John Huntley describes making films for Granada Reports

I went to Granada Reports as a reporter, which is where I wanted to go, and that’s what I did for another year or something perhaps, and then I move into presenting. Slowly. Yes. So that’s what I did. I loved being a reporter, it was very good. I often say to people today, we’re talking in those days of 16mm film, so the great thing compared to today was unless the film was in Humphrey’s Laboratory by four o’clock in the afternoon it could not be edited. It took an hour to be developed, to be edited for the six o’clock transmission, or you couldn’t get on air – so sometimes, at one minute past four, a great sigh of relief as you went to the pub because that film had to wait until the following day, whereas of course subsequently it could be edited – as I knew to my cost – while the programme is on air, so that’s a huge change. And also, I think the other thing people forget is because 16mm film has a sound head and a picture head, in other words to record the sound and record the picture, there was a gap on the film – I think it’s 28 frames – so you have to edit on sound, you can’t edit on picture. Stripe, it was called. Con mag, the BBC called it, we used to call it stripe film. So the editing was very… you had a shoot with a view to how you were going to edit – you couldn’t just shoot or you would have lots of what you called lip flap, you know, people’s mouths moving and no sound coming out. And the king of stripe was Bob Smithies. He was a genius at making really quite intricate films using this limited technology. It was further limited actually because of the ACTT rule, which was that you could only shoot two magazines of film – which was about 11 minutes, 12 minutes at a push, but say 11 minutes in general, the two together that is – and again, you could not transmit more than three minutes, so you had a maximum ratio of about 4:1. That takes some doing! So you had to sort of plan stuff and being spontaneous was really difficult.

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