more complicated.
LETTS: You're telling me, yes.
Look at the monitors, for instance, I mean - Well, they - There weren't that many in my day.
We had half a dozen monitors at the outside, something like that.
I mean, look at the desk, the mixing desk.
I'd be totally lost using something like that.
I think it would take me Well, I can't imagine how long it would take me to learn - to operate something like that.
- Yeah, I know.
And yet you did all those very sophisticated effects of CSO and so on.
CATHERWOOD: That desk, it was a very versatile thing.
And it did enable you to do an awful lot of things.
I remember one day a guy from Grass Valley, who made the generation of mixers that took over, came in and looked at the BBC desk and went, "Gee, dedicated faders!" (BOTH CHUCKLING) - So there you go.
- There you are, you see, yes.
You couldn't superimpose one camera on top of the another.
I mean, here you could superimpose one, two, three, four, five cameras I guess is the maximum you'd do.
But on that one you could do eight if you wanted to.
LETTS: Yes, that's right.
I remember one shot in Not in this "Day of the Daleks" but in "The Mutants".
We had six cameras on one shot just to get the final shot of the alien.
- Yeah.
- Very effective it was, too.
But I do remember, in those days, an awful lot of that was making it up.
What could we make it look like? "We want it to do something.
- "Let's see what we can do.
" - That's right.
There were people like Dave Jervis, who we were talking about, - the effects operator.
- Yes, that's right.
And they'd work it out and then we'd experiment.
- Yeah.
- See if it worked.
Yeah, that's right.
All these buttons, all these things, all these monitors! We had one, two, three, four for cameras, maybe five or six - on big shows.
- Yes.
And a big colour monitor in the middle.
LETTS: That's right.
CATHERWOOD: And just one black and white, one colour We could only afford two colour monitors, for goodness sake.
- LETTS: That's right.
- I mean, this is just Yes, the big colour monitor was the transmission.
- Yeah.
That's right.
- Or recording, the actual picture that was going out.
And the other one, if you felt like doing it, you previewed every shot on the other one.
That's right, that's right.
Depends how complicated it was as to whether you did that or not.
That's right.
But that was really up to the vision mixer.
- You didn't always have a preview.
- No.
Especially if there was a fast-cutting sequence.
- It wasn't possible.
- That's right, yeah.
You'd have to go dong-dong-dong-dong-dong.
But rehearse it a lot to make sure it worked.
How was it that you came to be a vision mixer in the first place? It was a sort of natural progression through a department called Studio Management.
They provided floor assistants, AFMs, vision mixers and floor managers.
And you did the AFM, floor assistant/AFM bit and you then went to floor manager or vision mixer.
And I fancied directing so I came to vision mixing.
Yes, yes.
A lot of people wouldn't know what vision mixing was.
Can you explain that? I think the simplest explanation is a live film editor.
Yes, that's true.
You have in front of you a series of buttons and the buttons coincide with the preview monitors over here.
And each camera has a feed into the mixer, and you select which camera you look at, at the right time.
But in drama you wouldn't be doing that in an improvised way? No, no.
It'd be based on what the director wanted, isn't it? It's all very carefully scripted, yeah.
- Yes.
In a camera script.
- Yes.
But I always felt that the vision mixer was fine-tuning what the director wanted.
I think that's a very good way of putting it.
I mean, the director would mark on the script the point in the dialogue where he wanted the cut to happen.
And what you would look for all the time in vision mixing was movement which enabled you to make the cut.
Because all cuts should be made on movement.
Because then the eye just naturally goes across the cut and you really don't see the cut.
No, that's right.
I mean, it's very funny.
At least twice in my experience, there were directors who came in from the outside who said, "All this cutting, it's not what happens in real life.
"I'm just going to have one camera "because you've only got one set of eyes.
" But that's nonsense, because all the time, one's cutting.
If you're looking from there and you look to there, you're cutting from one picture to another picture.
- Of course.
- So, this is absolutely natural.
And, as you say, provided there's something like a movement to it to carry you through, you don't even notice the cuts are there.
- No.
- Yeah.
Basically, the director wrote a camera script and the director rehearsed a camera script and fine-tuned the camera script, and by the time you came to the recording, the director should sit there and look at the monitor.
- That's right.
- Look at the transmission monitor and see if he's getting the programme he wants.
Yes, precisely that.
Yes, he should know.
He should know it off by heart in the same way that the actors know their lines.
I learnt that as an actor from Shaun Sutton.
CATHERWOOD: Ah, that's him.
- You know, he became Head of Drama.
- I did vision mix a couple of things - I'd worked mostly with him.
And it was he who allowed me to come in the gallery and watch what was going on.
And it was quite remarkable.
In the rehearsal room, he would dance around the room being a camera.
He'd be muttering to himself, "Cut to one," you know.
He probably even had one of those viewfinders.
Yeah, he rather was rather contemptuous of that.
