Tag: TV Studio

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

Lord Flowers Christmas Message: 1980

On 2 December 1980 I assisted STOIC with the recording of an interview with Lord Flowers (1924-2010) who was Rector from 1973 to 1985. This was the first time that we had recorded the Rector in colour and at that time STOIC did not have their own colour equipment, hence I helped out. This was an interview that former STOIC Chairman Mike Prosser carried out and at the end Mike asked if he’d record this separate special message. I’ve only just found this recording, included in the Christmas edition of their News-Break programme. The Rector’s office in the Sherfield Building is long since gone, as it moved into the new Faculty Building once it was opened. So yet another record in the archives of Imperial’s ‘times-past’.

Colin Grimshaw January 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


 

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


 

News-Break’s Mini Metro report: 1980

40 years ago on the 29 October 1980 STOIC reported on, what was then, the new Mini Metro car. This location report was one of several undertaken on location using their portable video recording equipment. Yes, it’s still in black and white because colour for them was still a little while away, even though the TV Studio had already converted.

Tracy Poole and Grant Richmond are the reporters on location at the Design Centre in London’s Haymarket.

Colin Grimshaw 29 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