John Cavacuiti remembers that first they went to Vinten's factory in Bury St Edmond's -
"I think we went up on the Wednesday morning the week before we were due in TC4 for the Macbeth exercise. We were shown
around the factory and then spent the rest of that afternoon familiarising ourselves with the machine and its controls although the
fact that we had the rather small "studio" to ourselves with no mic booms and no key
lights to contend with, and Reg King ambling around for us to follow, meant that it probably bore little relationship to what was
to come the following week.
The Macbeth exercise itself was split into 3 "acts" of about 20 minutes each, all of them shot single camera in a continuous take,
with a cutaway to another camera between each "act" to let us reposition. The morning was spent "blocking" the action and moves,
then after lunch, as far as I remember, without the benefit of a "run", we recorded the 3 "acts" as a continuous take. I think its
fair to say that neither Stan or I were very happy with the result of that first take! We then reshot the whole thing with the
other studio cameras recording our movements and this time we were happier with what we achieved.
A while later we were to use the Peregrine again on a Play for Today called Trotsky ~ The Ice Pick Murder.
We spent the first morning's rehearsal using it, however after the lunch break the steering drive shaft sheared and we finished
the play with Stan on a pedestal having used a Heron for the bits we had rehearsed on the Peregrine. Incidently Cliff White
used the first Ikegami hand held camera that we had seen as a "subjective" camera on this play.
The Peregrine cameraman had a "normal" zoom focus control [operated by his right hand] and that was about the only normal
thing about the crane. To actually focus he used an 8” Peto Scott monitor, I hesitate to say "black and white" because
they were mostly different shades of grey. Of course the camera output was 405 lines. The
zoom control was the normal Angenieu one where the whole grip rotated, anticlockwise to zoom out clockwise to zoom in.
This was operated with the left hand which also operated the tilt servos with a position control that mimiced a normal
pan bar . The same "pan bar" also operated the pan controls BUT this was a pressure sensitive device, the more pressure
you exerted the faster the pan and the "pan bar" didn"t actually move in the horizontal direction. Thus the cameraman"s
left hand moved up and down to tilt, twisted left & right to zoom and pushed or pulled against an imoveable bar in the
horizontal plane to pan. After the Macbeth exercise I remember that Stan"s left hand was bleeding from the action of
this pressure sensitive device.
The tracker had 5 controls to choose from in order to place the camera in the appropriate position plus a brake. The
elevation was controlled by a positional control positioned between the cameraman and tracker and operated by the tracker"s
left hand. It was mentioned that this could be operated by either operator but we found that the cameraman had more than
enough to do! This control was pulled back to crane up and pushed forward to crane down. In order to try and minimise
the backlash of the arm a torque was built in so that it required quite an effort to crane up and down, which was fine,
However the same lever had another control on the top to rotate the whole crane around the base, anticlock to jib left
and clokwise to jib right, and this was a velocity control and was quite "touchy". Thus if you had a quick crane up
you had to be very careful that you didn"t jib as well. The steering was power driven and 1 to 1, you turned the
steering wheel 10 degrees, you steered 10 degrees, a bit like old MG sports cars, I believe. There were also 3
footpedals, a brake and two "traction controls" with accelerator type actions. If you wanted to go one way you
pushed one of them if you wanted to go 180 degrees the other way you pushed the other, unless of course you had
steered into a position through more than 180 degrees then the actions were reversed! Thank goodness for the brake!
There was an arrow to help keep you on the right track but as most of the time you were trying to make sure that
the head was in the right place and trying to avoid the lights and booms it was a bit out of the eyeline."
Stan Appel sent this picture of John at work. Stan is hidden by the arm -
On the Macbeth exercise the cameraman high up on the grid was Mike Minchin, who says -
"I can add a little to the information, as I was on the crew that day. I was up on the gantry with a zoom, so quite a lot of
the Vinten film, as you see it, were my shots. After the 4 hour rehearsal, which was primarily concerned with the actors and
Stan and John (and lighting and sound), we did 2 passes of the piece. The first was solely Camera One's output, the other was
for the rest of us to watch the Peregrin. No double feed recordings in those days! On the watching pass, as I remember, we
were virtually undirected, having seen the rehearsal and the principal take, and I have a distinct feeling that we were trying
to put the boot in, showing when the crane itself created little awkwardnesses. As the film commentary says, Stan and John
(who was a fully qualified cameraman by then) had spent quite a time in Norfolk getting to know the beast, yet there were
moments where things were not really co-ordinated.
