Author: Colin Grimshaw

I’m Colin Grimshaw. Although I took early retirement at the start of 2011 I was asked to continue to run the Video Archive Blog and keep adding material on a regular basis. Now, working from home and occasionally from Imperial, I will have more time to recall the background details to the videos you will be seeing. Since the late 1960’s I’ve been recording all sorts of things related to Imperial College. This is in the form of magnetic tape, but more importantly videotape. Although the College Archives holds thousands of pieces of paper in the form of documents, books, journals, manuscripts, etc, its collection of sound and visual recordings (videotape and film) is surpassed by the videotape archive collection...

Blog Design Changes: October 2020

There have been some changes recently to the design and layout of this blog. I’m finding that things can look a bit different at times and you might also been finding that? If you notice anything odd happening with the new layout and that images or videos are looking strange, then do please tell me via the contact page.

Also, I no longer have a list of those I’ve added myself to email notifications, so you might not even be seeing this post! But I hope you do, because I have some great posts coming up soon. There are more 8mm colour film discoveries and one blog is about how Imperial started something that ended up on international TV…

Colin Grimshaw October 2020

Eric Laithwaite 40 year anniversary: 1980

I’ve only just realised that it’s 40 years ago this very month that I interviewed Professor Eric Laithwaite. I had suggested to the college archives that we should record this interview. Although, at present, I’m not able to get access to the mastertape, I have attempted to correct the colour and enhance the original version, the best that I can. There are potentially other unseen interviews with Eric Laithwaite that were made by STOIC, but until Imperial sees the advantage of these archive gems, they will forever remain in the archives. Sadly, money is needed to fund the transfer of these Ampex Type A videotapes into digital form. This is something that I can no longer do myself because all of our old videotape equipment was disposed of when the TV Studio was closed in 2007. So this interview is therefore the only one with Eric Laithwaite that’s recorded at Imperial College.

I was the interviewer and it was recorded in his office in the heavy electrical engineering laboratory at Imperial College. The slight background noise is from the various motors and machines running in the lab.

Colin Grimshaw September 2020

UROP: 1980

In June 1980 Professor J.C Anderson (1922-2001) from the Department of Electrical Engineering, came into the TV Studio to talk about UROP, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme. He was chatting to STOIC’s Paul Johnson in what was one of the first academic interviews recorded in colour.

Professor Anderson ran UROP from the start, 1980 in fact, when this interview was recorded. He handed the scheme over to a colleague in 1987. The scheme, modelled on something by MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was envisaged as a way to offer students an insight into research. In addition, staff  were given the opportunity to gain eager, intelligent research assistants, keen to try out new ideas and work on speculative experiments. Some students admitted to choosing to study at Imperial specifically because of the opportunity to participate in UROP.

After 40 years I gather that UROP is still running at Imperial today.

Colin Grimshaw September 2020

TOPIC – rediscovered 8mm film: 1972

Recently I’ve been digitising, in HD, my personal collection of 8mm home movies. Now that those are all transferred, I’ve moved onto a large collection of 8mm films from STOIC’s archive. Why did STOIC have 8mm films? Well, back in the early 1970’s there was no easy way to record anything outside of the TV Studio, so film was the only option. For the early news programme TOPIC, 8mm was shot and developed by STOIC. They bought all of the kit that was needed to process and ‘reverse’ the film from negative to positive. This film was then edited and used within the next edition of their news programme. In some cases, it was easier for them to use normal film to shoot what they needed, and to then let Kodak process the film. And in these cases the film was colour, even though it was only ever seen in black and white.

I made an amazing discovery too. There is a spool of ‘home processed’ film for the Easter edition of TOPIC from 23 March 1972. That seemed familiar to me and so I dug deep into my collection of audio tapes and discovered I had the sound track to the actual programme. I was then able to sync-up the studio commentary from the (now erased) programme soundtrack, to recreate what would have been seen some 50 years ago. But this was not without difficulties that I thought I would never solve.

Once STOIC had processed the film it ended up as a 16mm spool that needed to be split down the middle to produce 2x8mm film. A spool of 25 feet of 16mm ended up as 50 feet of 2x8mm. However, splitting the film needed to be done accurately. My 8mm digitiser is very fussy about accuracy of film size and the STOIC film certainly wasn’t accurate. I discovered that at certain points, the film stopped and seemed to jam in the gate mechanism. Upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass I spotted that the film was going wide to less wide, then back to normal and so on. When it got extra wide it jammed and then released again. The end result is seen above, with the film frame going up and down with the changing of the film width. Look at the extreme right hand side to see the film edge getting wider and then narrower again.

And, when a film splice happened, it could easily go from normal width to extra wide width, as indicated by the arrow in this photo. I had to redo most of the original splices in the film and cheat to make the transition slightly less bad. However, the end result still had the frame moving up and down at different times. But, I discovered a solution. During digital editing I tried ‘tracking’ and stabilisation. Tracking allows a specific point of reference to be used to keep an image where you want it. So, I under-scanned the film to see the sprocket holes and for them to be used as my key reference point. A few minutes later and I had a workable end result. I synced my soundtrack, as best I could, cleaned up the image and we now have for the first time in 50 years the film inserts for TOPIC as they were seen in the programme.

Here then are the two film inserts used in the programme after I’ve managed to digitally stabilise and correct them. The first is a report by Richard Woodhead on the March 1972 Student Union Elections. Note that the commentary was made live in the studio as the film ran, so does not sync perfectly to what is being seen. Also, there are big gaps where nothing is said and this was intentional, other than some taped background noise. This programme was only ever seen ONCE, on 23 March 1972.

