From 2" Quad and 1" tape along with live Telecine to Tapeless working and server automation, stopping at almost every area of broadcast technology on the way.
Way back then in the beginning. I joined the BBC in 1982 as an engineer, just before the start of Breakfast Television. The days when Frank Bough and Selena Scott sat on red sofas wore jumpers and poured cups of coffee for their guests. I spent several months before the start of Breakfast Time in a concentration camp, otherwise known as BBC Wood Norton. Back then this was the BBC's engineering training division in Evesham in Worcestershire. Things have changed quite a bit since then and it is now a quite impressive and modern conference centre and I even do some of my training there once in a while. Back then it was just an old barracks.
After 14 weeks of training I arrived for my first day "On Station" at the old Lime Grove Studios in West London. It seems ironic now, how fate can change ones life. Within about an hour of my arrival, I was summonsed to the office of the head of engineering for a welcome chat, along with the other fifteen new engineers from my course. He welcomed us all and told us that the Tele-recording department was very short staffed and he was looking for volunteers to "help them out for three months". He then looked down at the two columns of names in front of him and said, "The two volunteers are..." and read the top name from each column on his list. My name was at the top of the second column. So there I was one hour into my engineering career and I had been seconded to the Film and Videotape department.
I was furious. I joined to be an engineer and that's what I wanted to be. I shouldn't have worried; within a week I realised that I loved working with VT and Telecine. Unlike my colleagues in engineering I got to work directly with the programme makers and just occasionally with the 'Stars'. So I stayed where I was, giving up what must be the shortest spell as an engineer ever! Lime Grove VT and Telecine was always under staffed or rather was staffed by very inexperienced people like my self. This may not have been great for the programmes as sometimes our inexperience showed on the screen. We had some monumental cock ups along the way but we learned from our mistakes. (Well most of us!)
I enjoyed my time in Telecine working with film and TARIFing (Colour correcting) 'On Air' but I knew that I wanted to be a Video Tape Editor. I set myself the goal of being one by the time I was 25 and that meant less then five years. By today's standards this sound ridiculous as many people can move from trainee to editor in a year or two but back then this would be a real challenge. I worked my compulsory three years as a trainee and became a 'Recording Operator'. Waiting only three months after this I managed to get promoted to 'Senior Recording Operator'. I think I was more shocked than my colleagues that I got the job. I had only applied for the experience of the board, so I would be prepared for the next time. I was very happy in my new job but I still knew where I wanted to be.
About six months after my promotion I started to press to be trained as an editor. After what seemed like years of being ignored but was in reality about six months, my boss relented and put me under the wing of one of the best and fastest editors around. The plan was that I would start by watching and then working under supervision and then slowly moving to working on my own. The only problem was that Ken was so fast, I could never see what he was doing. After a week drastic action was needed if I was to improve. Luckily, another very talented editor and a very good friend agreed to train me. This worked a treat and within a few weeks I was editing solo on 2 inch, 1 inch and Umatic tape. Within another month I was acting up to Editor at every opportunity.
Then all of a sudden some editors' jobs were announced this was not what I wanted, as I didn't have the experience and this time I knew I didn't stand a chance. At the same time I knew I dad to apply for the job to avoid offending all those I'd been pushing so hard to get where I was. My old head of department had a well-practised routine of announcing who had got jobs or not. If you were called into his office first thing in the morning it was bad news. When he had dispensed all the bad news he would then call in those that had been successful. I had an early call! Sure enough he told me that I had not been successful, as I didn't have the necessary experience. However, I'd had a very good board and he was offering me an attachment as an Editor, so I could get the experience. I just couldn't believe my luck again. Six months latter and six months to the day before my twenty fifth birthday I boarded for the next lot of editors jobs and got one.
Now I was editing I wasn't looking for any more promotions, just trying to get better and better at doing my job. At about this time the BBC decided to merge the Current Affairs unit with News. This was not a popular move with many of us. Within a week more than a dozen editors had resigned. Editing for News was not what most of us wanted to do. Speed seemed more important than quality. The bonus was that we got to travel, even if you didn't need your passport very often. Looking back on it now, quality was important and I learned more about editing than I could ever have hoped for. We had feedback on everything we did. Edits were discussed and torn apart in from of your peers. If you didn't have a very good excuse for a bad edit everyone would know so it made you think very hard about every edit.
Then one day my old boss from Lime Grove said he was going to be setting up the editing department in Westminster as parliament had voted to allow an experiment to televise the House of Commons. He asked if I would be interested in helping him in the early stages. So along with a couple of others we started designing edit suites, programmes and rotas. The project team was about 50 people. With such a small team we were all able to work very closely together. That team atmosphere was back, just like the Grove again. For the next eighteen months I worked as a Chief Editor on the Westminster programme. The editing was desperately repetitive but the team had loads of fun.
During a summer Recess I ended up working back at Television Centre again. The scheduling staff never quite knew what to do with us over the summer, so we filled in all sorts of strange jobs. Then one day I was asked if I wanted to do some editing for a department called Journalist Training. It seemed like a good was of spending the summer so I said 'Yes'. The department was tiny, just three people in the TV office and one of them I'd worked with for years on Breakfast Time. At the end of the summer they asked me to stay. I wasn't sure at the time but there seemed to be some very good editing being offered on the film direction courses. I eventually said 'Yes' and have been there ever since.
I started off just editing for the courses but as time moved on I started my own editing courses. The film courses gave me a dimension I missed in my editing. Bi-media training meant that finally got my head around some radio. Then I started training the multi-skilled journalists working on the new News 24 channel. That introduced me to newsroom computer automation systems that run a modern newsroom. Then came Final Cut Pro, Apple's editing software. Since I started to use it when version 1 was released, I have tried to keep cross this vast program. When Final Cut Studio came along I decided I needed to become proficient at using the ancillary software that comes bundled with FCP. So now I've mastered DVD Studio Pro, Color, Livetype and Compressor I only need to master Motion and Soundtrack Pro. One day Maybe?
At the moment most of the world is well into HD. News and Current Affairs programmes are well behind in this area. My projects for the next couple of years will be to train people working in newsrooms in London and around the country to use FCP in the HD and tapeless camera world.