Category: Student life

Undergraduate Project: 1970

Something that seems to go unrecorded are the times when a student creates a project with an end result that then greatly benefits the college. In this example we need to go back to the summer term of 1970. A 3rd year student from Electrical Engineering undertook a project to create a simple video effects generator. This unit was able to make split screens, squares and so on. It became an essential tool within the TV Studio from the moment it was made until the day the studio was closed down. In the photo, the arrow indicates the unit installed in the first TV studio in January 1975. Recently I found some 8mm film that I shot showing the student with the unit that he made. We paid for the workshop to fabricate a case and you’ll see that in the film and following videos. In more recent times (in the second TV studio) we fitted it into the equipment rack and you’ll see that at the end.

There were many videos where we took advantage of being able to use split screens. Such an example is the APL video I made with Professor Bob Spence in 1975, you’ll see a clip from that. And, in the two clips showing the unit working, yes, it really is a very young version of me!

So, a worthwhile project that created something that lasted in use for 37 years and NEVER ever had a single fault.

Colin Grimshaw February 2021

News-Break’s Badge Society feature: 1982

On STOIC’s weekly news programme “News-Break”, all sorts of things were featured. From interviews with Rectors about college funding cuts; the siege at the Iranian embassy; potential integrations of another college into Imperial, through to….making badges!

Yes, the making of badges was indeed a feature on the 13 January 1982 edition of News-Break. Regular presenter Mike Hackett talked to the chairman of Badge Soc, Chris Taylor from Mechanical Engineering. In fact when you see the badge making device it does look like it should have been in the Mechanical Engineering Workshop. Below, from FELIX, is Badge Soc’s Small Ad.

So, in the same programme that featured the potential QEC ‘merger’ with Imperial we have Badge Soc. Chris Taylor is doing his impression of Imperial’s own (Dr) Brian May with that haircut it seems. Here then is STOIC’s very best ‘Blue Peter’ item for the first programme of the year (1982) 38 years ago.

Colin Grimshaw February 2021

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


 

Christmas on STOIC: 1981

How was Christmas celebrated around Imperial College in years past? Very little remains in terms of records and archives of what happened or indeed what the campus actually looked like. We do have a glimpse of what people saw through the lens of STOIC and via the videotapes that remain. For the weeks leading up to Christmas of 1981 it was a time to announce that this particular year was the first that STOIC would be in full colour (better late than never). What better way for them to celebrate this, than to ‘make festive’ their very own logo. If anyone remembers the original BBC One moving logo, then this Imperial College version by its students gives a feel from the period. This only exists because it was archived on videotape and has remained unseen for these nearly 40 years. Interestingly, this would not now be possible to make. The shot was taken from the TV Studio window and that’s Mech Eng in the background. The Faculty Building would now block the entire view and besides, the college closed the studio anyway! The trees (now gone) of Dalby Court had genuine snow on them back in December 1981, so this gave a festive feel for a few days at least. The TV monitors in the Junior Common Room, Southside, Union and Weeks Hall all displayed “Christmas in Colour” prior to, and after STOIC’s transmissions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm and 6pm.

STOIC’s Christmas 1981 didn’t end with just this logo. They were prompted to replicate Blue Peters very own Advent Crown. But don’t worry, this was far from being sensible and indeed is typical of “silly” students at their best. Martin Cowan was the main leader of silliness that year and he’s emailed me to say that he has fond memories of his time at Imperial. A lot of effort was put into this sequence including shots outside around the Queens Tower and in (what was) the workshop area of the college TV Studio on the main campus walkway. Even at the end of the programme there were still laughs to be had from the presenters. Oh well it was Christmas I guess and a time when we still had a Rector! The picture of the Christmas studio crew was taken at the end of the 1981 recording. Sadly though, two of that crew pictured here have since died, but their contributions can still be seen today in the saved STOIC videotape and film archive.

And finally, something a little different. Martin Cowan was also involved in a music group called SSIK. The last video we’re going to see was their contribution to the Christmas programme. In a somewhat complicated and psychedelic production that they filmed all around Imperial. Can you spot the obvious Albert Memorial and steps leading to the Albert Hall? Also. eagle-eyed might also spot the sequence from the top of the Union Building along with some interior corridor shots too. The editing was very involved when they were trying to match-up the music track to what had been shot outside. I was asked to help on the editing and to also add the colourising, and we might have gone a little over the top with that perhaps? Anyway, it’s a bit unusual and something to cheer us all up these 40 years later with various UK restrictions in place (Covid-19).

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and let’s hope it will be a better year in 2021.

