As the UK’s biggest production company, distributing and selling more than 40,000 hours of high quality television around the globe, ITV Studios needs no introduction in our industry. Based on London’s South Bank, ITV’s television studio complex formerly owned by London Weekend Television, The London Studios is renowned for creating a huge range of entertainment, factual and lifestyle shows, as well as top quality drama, talk shows and reality television. Everything from Daybreak and This Morning, to the Jonathan Ross Show and The Graham Norton Show are made at these facilities, which produce programming not just for ITV, but also for various other channels including BBC, Channel 4 and Sky.
The London Studios has six studios which transmit more than seven hours of live programming each day in addition to several more hours of award-winning shows across all UK broadcasters. The exacting schedule means the equipment used on these live and pre-recorded productions is pushed to its limits and each piece, from the pedestals to the autocue, has to be reliable and robust enough to perform faultlessly for every production.
Camera support expert, Vinten, part of Vitec Videocom, a Vitec Group company, has collaborated with some of the world’s most famous broadcasters for decades, and its equipment has become an industry standard. The company has had a strong working relationship with ITV Studios spanning more than 40 years, having supplied more than fifty pedestals and pan and tilt heads during that time for use across the various studios. Every year thousands of iconic television productions are filmed using cameras supported by Vinten pan and tilt heads, pedestals and tripods.
Chris Owen, Head of Cameras and Sound, for The London Studios, is only too aware of the importance of selecting the right equipment, having been a studio camera supervisor for 15 years before he became Head of Cameras. Owen now works and supervises camera operators across all of ITV’s daytime programmes.
Owen says: “When it comes to the products we use, reliability is my core requirement because the equipment is in constant use and much of it is being used for live work. It is essential that is well engineered, there is a good availability of spares, and crucially, it is easy to maintain.”
ITV Studios UK uses a wide range of Vinten pedestals and tripods, dating back to the first HP 7 pedestals, which are still in operation and are now being used as crane bases. The entire facility currently has around 35 of the larger studio pedestals, including Quattros and Fulmers, as well as a range of Vector heads such as the Vector 750.
Owen explains: “Some of the oldest equipment, such as the earliest pedestals, are so solid we have been able to make modifications and use them as a stable tracking base. In terms of performance, the studios are very big and there is a really fast turnaround of programmes. The Vinten peds have the weight and stability required, they smooth out any nicks and chips on the studio floor, and as we have seen from the length of time they have lasted, they are extremely reliable.”
ITV Studios also has a long standing working relationship with another Vitec Videocom brand, Autoscript. The studios currently has 15 Autoscript prompting solutions installed across its operations, with additional products being hired in by the productions unit on an ad hoc basis to meet the demanding schedule.
Darren Bramley is head of cameras at ITV Breakfast, where he has been since before the launch of the first programme in 1992. As one of the few original members of GMTV staff, he has worked in the hectic world of breakfast television for more than twenty years and now occupies a senior role managing the studio crew, and operating on the show every day in the studio, on PSC and OBs.
Breakfast’s flagship programmes, Daybreak and Lorraine, are currently filmed in studio three at ITV Studios, which has four Vinten pedestals in use throughout the daily live shows. Bramley had his first experience of using Vinten when he started his career at the BBC in the ‘eighties and has continued to work with the company’s products during his time at ITV.
Bramley says: “I got my first Vinten tripod back in 1987 when I was at the Beeb and its still going strong now, which goes to demonstrate the longevity of these products – it follows me around the studios. I can’t really fault the performance of Vinten’s products, they are intuitive, easy to use and the service they offer is second to none as their knowledge base is brilliant.”
Studio three is used for the live breakfast programmes for three hours five days a week, in addition to the pedestals it is also equipped with a range of pan and tilt heads including the company’s Vision 11, Vision 100 and Vision 250.
Bramley concluded: “Vinten is the cameraman’s preferred partner, the products do exactly what you want them to do. They work because they have been built with the cameraperson in mind.”
Down the corridor studio eight is the home of ITV’s live daytime TV flagship This Morning. The studio is rigged with six Vinten pedestals, including two Quattro pedestals, three Hawks and one Osprey Plus, and five Vector 700 heads, all part of the equipment overseen by Steven Hulbert, camera supervisor for This Morning.
Hulbert says: “The equipment is very robust, it doesn’t need much looking after. On the rare occasions that there are problems, it is very easy to maintain. Vinten is actually all I’ve ever known, as it has always been ITV’s in house equipment. I learned my craft with Vinten products on have used them ever since.”
As well as being in use inside the studio, segments of the This Morning production frequently go outside to film on the Southbank or the nearby grassy areas. Hulbert often puts tracking wheels on to his Osprey Elite, to give it maximum stability and greater ground clearance for OB applications.
“This equipment is the industry standard. In terms of performance we prefer the way they operate, the heads are very smooth and all of the products are in a higher class,” concluded Hulbert.
The forty year relationship between ITV Studios and Vinten looks set to continue, thanks to the success of the products which play such an important part in maintaining the high quality that millions of viewers in the UK have come to expect of programming filmed at The London Studios.