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Vintage Vinten heads used in new one-off dramas for BBC 4

It was with a real sense of deja-vu that some viewers watched the BBC Dramas Hughie Green, Sincerely Yours and the Curse of Steptoe recently, especially if they worked for camera support systems company, Vinten.

As the stories unfolded, so did some revealing shots of the camera equipment used at the time. A classic Vinten Mk3 pan and tilt head on a Vinten HP419 pedestal, moved into view used in combination with the cutting edge camera of the time, the EMI 200, for studio shots of Hughie Green (played by Trevor Eve) compering the quiz show Double Your Money. A Vinten Mk2 head with a Marconi camera was also shown later on the set of Opportunity Knocks.

For The Curse of Steptoe, two Vinten Mk3 heads were shown with EMI 203 cameras. They were seen working around the BBC studios as the classic episodes of this poignant comedy were broadcast live to an adoring public, little realising the true drama unfolding between the leading actors behind the cameras.

All the vintage camera equipment was supplied by Golden Age TV, who are regularly used by BBC Drama Productions for propping various period pieces with genuine “vintage” camera equipment.

Each item is carefully restored and “period” correct for the time. Some of the Vinten equipment available is of historical importance as it revolutionised broadcasting technology. For instance, the Vinten HP419 hydro-pneumatic gas balanced pedestal was the first to enable the cameraman to track and crane at the same time without losing sight of the viewfinder.

The Vinten Mk2 and Mk3 heads both brought significantly improved camera handling capabilities. The Mk 2 was devised as a “duo-pan” head with added pan & tilt control wheels but this was succeeded by the excellent Mk 3, invented by Bill Vinten, son of the company founder, which used only risers and cams (no fluids) to maintain the centre of gravity making tilting the very heavy cameras of the time much easier. The Vinten Mk3 was still in regular use right through the 1990s.
“It was marvellous to see this vintage Vinten equipment in use,” said Peter Harman, Product Manager at Vinten. “At the time, this was the most innovative technology available to camera operators. I’m pleased to say that Vinten has maintained this pioneering spirit and remains today at the very forefront of camera support systems innovation.”

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