Category: Campus

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

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

Imperial College Health Centre report: 1980

It’s pure coincidence that back in November I selected this particular video for the April blog. I guess it seems appropriate for today’s current pandemic situation and although being April 1st, sadly, it really is no joke.

Health and Welfare were items that featured on STOIC’s News programmes on a regular basis, starting way back in the early 1970’s in fact. In 1980 the college health centre in Princes Gardens had just been updated and improved. Mike Prosser went along to see the latest developments and to chat with Pat Kilshaw about the services and facilities available to students. We also get to see the sickbay with 5 beds. I also seem to recall that I actually shot this video for them.

This is a lovely record of what college facilities looked like 40 years ago.

Colin Grimshaw April 2020

A London Video in a Day: 2009

Could you realistically shoot a video all around London in one day? Well, ten years ago back in 2009 we did just that with three Imperial students. The idea was to show just what opportunities there were for getting out and about from Imperial College, which is based in the South Kensington area of London.

Using three students, who had helped us by appearing in previous videos, the idea was that they would guide you (the viewer) around some famous locations. Starting at South Kensington we would show the advantages of the London Tube, Buses and even taxis. Clearly this would be a video that required a lot of planning and time-scales were set for being in each location by a certain time. We got all of the permissions that were required, including access to tube stations and platforms. We shot more or less in sequence, but cheated slightly here and there.

Amazingly the day we selected was perfect. Sunny and very warm all day long. Everyone mucked in with helping to carry things around the various locations. We didn’t stay in places for long, just long enough to get what we wanted, which was usually one sentence, then check the recordings and then back on the tube again. Look at the Big Ben sequence and you’ll see what time we were there! And we also had a very cooperative taxi driver who allowed us to film inside his cab, not easy with a big camera I can tell you. I must try and find the out-takes from this shoot.

So, some great locations all shot in a day and with genuine 2009 era Imperial College students being our guides.

Colin Grimshaw March 2020

Interferon Pilot Plant: 1980

In the February 2019 blog, about Imperial Biotechnology Ltd, I included a Thames Television interview with Dr Trevor Langley. Through the current digitisation of the STOIC archives I now have something homegrown about the pilot plant. In May 1980 Tracy Poole (now Dudley) reported on the current work being undertaken and also interviewed Prof Brian Hartley, a former Head of Department in Biochemistry.  He was then overseeing the entire project.

The pilot plant was ultimately closed and dismantled in 1994 and was finally refurbished as the Flowers Building.

Colin Grimshaw February 2020

 

Iranian Embassy Siege memories: 1982

In the September 2019 blog I showed what I thought were the only archived videos from STOIC’s reports on the May 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege. However, in digitising more videos I have discovered an item that would have been missing, had it not been included in a 1982 news programme as an ‘archive’ clip. One of the reporters for STOIC was Tracy Poole (now Tracy Dudley) and she was about to leave Imperial after her 3 years of study. Lawrence Windley managed to speak with her during a chance visit to Imperial’s field station at Silwood Park.

Interestingly, this video includes shots that are not in the previous September blog. They include dramatic views from the top of the Southside Hall of residence when the embassy building had been set on fire. You can also see a fire engine parked outside Weeks Hall which backed onto the embassy. Indeed I’m fairly certain that some shots were taken from the rear of Weeks Hall.Another view was clearly from the Queens Tower.

The original video report was before we moved into full colour.

Colin Grimshaw January 2020

And now the Imperial Weather: 1983

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

Freshers’ Fair: 1980

October is the time of the year when clubs and societies have stalls and events to entice new students to join them. All around the country universities are seeing the same thing happen during freshers week and Imperial is no different.

Luckily, we have a brief record of some of what was happening, because STOIC reported on the fair for the their news programme NEWSBREAK. It looked like a fine sunny day, which for October is a blessing. Grant Richmond, ace reporter, ventured to both the Union Quad and Queens Tower Lawn to speak to some of the freshers. Mike Prosser is heard on the introduction, which shows things like abseiling down the union building! Incidentally, Grant now lives in far north Queensland, Australia. And, were YOU one of those interviewed in this video?

This video is from the digitisation of the STOIC videotape archives, which I’m currently undertaking.

An update, that you will also see below in the comments, is from Bill Durodie. He tells me that the person being interviewed, at the one minute mark, is Phil Greenstreet who was in RCS, he now lives in the USA. I hope he might be able to see this video from when he was a student at Imperial! Thanks Bill.

Colin Grimshaw October 2018

Iranian Embassy Siege: 1980

For a thankfully brief period, 39 years ago, in May 1980, life in and around Imperial College changed. This was due to the now famous Iranian Embassy siege that took place in Princes Gate. The main concern for Imperial College was the fact that in Northside of Princes Gardens the buildings of: Weeks Hall, Garden Hall, Sports Centre and more, all backed onto the embassy building. I recall students from Weeks Hall telling me that they had to keep all windows closed and covered and to stay away from the windows at all times.

That week’s copy of Felix the student newspaper seemed to be somewhat concerned that the Rag Fete would have to be relocated to the Queens Lawn rather than Princes Gardens as planned. They also included a photo of a police marksman somewhere behind the embassy, probably in the rear gardens of college property and that there was also one of the roof of Weeks Hall. There was also mention of at least one Imperial student being arrested.

Clearly this was news for both Felix and in particular for STOIC. With the aide of their trusty portable camera and recorder they ventured off to report of what was happening. Thanks to the current digitisation of the STOIC videotape archive I found all three location reports and saved them. These reports were such hot news that they had to be fitted in prior to and after, the showing of the weekly news programme NewsBreak at lunch time and in the evening. Mike Prosser was continuity voice-over that day and introduced the clips.

Colin Grimshaw September 2019

Stan’s Bar in Southside: 1980

A popular venue in college was Stan’s Bar located in Southside. In 1980, alterations were taking place and in the 8 OCtober 1980 edition of STOIC’s news programme Newsbreak there was a location report. The bar remained in place until the time of demolition of the entire Southside building. If you take a look at the video I shot on 30 June 2005 (during the last week of Southside) you will see the bar towards the end being cleared out and closed up.

I notice that there was also a campaign run to “save the bar”. In the end, the bar was (sort of) relocated in the new Eastside building. And very modern it looked too. Certainly it’s not as dark as Stan’s Bar could be. There’s the odd reference to dark corners in this video report. Being below street level probably didn’t help with lighting, but maybe that’s what students wanted? Perhaps you were standing at the bar when this video was shot in 1980?

Colin Grimshaw August 2019