Tag: TV Studio

Archive on the move: 2024

I started the Imperial College Videotape Archive (not this Blog) way back in August 1979. This was when we had just moved over into colour, and also recording on the U-Matic videotape format. Since that time many hundreds of recordings, and therefore videotapes, have been collected into what is now the archive. This archive is not to be confused with the videotape archive of STOIC, these archives are not the same thing. Some early recordings can be seen in the photo over on the right, these are from early 1985 and includes the City & Guilds Centenary Week on 1089A.

When it all started it was the archive of the Imperial College TV Studio, that changed into Media Services and finally Communications, which was the custodian of the collection until this month. In the first week of 2024 the entire videotape archive was boxed-up and is now ready to be shipped off, and into the hands of the college’s main Archive. This is also where STOIC’s archive is also maintained having been saved from (unbelievably) being put into a skip.

It was not a quick job either; along with Martin Sayers, it took over 6 hours to carefully pack the tapes, make a note of which tapes are now in each box and also mark production numbers on the front of the boxes. This way we will know where to find any particular tape in the future. In the photo over on the right, we had only just started to sort out and then pack the videotapes which we had removed from the shelves. In box number 2 for example you can see production numbers 1027 (September 1981) to 1045. These are all in the U-Matic format but we moved, over time, to Betacam and then DVCam, but there are a few other formats mixed in.

So it’s finally goodbye to a large part of my life which is wrapped up in many different videotapes. Also, it’s a very large part of the life of Imperial College and its history. Captured on those videotapes are many things that I’ve featured in this blog: Linear Motors, Electrochromic Displays, the World’s First Calculator on a computer, the Centenary year of City & Guilds in 1985, the Imperial College Centenary in 2007, Rectors of Imperial College from Lord Penney onwards and many views of the campuses and departments that have changed forever. I also instigated the first ever recording of a Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall. Following that, Martin and I recorded every Commemoration Day and Post Graduate Awards ceremony. These started to be made available on VHS tape, then DVD and finally put onto YouTube. Martin now carries this on with live YouTube steaming of the events.

Farewell, it’s been (and still is) nice rewinding you…

Colin Grimshaw January 2024

TV Safety Topics: 1982

Dr Gordon Hargreaves (1930-1989) was Imperial College’s first ever safety director. In conjunction with the training officer Dr Albert Courts we produced a pilot edition of Safety Topics for an on-going series. The safety unit then produced a newsletter called ‘safety topics’ and this was to be a video version of that publication. Many people got involved with the video including myself where you’ll see me demonstrating a range of fire extinguishers on what was Dalby Court. We had first aid, electrical safety, along with safety in offices.

Sadly none of this seemed to gel with people and we never did make a series. So, this is in fact a lovely record of some of those who were key figures in Imperial College in 1982. Gordon Hargreaves died very suddenly in 1989, at that time we had started making yet another safety video with him on the subject of Fume Cupboards. That video was obviously never completed. We must have been jinxed with making safety training videos.

Colin Grimshaw November 2023

Felix Editor Election: 1975

Mark Caldwell filming at Elstree Studios in September 1975

Today we go back to 1975 and a fragment of college history captured in the archive of STOIC. Very few items remain from this time period because of the very high cost of videotape. Programmes were recorded over the following week with a new programme, so we’re lucky that this survives today. On the 26 February 1975 Mark Caldwell was presenting the weekly news programme Lunchbreak in which the candidates for the post of Felix editor came into the TV Studio. Clive Dewey and Paul Ekpenyong were standing and also attending was Mike Williams, the then current editor. From Felix 7 March 1975 the results were 440 for Clive Dewey and 527 for Paul Ekpenyong who was declared the next editor for 1975/1976.

At 7mins 20secs into the video you will also hear something very rare indeed. The college bells on the top of Mechanical Engineering chiming 6pm. We must have had the windows open in the studio which was then located on level 3 of Electrical Engineering facing where the bells were. So not only do we know the date, but also the time of this recording, that’s unique.

Colin Grimshaw August 2023

STOIC Videotape Archive: 1979

Recently I had an email from STOIC’s first full-time videotape archivist (1980-1981) Colin Jenkins. The email reminded me of the huge contribution that the card index has made to college history, through videotape recordings. Sadly this is a fact that college does not appreciate or make use of and hence why this blog is maintained to showcase this valuable resource.

Initially, and only for about ten videotapes, the indexing was started using the facilities of the college computer centre. Details were outputted on computer lined paper as can be seen in this photo. This printout then had to be cut and stuck inside the videotape box and also onto the actual videotape. I never was happy with this idea of sticking the printout onto the actual tapes in case they came off whilst inside the tape machine! The problem was that only the person who had created this computer account (and routine) could access the index. It soon became very clear that this was simply not possible to maintain as students came and went from college and their computer accounts were closed! A simple system was needed that could be accessed within the studio that didn’t require a computer centre account or terminal to be able to log on.

