Posts Tagged ‘TV Studio’

Prof Jim Ring – Hunt report 1982

Monday, January 20th, 2020

In 1982 the then Home Secretary announced that an independent inquiry under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt was to consider the broadcasting aspects of the possible expansion of cable television in the UK.

It was announced that they had managed to secure the help of Lord Hunt of Tanworth, Sir Maurice Hodgson and Professor James (Jim) Ring to conduct this inquiry. They had a lot to do in a short time, but they had already started work and a copy of the consultative document which they issued on 7 April 1982 had been placed in the Library of the House of Commons. Jim Ring was Professor of Infra-Red astronomy in the Department of Physics and appeared regularly on TV programmes such as the Sky at Night.

I knew Jim Ring well, and had previously recorded an archive interview with him in 1980. On the 21 October 1982 he came into the TV Studio to chat to STOIC’s Lawrence Windley about the committees work and their report.

Colin Grimshaw January 2020

Chris Fox – ICU President: 1979

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

To celebrate the 10th anniversary year of my Video Archive Blog, I am bringing you a recent 40 year old videotape re-discovery.

1979 was interesting for both STOIC and the TV Studio. It was when we started our move into colour and also the move from Ampex open spool tape, to Sony U-Matic cassette. Because of that move, a large number of early Ampex tapes were never copied onto cassette (some actual tapes we still have).  I can still playback these Sony cassettes, use and transfer them into digital. However, it was sheer luck that during recent transfers I found today’s video on what was called a ‘dump’ tape.

Back on 15th March 1979 STOIC were broadcasting their evening version of Lunchbreak, the news programme usually made for showing at 1pm and then repeated at 6pm. This particular programme was not recorded but was live. That’s because it was the day of the UGM (Union General Meeting) where the new sabbatical officers and president for the student union were elected. The evening ‘election special’ programme was therefore a round-up of what happened and who was elected. The newly elected president for 1979-1980 was Chris Fox.

This particular interview was deemed to be important enough, that sometime around 1980 it was copied onto a Sony U-Matic cassette. Important it has now turned out to be, because:  former 3rd year chemistry student, former president of the Royal College of Science Union (RCS) and President of ICU, Chris Fox, is now Baron Fox of Leominster. Chris joined the House of Lords in 2014. He is currently (2019) the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). You can read about Lord Fox on the UK Parliament web page.

It’s great to have a former student move to such heights and also the fact that we have him recorded while he was still a student at Imperial College. All of this goes to show the importance of videotape archives, the maintaining of them and allowing people to be able to see them. I’ve enjoyed doing all of this for the first ten years…

Happy Birthday 2009-2019.

Colin Grimshaw 8th December 2019 (10th Anniversary Day)

And now the Imperial Weather: 1983

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

The background to this weather forecast, and images, is something you may recall if you were around Imperial at the time. What I mean by this is, do you remember the Level 2 area of the Sherfield Building by the lifts in the early 1980’s? If you do then you might remember seeing the TV monitor that I oversaw the installation of. To the left of the two passenger lifts you would have seen a 15 inch monitor showing weather satellite images. These were a live feed from Atmospheric Physics where they were processing and animating, in false colour, the received data from MeteoSat using the Interactive Planetary Image Processing System (IPIPS).

A cable was run from Physics to both the Level 2 area of Sherfield and also straight down the walkway to the TV Studio. That meant that I could access the IPIPS feed from our patch panel. And, if you look at this photo (right) from 2007 you can still see the socket marked IPIPS. It was this feed that STOIC used in 1983 to provide their daily weather forecast. It was this processed end-result that Francis Wilson used for his BBC Breakfast weather forecast. You can see more of him using this feed when he did the weather from the Queen’s Tower in 1988.

This IPIPS feed used for STOIC’s weather has been recovered during the digitisation of the STOIC videotape archives.

Colin Grimshaw December 2019

Lord Flowers Imperial’s finances: 1980

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Whilst transferring more of the STOIC videotape archive into digital, I found this interview. It’s one that I had forgotten all about and is with Lord Flowers, then Rector, recorded 39 years ago in the TV Studio in October 1980. He had, a few days earlier, given his address at Commemoration Day. In that address, for the very first time, an appeal had been made to alumni for a covenant from each student of £20 a year for a total of five years. He had explained that this would assist the college with approximately a quarter of a million pounds a year. Just before you’ll see this interview there is a brief sequence actually shot during that speech at the Royal Albert Hall. This is actually the very first time a Commemoration Day had been videotaped, so it’s unique for that alone.

Here, he is talking with Mike Prosser both a presenter and a past chairman of STOIC.

Colin Grimshaw October 2019

40 years ago STOIC into Colour: 1979

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

40 years ago, during the summer of 1979, the TV Studio slipped into colour with the purchase of a single colour camera, portable recorder and edit suite. Before that time everything we made was obviously in black and white and that included the output of the student television service STOIC. They had, at times, been ahead of the college TV studio with some technology. They were first to get a Sony portable videorecorder and associated camera. This allowed them to record items outside of the confines of the studio. When we wanted to do the same we had to move a large videorecorder and take a camera with us on a trolley.

Clearly we had to make a move to upgrade to colour and in the process replace the Ampex One Inch videotape format we’d been using for many years. We needed both colour and also the ability to electronically edit. The U-matic system from Sony was what we selected and the equipment arrived before summer 1979. During the college vacation period we made our first colour production for the Life Science Library. By the start of the autumn term in 1979 we had re-equipped the studio to work only on the U-matic system, but because we still had only the one colour camera, the main studio stayed in black and white (for some while).

