Back in 2013 I wrote about some of the videos that we had made specifically for schools. One of those videos was Weather on the Move with Francis Wilson. You can read about, and see, that video from the link above. In making such videos you always shoot more material than you are going to use. However, in this case we shot something that we could not use because of a technical fault.
As part of the weather programme Francis Wilson wanted to interview TV’s legendary weather forecaster Jack Scott (1923-2008) We went to Jack’s home and as you will see, shot the interview very appropriately outside in his garden. All was well and that was it. However, when we tried to replay the video it was completely unstable on the colour lock. Most of the time it reverted to black and white. No matter what I tried, it would not playback in locked stable colour. So that part of the programme was dropped.
That was still the case until about a year ago when I decided to try again. With a brand new playback machine it locked and ran first time in full stable colour. I committed it to DVD for safety, but alas it was far too late to ever be used for the purpose we intended.
So, nearly 30 years later, here is Jack Scott in full colour talking to Francis Wilson.
Begun in 1975 as an undergraduate group project, the Pimlico Connection has grown over the years to become a key strand in Imperial’s widening participation activities. Emeritus Professor Sinclair Goodlad, founder of the initial project, recalls the early days of the scheme when just a handful of students began mentoring in local schools. “Originally we were looking at it primarily from the point of view of what students would gain from the experience – developing their communication skills and really getting to know their subject by finding ways to explain concepts clearly. However it soon became clear that there were great benefits to the schools as well.”
Students provide tutoring between 1-3 hours per week January-March. And now, in 2016, the Pimlico Connection is already celebrating its 40th year.
In the late 1960’s and running through until 1979, the ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) ran and operated it’s own unique analogue cable television network. By the time of its closure it had linked together all of its 1,400 schools & colleges within the London area and also universities, including Imperial. It was Europe’s largest closed circuit television network. The system was installed and operated by the GPO Television Service, but by the time of privatisation and renaming as BT, the network was doomed, with closure looming. We had connection to the cable network in the early 1970’s when the University of London created and operated its own Audio Visual Centre. Programmes made by the ULAVC were recorded in their own TV studio, based at 11 Bedford Square in central London. Transmissions were all made from videotape by the ILEA TV Studio staff at the Battersea main hub. In the case of programmes made by the ULAVC a separate Channel 7 was operated for their exclusive use. ILEA’s own programmes for schools were on channels 2, 3 and 4. The ILEA studios and recordings were all to broadcast standard using 2 inch Quadraplex videotape whilst the ULAVC ran on IVC 1 inch videotape. As can be appreciated, all of the programming across the channels was therefore carried out from pre-recorded videotape. But, the network could be run live from any of the three studios at the Battersea main hub. Around 1976 I had the brainwave idea to suggest to the ULAVC that we make and provide some programmes from the Imperial studio. The only materials that might be of interest to other universities were perhaps some of the STOIC output which was gaining popularity with the introduction of celebrity interviews with those like film director/actor Mel Brookes and housewife-superstar Dame Edna Everage, otherwise known as actor Barry Humphries, seen in the photo on the left with Mark Caldwell in the Imperial TV studio. Several videotaped programmes were made with the specific idea of being shown on Channel 7 (Terry-Thomas was one), but I then went a step further and suggested we do something live! After I’d consulted with the ULAVC and then the ILEA Battersea operations staff we got a transmission slot and studio access. On 17 February 1977 a pilot programme called London Luncbreak went live on the air from the ILEA Battersea TV studios. The photo on the right shows main presenter James Sinclair during the live transmission. Because of a connection I had with the then BBC “film night” TV series, I managed to get Barry Norman to the studio to take part in the live transmission. Three further programmes were produced in the ‘London Lunchbreak’ series, but our enthusiasm was dashed when we heard the very next month on 31st March 1977 that the network was to close in early 1979. There was little point in continuing when the end was close. We had left it too late to get involved with the network, perhaps a couple of years earlier would have been better and given us a few more transmissions? Over on the left, in the gloom, you can see me directing one of the live programmes at the ILEA Battersea studios. The videos below are a recording of the pilot London Lunchbreak which includes a sound fault during a film clip! Remember that this programme was totally live from the ILEA studios. Also, the very last programme made and transmitted over the network by the ILEA, containing a rather large number of old programme titles (jump to the end when you get to that part). The ULAVC never made a farewell programme but continued its videotape operation, but with no cable output. ILEA continued in a similar way until, like the ULAVC, it was totally closed. Both the ULAVC and ILEA had converted into colour production by 1980, however, the now old GPO VHF cable network was only just capable of transmitting high quality colour (it was originally designed for analogue black and white in 1967). So perhaps it would have been difficult to continue with a poor technical service? However, I managed to capture a rare c1977 test transmission from ILEA in colour. It was made on Channel 2 and I was told that the ULAVC loaned ILEA a colour camera to make the live test, which seemed to work as far as I can see, that’s the last video down below.