Colin Grimshaw 16 December 2020


 

City and Guilds A to Z Rally: 1971

Some of the 8mm films that I re-discovered, and have since digitised in HD, are for the 1971 Christmas edition of TOPIC. This was the weekly news programme made by STOIC and shown in the Junior Common Room. There are several items that were featured in the programme that originated on 8mm film, some in colour and some not. As previously discussed, very few videotapes still exist from the early years of recording in the TV Studio. It was mainly the cost of the actual videotapes that prohibited us from keeping them for archiving. However, a way to keep something of a programme was to copy the audio onto a relatively cheap audio tape. Fortunately this was done for a few programmes made by STOIC the student TV service. I also have some extracts from various TOPIC programmes that I kept myself. However, the interesting thing about TOPIC from Christmas 1971 is that not only does the audio from the programme still exist, but the film inserts do too. So, I am recreating some of the items as they would have been seen some 50 years ago. The only difference is that many of the filmed items were actually shot in colour, even though we ran in black and white until 1979.

The first item to be recreated in HD is the City and Guilds Motor Club’s A to Z Rally. I have slight confusion over the date though. Dave Willis who you’ll hear on the soundtrack says Sunday 4th December, but the Sunday was the 5th. I’m assuming, from looking at the film, that this was indeed a Sunday because the roads look very quiet and that he was simply given the wrong date.

Either way, we know that it’s December 1971 regardless of the actual date. So here then is what would have been seen nearly 50 years ago, along with the original studio commentary and background sounds.

Colin Grimshaw December 2020


 

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


 

News-Break’s Rag Week: 1980

From 40 years ago see all of the delights of Rag Week in November 1980. Seen here by the black and white location camera of STOIC for their weekly programme News-Break. This is the only record of the 1980 event that still exists. There are probably reports and a few photos in Felix, but here we can see and hear the week in all of its detail. We can’t smell some of it though!

Do you remember such delights as the Raft Race or the Pram Race? Maybe some of the events are in fact seen better in just black and white? Morphy Day on the Tow path at Putney is one good example (above colour image from a later year). A large number of things that used to happen in rag week are now just history. For example, I don’t recall hearing of the Raft Race for many years. The STOIC reporters on location were: Mike Hackett, Tracy Poole (now Tracy Dudley) and Grant Richmond.

All I can say is……enjoy!

Colin Grimshaw November 2020


 

Things to come!

Yet more discoveries from some recent digitisation. The 8mm film reel (shown at the bottom) was used in the 1971 Christmas edition of STOIC’s TOPIC news programme, for which I have the (videotape) audio. This 8mm reel was also a compilation of items already shown earlier in that term. I appear to have some original location audio for some of the filmed items on the audio tape (shown at the top). Once more, a large number of these filmed items were in colour, but only ever seen via black and white TV. It’s now just a case of trying to see it I can match things up. If I can succeed then we have film of: “Morphy Day Rowing”, “Silly Football”,  “Imperial College’s Day of Action”, “Motor Trials” and more. Some screen shots from these items can be seen below. And if, nearly 50 years ago,  you were taking part or involved in any of this, then please do let me know. Contact details at the end of this blog post.

Colin Grimshaw November 2020


 

STOIC’s Lord Mayor’s Show report: 1971

Because this years 2020 event is cancelled, let’s go back nearly 50 years for an on-location report by STOIC on the 13 November 1971 Lord Mayor’s Show. This was shot on 8mm film for inclusion in their weekly news programme, then called TOPIC. I made two very important discoveries when sorting out and collating the collection of either badly or completely unlabelled 8mm films. Firstly, this particular film was actually shot in colour, but only ever seen in black and white. Secondly, I also discovered an audiotape that had a listing inside. One segment was marked “Lord Mayor’s Show – long film report”, but with no date. Fortunately, the sound track commentary has a date mentioned, which led me to finding out that it was the same as the film. And, although the film was only marked as ‘BBC; Carnival; 1973’, the content was clearly the same thing, so the date was wrong. The clincher was the mention on the audio tape of that years theme title of “students today, engineers tomorrow”.  Also, the BBC float was mentioned with ‘space men’ being located next to the C&G float, so that confirmed things. This could not have been any other year than 1971.

I’ve adjusted and corrected the film as best as possible. The audio was never intended to ‘sync’ with the actual film images, but rather to complement it with real ‘on-location’ sounds and a report with interviews. But to make this work I have had to second-guess the film speed. It could have been shot at either 16fps or 18fps, the reel doesn’t say. Also, when the film was projected did it run at the correct speed? Therefore, I’ve had to adjust the digitised film speed to attempt to match the audio duration. The person you’ll hear commentating is former STOIC Chairman Tim Dye. Were you a student on the C&G float back then and are you now retired?

I’ve also found other sound recordings, suggesting that they are linked to more 8mm film reports. I just need to do some more research and try to identify the films, that’s if I do indeed have them of course. But for now, let’s go back 50 years for the sights and sounds of the Lord Mayor’s Show 1971.

I’ve had a great comment from Paul Jowitt about this post and video (incidentally I think he meant the 1971 show):

Enjoyed the 1970 Lord Mayor’s Show video!
I was C&GU President at time and was the one standing up in the back of Bo.
Happy days!
Yours
Paul

Colin Grimshaw November 2020