Blog Archives

E.T., film home?

“Bystanders filmed the incident on their mobile phones and we will bring you the footage after the break.”

Could be almost any newsreader on any day on any channel anywhere in the world.

You have probably noticed that there is no practical way to shove a reel of movie film into your mobile phone.

You may also have noticed that your mobile phone records video on a solid state memory chip which is usually measured in bytes rather than feet.

These facts seem to have escaped Telstra, one of Australia’s biggest telcos. Their current commercial shows a family at a beach as mum captures the scene on her mobile phone which a CGI pelican proceeds to gulp. “You are filming at the beach and a bird steals your phone.” proclaims the voice-over. “Never mind, your footage is safely stored (along with your other important documents for you to retrieve whenever you want.”)

That’s some pelican that can steal a phone,  unload a reel of movie film from somewhere inside it and fly that footage to have it processed in a lab and stored ready for you to edit on your Steinbeck and project on a bed-sheet to persecute your hapless relatives.

Of course mobile phones have never used film and, these days most cameras, amateur and professional, record not even on tape, but on tiny memory chips similar to the one in your phone.

TK-76 ENG camera

An ad for the RCA TK-76 ENG camera

The shift from film to videotape and eventually solid-state recording emerged through news coverage with the first “electronic news gathering”  (ENG) camera, RCA’s breakthrough TK-76.

I previewed (OK, played with) a pre-release PAL model at RCA’s research and development laboritory at Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  It was officially  introduced at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) convention and show in Chicago in 1976 (hence the number in the name) where I got to play with it mounted on another breakthrough presented at that convention,  Garret Brown’s brilliant  SteadiCam.


Garret Brown's revolutionary Steadicam

Wearing that rig for the first time was an amazing experience. It felt as if the camera was controlling me and its operating principle and mechanism totally baffling.

The TK-76 was still tethered to an external  video recorder, usually a Sony U-Matic or  Betamax Professional. Later developments of course combined the videotape recorder with the camera body;  the three vacuum tubes used to record the red, green and blue components of the image were replaced with solid-state chips and the digital image data recorded on digital tape — now on memory chips.

It has been more than two decades, a whole generation, since TV news crews recorded events on film or TV networks handled a foot of the stuff.

It is probably about time that news writers and announcers woke up to the fact.

Double Fault

Maria Sharapova 01

Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon 2011

Break out the Boli! Scoff down the strawberries! It’s Wimbledon again! Harrah!

While we thrill to Sharapova and Hantuchova grunting it out on the manicured grass of the centre court, in the commentary boxes sports announcers are mangling their names.

What is it that sports commentators do that makes them too busy learn how to pronounce the names of the people they are being paid to inform us about?

Many commentators, notably and possibly most annoying of the lot, are several on Australia’s ABC TV and radio networks who are obsessed with pronouncing any Russian or Slavic name that is transliterated as ending in –ova to rhyme with moreover (more-OH-ver), as in shah-rah-POH-vuh. Wrong. The emphasis is on the second syllable and the POH syllable is given very short shrift: sha-RAH-pu-vah.

The first irony is that Ms Sharapova succumbed to overwhelming ignorance and now mispronounces her own name.

The second irony is that some commentators who actually know the correct pronunciations deliberately mispronounce them less they be thought to be in error.