So, what could be more simple than the good old card index. Initially, using a single draw card index file, the new system was started by Colin Jenkins, simply known to us all as CJ. The new way of indexing and archiving was changed at the beginning of recordings being made on the U-matic tape system (Autumn term 1979). This itself is interesting because up until then videotapes were recorded over each week and therefore previous programmes were lost for ever. This was due to of the high cost of videotapes. U-matics were a lot cheaper to buy and an increased budget allowed STOIC to start keeping, and thus archiving, all programmes made. It also meant less potential wear on the tape machines when using the same tapes over and over again each week.

I have now completed a simple backup of the entire card index by scanning every card into a PDF file. It would be desirable to collate these into something like an Excel or Word file, but that isn’t really necessary for this use – keep it simple. Because the indexing was now maintained within the file system draws, a way was still needed to present data within the actual tape box (as in the original computer printout idea). I suggested that the programme running orders, that were used for each programme, be held within each tape box.

The programme running orders are now as valuable as the index in finding what was recorded onto the tape. Even last minute changes were written by hand and most of the basic information then added to either current or new index cards. The card index was never created to hold all of the information that can be found on the running orders. I’m pleased to say that even after CJ had left Imperial, the index continued. STOIC left the college TV studio after the end of term in 1986. From the index I can see that a few entries were made in 1987 but then things stopped. Therefore no record exists of programmes after that time and it will be a task to decipher content when running those tapes that exist from that period.

One final point is that some videotapes were kept prior to 1979. These video recordings were made on the Ampex Type A one-inch format and were also added to the card index. So technically we can go back to February 1970 when STOIC’s first news programme was made and the actual videotape was kept and added to the collection.

Colin Grimshaw July 2023

Weather at Imperial: 1983

Back in 2019 I wrote a blog about the weather forecast that STOIC gave during their weekly transmissions. What we now have is the news report that was in the programme that proceeded the forecast that Mike Prosser presented. The news programme was recorded the day before, so the weather was given live during the continuity announcement at the end of their news programme.

Atmospheric Physics was where the whole thing happened and STOIC’s Martin Bolding went over there to report on how it was all done.

Colin Grimshaw April 2023

An Electric Car at Imperial in 1972?

Yes, it’s hard to believe but there was research into electric cars at Imperial way back over 50 years ago. And this is once again a story for which the original videotape was long ago erased (assuming there was one). The programme was called La Jamais Contente.

What we do have are some precious photos that were taken at the time of some of the recordings on 20 June 1972. STOIC presenter Richard Woodhead is seen along with Electrical Engineering academic staff member and “EV” researcher John Prigmore (both far right with John Prigmore’s back to camera). The vehicle was a “bubble car” that was converted to electric operation. It really is so long ago that I can’t remember any of the details about the programme or indeed why it was made.

As usual I resorted to searching the FELIX newspaper online archive and found this item announcing the showing of the programme almost 5 months after the location recording took place.

The still photos are interesting because it has reminded me that we could not transport the Ampex video recorder. You can see the “Link” camera we had for such work outside of the studio and this had cabling from the roadway on level one up into the TV Studio on level three. That’s me with a series of cue cards and the countdown clock to ident the sequence being recorded. From looking at the countdown clock board, these were sequences shot as ‘inserts’ for the programme which was to have been edited.

Here’s Richard Woodhead with the car, he’s pretending to plug it in for recharging. Again, this was down on the level one roadway by Electrical Engineering. It’s very difficult to see, but the small sign stuck to the wall near his shoulder says “Electric Vehicle Charging Station”. How funny that 50 years later Imperial College really does now have charging stations for EV’s on the South Kensington campus!

The countdown board indicates that STOIC member Paul McCallum directed this, but sadly he’s not seen in any of these photos. However, in this reverse shot of Richard Woodhead and the electric car you can see my friend Tim Jeffes sitting between me (left) and the camera. It looks like he’s possibly writing on the cue card boards which were used for prompting of the script.

I had been trying to work out how we did the sound for these recordings and I’ve just spotted in this photo that Richard was wearing a radiomic that would have been received up by the TV Studio window on level three. I’m assuming that this was a sequence where we actually got to see the car working and that he was just stepping out of the car to record a piece to camera.

