When I was 12 years old, I stood in a ﬁlm studio at Elstree near London watching a camera crane following an actress, Ingrid Bergman, walk down a very large curved staircase set in the centre of the studio. Apart from a location shot ﬁlmed in Acton, London, for ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ (1949), this was the only ﬁlm making I had ever seen. I was intrigued by the crane’s movement as it ﬂoated parallel to, and in perfect synchronization with, the actress’s movement, down the stairs and across a hall. Jack Cardiﬀ was the cinematographer on the ﬁlm ‘Under Capricorn’ (1949) and he wrote many years later about the problems involved with this production. The director, Alfred Hitchcock, was experimenting with the ten-minute take, which he had introduced in ‘Rope’ (1948). The scenery was designed to be moved aside to allow the crane to move between rooms and up the stairs to the bedroom all in the same continuous shot. I was amazed at how many takes it took but only later did I understand why a ten-minute shot requires so much planning and choreography between actor and camera. I think the crane was a Mole Richardson, one of a pair that Hitchcock had imported from the USA, although ten years later, when I worked on the same crane at the BBC, I noticed that it also had MPRC on the side – Motion Picture Research Council, Hollywood. The crane movement I witnessed that day had all the hallmarks of a
classic camera movement. It combined the functional purpose of keeping the main subject in frame in a development shot that took her from A to B, with a visual interpretation of the character’s grace and style as she descended the staircase. The rich visual texture of this movement through space did all these things and yet it was probably unnoticed by the audience.