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Royal Holloway awarded £1.3m for television technology research

Posted on 17/07/2013

Why do old television programmes look so strange and formal? And how has technology made modern shows such as Big Brother possible?

Research at Royal Holloway will explore these questions in a £1.3m study – the first of its kind in the UK - into the history of television technology since 1960.

From the over-rehearsed feel of black-and-white news interviews, to the filming of reality television, a team led by Professor John Ellis, from the Department of Media Arts, will research the technological constraints and developments that have given programmes their unique appearance.

“With a huge amount of archive programming now being shown by channels such as BBC 4, ITV3 and Yesterday, there has never been a more important time to tell the story of how it was filmed,” Professor Ellis said.

“You can watch old favourites such as Upstairs Downstairs or The Forsyte Saga, which were filmed in a studio, and it’s fascinating how they are so different to modern programmes. They were made in a totally different way. In modern dramas the editing pace is so much faster, giving the programme a completely different look, and that’s due to the exciting technological developments we will be studying.”

Researchers will work with former television technicians to discover how limitations in filming technology over the years drove changes in the industry. They will film reconstructions, which will be made available online, and conduct interviews about the difficulties they had adapting to technological changes.

The award, from the European Research Council, is one of very few given to social sciences and humanities projects at UK universities. In fact, only 19 out of a total of 302 Advanced Grants from the European Research Council were awarded to these types of projects in this annual bidding round.

Professor Ellis added: “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant, which will allow us to research the vast technological changes in television and draw together the threads of this complex story.”


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