I think the biggest problem with the machine was that the controls used Vinten's hydraulic systems, and (as we knew already
by then) the Heron was no joy to operate for the same reason. The next problem was the specification that the Peregrin's
base should be the same diameter as a pedestal. The film shows that, while technically keeping to that spec, the upper
body overhung by quite a bit. If the spec had allowed for a larger base, then maybe there would have been less of a
problem with it sinkng into the studio floor. As it was, again as the film demonstrates, there was still a need for
plenty of space around the crane. "
Doug Coldwell worked as tracker on some of the development of the Peregrine -
"In January 1965 Stan and I spent 2 or 3 days at Vinten's factory in Bury St.Edmunds, Suffolk. I think that this was the first time that operators
had been let loose on the beast. It was set up in a small studio where I suspect that the photo was taken.
The only camera channel that the BBC could spare was a CPS Emitron so that was what Vinten had to work with. They had somehow put
an Angenieux/Evershed zoom on the camera as the Evershed bit was part of the rig. At this time there were problems sourcing
sufficiently strong hard rubber wheels so solid alloy wheels had been temporarily fitted. A few sheets of plywood were laid
to protect the floor and limit our excursions.
As Mike mentioned the technology was Heron based with a large 3 phase powered
hydraulic accumulator supplying pressure to most of the moving parts although I'm not sure about the pan and tilt of the camera.
I believe that this motor may have been in the counterweight bucket. The controls were quite sensitive and responsive unlike
the Heron of that time. Underneath and concentric with the steering wheel was a large pointer to indicate the direction that
the wheels faced. This was very important as when the crane was rotated on its base you and the steering wheel went with it
and soon became disorientated.
Between the cameraman and tracker seats was a large joystick type lever, forward and back for
down and up of the jib. On top of this stick was a sprung knob ( rather like a zoom control ) that twisted through 45 degrees
each way and rotated the whole on its base. The inertia of several tons of metal and operators meant that starting and stopping
the rotation was accompanied by a fair amount of arm whip and best avoided for in vision work. The rotate/elevate could therefore
be controlled by tracker or cameraman depending who had less to do at the time. In practise I found that all my attention was
taken by manoeuvring the crane around the studio and that the cameraman spent all his time hanging on to shots on the end of a
During our stay at Vintens the Tech. Ops. bigwigs came to visit and we showed what the Peregrine was capable of.
I remember Frank Clarkson asking what I thought and me replying in the best diplomatic fashion that a 19 year old was capable of.
He seemed sympathetic."
As an addendum, Mike Cotton wrote -
"It does bring to mind the experiment we did for John Henshall with a small video camera mounted on the end of a boom,
with the connivance of the studio mechanic and VT. During one supper break, I operated the boom cam with John chatting.
We started with an overhead shot, rotated through 360 degrees, came down to eye level and went through the rung of a ladder
and looked back out and finally ended up in a drape basket with the lid shut and looking out through a hole in the side.
It was very hard work considering the weight of the camera and it caused the strings to go so we had to replace the whole
boom for transmission.
Was this the forerunner of the ubiquitous device everyone uses nowadays ?"
...which was a strange co-incidence, because I had written in a forum, only a few days earlier -
"Some years after this, in about 1971, a cameraman colleague, John Henshall, who used to make those fancy
star filters for TOTP, bought an early 'lipstick' monochrome camera.
He chatted up the mechanical workshop chaps and they built a mic boom mount for it. One evening in TC6,
during dinner break on a drama, he chatted up the shift supervisor in VT, and we did a demo for a lecture
John was going to give. He was on camera, ace boom operator Mike Cotton operated the 'crane', and I directed.
I have no idea whether or not John still has the recording, but that was probably the first real 'lightweight
camera on a long arm', and as John said on camera - 'one day...'"
...and John Henshall, having read this page, says -
" I think you're right - it probably was the first real 'lightweight camera on a long arm'.
It was shot for the Royal Television Society lecture I gave with Dick Hibberd (Founder and then Chairman of the Guild
of Television Cameramen - I was his Vice Chairman) and Bill Vinten (MD of W. Vinten Ltd) and I needed something which
would shock and really 'take the blinkers off'. The camera was part of
a black-and-white Sony Portapack (Vidicon, half-inch recorder) from West Surrey College of Art and Design, where I
Bill Millar was the always enthusiastic TM1 on the day. I remember that the whole crew was interested and stayed
behind during the dinner break. So - unfortunately - did Laurie Duley (manager), who spied on us from the Observation Gallery.
I say 'unfortunately' because I was carpeted - for using Corporation studio facilities, crew, electricity and
VT facilities without permission. Luckily I wasn't charged for the broken boom, eh?"
...and here are the design drawings for the Peregrine sent by Roger Francis, which started all this.