Olympus Satellite Uplink Silwood Park: 1990

January 1st, 2019

There are a few previous blogs about Live-Net, two in 2013 and one in 2018. But I’ve not really talked about where the system eventually was able to link to. Towards the end of the networks life it had been extended (42Km) all the way down to Royal Holloway in Surrey and eventually a little further (6Km) down the road to the Imperial College field station at Silwood Park. You can click on the Live-Net map over on the right to view it bigger.

The reason for the extension to Silwood Park was primarily to enable the temporary installation of an ESA Satellite uplink station. The Olympus satellite was, by this time, (1989 launched) then operational. To cut a very long story short, the Silwood Park uplink enabled any of the connections within Live-Net to get TV pictures across Europe. In October 1990 we did just that, for a very technically complicated programme involving the French Association of Veterinary Surgeons Annual Conference being held in Poitiers, France. The link from France was provided by France Telecom. The feed was sent via normal ground connections to the London BT Post Office Tower. As you can see from the Live-Net map, we also had a feed to and from the BT Tower. That bit was easy…

Then came the complicated bit. They wanted London participation from various groups including the UK’s chief veterinary officer to allow a discussion on the then major topic of BSE, otherwise known then as Mad Cow Disease. So the concept was that the French feed would arrive at the Imperial College TV Studio mixer and that at the appropriate time our studio guests would take over and contribute. However, this is where it got complicated. They wanted a two-way discussion to happen, so my audio had to feed all the way back to France! It turned into a bit of a ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ in the end. But it still didn’t get any easier, because we had to have two-way simultaneous translation French to English and then English to French. For this a double sound booth with two translators was installed at the rear of the studio. We all wore earphones to hear what was being said. In France they would occasionally insert videos and graphics which was no problem for me. However, London wanted to do this too, so it got even more involved. We were never sure just when the French participants would want to link to us, so we were always poised to switch feeds and start the sound translations. The first video is when we were called upon to come into action.

Even more involved was that they wanted me to provided an edited version of my promotional video that I’d made about Live-Net and get a summarised commentary recorded in French and this is what you can see next.

Of course I had to expect potential problems and I didn’t take any chances in case something happened. And it did! The incoming vision feed from France Telecom/BT just disappeared during one of the London participation segments and I was left with a blank screen. But I did have a stand by caption ready for such a situation. Luckily the vision feed reappeared and we were back to normal again. My end result vision and sound feeds were sent back to Live-Net and thus onward down to Silwood Park and via the ESA uplink station to Europe (seen left) on the Olympus Satellite. I was also watching our feed coming back to me from the satellite so I could see if we were actually transmitting or not. And that was the other problem. You can’t just uplink to a satellite without a specified start and end time because there are other people wanting to do something similar. So we couldn’t start until the correct time, but equally we had to finish at the right time too. I don’t think our colleagues in France appreciated this because they didn’t realise that time was running out. I had a permanent open phone link with them and was updating them on timings. When the end was approaching I expected them to sum-up and run end credits, but nothing was happening. I ended up yelling at them to “run the end credits” and rather abruptly you’ll see their end video appear on screen and then run, taking them all by surprise, with various words in French about the loss of satellite time and goodbye. A few seconds later I saw our feed disappear from the Olympus satellite so we only just made it in time. THE most complicated event I have ever done, with me alone doing live vision and sound mixing along with inserting graphics, videotape and talking on the phone, whilst my colleague operated cameras and then broadcasting to the whole of Europe. Phew!

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

2019: Year TEN of Video Archive Blogs

January 1st, 2019

Well here we are in 2019 and the 10th year of the Video Archive Blog. The first real blog of the year is coming up next and that will be a bigger than usual read too.

I’m still finding interesting video gems to post and there are masses of new videotapes to be viewed and digitised during 2019. I just have to get to them and sort them out. Assisting me now is the original card index files started by STOIC the student TV service (right). Amazingly, their original archive has more ‘college’ events than the TV Studio’s own archive. STOIC covered just about anything and anywhere, to fill the news programmes. There are interviews with college personnel and administration that I never had the opportunity to record myself. They also captured and covered more college events than I did, so these are true archive gems.

