I haven’t featured any of the ‘entertainment’ interviews made by STOIC before, but this one is relevant. We interviewed Andrew Sachs, famous for Fawlty Towers, 36 years ago in 1980, a few months after the TV studio went into colour production. This was also during the 10th anniversary year of STOIC. His death was announced in the last few days and I thought it was appropriate to re-share this now.
This post is a real example of something I thought, like many videos, was lost for ever. Just for fun, back in 1970 I shot some black and white 8mm film of the fledgling TV Studio. We had the ability to add an incredibly small magnetic stripe to the edge of the film allowing us to create a sound track. It’s all rather amateur because I had to record the track in ‘real time’ and put it directly onto the sound stripe, hopefully in sync with what was happening, as far as the pictures were concerned that is.
The film gives a behind the scenes view of what we had then created in the studio. We had little or nothing to work with and the original cameras were basic to say the least, but we managed. That’s me in the picture on the right with one of those cameras. You’ll see the array of old monitors and the Ampex video recorder too. Nothing really exists from that period except the rare recording with former Rector Lord Penney. I did however shoot some film from the TV screens and although there’s a strong flicker it does at least record what was going on.
The film captures the changes into something that was to become more like a TV Studio. I had the film, but had never bothered to try to get it on video. When the studio closed in Feb 2007 most of the equipment was put into a skip, but I made sure I kept the Eumig 8mm sound projector as this would be the only way to play back the sound track. This actual projector was used to record the track in 1970. I never thought I’d be able to rig it all back up and get the sound track off, but I did. A little bit of modern post production has improved the sound a little. So, here for the first time in 46 years is that film which captures another small part of the Imperial College history.
Recently digitised from the video archive collection is the very first news-magazine programme made by the student TV service, STOIC. 50 years ago on the 17th February 1970 an experimental programme was made to ascertain the feasibility of producing such a news programme on a weekly (or at least a regular) basis. At this time, STOIC used the TV studio facilities of the Electrical Engineering Department, as seen over in the right hand photo and with me operating a camera.
The original plan was to produce a light hearted and simple programme, reflecting what was currently happening in and around college. However, at 10am on the morning of the recording on Tuesday 17th February, the Pro-Rector Lord Jackson (1904-1970), who was also Professor of Electrical Engineering, died. Plans were immediately changed and his colleague, the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department Prof John Brown (seen on the left in the video) appeared to pay tribute. This itself is a unique recording, having been made within hours of Jackson’s death.
Although this was only a trial programme, some effort had been put into trying to make it look as professional as possible. A filmed report (on 8mm film) was shot at a Touchstone weekend being held at Silwood Park. Piers Corbyn, the controversial students union president (1969-1970), appeared in an interview. Another filmed report was on the first major event to be held in the then newly opened College Block (now renamed Sherfield Building). The programme was presented and linked together by Vivienne Taylor who went on to present a local TV programme on London’s Thames Television.
The programme was shown the following day (18th February) in the then new Junior Common Room in College Block. A copy of the original flyer can be seen below. It’s amazing the recording has survived all these years. The original one-inch Ampex videotape still exists, but only because I had given STOIC the videotape to record on, with the very intention of it being kept for posterity and 45 years later, I’m glad I did! If I hadn’t, then like many BBC videotapes, it would have been erased and used again for another programme.
In a previous entry you would have seen the video I made to celebrate the City and Guilds College Centenary in February 1985. As part of the week of events an exhibition was run entitled “Technology 2000”. It was opened by Margaret Thatcher -who was then Prime Minister- on 27 February 1985.
Professor Bruce Sayers was then Dean of City and Guilds and made the introduction. This version of the speech is the full version. The one already seen in the C&G centenary video is edited down to fit into a specific duration. Here then is the full, unedited version, from the original 1985 master tape.
In “Promotion: 1” (March 2010), I mentioned the Civil Engineering and Chemistry Departments. In June 1981 I was asked to take on the task of making a promotional video for the Chemistry Department.
This was intended to promote all aspects of what the department did and to assist in the recruitment of new students. I also recall it being shown at Open Days which seemed obvious . Two members of the staff were appointed as ‘producers’ so most of the content and the wording of the voiceovers was decided for me. Looking back at the video over 30 years later it has too much in it. The history section seems unnecessary and there’s too much detail in the various elements featured. It runs for nearly 20 mins which is about two thirds too long in todays modern YouTube video world. Leave them wanting more is the theory, not wanting to leave the room as soon as the video has eventually finished! This was one of two videos made for the department, the second being made four years later in July 1985. It’s worth noting that both of these videos were made using our original colour camera. It needed massive amounts of light (as mentioned in the Library video) and suffered ‘smearing’ on highlights, the colour itself was none too brilliant either!
