This is an additional and brief entry to mark the recording of a video I made 30 years ago this very week. The video was “The Office of the Professional” made with, and for, Professor Bob Spence from Electrical Engineering. You’ll find this video and others in the section about Bob’s work, but I thought it worth repeating. I saw Bob recently and we both recalled the making of the video and how complicated it was. For example, the various TV screens seen running were in fact fed from different video players, so making these all run in sync was not easy. In fact, along with the recorder that was actually recording the video from the camera, we had 3 machines all needing to be run at the same time. This was early days for us and our colour camera (yes camera, as we had only one) which needed a lot of light to give good pictures.
The video was shot during this week in December 1980 and edited, after the Christmas holiday, in January 1981. Bill Buxton in his 2007 book Sketching User Experiences is quoted as saying, in reference to the video that this “is the first example of an envisionment video that I am aware of” and that it was “remarkable for its insights”. As I have already detailed in the previous full entry about Bob, the office desk that was constructed was faced in cardboard and green felt. One oversight was perhaps the telephones, we never attempted to change these to anything futuristic, so they look a bit odd now. The video also captures parts of the college long since changed and Alumni may remember: the main entrance, the steps and the original walkway going towards Electrical Engineering. These shots were taken on a dark and wet December afternoon back in 1980.
This is the first year of the Video Archive Blog (it started in December 2009), so, as we’re nearly in 2011 I thought we’d reach back 30 years to see what was going on at that time. In 1980 non-broadcast video was still considered a new and exciting thing and we’d just moved into colour operation too. Maybe it was the whole idea of creating your own colour TV programme (which you could do if you had the right equipment) that encouraged people? So, in 1981 I was asked by the Department of Mathematics to think of ways to promote the department. It was decided an approach should be taken to discuss Mathematics in general rather than the department alone.
Lynda White, then Admissions Tutor in Maths, lead the decisions over who should appear and what they might say. She also appears at the start of the video standing outside the maths department on Queens Gate – as can be seen in this promotional photo taken at the time. Also, you’ll hear her asking some of the questions to her academic colleagues during the video. I was interested to see that we referred to everyone, except Lynda White, as just Dr or Professor and never used their first names on the captions. These days it now seems strangely formal. The only time that students are actually seen is during the opening sequence and I also spot some shots taken from the 1979 promotional video for the Lyon Playfair Library (that will be a separate blog entry where you can see the whole video). Worth noting too is that in those early days the video camera was separate from the recorder, which can be seen on the pavement. Camcorders came much later on.
Here then is the video we made. Looking more than a little dated now after 30 years and I think I’d be asleep by now if I had to sit and watch it all the way through! I can’t believe we actually had a list of courses and options being read out as part of the video. We seemed to spend a lot of time not really talking about Imperial. We did have discussions again along similar lines of promo videos but decided that a different approach should be adopted. We did this by creating a series of some 20 videos in conjunction with the maths department and the London Mathematical Society (more on these coming soon, along with all the videos we made -some 18 of them-going online).