By now you’re thinking ‘why didn’t the TV Studio cover these things rather than the students?”. Well, the answer is simple, I wasn’t allowed to. We had a remit to charge for any work we did in the college TV studio, so unless someone was paying me, I couldn’t do the work! It’s sad to know that the only coverage of some important and unique college events are only on STOIC tapes. So, fortunately those tapes are now held safely and, as I mentioned previously, I also have access to the two-draw card index that I’m now slowly scanning into digital.

Scanning the cards is somewhat time consuming as there is no easy way to be able to autoscan them. I’m scanning them in batches of four on a flatbed scanner and creating continuous PDF files of each batch of A through to Z. I’ve got as far as “N” at this time! If you click on the photo that I took (left) you can see that even this particular card I’m holding shows an interesting 1980 interview with Prof Anderson about the UROP project. I seem to recall that it stood for Undergraduate Research OPportunities. There are no other such interviews, so this is also unique. How long before you’ll get to see it remains unknown, but keep watching as I go into year TEN

Colin Grimshaw January 2019

Lord & Lady Flowers, full interview: 2006

December 1st, 2018

Lord Flowers was appointed Rector of Imperial in 1973 and held the post until 1985.

In 1979 he was made a life peer as Lord Flowers of Queen’s Gate. He became Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in 1983–85 and Vice Chancellor of the University of London, 1985–90. He was a founder member of the Social Democratic Party.

I shot this video on 17 May 2006. It was used the following year as part of the Imperial College Centenary Celebrations. Small extracts were only ever used at the time, amounting to about 6 minutes in total. This, the full version, runs for 40 minutes and has never been seen before. Both Lord and Lady Flowers speak about their rolls in college life. Anne Barrett from the college archives spoke to them both in the council room at 170 Queen’s Gate.

Colin Grimshaw December 2018

Jack Scott – the missing interview: 1989

November 1st, 2018

Back in 2013 I wrote about some of the videos that we had made specifically for schools. One of those videos was Weather on the Move with Francis Wilson. You can read about, and see, that video from the link above. In making such videos you always shoot more material than you are going to use. However, in this case we shot something that we could not use because of a technical fault.

As part of the weather programme Francis Wilson wanted to interview TV’s legendary weather forecaster Jack Scott (1923-2008) We went to Jack’s home and as you will see, shot the interview very appropriately outside in his garden. All was well and that was it. However, when we tried to replay the video it was completely unstable on the colour lock. Most of the time it reverted to black and white. No matter what I tried, it would not playback in locked stable colour. So that part of the programme was dropped.

That was still the case until about a year ago when I decided to try again. With a brand new playback machine it locked and ran first time in full stable colour. I committed it to DVD for safety, but alas it was far too late to ever be used for the purpose we intended.

So, nearly 30 years later, here is Jack Scott in full colour talking to Francis Wilson.

Colin Grimshaw November 2018

Steve Marshall – Phoenix Editor: 1979

October 7th, 2018

Once more we delve into the days of black and white TV with this 1979 interview with the then forthcoming “The Phoenix” editor Steve Marshall. “The Phoenix”, we are told, was originally started in 1887 by the former student of the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science) H.G.Wells. From 2012, here is a brief history of the magazine by Charles Thomas.

As hard as I try I cannot seem to find any web pages relating to “The Phoenix”, so is it still running I wonder? If you can help find a web site and maybe an on-line edition then please comment and I’ll happily update this page.

Colin Grimshaw October 2018

Live-Net & Westminster Cable TV: 1987

September 1st, 2018

Previously, I’ve mentioned the University of London’s Live-Net fibre optic cable system that once connected London’s Universities, from a central BT switching system at Senate House. Recently I’ve discovered the Thames Television news item that covered the official opening on 28 May 1987 and this can be seen below. During the opening event three sites were initially seen on screens in Senate House: Royal Holloway; Imperial and Queen Mary.

Strangely enough I don’t recall us taking any photos during this event and therefore this is the only record of the day. And if you look closely at the central screen with Imperial on it you’ll see me over on the right hand side. My academic colleague Prof Ernie Freeman was sitting in the middle and played host for our site. The image on the right is an off-screen grab of that central screen’s video feed.

