Month: October 2012

Royal Albert Hall and Commemoration Day

Once again we are in October and it’s time for the Graduates to visit the Royal Albert Hall for Imperial College’s Commemoration Day.

Commemoration Day in 2011

This brief entry is to remind you of the post I made two years ago this month. That post contains all that we have in terms of archive audio/visual material relating to the ceremony. Most importantly, of course, we do have the sound recording of King George 6th from 1945. And to just repeat myself: The October Commemoration Day graduation ceremonies recall the visit made to the College by King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth in 1945, on the centenary of the foundation of the Royal College of Chemistry, Imperial College’s oldest forerunner.

You will also read in that previous entry about the difficulties associated with the transfer of these original sounds recordings from 78rpm discs and ‘paper’ magnetic tape. Both are now saved into digital form.

Go direct to my October 2010 blog entry.

Colin Grimshaw October 2012

Mathematics Videos with the LMS

In the entry “Promotion: 2 – Mathematics” I made reference to the videos that I had made in conjunction with the London Mathematical Society (LMS). These came about for two reasons. Firstly we had made the departmental promotional video, as seen in that previous blog. This was not a huge success and we needed an alternative way to promote the department. The second reason  was that a member of the Maths Department was connected with the LMS, who ran their Popular Lectures at Imperial College each year. He asked if I could record these lectures when they were taking place. As most people who know me will know, I am never very keen on the ‘live’ recording of lectures or presentations. This is because I would have no control over them and couldn’t start or stop the event to get the best version for the recording. After all, if you are going to watch a video of a lecture, you want to see it at its best AND be presented to YOU, not a group of people you can’t see or interact with. If you have ever watched the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures then you may appreciate the great control the TV broadcasters have over its content and tight scripting. Any mistakes or problems are taken care of at the time of the lecture and if needs be everything is stopped.

So, I suggested a few things. One, was that the videos should be recorded to help promote Maths in general and the Maths Department at Imperial at the same time. Two, was that the videos should be recorded in the studio, FOR television and direct to camera. So in July 1986 we recorded the first LMS Popular Lecture called “Games Animals Play”. We recorded two lectures, one after the other to coincide with the LMS lecturers being at Imperial for that evenings event. We usually recorded one in the morning and one in the early afternoon. We went on to record 18 in total, ending in 1997 when the lectures ceased to be held at Imperial College.

As soon as I can, I will transfer all of the videos from the original tapes into digital form. In the meanwhile here is just one of those lectures from June 1996, Peter Hilton’s “New wine in old bottles”. Peter Hilton (7 April 1923 – 6 November 2010) was a British mathematician, noted for his contributions to homotopy theory and for code-breaking during the Second World War.


Colin Grimshaw 2012

Life Science Library 1979

Queens Tower steps “opening sequence”

The first programme we made in colour was a guide to the Life Science Library. That was 33 years ago in August 1979 and colour was so new that we didn’t even have a colour logo caption at the start, in fact it’s our original black and white logo. Interestingly, the video is a great snapshot of what libraries looked like and how they operated at that time. Card indexes were still the norm with microfiche readers being a new addition. There is also mention of having a literature ‘computer search’ carried out at a cost of around £5, a cost which was probably considered high at that time and would have been carried out by a librarian for you. One of the great advantages of us moving into colour was the fact that we were able to edit. Until then it was possible, but difficult, and also in black and white. The video required a lot of different shots, like close-ups of index cards, so editing was an essential part of the production, in fact, without decent editing facilities this programme could not have been made.

Lots of lighting was needed for the camera

Because we were going to cause some disruption in the library, where possible, we shot in the evening, or at least after 5pm. As you can see from the photo on the left, we also needed light..lots of it too. Our early colour camera was happy with external situations, but inside it required rather a lot of light to get good images. The library, at that time, was rather lower in light levels compared to today and there was no way we could cope without adding some extra lighting. Our biggest problem was finding mains sockets anywhere near the rows of book shelves. You tend not to need mains sockets when looking for books! Like most of our videos, we sometimes needed (and still do need) ‘rent a crowd’, so see if you can spot me appearing twice in the video. Also note a major change to the feel of the South Ken campus from when this was shot in 1979. See how empty it is soon after 6pm when the external footage was shot.

The video style is a bit 1970’s, mainly because that’s when it was made. I can’t recall under what circumstances the video was due to be seen, but I think it was designed to be viewed in the room that had been designated for watching videos. This was one of the small rooms called a Carrel around the edge of the library in which a monitor and video recorder had been installed. You’ll hear reference to these Carrels in the video. Listen out too for the mention of photocopies, there were only two in the whole library at that time.

Mark Caldwell when at DW in Germany

The presenter of the video was Mark Caldwell, a former STOIC chairman from the mid 1970’s. Mark is now living in Germany where he used to work for the world radio division of Deutsche Welle. From time to time I can could hear him presenting items live over the air and I thought how far we had come since his time with STOIC  at Imperial, only a few years before.

I’ve also noticed that, as this was the first video we made in colour, we still used the original TV Studio caption. This was the caption used up until this point, I hadn’t come up with a colour version at this time!


Colin Grimshaw October 2012

October 2012 -The Blog returns

I’m very pleased to be able to say that the Video Archive Blog has returned. I took early retirement in January of 2011 but have recently been asked to restart and update my entries. So, we can look forward to more videos that are currently held in the video collection. I’ll also be trying to sort out and access the 15 year archive collection from STOIC the Student TV of Imperial College. That collection dates from about 1970 to 1985, or there abouts.

Working from home (and sometimes from Imperial) I can now devote as much time as I wish to this Blog. There are so many videos just waiting to be seen again. In fact I already have a few Blog entries awaiting the click of a button to make them live. The most time-consuming thing is the transfer of videotape into a digital format. What I’m currently doing is to make a DVD in maximum resolution of the video, before creating an on-line video held on the server. The DVD is stored along with the original videotape to make access easier. But the problem is that a 30 minute video takes 30 minutes to copy into a new format. That can take a lot of time!

Anyway, keep looking to see what’s changed or been added and let me know if you have any special requests or material that would be of interest to Imperial College.

Colin Grimshaw October 2012

Colin in Australia September 2012