He said it wasn't necessary.
No, he said if you've got a proper eye, you didn't need that.
- Of course.
- No, I could understand that.
- Yes.
- Yeah.
But I must admit, when I became a director, I used to use my hand.
I used to, you know, stretch my arm out like that for, you know, a close-up of somebody over there.
Or, I'd do that to indicate, not only to myself but to the actors, what sort of shot I was taking at that time.
Because they had to adjust their performance to what was going on.
Something that looked perfectly all right in wide shot, if you went into close-up looked like the most dreadful overacting and mugging, you know.
Yes, of course.
It's a totally different technique, isn't it? Yes.
We've always cynically said, you know, if you want an actor to stand still, tell him it's a close-up.
That's right, yes.
It's in more or less the positions If I'd been in directing, the director sat here.
the vision mixer, obviously, in front of the vision mixing desk.
On his left, the director's left, was the - The PA.
- The PA or the production assistant or the producer's secretary, whatever they call them.
CATHERWOOD: But basically, sat there and called all the shots.
That's right.
She called all the shots in advance so that the cameramen knew what was coming and the numbers, because they've got cards which show them which numbers they were responsible for.
And taking a note of everything that was happening, how many takes there were and what timecodes they were, etcetera.
Anyway Then on his right, you'd got the technical managers, hadn't you? I think they were called TOMs in those days.
- TOMs, that's right.
- Technical Operations Managers.
Yes, Technical Operations Managers.
There was the TOM1, who was the lighting chap, who was in charge of everything.
And then the technical manager, who was in charge of all these bits and pieces.
But the producer didn't have a seat at the desk.
- This is talking about drama.
- Yeah.
I mean, in a lot of departments the producer and the director are the same person.
But in drama, the producer would be different.
He didn't have a seat at the desk.
He would be sitting at the back while the camera rehearsal was going on.
And when you had a run-through of a scene or the whole thing, - he would go and sit in a little - Booth over there.
box over there, isolated from everybody and trying to watch it - as the audience would watch it.
- Yeah.
If you'd got a sensible producer, he'd let the director get on with it and was there to help.
- Yeah.
- Not to criticise but to whisper, you know But there was always this thing, wasn't it, that the producer has overall responsibility for a series of programmes.
Therefore, he is responsible for making sure the story line is right and there's continuity in the performances and things, which a director wouldn't necessarily have because he's only doing a short four episodes.
That's right, that's right.
And also, I used to say, you know, when you're directing, and I knew this as a director myself, you were so much on top of the actors and the cameras and all the rest of it you were apt to lose sight of the overall picture.
Oh, yes.
When I say picture, I mean the overall structure and so on and so on and so on.
So I used to say to the director, "Well, the producer is "what you might call an informed audience.
" He's looking at it as the audience would look at it.
But at least he knows what's going on.
So he might be able to say, "Look, I don't understand "that sequence of shots," you know.
"Wouldn't it be a good idea if you had a close-up in the middle?" And if the director had got any sense, he'd say, "Yes, of course.
" Or what he might say is, "Well, I'll shoot it both ways "and see how it works when I edit it.
" - Yeah.
- Yeah.
I sit at home and watch stuff now that I vision mixed, you know, 20, 30 years ago and I go, "Oh, that was late.
" You know.
But I mean, if you made a really serious error, you apologised and we either did a retake afterwards or we stopped at that point and picked up from the previous shot and carried on.
Yes, that's right.
What we did do at that time was - record in story order.
- Yes.
I mean, later on, when we had We'd rehearse-record during the day, which meant that you'd got a video recording machine all day so you could do all the scenes in one set at the same time.
And then move on to another set and do all those scenes.
- And then edit them together later.
- That's right.
I suppose it's important to say that when we were doing this particular series, we only actually had a recording machine for the hour that was set aside to record the programme.
That's right.
It was supposed to be, for a half-an-hour show, it was supposed to be an hour and a quarter.
You could ask them to stretch it to an hour and a half.
I mean, I managed to, over the time I was on Doctor Who as producer, to stretch it and stretch it and stretch it.
So that in the end, we ended up, even before rehearse-record, with two and a half hours for each show.
But we still had to do it all within that time.
Yeah, yeah.
Because of the shortage of video machines.
Yes, exactly.
Video recording machines.
It's because in those days, the tech All the equipment was incredibly expensive.
- Yes.
- Studios were incredibly expensive.
- People were cheap.
- Yes.
Now, it's gone, it's just totally turned around.
- And the equipment now is peanuts.
- Yes.
- And the people are expensive.
- Yes.
And so you find that the whole thing is done in a totally different way now.
- For purely economic reasons.
- Yes, I know.
I mean, the reason we did multi-camera and we recorded everything in order was to try and get as much done, unedited - Yes.
so that it all joined together.
And all we had to do was join together various sections that we'd done.
And the editing was very cheap because it wasn't You know.