And finally a shot of the car (left photo) with John Prigmore inside. You can just see his white shirt over on the right of the car windscreen. I wonder whatever happened to YUC 998 after all of the research came to an end? From some research I found that John Prigmore died on 13 September 1984. It indicated that he worked at Imperial from 1947 to 1982 and that during is career he wrote several books although none on the subject we see here. And wouldn’t it have been great to still have these 1972 videotapes in an age where electric cars have now come into being?

And a sad note to end on. I’d reached the end of writing this article and remembered that I had previously had emails from Richard Woodhead. I thought he might be able to shed more light on this video. But I found to my shock that he had died back on 5 July 2021, so my memories of this are all we now have.

Colin Grimshaw February 2022

Prof Eric Laithwaite – uncut: 1983

I have previously made available the following two videos which I recorded for Professor Eric Laithwaite. Recently I was able to locate the original camera footage shot on each day, and of course, prior to being edited. I thought that after 40 years it was worth uploading this uncut footage.

There are two versions of the Gyro Wheel and several retakes & close-up’s of the Plate Levitator. The Gyro Wheel was recorded in the TV Studio and the Plate Levitator down in Eric Laithwaite’s lab on level one in Electrical Engineering. There will be a few start and stops, along with colour bars and black in-between. You’ll also hear me over the studio intercom and off-camera when down in the lab. As I have said before, he was very easy to work with and understood and appreciated how videos, films and TV programmes were made and also the requirements to reshoot sections or close-ups. In the TV studio you will also see Barry Owen his Research Assistant helping to spin the wheel up. And down in the lab, Eric Laithwaite will give him a few instructions during the lifting of the plate.


Colin Grimshaw January 2023

Students: 1971

During the recent transfer of 8mm films into digital, I came across a film that I had forgotten all about.

In 1971 some 3rd year students in Electrical Engineering came up with the idea of shooting a film as part of their end of term project. I’m pretty sure that these students must have had a connection with Professor Colin Cherry who was then Professor of Telecommunication in their department. I am assuming this connection with the film because both he and his former secretary are credited at the end. After 50 years we will never actually know.

Digitising the film was, as usual, not an easy job. The sound is a magnetic track bonded to the edge of the film and playable only via a suitable 8mm projector. Fortunately, when the TV Studio was closed, I had rescued the Eumig 8mm projector that was actually used to record the soundtrack back in 1971. The magnetic track was added to the film using a very clever device that glued the very thin piece of magnetic tape onto the edge of the film. If you look above the sprocket holes you can see this track. I know that some films had lost their tracks when the glue gave way, but this film was all OK.

I recorded the sound from the projector, cleaned it up and adjusted the speed to be correct. I was able to judge this because I was amazed to discover that I had actually recorded part of the voice-over and that was my clue to getting the speed correct. I then adjusted the duration/speed of the film to then match the soundtrack duration.

Sadly the students that made this are not credited on the film, so we may never know who they were. But, after 50 years here’s the film called “Students” made in 1971.

Colin Grimshaw November 2022

Freshers’ Fair: 2007

In October 2007 we covered the Freshers’ Fair for the first time. Lots of the usual interviews with new students and an added bonus of a few words from Sir Richard Sykes who was then Rector of the college. This was the first time (maybe because it was the Centenary Year?) that Communications had shown any interest in the event being recorded. Prior to that, the first recorded time Freshers’ Fair had been covered was by STOIC and that was in 1980. In October 2019 I discovered that videotape and posted a blog with the original location report by Grant Richmond. Click the link to go to that blog.

The 1980 recording was of course in black and white, but we went into colour very soon after that. 2007 was in colour and widescreen and shot in digital format. Back in 1980 it was pretty awful low resolution black and white.

So here then is the first Freshers’ Fair covered by, and for, the college administration.

Colin Grimshaw August 2022

Prof Eric Laithwaite – Local Heroes: 1999

In 1999 the BBC had a TV series called Local Heroes. It was presented by Adam Hart-Davis and featured various people who had made significant contributions to science etc. One programme featured Prof Eric Laithwaite. Filming took place in Eric Laithwaite’s original lab in Electrical Engineering. They needed various extras, so not surprisingly they contacted me. I provided the portrait photo (taken by my colleague Neville Miles); as well as giving them access to some film clips, and also pointing them towards other BBC materials that I knew about. One clip that I mentioned to them was the Noel Edmonds ‘Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ clip. Having been involved with the 1974 RI Christmas Lectures I also made sure that they knew about those too. Not a bad piece, except they got his title incorrect. It should have been Professor of Heavy ELECTRICAL Engineering, they left electrical out!

The opening sequence is before the college main entrance changed completely, so that’s a flashback for those who remember it the way it once was.

Colin Grimshaw July 2022