ABOUT THESE PAGES
In the later days of Southern Television I, Dave Knowles was the editor of Out of Town and worked very closely with Jack on the programme. After Southern lost their franchise I then produced over a period of three years, 60 programmes for Channel 4 called “Old Country” using the same format and set that had been used at Southern for Out of Town. I spent hundreds of hours with Jack as I not only was the producer and owner of the Lacewing Productions (later to become The Production Unit) but also the editor of the film inserts.
“Old Country” was the first full network programme that Jack had ever made so it was a very important stage in Jacks broadcasting career.
This site is to help people learn how “Old Country” was produced by the use of pictures and sounds.
I hope you enjoy,
LIST OF OLD COUNTRY PROGRAMMES
This list was kindly sent to me by Ian Wegg and shows all the ‘Old Country” programmes transmitted on Channel 4.
THE ORIGINAL OUT OF TOWN MUSIC
HOW OLD COUNTRY WAS PRODUCED
I thought I would give a rough idea how we produced Out of Town and Old Country with Jack:
I though that I would explain about the material being collected on Tuesday as what it contains and what eventually might need to be done, depending on what is there. I worked on Out of Town for many years as the editor at Southern Television. I then produced all of the Old Country programmes for Channel 4.
At Southern Television all Out of Town programmes were shot on 16mm film with no sound. I would then sit with Jack and go through the rushes and he would tell me the story he wanted to tell and the length he wanted to end up with. This was usually around 10 minutes as we normally had one film in the first half of the programme and one in the second. I would then edit the programme and call him back to look at it and approve it. Because of our very close working relationship I normally knew exactly what he wanted to show so changes were very rare.
Once Jack had seen the film I then laid the sound track by finding effects to cover what was happening on the pictures. Once I had laid the sound track I took it into the sound department and we mixed all the tracks together and at Southern Television it was common practice to the transfer these sound onto the sound stripe that ran down the edge of the 16mm film. Generally in television film was broadcast with the sound coming from a separate track which was the same size as 16mm film but had a magnetic coating but at Southern they did not like doing this as it was felt if either the telecine or sound machine had a problem then the sound would be lost.
The downside of this was however the sound quality was nowhere near as good from the stripe as the area was much smaller and the film had joins which tended to cause bumps as they went over the sound heads. One thing you do need to remember though sound coming out of a television then cut off all the highs so the overall quality was pretty low. While on the subject of quality it should also be remembered that 16mm reversal film was not good and in fact when video first became popular with the advent of U-Matic (which was had resolution far less than a basic mobile phone camera these days) this was considered better than it.
As far as I can remember the Out of Town went into the studio on a Monday morning and everything had to be ready by 9:30 am. On our arrival at Southern we were given a running order for the film inserts for the programme and lets say the two films were fly fishing in the first half and donkey racing in the second these had to be made up onto spools and got down to telecine (which was at the other end of the building) by 9:30. If you ever look at one of the programmes that went out you will see little dots in the top right hand of the film 3 seconds before the end these we also had to add. The purpose for these were to let everyone know when the film was going to run out and the mix back to the studio was to happen.
After we had got the film down to telecine everything was now out of our hands and George Egan the studio director took over. For Out of Town they used the smallest studio which I think was studio 3. This studio was also used for Day by Day so Jacks set (his famous shed) had to be set up in the morning. Jack would bring in what props (maybe fishing rods, horse harness) he needed for that mornings recording. They would then do a run through of the complete programme which was unscripted. Jack would sit on his stool and have a little monitor in front of him (out of shot) to watch the film inserts and just talk for duration. He was never worried about making a small error in information as he always said to me that this created viewer participation.
After the run through which finished around 10:15 they then went for the recording which was the same as the rehearsal ad libbed by Jack and I can only remember once did he ask for a retake. The titles for the programme were fed in from tape and everything was like a live broadcast.
It may be of interest about the music used on Out of Town came about as one day on Southern s regional magazine Day by Day there was a classical guitarist on. Jack was walking past the studio and heard him playing. Jack immediately fell in love with the piece and later asked him if he could use it on Out of Town.
The Out of Town programme at Southern were originally recorded onto 2″ video tape. I think later it may have gone onto 1″ but certainly when I first was involved 2″ was the size used. Southern also had a policy of recording the sound of the whole programme on 1/4″ audio tape and some of these are possibly what are in Plymouth. Please note though these 1/4″ tapes were left to free run so they would not sync up with any programme. Also the only visual recording of the studio links were on the 2″ tape and Southern found that a lot of the material on these tapes eventually disappeared during storage when they came to make compilations for their staff when they lost their franchise.
So to conclude on this section the films should have sound effects on them and the 1/4″ will possibly be the complete audio recording of the final programme. The film will need to be handled very carefully due to its age and the joins which were made either by me or one of the assistants will probably dried out and when run through a machine could catch and rip the film.
These days there are only a very few if not only one place that handles transferring 16mm film to tape. We had some films from Abu Dhabi a few of years ago that needed putting onto tape and could only find one company (I post the company name & cost when we find the invoice) that would do this. It was also very costly but this is what should be done to preserve it. Firstly the films were ultrasound cleaned, checked then transferred.
The 1/4″ tapes can be easily transferred but will not be in sync and will therefore need a lot of work to make Jacks voice fit the film sections. This can be done though as I have often had to do this (with my editors hat on) in the past. What is involved is either adding to the film (which would be on tape) or trimming the sound. You would be surprised though how quickly they will probably run out of sync.
The quality of the pictures will depend on how Jack stored them bearing in mind that he was not technical so he just kept them in a shed. They will however probably be OK and I will have a quick look when we pick them up from Plymouth.
If you have any questions please let me know either by posting here or emailing me at Mail@TheThermalCook.co.uk. I did work very closely with Jack for many years and spent time with him not only in the cutting room but also socially.
I do hope that this has helped to clear up things about what is in Plymouth. I have not touched on Old Country which I produced but will let you all know what is there once I have had a chance to look at it.
Please forgive any waffle (and bad English) in all this it is all thoughts that have just been put down as they came to mind.