Closely linked to the Live-Net technology was Westminster Cable TV. This was also a BT technology and Live-Net borrowed and improved upon that domestic system. In fact it’s closely related to our current Broadband FTTC where optical fibre brings the internet to a local street cabinet and from there it arrives at your home via copper phone lines. In Live-Net’s case it arrived directly with us as a fibre feed termination.

So what is my connection with Westminster Cable TV? Well, because of the on-going BT involvement with both Live-Net and Westminster Cable TV I got to know everyone on both projects. I was approached to sound out how an experiment might be operated to utilise a unique option that existed for the cable TV customers. That was the ‘theoretical’ ability to run video FROM the customer backwards to the Westminster Cable TV hub. Indeed the local equipment in the TV Studio had those sockets on the box, but BT had never pursued the idea. It did work when we tried it, but the image quality at the other end was apparently dreadful and unusable. In September 1990 we’d already agreed to run an experimental computer training ‘at home’ series, that was sponsored by the Training Agency. Everyone was on board, but the ‘reverse line video feed’ technology had, by then, failed us. My BT research labs colleague stepped in and had the ability to order a direct point-to-point microwave link from the top of the Electrical Engineering Building and by using this, our studio feed hopped across Hyde Park to Westminster Cable TV in Paddington.

We took live incoming phone questions too via the earpiece that was worn by Kevin Hamilton. I ran the pre-recorded opening sequence that included the Westminster Cable TV animation logo. The engineers at the other end had to switch a regular channel (A7) to accept my studio feed. Thus you’ll see my instructions on the countdown clock to remind them what to do and when. And yes, this might remind you of the 1977 STOIC News series that I also did live, using the ILEA cable TV system that fed all of the London Schools and Colleges.

Soon, I’ll go on to talk about the Olympus Satellite project, the Live-Net uplink ground station at Silwood Park and yes, you guessed it, more live TV from the TV Studio, but this time to Europe! So, yet more educational ‘firsts’ that have, so far, gone unmentioned (until now).

Colin Grimshaw September 2018

John Firth – Chairman ICU Pub Board: 1979

August 2nd, 2018

ICU Pub Board was always an odd name. But, as Paul Johnson from STOIC explains, it means Publications Board. John Firth had just been elected as Chairman when he spoke to Paul in the college TV Studio. Pub Board oversaw the finances for Felix, STOIC, IC Radio, ICU Handbook etc

I’m pleased that this is one of the first full-colour studio recordings from STOIC and that it has survived these nearly 40 years.

Colin Grimshaw August 2018

Chris Sleap – RSMU President Elect: 1979

July 1st, 2018

Today I’ve unearthed an unusual interview, it’s with Chris Sleap, who at the time of this interview in May 1979, was RSM Union President Elect. However, on further research I find that in FELIX dated October 1979 Chris Sleap had failed his exams. FELIX also states that papers will go back up for this (and other failed Union posts) shortly.

I’ve not been able to find out who did actually take on this roll, later that year. This then is a somewhat unique interview. Mark Foley was the interviewer in the college TV Studio. We’d still not gone fully into colour, so interviews were still in black and white.

Colin Grimshaw July 2018

Centenary Round-Up 2007

June 4th, 2018

Eleven years ago it was all over and yet another piece of archive. It’s hard to believe that the Imperial College Centenary was all those years ago, during the whole of 2007. At the end of that year, Sir Richard Sykes then the college Rector (seen on the right when the Queen visited in 2007), gave his summary of how things went.

We shot this video in the Rector’s office in the Faculty Building. Incidentally, Richard was a dab-hand at reading from Autocue and that always made our job so much easier and quicker too. Hannah Gay, who wrote the official college history, also talks about the task of creating the 900 page book.

Colin Grimshaw June 2018

History of the RSM: 1957

May 16th, 2018

In 1957 Imperial College was celebrating its 50 year half century. Many events took place that year, none of them were recorded visually and only some recorded onto audio tape or disc. One item that does survive is a presentation given by Dr S.W. Smith on the History of the Royal School of Mines up to that time. When I digitised the tape a few years ago I heard one or two things that stood out.

There is mention of attending a lecture in 1897 and the astonishing thing that he heard suggested. And on 13th March 1901 he was present at the RSM half-century celebrations, the formal dinner for which, was delayed due to the death of Queen Victoria. Fascinating to hear a college alumni talking about what was happening in the 19th and early 20th centuries.