The second and final film is a comedy sequence apparently shot in the Union Building Heating Tunnels. You’ll notice that there is a slight delay and confusion in the film sound starting, but can eventually be heard. This background music was played in live, from audio tape, and clearly there was an initial technical hitch which delayed the start.

And, things just keep being found. With another reel of tape I’ve discovered a piece of paper that listed the original background sound and music for both of these films. Indeed that was correct, so I now also have the tape that was run live at the time behind the studio commentary. And there’s more to come…

Colin Grimshaw August 2020

Digitising film archive in HD: 2020

Seen for the first time in HD, it’s Morphy Day c1972. Digitised from 8mm film you’ll see Morphy Day, as you may never have seen it before. Well, you might have seen it, but only if you had viewed the actual 8mm colour film, but that’s unlikely.

Morphy Day was filmed on Super8 for inclusion in STOIC’s news programme called TOPIC. Sadly the spool is undated, and I’m not surprised. They were extremely bad at archiving; unless of course I moaned at them. This spool, along with some others, seems to have slipped through the net. So, I’m second-guessing at a rough date of around Autumn term of 1972.

Recently, I bought, for myself, an 8mm film scanner. This is not a projector, but rather a device to capture each film frame, one by one. A standard 50 foot reel of 8mm film takes about 30 mins to capture in HD. As I have many reels of my own film in both Standard 8 and Super8 formats, it was a worthwhile purchase. Having completed all of my personal films, I’m moving on to the archive collection.

The film scanner has a built in screen to show the frames being scanned, but I connect it to an external monitor to see better whether I have the exposure and other adjustments set correctly. Then it’s just a case of sitting back and waiting for the scan to end. I make some adjustments to exposure and colour in post-production after the scan is complete. The end result is vastly improved over the previous version that I put up in 2016 and of course it’s now in HD.

Colin Grimshaw July 2020

 

Sir Douglas Bader: 1981

In December 1981 former RAF pilot Sir Douglas Bader visited Imperial College Bookshop to promote and sign copies of his new autobiography. He took part in the Battle of Britain, was imprisoned at Colditz Castle and his life was chronicled in the film Reach for the Sky.  Surrounded by copies of his books, Lawerence Windley managed to get a few words with him.

Within a year of this video, in September 1982, he had died.

Colin Grimshaw July 2020

Review of the Year: 1979-1980

One of the extremely useful things about STOIC’s Review of the Year programmes is that they showcased some of the most important things happening in college. In this edition from 40 years ago in June 1980, David Ghani and Paul Johnson give us a glimpse of events as seen through the lens of STOIC’s camera crew. As you will see, a large amount was still in black and white. In fact, this edition of the Review of the Year is the first to be shot in colour and that was simply because it was recorded within the confines of the College TV Studio. And if you look carefully you might spot that even the studio sequences have been shot and edited together in film style, using our single colour camera.

Look out for Rag Week events, STOIC’s 10th Anniversary and one department potentially about to go broke!

Colin Grimshaw 6 June 2020

Meet Imperial College (Archives): 1981

I’ve rediscovered this video compilation that I made for the Imperial College Archives in 1981. I had forgotten that the reason it was made was to show-case the college archives during the Meet Imperial College event that was held in the Sherfield Building. You can see another blog about the 1979 Meet Imperial College event that includes actual video taken on the day by STOIC.

This compilation is useful because it actually now helps to correctly identify one college member in the 1928 sports film. Jimmy Peacock is seen driving on the tug-of-war team and not Ted Coulson as previously assumed. Also, there is a short clip from the 1969 opening of what was then called College Block (later Sherfield Building) by the Queen. This clip is extremely important because it does include some of the sound track that we are now missing, because of technical issues extracting the film’s magnetic audio track. Included too is the audio of the Queen Mother in 1957 opening the Roderick Hill Building and the extension to the Students Union. And, from 1949 a sound recording on 78rpm disc of the college choir.

Mike Hackett from STOIC fronted the video for me.

Colin Grimshaw May 2020

Pallab Ghosh – Wells Soc Revival: 1981

Who would have thought that this first appearance on TV at Imperial College would lead to a career on the BBC? Yes, it’s Pallab Ghosh now Science Correspondent for BBC News. Pallab studied Physics at Imperial which was probably a good all-rounder for what came next.

But before his BBC career he was the editor of the student newspaper Felix. I do have the videotape of his Felix Editor Hustings Speech from 3 March 1983 (we’ll see that soon). Prior to that though, he was the chairman of the Imperial College HG Wells Society. Back in 1981, he was speaking to STOIC’s Martin Cowen about the revival of the society and what was planned in the coming months, including a potential Loch Ness Monster expedition!

The photo above shows Pallab during a visit to Imperial College in 2014.

Colin Grimshaw May 2020

University Challenge selections: 1981/1984

With the Imperial College team being the current winners of the 2020 University Challenge I thought it would be interesting to go back to both 1981 and 1984 to see how STOIC helped to select the teams for those years.

In 1981 it was achieved in the same way as the TV programme with the participants sitting as they do in the actual programme. This must have proved a challenge itself because in 1984 it was done in the style of Mastermind, but with a green chair rather than black. The first programme was shot in black and white, as the TV Studio had not by then gone into full colour. The photo on the right was during the 1981 recording. Mike Hackett was the presenter in 1981 and Richard Monkhouse in 1984.

Colin Grimshaw – April 2020