Oh, and then there was Westminster Cable TV and another opportunity for live TV, but this time from Imperial College’s own TV Studio; but that’s yet another story, so far untold…
After some effort, the final batch of videos we made in conjunction with the London Mathematical Society (LMS) have now gone live on the Imperial YouTube channel.
The final 6 videos now concludes the upload of all of the remaining LMS lectures in our video archive. The previous blog about the LMS videos explains all the details of how and why we recorded them, so going there will fill in all the gaps. As usual, it was the same old problem and story of oxide and goo shedding from the U-matic videotapes. I explained all of this in the blog about beating the goo, but it involves taking the cassettes apart (seen on the left with just the spools of tape showing) and heat treating them. Needless to say, this is a time consuming process taking at least a day before you can find out whether or not the tape will playback well enough to digitise. If not, then you start the process all over again! So a good few weeks went by before I could end the upload process.
You can now find all of the remaining videos that were made for schools on the Imperial YouTube Channel. They are located in the Archive section along with other gems that are being added as time permits. I’ve included two of them in this blog, but do go to YouTube to be able to see them all. One video that stands out as an example of science and technology is the one with Denis Smith on Water Power and the Industrial Revolution. We made the video in many parts of the UK at various (then) working Watermills, Pumping Stations and so on and it was a real joy to make too.
The two pictures show Dr Denis Smith at (above) Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in Sheffield and (below) and at a lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal.
UPDATE April 2018: I’ve only just received the sad news that, after a long illness, Denis died last November.
Here then is that video on Water Power and the Industrial Revolution.
The last video we made for schools was on the subject of the weather. This video was presented and written by Francis Wilson, and ex Imperial student and who, at the time, was presenting the BBC Breakfast show weather each day. Here is Weather on the Move.
Colin Grimshaw January 2013 (with update April 2018)
Back in early 1982 a tenuous link with the History of Science and Technology division brought forth an idea to make a series of videos designed for schools. Colleague Dr Kathy (Kathleen) Burk had links with a publishing company based in Wiltshire. They produced mainly audiotapes on history and some on music. They had started to venture into videos but with limited success from both the technical and production viewpoint (they had no production facilities of their own).
It was therefore suggested that because of the Imperial College connection with the company there might be some merits in linking together our combined skills: History; Publications & Marketing and Video Production. So a compromise was reached over the production of 8 videos between 1982 to 1990.
In this entry I’ll be showing you two videos made between 1982 and 1984. Simon Schaffer has become a well known presenter on broadcast television with series such as the 2004 “Light Fantastic” shown on BBC TV. But back in 1982 he had only recently joined Imperial College in the History of Science and Technology division. Kathy Burk asked him to consider making one of the videos for schools and so we produced the 1982 video called Science and the English Enlightenment.
It was shot in various locations, including Greenwich Park, the Science Museum and Bath at the Royal Crescent, the Assembly Rooms and at the home (and now museum) of William Herschel. This all sounds amazing but our budget was a maximum of £1000 and this had to pay for transport, accommodation and fees to places like the royal parks commission for permission to shoot at Greenwich.
So, we didn’t have a great deal of change at the end of the production. We did however get a small amount of money from a share in profits from the sales of the videos to schools and colleges both in the UK and overseas. All this was early days for us in video production terms. We had limited resources and shooting outside and running on battery power was still new to us. Editing too was limited enabling only cuts or ‘split’ edits between pre-recorded segments. Voice-overs were also not that simple when faced with only two audio tracks on the master tape. But we managed and the tapes have survived these 30 years to be watched yet again.
One final video was made and completed with Simon Schaffer in 1984. It was on his main subject area of Sir Isaac Newton. Again, the video was shot on location at key places in the life of Newton: Woolsthorpe Manor where he was born in 1642 and Trinity College Cambridge where Simon now works. Once again the budget was the same, so production values were not as great as would have been desired. Here then is Isaac Newton: His life and work, shot during August and November 1983.
Since completing this entry I have discovered that I still have all of the original rushes (original footage shot on the day) of the sequences at Woolsthorpe Manor. Simon shot the opening sequence about 6 times, not all his fault I must say as we had more than a few technical problems with sound. No radiomics were available, so he was connected via a very long cable to the videorecorder! Look carefully at the section recorded in Newton’s study to see what I mean about microphone cables. Maybe one day I’ll show a few out-takes from that last sequence in a special blog entry…