I mean, even the pre-film stuff was played in during the recording.
- Yeah, that's right.
- I remember in rehearsal, it would I think it was eight seconds or 10 seconds or something countdown.
It was 10 feet, which is eight seconds.
- Yeah.
- Eight seconds, eight seconds.
And so, in rehearsal, you worked out at what word of somebody speaking was eight seconds before you were due to come to film.
And the assistant would say, "Coming to film" and then count down.
- That's right.
- Eight, seven, six, five.
And at the right moment, it would come up on the screen through the vision mixer and the director would say, "And cut.
" And if it was seamless, you could actually get somebody, and this happened every so often with some directors, and I tried it myself, you would have somebody walking on film.
You cut and they walked into the studio, and the two things were seamless.
Yes, yes.
The only snag was the texture of the film.
Well, it was old 16-mil, wasn't it? It was very fuzzy 16-mil.
You know, we hadn't got mini video cameras in those days.
And we didn't have Super-16.
No, that's right.
That's right.
So that you could always see the cut unless you were very careful.
And if the director had got any sense he would cut from, say, a wide shot on film to a close-up in the studio or vice versa, so that there was never a direct comparison.
If he'd cut from a wide shot to a wide shot, it was a really horrid shot.
Course, it's very, very noticeable.
And I think a bit of that must be the way the film goes through the television system, which actually makes it worse than it really is.
Oh, yes.
You could have a pin-sharp 16mm film, but it would still look fuzzy on the telecine, I'm afraid.
Multi-camera shooting in those days had a lot of drawbacks, the main one being that each set had to be rather like a stage set, with three walls and a missing wall, which was where the cameras were, looking at the actors.
It's perfectly true and everybody only ever sat round three sides of a table.
- That's right, that's right.
- Yeah, yeah.
Which was, of course, ludicrous.
And it was largely because of that that directors much preferred to shoot on film.
'Cause every shot could be set up exactly as they wanted.
But towards the end of the period of multi-camera shooting, we were moving towards a sort of amalgamation of the two.
I remember when I shot David Copperfield in Birmingham, we had an extra day's recording for each episode and that meant that we could have four-sided sets because we'd shoot one way, then we'd stop, we'd take out the other wall and put in the missing wall and shoot the other way and edited it together.
But not only that, if we had a very, very complicated sequence, we could shoot single-camera and then edit it later.
But when you had a scene which lent itself to multi-camera, like people having a quarrel or something like that, you were able to rehearse it to a fine moment of, you know And you would hand it over to the vision mixer and you got a much, much better result.
And of course, in those days, we had Well, we had two machines recording.
One was a back-up for the other one.
So, both recorded the output of the studio.
These days, you'd put isolated feeds on all the cameras.
Yes, you'd cut it and that would go to one recording.
But if you didn't like the way it was cut, you, the director, can go down to Editing and you can change it because you've got all the feeds of all the cameras.
But of course, we couldn't do that because of the shortage of - video recording machines.
- Yes, exactly.
It would have been far too expensive.
And the tape would have been incredibly expensive.
I mean, we started off, as we were saying earlier, with just one video machine in the evening.
Then it was two.
One was the back-up.
And then, from that, we were able to move into rehearse-record during the day because they gave us the two machines all day instead of just in the evening.
But the thing is that they were very, very expensive.
These enormous recording machines.
I mean, now you can get a high-definition camcorder or something, you know, just by walking into the local shop.
But I think the one thing that you lack from losing multi-camera is performance.
Yeah, the actors much preferred it.
Yes, because you can give a complete performance - from start to finish.
- Yes, that's right.
And on the whole, it was recorded in order, so they actually started at the beginning and finished at the end.
And it's a lot easier for them to do.
Oh, much easier.
I remember very well, this was when I was still an actor, when I had to fall in love with somebody and then at the end, we got together, right? And it was a very romantic get-together.
And I'd rehearsed it like this.
And I'd got all the feelings inside me and when we came to the studio, they said, "Oh, right, we'll do the last scene first.
"And I said,"What? "My mind's not ready for the last scene.
"I'm ready for the beginning, you know.
" And I found it very, very difficult to adjust.
So, it's much better with the actors.
- Surely, yeah.
- Yeah.
But I think everything has got so much more sophisticated now.
The viewer's got a lot more sophisticated.
The viewer wouldn't accept multi-camera drama any more.
- Yeah.
- Wouldn't accept live drama.
And if you remember going back and watching old Z Cars, for instance, the famous live television.
Every scene in the police station finished up with Bert Lynch or whatever on the telephone.
Because you could leave one camera on him and all the other cameras could clear to the next set.
- That's right.
(CHUCKLES) - You know, and it all You just couldn't do that now.
It slows everything down too much.
- Yeah.
- It would all be too slow, too turgid.
And of course, Z Cars went on being live long after other programmes had gone into recording.
And it showed.
It showed in the good way and it showed in the bad way.