Eric Harrison on filming live dramas

Granada decided they would like to drama but it didn’t have a studio big enough. Studio 6 hadn’t been built or anything else like that. So ABC Television had this big studio in Didsbury, the old cinema in Didsbury, and Granada hired that out. Now, the studio crew were busy, so the early lot of Granada dramas were done by the OB crew. I mean, people like Mike Wooller and Mike Kerry who came from Canada had done studio stuff before but I’d never been in a studio, on a pedestal or not, and all the rest of it. So we started to do drama at Didsbury. We did Rope for instance, the famous one that Hitchcock did as single takes, and things like that, with a Canadian director called Silvio Narizzano, and his former editor as a man called Derek Bennett. Derek went on to direct the first Coronation Street’s. So we used to do these once a fortnight from Didsbury, so that was useful experience as well. So we got the experience of drama and so forth, outside broadcasts.
Can I just interrupt there? They were done live?
All live.
All live, one take.
I mean, one take, it obviously had to be one take because it was live! I mean, the days when we got video tape… the first time we saw videotape was 1957-ish when the Americans brought over a video tape machine to record Kennedy, because we sent a unit to London, and the Americans brought over this Ampex unit, which we’d never seen anything like this before. And the only place we could park it was in the gent’s toilet, and so consequently the recording was done in the gent’s loo. And we saw video tape recording for the first time.

So the technology must have been changing all the time.
Oh, absolutely. I mean for instance, when I was doing drama where we did Death of a Salesman. And the only recording of it was telerecording on 16mm film, which we didn’t have at that time, which was done by… ABC recorded it. And then after we’d finished, which was a live transmission, they rang up and said, “We had a slight fault on the machine; would you mind doing the last scene again?” So in words of one syllable, no!

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