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CSI and HMI lamps


Steadicams developed by Garrett Brown
Billy Williams Film-maker
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There was a development in the late ‘70s — two developments — which really affected the way we were filming. One was the beginning of Steadicam, the development of Steadicam by Garrett Brown, an American who had this idea of… of providing a camera which… which balanced itself and maintained its level, even if you were moving around. And I got to see this camera when it first came out and put on the harness and tried to do it, and found that it was incredibly difficult and very heavy and physically very demanding. It needed a lot of skill, a lot of practice, and the use of the Steadicam caught on very quickly in America; there were many, many pictures using Steadicam. In England it took a long time to be accepted and I… I don't know whether it's because not enough people chose to specialise in it, but it's only in recent years that you've really seen more use of the Steadicam.

As I say, in the early days it was very slow and whenever I've gone to America, there are always plenty of guys with their own gear, who are good Steadicam operators, and you have a big choice of people that can use... who... who know the tricks and, you know, can do it well. I met Garrett Brown a few times and on one occasion I was doing a... a workshop in Rockport, Maine with a group of students and we were in a warehouse. And I was doing some... doing a we were lighting some scenes with them and Garrett Brown was also in Rockport with a group of students, studying a Steadicam, and I got a message that... that Garrett was going to come down and join us. And we went out of this building we working in and coming down the main street was Garrett Brown, carried aloft on a platform by about six bearers, and he was walking down the main street, about 10’ up in the air. And he came down the main street, quite a long way, and these guys were carrying him on their shoulders, you see, with poles, and when he got to where we were, we were all standing watching him in amazement, gently lowered him to the ground. He got off and walked in, through the building, into our set. And it was marvellous; it was a great moment. And we talked about it afterwards and he said, ’Oh, I had this idea’, he said, ‘if you were somewhere in a distant location, maybe you're in the jungle somewhere, and you haven't got a crane, but you have got a Steadicam’, he said- ’All you need to do is make up a platform, get a few strong guys to carry it, and you get up on the platform and there you are: you've got a crane and you can move around and it will remain steady, and you can go up and down.’ It was a brilliant idea. It was his latest device, and it was so simple, but then, a lot of good ideas are.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008