The second video was also far too long but did, thank goodness, have Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson in it. He appeared because he was then head of department. Being a Nobel Prize winner it was considered important and prestigious to feature him. I said thank goodness because it has given us the only interview recorded with him whilst at Imperial, an archive gem. Like the first video in 1981 I had little control over the content. It seemed that almost everything including the kitchen sink appeared in the video. I truly ‘cringe’ when I watch it, especially the Kensington Gardens sequence! One of the few times I managed to get my way was on the intro sequence. I used so called ‘production music’ rather than music created by a family member as in the first video. The video does use, for the first time, electronic effects. The multi-picture sequence later on and during the opening where the image slides down were all very new at the time. Now, these are common place and all achievable on a computerised edit suite, but we had a dedicated box to do it that cost thousands of pounds.
On an historical note, the first person you see talking is located in a lovely garden area…that’s where the ‘blue box’ Faculty Building is now standing! You’ll also see Princes Gardens, as it then was, in the summer of 1985. Between 1981 and 1993 I made around 10 teaching videos that were used on various ‘lab days’ to show the students how do undertake the experiments they had to do. It was considered more effective to show one correct version of an experiment, rather than several slightly different versions by several different people based around the labs. I’ll try and get some of these on line soon. Maybe you had to do one of these experiments whilst at Imperial?
Also, if you are featured in any of these videos do let us know. The two still photos were by my former colleague Neville Miles, who like me, helped to capture some of the history of Imperial College in the many photographs he took over the years.
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 in black and white too. 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 editing this programme could not have been made.
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. Now there are machines on every floor!
The presenter of the video is Mark Caldwell, an former STOIC chairman from the mid 1970’s. Mark is now based in Germany, working for the world radio division of Deutsche Welle. From time to time you can hear him presenting items like this one on the Planck and Herschel space telescopes.
This is an additional and brief entry to mark the recording of a video I made 30 years ago this very week. The video was “The Office of the Professional” made with, and for, Professor Bob Spence from Electrical Engineering. You’ll find this video and others in the section about Bob’s work, but I thought it worth repeating. I saw Bob recently and we both recalled the making of the video and how complicated it was. For example, the various TV screens seen running were in fact fed from different video players, so making these all run in sync was not easy. In fact, along with the recorder that was actually recording the video from the camera, we had 3 machines all needing to be run at the same time. This was early days for us and our colour camera (yes camera, as we had only one) which needed a lot of light to give good pictures.
The video was shot during this week in December 1980 and edited, after the Christmas holiday, in January 1981. Bill Buxton in his 2007 book Sketching User Experiences is quoted as saying, in reference to the video that this “is the first example of an envisionment video that I am aware of” and that it was “remarkable for its insights”. As I have already detailed in the previous full entry about Bob, the office desk that was constructed was faced in cardboard and green felt. One oversight was perhaps the telephones, we never attempted to change these to anything futuristic, so they look a bit odd now. The video also captures parts of the college long since changed and Alumni may remember: the main entrance, the steps and the original walkway going towards Electrical Engineering. These shots were taken on a dark and wet December afternoon back in 1980.
As we celebrate yet another Commemoration Day at the Royal Albert Hall I thought the time was right to bring you the few recordings we have from earlier years. At the end, I’ll mention technical challenges involved with the transfer of the first two recordings onto modern formats.
Although you’ll find this first recording elsewhere I’ll include it again for completeness.
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. King George said: “You students here assembled – men and women who soon will be going out from the Imperial College to your work in the world – have not only an opportunity but also a responsibility greater than men of science have known before. To you, I say: Regard your knowledge and your skill always in the light of a trust for the benefit of humanity, and thereby ensure, so far as in you lies, that science may never be put to uses which offend the higher conscience of mankind.”
For those unfamiliar with King George 6th, he battled throughout his life with a nervous stammer and his attempts to overcome this during the speech are obvious with long pauses between sentences.
From 1945 we jump to 1952 and a recording that, so far, I have no idea exactly why it was made. It features Karl Compton who was a prominent American physicist and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1930 to 1948. In 1948 he resigned his post as President of MIT and was elected president of the MIT Corporation. He held that position until his death on June 22, 1954, some two years after this sound recording was made. Compton was awarded a fellowship in 1949 but was unable to attend, but in 1952 he was special visitor and collected it then. Interesting references are made to key players in college life at that time: Chairman, Viscount Falmouth; Rector, Sir Roderic Hill along with Sir Henry Tizard, Sir Richard Southwell and Sir George Thomson. There is only part of the introduction by Viscount Falmouth to Karl Compton on the original tape, so it will sound a bit truncated. At the end, Compton reads greetings to the Imperial community from the President and also the Chairman of MIT and the American national anthem is played. Could this be why it was recorded?
