Bura & Hardwick
Before the days of Trumptonshire, Bura and Hardwick were already accomplished animators and puppeteers. They begun their career in animation by making cinema advertisements before moving to the BBC's Lime Grove studios. There they made many animated films for regular inserts in a variety of programmes, including Blue Peter, Pops & Lenny and Hey Presto it's Rolf (Harris). They also produced animation for many Schools television programmes such as Music Time, and Watch.
When not filming animations they performed as (string) puppeteers with the BBC Puppet Theatre and worked on the Rubovia series which was how they got to know Gordon Murray.
The 1969 BBC Handbook gives one of Bura & Hardwick's films special attention:
in 1968 included:
Following their success with the Trumptonshire programmes they went on to film ‘Captain Pugwash’ with producer John Ryan.
Stop Motion is the registered trade mark of Bura & Hardwick's company, which they have used for over fifty years. But professional film makers use the phrase "stop motion" to describe the way still puppets are given movement, and as Bura & Hardwick acknowledge, these days the trademark is known more than the animators themselves.
Few people realise the importance of Bura and Hardwick’s contribution to the Trumptonshire programmes. They were responsible for not just the actual puppet animation, but all aspects of the filming process, including camera operation, lighting, motion timing, and even bringing colour to Camberwick Green.
Slowly does it
A close-up of Windy's mill cap shows the
by the animators.
Each week the team managed to shoot one 100ft reel of 16mm film or about 2min 30sec of puppet action. This may not sound much, but as each second’s worth of film is made up of 25 similar but different still pictures (frames), a 100ft reel of film contains 3,750 frames. For each individual frame the animators would perhaps make an adjustment to a character’s pose, or a slight change to the position of a vehicle, or a slight movement of the camera (or even all three).
A single 15 minute Trumptonshire episode would typically require around 11 minutes of new material, 2 minutes of repeated material, plus 2 minutes of titles and credits. The 11 minutes of new footage required for each episode would therefore take around 4 to 5 weeks, and the whole Camberwick Green series of 13 episodes took Bura and Hardwick and their two assistants about a year to complete.
Gordon Murray was understandably keen for the animators to work as efficiently as possible, and so made them a device to automatically ‘wind-on’ the camera and take a frame at regular intervals. The idea was that the puppets could be repositioned during the few seconds between shots, with the whole process leading to a greater output. However, this arrangement was not popular with the animators and so was quickly abandoned.
One technique which did help to speed things along was their method of fixing the puppets in position between shots. Some animators opted for screwing the puppets to the baseboard, and while this undoubtedly would have worked, Bura and Hardwick knew this would have been unnecessarily slow. Their own established technique was to fix the puppets by hand using pins and a soft base made from pin-board, allowing them to work more quickly.
Here comes colour
The first ever episode of Camberwick Green was transmitted in black and white on the 3rd January 1966. In later years, after colour transmission had started, the colour films were shown. However, it should be remembered that in the early days of colour TV, most homes would still have had only a black and white television set, so most children would have seen a black and white version of a ‘colour’ transmission.
Bura & Hardwick’s solution was to modify these puppets using a wire framework. This must have taken them a considerable time as there are over seventy named characters living in Trumptonshire, plus ‘non-speaking parts’ such as the biscuit factory workers, as well as a few animals.
Care and attention
Today’s animators rely on modern technology which allows them to record the individual frames onto a computer at the same time as they shoot the frames on film. This "video assist" gives them instant playback of the previous frames, enabling them to get the feel of the work as it progresses. They can then position the puppets to produce a very smooth movement. Check out the Aardman Animation web page for details of the way animators work today.
In the sixties, of course, the
did not see the results of their work until the whole reel of film had
been processed many days later. Instead they had to rely simply on
skill and care, so a week’s filming with no mistakes, must have meant
care and meticulous attention to detail.
Many thanks to Bob Bura and
for providing so much detailed information for this article.
Sadly, John Hardwick passed away at his home in Somerset
on 24th September 2004.