The People at King Camera
Christopher M H King
I was born in Checkendon, Oxfordshire England. I'm still deeply
fond and familiar with the English countryside of that area.
Television entered my life for the Coronation of Queen
Elizabeth II and started my fascination for moving images. The "Saturday
morning pictures" in our local cinema awoke in me a love of
animation. I have fond memories of "Woody the Woodpecker"
and the Fleisher Brothers' "Popeye".
After my school days were over, my first experience of the animation industry was
at Nick & Mary Spargo's Nicholas Cartoons at Maidensgrove in
Oxfordshire. A very happy summer job as cel painter and general
helper in the camera room.
My, less than exciting, academic results prevented me from getting a sensible
job. However luck did not desert me, and I began a job at Caravelle
Film Studios on the Slough Trading Estate. This brought me into
contact with many different levels of film production. Graphics
for television, title sequences, optical effects, special effects,
live action, even acting in a TV commercial for which I was paid
In the late Sixties I emigrated to a new life in Canada.
Film Technique in Toronto had offered me an animation cameraman
job through the kind influence of an English mate of mine Pete Turner.
I was totally entranced at the age of twenty by life in that bustling
metropolis. The Mies van de Rohe buildings at the heart of that
city made my spirits soar.
I absorbed film making techniques and played with equipment that
we could only dream of in the UK. Despite my lack of achievement at grammar school and with the encouragement of
good friends I decided to continue in higher education. A year at
Centennial College, getting me back up to speed, was followed by
3 years at York University in Downsview to the north of Toronto.
There I thoroughly enjoyed my student life, supporting myself by
freelance camera work for animation companies. By the summer of
1973 I got my BA degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. During
the period of my further education I was very lucky to work at the
National Film Board of Canada in Montreal.
At the NFB, I was introduced to the joys of computerised motion control
courtesy of some very clever people from the Digital Equipment Corporation
(DEC). Our DEC PDP11 computer, talked to via a teletype keyboard,
was a revelation for someone who had spent many, many hours winding
handles on manual rostrum cameras to achieve movement.
However this technology was only affordable by government departments
with large budgets. It took a while for this technology to filter
into the commercial environment. Cinera, an animation company in
Toronto, managed to get a version of this DEC based system attached
to their Oxberry camera in 1974/75. I freelanced there and at other
companies including the CBC until the end of 1976.
1973: I started to make short films based on still photography
and rostrum motion techniques. I was very grateful to the CBC/RadioCanada,
NZBC in New Zealand and ABC in Australia for buying them. The soundtrack
music was provided by Howard Shore (music director "Lord of
These film making successes spurred me into travelling to exotic
locations and photographing the people and the scenery. My last
effort in 1977/78 took me to Turkey and the land of the fairy chimneys
1977: Back in the UK, I freelanced at General Screen Enterprises
in Uxbridge. Whilst there I heard of the work of Mark Roberts in
developing and making motion control systems. This led me to the
door of Peerless Camera Company in Covent Garden. There Kent Houston
had a MRMC computer installed on a Neilson Hordell Rostrum camera.
I worked for Kent doing an interesting variety of animation shooting.
The connection with Peerless led to me filming animation for Pink
Floyd's "The Wall". We shot using a Panavision Anamorphic
Lens that was rigged by Mark Roberts to zoom under the control of
his Motion Control Computer. This technology innovation led to Kent
and myself being interviewed for an article in "American Cinematographer".
I was very lucky in the late Seventies and early Eighties to work
as a freelancer on a good variety of animation projects. Returning
to my roots I filmed "Willo the Wisp" for Nick & Mary
Spargo, which was hard work, enjoyable and not a computer anywhere
to be seen.
The level of contacts that I built up for camera work made me and
my wife Adele, realise that we were in a good position to start
our own business.
1983: With the kind assistance of Barclay's Bank and Mrs.
Thatcher's initiative to assist small business start-ups with a
government backed loan, King Camera Services opened for business
in London with a magnificent Oxberry Master Series Animation Stand
and Camera (vintage 1961) and an entirely new Mark Roberts Motion
Control computer system. This had a DEC industrial processor board
at its heart and twin 5.25" floppy disk drives! This system
was built to last and is still in operation, albeit in a new home,
at a film school in Fulham.
Since those tentative times in the early Eighties, I enjoy operating
King Camera in London with the assistance of my wife Adele at the studio & the office in Reading.
As of March 2013, we ceased production in the studio & I have happily continued a digital rostrum business from the office in Reading.
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