3….2….1….Take! (1950s)

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From an Anonymous Contributor

One of the first things Dave Davis undertook when he came from the University of North Carolina in 1956 as production manager, was to begin revamping our rather sloppy production procedures. Dave was a man who (to put it mildly) valued precision.

Irritating as it seemed at the time to us (relative neophytes), his efforts were all to the good — even, in fact, critical to much of the eventual success of WGBH as a production organization. The standard-setting quality of the Boston Symphony broadcasts, and WGBH’s other music programming, was a direct result of Dave’s efforts.

A pet concern of his was the way directors called shots to their switchers. In order to plant a cut exactly where it ought to go, Dave instructed directors to word their command to cut to camera 1 as, “one….one….one….take!” The switcher was thereby warned of the next camera number, and that the transition was to be a cut and not a dissolve.

The word “take” determined exactly where the cut was to happen. In the case of a dissolve (the only other transition we could accomplish in those days) the command was “Ready one….d-i-s-s-o-l-v-e one” (usually accompanied with a wave of the hand to describe to the switcher the relative speed of the change). Onerous to remember at first, but highly effective.

Now, there was a Boston University intern who, for our purpses will remain nameless. The fellow was known for his waggish and quirky sense of humor (he would, for instance, leave a ladder in the corner of the studio, as he described it, “idling”).

On one particular evening, during the process of shooting a fairly complex music show live on three cameras, the director became a bit flustered. Having lost his place in the score, and stuck with a shot of a musician who whas no longer playing, he had no idea what to do next. In his growing anxiety he bagan to bark commands.

What came out was, “Where the hell are we? Oh, God damn! Three . . . two . . . . one . . . . . . . . . . . Take!”

Yoeman to the end, our student followed his instructions to the letter. His index finger stabbed the buttons for cameras 3, 2 and 1, in quick succession.

No one in the control room could quite believe their eyes and ears. The director — who had begun, and now completed, his journey on camera 1 — was in just as deep trouble as before. And the home audience probably thought we had suddenly gone avante garde.

1 Comment

  1. Dick Hiner on November 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    As one of the “BU Scholars” in 1962 (a term that over reached to say the least), I worked TV Master Control.

    Occasionally I would screw up a break and would wait for the phone to ring. Without fail I would hear, “Dick, this is Dave.” I always wondered if he watched every single moment the station was on the air. I believe he did.

    But he never lost patience, was always respectful, and was one of those mentors you never forget.

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