Category: College History

Andy Rushton – C&G President: 1982

On 13 January 1982 edition of STOIC’s News-Break, Mike Hackett visited the City and Guilds office. Andy Rushton was then the president of C&G and he spoke about what was coming up and happening during the term. He also spoke about the forthcoming C&G elections. Some information I managed to find about Andy tells me that since 2011, he has been a Principal Consultant at ESR Technology providing major hazard services onshore and offshore. He also has involvement with the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

Once again this video was not without its technical problems and challenges. The studio sequences are all more or less OK, because they used high quality cameras. However, the camera that STOIC used for location work was nowhere near such quality and used what was called a single striped colour tube. The combination of being a tube camera and it producing the final colour by this method, was never without its problems.

The colour balance on the original was way-off and at the time, in 1982, we had no way of correcting this in post production. The still (above) that I’ve grabbed, is what it looked like directly from the programme master-tape during correction. I’ve struggled to produce something less green but have had to settle with what you are about to see. If the colour isn’t there, you can’t produce it out of thin air!

Colin Grimshaw January 2021

Film Talk Animation: 1975

Today we have yet another untold story from Imperial’s past with an idea that started at the college and ended up on worldwide TV. Way back in 1975 Mark Caldwell, then Chairman of STOIC started an ambitious series of interviews with both film stars and TV celebrities. The first included American film director and actor Mel Brooks, British actor Malcolm McDowell and Australia’s very own Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as Barry Humphries. The series ended up being called Film Talk. Coinciding with this were the services provided by the ULAVC, over the ILEA Channel 7 cable TV network – which I have covered previously.

I was the TV contact at Imperial and knew both the staff at the ULAVC centre in Bedford Square and the ILEA TV Centre in Battersea. Somehow or another I mentioned the idea of them showing some of these programmes over their network. The idea was accepted, so future recordings were made with both local viewing and remote viewing via ILEA in mind. We had progressed so well that a contact at Imperial College introduced us to yet another new idea. In Mechanical Engineering there was a computer-aided design system called CADMAC. It used a mini computer, storage-tube system and plotter as its basis for the generation of ‘animation’. For normal film animation at the time, cells made of plastic film were drawn on and filmed frame-by-frame by a normal film camera. The concept was to use the computer output to produce either cells or to output onto paper. These would then be captured onto film as usual. The difference here was the computing. Things could be manipulated on the screen by using a lightpen and objects merged and moved around. This could (at that time) not be run in full-motion playback, so it was therefore outputted onto film or paper.

A company was formed called Video Animation (later called Electronic Arts) and they were looking for ideas to showcase the possibilities of this new technology. We met them and they offered to make a short animation based on three photos that we would provide. These were inputted to their system by using a light-pen system to trace the image. It was then animated to produce an end result. So, the images were Mel Brooks, Malcolm McDowell and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna. The end result is not perfect. They could not, for some reason, cope with Dame Edna’s glasses or hat, and these are missing from the animation (see actual photo on left). It’s a very heavy contrast line drawing with no grey scale, but for us it was at least unique. They also created and added the title. The final product was given to us on 16mm film, the sound was added later. The film (seen on the right) was then played into any of the programmes via tele-cine. If we happened to be recording at the ILEA Battersea Studios, they had a tele-cine unit within the control room. For anyone who remembers the opening sequence to the worldwide TV series “The New Avengers” it was Video Animation who produced the opening title animation. It’s no coincidence that the Avengers TV series started the very next year in 1976. So, the experiment for Film Talk could well have been used to persuade the TV company to use animation in the opening titles. Our animation has some very close similarities to that of the New Avengers opening titles. See the bottom video for the Avengers animation sequence.

Colin Grimshaw 1 January 2021


 

QEC Integration into Imperial? – 1981

FELIX Dated Friday 4 December 1981

In December 1981 and January 1982 STOIC’s news programme had reports on the proposed integration of Queen Elizabeth College in Kensington, INTO Imperial College. The main theme of the proposal was that Q.E.C would have been incorporated into IC as a fourth constituent college.

So, in December 1981 the college statement said; the bioscience part of Q.E.C is proposed to be physically moved to the IC site, which would require a new building (probably on the site next to new Chemistry). The physical sciences at Q.E.C would be “accommodated elsewhere within the university”. Joint planning and consultative committees would be set up to achieve a closer working relationship prior to the eventual integration. The timescale of the proposal is approximately five years, but major developments might be expected before that time. The proposal is in response to the problems of finance and student numbers facing London University (that Imperial was then part of). It is not clear however just what financial savings would be made, and no mention is made of this in the statement. Student numbers would presumably fall, although the new ‘super IC’ would be larger than it is now.

Of course this all came to nothing, here though are STOIC reports from 2 & 9 December 1981.

And on the first edition of News-Break for 1982, Nick Morton the ICU President came into the TV Studio. He spoke with Lawrence Windley and gave his view and opinion on the situation. He also corrected various misunderstandings on these proposals that were currently going around the college and also printed in Felix (the student newspaper). Students kept talking of this as a ‘merger’, but this was never the proposal, but rather an ‘integration’ of Q.E.C into Imperial College. Once again, the saved videotape archive of STOIC has rescued the news and voices of Imperial College, which would have otherwise been lost for ever.

Colin Grimshaw 2 December 2020


 

Bo goes London to Brighton: 1977

Today I have what was another mystery film from the STOIC archives. In digitising the 8mm films that were used in their earlier programmes I found two reels of Super8 colour film marked London (to) Brighton. No date or further details were on the reels. It was a mystery as to why this was shot on film because clues lead me to believe it was perhaps around 1978 or so. By then, STOIC had their own Sony portable videorecorder for location work. I looked for clues in the actual footage but couldn’t spot anything that might give me a date. Until…..in one very small segment you will see Bo (Boanerges) has broken down outside of a cinema. This was in Streatham in South London. I could just make out, by zooming into one frame, a film title on the outside hoarding on the cinema. I looked it up on Google and it was dated as 1977. So, this was clearly the London to Brighton run on Sunday 6 November 1977.

I have no clues or idea as to why this was shot on 8mm colour film. The two reels are unedited and even look as if they were never used. If anything was indeed used it would have been in the weekly Lunchbreak programme. Was Rag week the same weekend as this event and therefore the videorecorder was not available because it was already in use?

We may never know the answer, but here anyway is the digital transfer of Bo, going from London to Brighton in 1977. Oh, and that’s Sir Hugh Ford sitting on the back seat in the middle.

Colin Grimshaw November 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


 

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


 


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