Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Curse of the Double Exposure

 Back in the olden days, when television was watched once and then you moved onto something new, there was no concept of being able to watch something again. Unless the BBC or ITV decided to repeat a show, you had one chance to watch it and that was all.  There were no video machines, and so the best you could do was to make an audio recording of a favourite show so you could listen to it again ... but a second best was to take photographs of the television screen.

I was doing both! From around 1974 I was recording DOCTOR WHO on audio each week. My dad had a decent reel to reel setup and he also had the technical knowhow to wire the system into the gubbins from the back of an old television and allow for direct recordings to be made of the tv sound. Some people had to hold a microphone up to the television and insist that everyone in the room be quiet ... but I had no such worries.

Then, from around 1975 I started to get into photography. and by 1976 I was out interviewing Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke for my fanzine. and then in 1977 it was fanzines all the way!! And the first DOCTOR WHO convention in August 1977 paved the way for more photographs and better kit!

Thus I started to dabble in taking pictures from the television set. And it wasn't as easy as it looked! First of all, of course, you had no idea whether what you were taking was actually coming out. A roll of film had to be completed and then sent off or taken to the chemists to be developed and only then did you know if it had worked or not.

Trial and error revealed that you need to slow the shutter speed down. Television (or at least good old 625 line television) is not comprised of a single image. There is a pattern of dots/lines and these refresh themselves every so often, so in order to get a photo of the whole image, your shutter speed needed to be slower than the speed it took the image to refresh.

Also, I discovered that a camera with a SLR system was better - you could actually see the image you were taking through the eyepiece.

Because you had to slow the shutter speed, you also needed a tripod to ensure that the camera was steady, otherwise blurred shots would result. And sometimes, you'd get some photos which were double exposed as you pressed the shutter when you saw a good image, but at that second it changed to a different image ... and you ended up with both on your film!

A recently discovered a load of 'failed' double image pictures from DOCTOR WHO and realised that today, with digital cameras and computers, there was no need to use a camera/tripod/film any more. Any image you want can be taken direct from a video file with a Screen Capture ... and of course you would NEVER get a double image this way - unless the director had done a fast cross fade so there was actually two images on screen at the same time.

So I thought, before I bin them, I'd record these images here. All taken with my SLR camera, on a tripod, poised in front of DOCTOR WHO being shown live on the television ...

I've probably got more somewhere ... so enjoy ... the accidental fruits of the lost art of taking pics of a live television transmission!

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Review: Late Night Horror: The Corpse Can't Play (1968/2022)

Being something of a horror buff, I'm always interested when something new appears ... and so I was fascinated when I saw online that the archive television preservation organisation Kaleidoscope were releasing an episode of a TV horror series previously unknown to me ... Late Night Horror. This was a 6 episode series, made in colour (very early for that) for the BBC in 1968, and then repeated once in 1970. All the series was lost (due to the BBC's policy of wiping tapes and destroying material which was felt to have no further commercial value) but a single episode was discovered in a private collection back in the 1980s, but then vanished into another collection, only to emerge again in 2016, where Kaleidoscope bought it, and restored it.

Now they have released it, along with a short book looking at the history of the show, and it's a fascinating glimpse of this series.

Continuing the theme of the restoration, what was recovered was a black and white film print, but technology and some brilliant minds have managed to use colour information recorded on the frames of the print to regenerate and recreate the colour ... add many, many hours of manual work retouching and repairing faults on the print, and you have something which could be transmitted again today - it's actually quite incredible!

The episode which has been recovered is called 'The Corpse Can't Play', written by John Burke, and is a neat little vignette set at a kids' party where the adults prepare sandwiches and cake while the kids run riot around the house, shouting and screaming and pushing and shoving. A latecomer is 'Simon' who brings the best present, but who is then tormented by the birthday boy ... and the ultimate results are quite horrific.

I enjoyed seeing it a lot, and it actually brought back vague memories of the tale. I would have been 7 years old in 1968 so I doubt I saw it then, and nor in 1970 ... but perhaps I am remembering the story from a print appearance - several of those adapted saw light in The Pan Book of Horror Stories and the original story, 'Party Games', was in The Sixth Pan book of Horror Stories (1965) ... so maybe that's where I know it from ... not sure.

The package from Kaleidoscope is available here:

This includes a DVD of the production (plus a feature on the restoration and a rather nice trailer for the series featuring Valentine Dyall as 'the Man in Black') and the book.

While the book is a welcome addition, they really need to pay more attention to the layout which is very sloppy and brings the whole thing down a notch in my opinion. I think, personally, I would have preferred a presentation in a DVD case, with the DVD there, and the book sized to fit inside the case too ... But that's me being mega-picky.

As a piece of historic television, this presentation is to be applauded, and I hope that other horror series could be found and restored to this quality ... Well worth a look if you're interested in television horror!

Here's the titles for the show ... in black and white and from a BBC Radiophonic Workshop demo reel. The music is by Dick Mills and appeared on the BBC LP Out of this World.