Promotion: 3 – The Chemistry Department

Monday, November 5th, 2012

In “Promotion: 1” (March 2010), I mentioned the Civil Engineering and Chemistry Departments. In June 1981 I was asked to take on the task of making a promotional video for the Chemistry Department.

The Chemistry Building in March 2002

This was intended to promote all aspects of what the department did and to assist in the recruitment of new students. I also recall it being shown at Open Days which seemed obvious . Two members of the staff were appointed as ‘producers’ so most of the content and the wording of the voiceovers was decided for me. Looking back at the video over 30 years later it has too much in it. The history section seems unnecessary and there’s too much detail in the various elements featured. It runs for nearly 20 mins which is about two thirds too long in todays modern YouTube video world. Leave them wanting more is the theory, not wanting to leave the room as soon as the video has eventually finished! This was one of two videos made for the department, the second being made four years later in July 1985. It’s worth noting that both of these videos were made using our original colour camera. It needed massive amounts of light (as mentioned in the Library video) and suffered ‘smearing’ on highlights, the colour itself was none too brilliant either!


The second video was also far too long but did, thank goodness, have Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson in it. He appeared because he was then head of department. Being a Nobel Prize winner it was considered important and prestigious to feature him. I said thank goodness because it has given us the only interview recorded with him whilst at Imperial, an archive gem. Like the first video in 1981 I had little control over the content. It seemed that almost everything including the kitchen sink appeared in the video. I truly ‘cringe’ when I watch it, especially the Kensington Gardens sequence! One of the few times I managed to get my way was on the intro sequence. I used so called ‘production music’ rather than music created by a family member as in the first video. The video does use, for the first time, electronic effects. The multi-picture sequence later on and during the opening where the image slides down were all very new at the time. Now, these are common place and all achievable on a computerised edit suite, but we had a dedicated box to do it that cost thousands of pounds.

The original Dalby Court in 1985

On an historical note, the first person you see talking is located in a lovely garden area…that’s where the ‘blue box’ Faculty Building is now standing! You’ll also see Princes Gardens, as it then was, in the summer of 1985. Between 1981 and 1993 I made around 10 teaching videos that were used on various ‘lab days’ to show the students how do undertake the experiments they had to do. It was considered more effective to show one correct version of an experiment, rather than several slightly different versions by several different people based around the labs. I’ll try and get some of these on line soon. Maybe you had to do one of these experiments whilst at Imperial?

Also, if you are featured in any of these videos do let us know. The two still photos were by my former colleague Neville Miles, who like me, helped to capture some of the history of Imperial College in the many photographs he took over the years.

Colin Grimshaw November 2012

2 Responses to “Promotion: 3 – The Chemistry Department”

  1. sameer says:

    May 6th, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    nice videos, specially the 1985 chemistry department promo

  2. Averil Horton says:

    December 30th, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Amazing! I was there when the first one was made, but had no idea they were doing it. Just incredible to see the old labs, lecture theatres, building, class mates and tutors. The second one even has my old inorganic tutor (David Nicholson) and my PhD tutor (Steve Ley). One of the lab shots I wonder if it was from earlier, as they show the nun (who was in our year) and I think that there was only one nun at IC around that time. Thank you for putting this up, and any chance it can be made downloadable. Averil IC Chemistry 78 – 84

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