Finally, we have something visual in the form of a 16mm colour film shot in 1973. Robert W Sarnoff was President of RCA (Radio Corporation of America). He was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, he followed in his father’s professional footsteps throughout his career at NBC and RCA. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. A year later in 1974 Sarnoff married Metropolitan Opera diva Anna Moffo, so maybe opera was his interest as well as being the music library benefactor? As I understand it, Sarnoff himself paid for large parts of the 1973 Commemoration Day ceremony to be filmed in colour and with sound. Lord Flowers was Rector at the time and is seen in this current extract. This is the earliest moving picture record the college has of one of its ceremonies and it’s thanks to Robert Sarnoff that this happened. One of the greatest achievements by RCA and Sarnoff in particular was the development and introduction of colour TV in the USA. He was the first person to be officially televised in colour at the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facilities on May 22, 1958. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this 1958 event. The program represents the earliest known colour recording discovered to date.
The first two sound recordings could have been lost for ever had we not transferred them onto modern formats. The 1945 recording of King George 6th is held on 78rpm shellac discs which are very delicate and will break if dropped. I had these transferred by the National Sound Archive a few years ago. Although, in theory it’s easy to copy these discs, using the correct pick-up weight and stylus is essential. Using a modern LP stylus will simply “bottom’ into the disc’s groove and produce more scratch and crackle then actual sound and can damage it too.
The second recording IS interesting. I discovered that the recording tape used paper as the backing, rather than a form of plastic and its manufacture probably dates from the 1940’s. The oxide was also very basic and looked more like gunpowder than anything you could record sound on! Transferring the tape was also a challenge as I had to run the tape very slowly because it was sticking to itself like a reel of sticky parcel tape. A lot of background noise will he heard and I’m still amazed I managed to get anything off of it anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed listening to our recordings of Commemoration Days from the past….unless YOU have something we don’t know about?
So now we come to the second Seen and Gone and this is when we get to see something interesting (and yes I do mean see). In December 1971 STOIC showed their Christmas edition of the then regular news programme Topic. I’ll try to recall the background to this programme if my memory serves me well!
Although by this time we had two videotape recorders in the studio, the programme was shown live to the JCR (Junior Common room), whilst the recorders were used to replay some inserts into the programme (maybe one did also record I can’t remember). At this time it was still not possible to easily record items outside of the studio so some cunning ideas came into use. To enable STOIC to capture external events an 8mm cine camera was used. The footage was then edited together and a simple background audio track of, for example, street noise, was created to play in the background. These inserts were then run into the live programme whilst one of the presenters did a voiceover. In later years a magnetic sound stripe was added to the film to allow sound to be pre-recorded in synch. Things didn’t always go to plan however, the splices in the film sometimes broke during projection or whilst being made ready to be shown. On one occasion a splice broke on the film that was going onto the take-up reel, the easiest thing to do at the time was to ignore it and therefore the film simply spooled directly onto the control room floor in a large pile. This edition of Topic was a good example of where things could and did go wrong. You’ll hear two situations where something happened and the presenter is called on the phone from the control and asked to ‘pad’ until it’s resolved. I thought it was fun if I left those in what you’ll be hearing.
Now, I have called this Seen and Gone, but that’s not strictly true in this case. When I found the audio recording I remembered several spools of 8mm film. These are the original films used to insert into the programmes until portable video became available. They have sat there for 40 years waiting to be seen again. However the videos which they appeared in have long gone. But, in this case I had the soundtrack! So, what you are about to see is the recreation of a lost programme from 40 years ago. I remembered too that I had some photos of STOIC setting up and using the studio at Christmas…..bingo, it was THE same programme I had on audio. So, I’ve been able to use them and the 8mm films to insert at the appropriate places. There does appear to be one film missing and you’ll only hear the commentary and background sound effects. I discovered photos of Lord Penney being interviewed and those too are from the same programme.
So, you’ll be hearing and/or seeing: Guilds Motor club A-Z rally; NUS day of action; Silly Football in Hyde Park; Morphy Day rowing, the London to Brighton vintage car rally and the Lord Mayor’s Show. An interview with Lord Penney (then Rector) was prerecorded and I used the three photos taken at the time of that. Former Union President Piers Corbyn is included and I found a photo taken of that as well. And there’s an added bonus too. Many of the 8mm films were shot with normal Kodak 8mm film stock, so for the first time ever these will be seen in colour. Other items were shot using black and white film. So here is my recreated Christmas Topic from December 1971 with mistakes and technical breakdowns left in.
Brian Flowers (1924-2010) became Rector in succession to Lord Penney in 1973. Then Sir Brian, he quickly became popular and approachable with staff and students alike. The now famous ‘beer and bangers’ parties held by him and Lady Mary Flowers (1921-2016) were hosted in their flat at the Norman Shaw designed building at 170 Queens Gate. This gave many people the opportunity to meet both of them and in particular to gain access to one of the most wonderful buildings owned by Imperial College. Five years after he became Rector, I shot a video with the student TV service STOIC, this was the first time a video had been shot in 170 and in particular up in the Rector’s flat (a photo taken during this event is at the bottom of this entry with me in silhouette on the extreme left hand side). Please click on MORE to continue reading this post.(more…)