Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The NODDY Camera

Continuing with the theme of interesting custom BBC equipment, this week I am going to talk about the NODDY camera.



The NODDY camera was a specially-mounted camera in a room of the BBC used only for the purposes of generating 'slates' for out-of-vision continuity.

For someone outside of Brittan, continuity was quite foreign to me. But the concept of making announcements between programs, introducing the next is quite neat. Most of the function of continuity is now provided, although much more limited, by lower-third graphics in the States.



The NODDY camera was what generated the globe in the video. The globe is actually a mechanical model in an array of other models and cards saying various things; clocks, globes, station identification and apology messages. A black and white camera would remotely "nod" and turn to position itself to display the appropriate image. It could then be taken live on air to introduce a program or substitute when said program went off the air unexpectedly.



It seems like such an immensely simple thing. Most of the time studios would use slides in slide scanners, or prepared cards to do graphics. The BBC, with a need for quick repeatability, decided that it needed a custom automated device to produce graphics for their continuity announcements.

The cards that these NODDY systems used were just cardboard with graphics on them but the more interesting "special effects" were the clocks and globes. The Globe was a particularly interesting special effect. It was an internally lit ball coated with translucent black paint to denote oceans. A wide, curved mirror then stretched out the globe's reflection to give the globe's background. When the BBC started using color, they would synthesize the color using the signal from the black and white camera. This wonderful little video describes how it was done as well as showing a bit of how the globe model looks.



There are only a few websites that talk about the NODDY camera. There are even more that talk about the models that were used in them, but there really isn't much information about what could be called "the most seen studio at the BBC." I'll finish with a few pictures of the models used in the NODDY system.


A good view of some of the slates and globes


a view of a globe showing the curved mirror a bit better.


A BBC clock from the NODDY array

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this really good insight.

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  2. For someone outside of Brittan, continuity was quite foreign to me. But the concept of making announcements between programs, introducing the next is quite neat. Most of the function of continuity is now provided, although much more limited, by lower-third graphics in the States.

    At least you had the nerve to discover it like I had 15 years ago. It was rather ingenious how it worked at all. Eventually the BBC would switch to using computer graphics for the clock by 1982 (though some regions continued to use the mechanical versions until '85) while the globe itself was replaced with a CGI animated version in 1985, I suppose ending the tradition of the mechanical globe itself (though the globe motif would continue through the 90's).

    And while it is true how things were done here in the states, it's rather a chance clocks weren't much a thing as they appear to be over in Europe I noticed watching many of these broadcast videos on YouTube. Seemed like there was a tradition for it that simply didn't matter as much to us (probably because we didn't need to know the time on screen).

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