A short while after we had received the colour camera, STOIC was clearly interested in also moving away from black and white. But until we moved the entire studio into colour STOIC’s type of programmes were not possible on a single colour camera. However, it was possible to include the occasional ‘single camera’ colour item within a programme. So, just before term ended for the summer of 1979 I consented to the inclusion of a colour item within one of their news programmes. James Miller, a regular on STOIC, had expressed a keen interest to be the first to be seen in colour and I agreed. We thought to do this with a fanfare. So, James linked from an item he’d pre-recorded in black and white on their own portable videorecorder, to him sitting in the studio, also in black and white. At an agreed moment I turn the system switch on the recorder to colour and James’s wish came true. I re-discovered this 40 year old item during the current digitising of STOIC tapes.

Colin Grimshaw August 2019

Linstead Hall Extension: 1978 & 1980

Monday, July 1st, 2019

41 years ago in 1978 the big question of the day was will the Linstead Hall extension in Princes Gardens be built, because finances were not going as planned ? As you will see from the video, this question was being asked in both Felix the student newspaper and on STOIC during its weekly news programme Lunch Break.

We are indeed lucky that during the current digitising of batches of STOIC videos, I’ve found two items related to this topic. The first from 1978 has an on site report from James Miller and then an interview, in the TV Studio, with James Sinclair talking to Hugh Barrett, the then Student Union President. Lastly and amazingly, we have another on site report by Mike Prosser after the project was actually completed and the building finally opened.

Colin Grimshaw July 2019

Vision from the past

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

We will be having some newly discovered items coming up in future blogs. I’m now slowly working my way through many boxes of videotapes from the extensive archive of STOIC and digitising then. If you recall, I managed to save these from being trashed many years ago when STOIC had to clear out their space for rebuilding. If I hadn’t had the college archives take the lot, then they would, by now, have been recycled!

Why is this collection important to Imperial? Well, in the TV Studio we had a specific remit and that was to record what was required for teaching, promotion and so on. All of these jobs created income for the studio and we could not just go off and record what we wanted to, without someone paying for it. However, STOIC could and indeed did just that. Therefore, in their archive we have interviews with not just students but with people like Rectors, Admin Staff, College Secretaries, Professors and so on. These, in some cases, are unique and now invaluable to us.

At present I am digitising a U-matic videotape that has a 40 year old recording of the then Student Union President Chris Fox (seen on the screen above). On the 15 March 1979 live on STOIC, from the college TV Studio, he chatted to Paul Johnson. I’ll be showing that in the next blog. Getting these videotapes to play back is not always that easy. Tapes are showing their age and tend to shed oxide and clog the video heads. This then requires the lid to be taken off the machine and the heads and guides, cleaned (photo on right).

Once the tape will play back from start to finish it’s then time to adjust the video levels before capturing onto hard drive and finally onto DVD. When these tapes were made, the cameras were within a category called ‘industrial’ and sometimes ‘educational’. They had pick-up tubes, not chips, as in these days. Lighting was basic and sometimes crude. Our ability to adjust these cameras individually was limited to say the least. Therefore, when replaying these tapes here in 2019 I have to almost ‘ride’ the video signal and adjust it, as the cameras switch around on the recording.

The final DVD then resides in the tape box and the side marked accordingly. That will mean (hopefully) that even if the tape can’t be played back in the future the DVD will be. It’s worth pointing out that the quality of a DVD is higher than the original videotapes would have ever been. Therefore we have not lost any quality in using this method. And, when the time comes, we can further transcode from the DVD into MP4 for web use. Not only is there a problem with the actual tapes playing back, but even more vital are the machines to play them on. Maintaining these machines is now vital and using them to transfer tapes onto new media is a big task for everyone with a videotape library. For example, the BBC, over many years have done this same process to digitise the whole of its archive, both videotape and film.

Colin Grimshaw June 2019

South Kensington Campus: 1998

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Back in 2016 I posted some stock footage of the South Kensington Campus that I had shot in 1992. Here’s an updated version of that with footage shot 21 years ago in 1998. The quality will be better because it was originated on broadcast quality Betacam tape. You will see some nice views of Princes Gardens with both of the original Southside and Linstead Halls. Maybe you might even see yourself in the JCR or on the original Exhibition Road entrance and walkway? I’ve added some captions to remind you of the names of certain places along with any new names that might have come about since 1998, an example being Dalby Court.

I hope this might bring back some memories for those who were at Imperial during this time period.

Colin Grimshaw June 2019

Constructionarium: 2006

Monday, April 1st, 2019

In June 2006 The Duke of Edinburgh put on a hard hat and boots to watch students building their own versions of engineering landmarks.

The engineering students from Civil Engineering were taking part in Constructionarium, an annual event in which groups had just five days to tackle a challenging project, such as creating a seven metre high version of the world’s tallest vehicular bridge, the Millau viaduct in Southern France.

The event was designed to give students hands-on experience of engineering in a realistic environment. The projects took place on a two hectare section of a Norfolk site which is used for training specialist construction trade workers such as scaffolders and steeplejacks. The site, in Bircham Newton, was owned by the National Construction College.

Prince Philip visited on the students’ last day and saw the projects in their final stages. He was given a tour of the different projects underway, and watched as students pulled a replica oil rig to the middle of a lake and stabilised it. The TV Studio (by then called Media Services) was on hand to capture the event.

Colin Grimshaw April 2019

Olympus Satellite Uplink Silwood Park: 1990

Tuesday, 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