Television has only recently become an all-digital medium. Programmes used to be made using analogue video or celluloid film.

Here you can see how these technologies worked. They created millions of hours of TV that continue to be watched around the world. This website features:

Over 130 videos
More than 12 hours of footage
Interactive stories about television history
Profiles of television veterans

Our videos recreate how TV used to be made, using historic technologies operated by the professionals who once used them every day.

These videos are the product of the ADAPT research project, funded by the European Research Council.

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Our reenactments

Between 2013 and 2018, ADAPT carried out a series of ambitious and ground-breaking historical reenactment experiments.

Former BBC camera operator Rex Palmer operating a Pye PC-80 broadcast television camera

We brought together retired television production staff and obsolete production equipment. Television film editors were reunited with flatbed editing tables, and camera operators once again operated long-disused electronic broadcast cameras.

Our modern digital cameras recorded participants’ reactions as their memories flooded back. We watched as teams worked together to once again perform their role in the complex television production chain. By observing teamwork we captured the subtle dynamics of television labour often ignored by the traditional interview.

ADAPT 16mm film reenactment set, with the viewfinder of a Sony PMW-100 digital video camera in the foreground

The reenactments were a combination of free-flowing television production activity and semi-structured interviews, and the resulting video material sits somewhere between oral history and television documentary.

Scroll down to find out how to use this website

How to use this website

We filmed hundreds of hours of footage during our reenactment experiments. We have now edited these rushes into many series of videos which aim to offer an insight into each stage in the historical television production process.

Screenshot of ADAPT collection on Figshare
All of the project’s videos are hosted on our Figshare repository, and many videos embedded in the pages of this website.

Videos of our 16mm television film reenactments, for example, follow the production process from shooting, through film processing, editing, and finally telecine.

A selection of these videos are embedded in this website, and you can use the menus at the top of the page to explore various aspects of the television production process. For our full collection of videos, we invite you to visit the project’s long-term data repository on the Figshare website.

Stories offer an in-depth, interactive way to explore the history of television production technology

This website also offers a Timeline which enables you to explore the chronological development of some of the key production technologies highlighted by this project.

Finally, we have produced a series of ‘Stories‘ – in-depth, interactive accounts of television history and production culture.

Scroll down to find out more about the project’s funding and team

About ADAPT

Between 2013 and 2018, ADAPT – funded by the European Research Council (grant no. 323626) and based in the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London – researched the history of British broadcast television technology between 1960 and the near-present.

The project carried out a series of ground-breaking historical reenactment exercises. Retired television staff were reunited with obsolete television production technologies, and demonstrated the tools and techniques that defined their working lives.

With the cooperation of equipment restorers and television history enthusiasts, ADAPT filmed their efforts so that future generations might better understand the physical labour and technological innovation which enabled British television production from 1960 onwards.

This website is the gateway to our video collection. Here, you can view and download hundreds of videos which give a unique and fresh insight into historical television production. All of our videos, which are hosted on the repository platform Figshare, are released under a permissive Creative Commons licence. You are free to download, remix, and redistribute them as you wish.

The project team

John Ellis, professor of media arts at Royal Holloway, University of London, was ADAPT’s principal investigator. He devised and managed the project and recruited research collaborators.

Amanda Murphy was the project’s digital producer. With a wealth of experience from a career as a senior documentary television producer, she oversaw the planning, shooting, and editing of the reenactment experiments. Dominic Clarke, working alongside Amanda, edited the majority of the videos on this website.

Nick Hall was the project’s postdoctoral research officer. He supported the team’s research, co-organised the related Hands On History conference, and built this website.

James Bennett, professor of television and digital culture at Royal Holloway, University of London, led the project’s research into the use of social media in contemporary television production. He was assisted in this by postdoctoral research officer Niki Strange.

The project also funded and supported two doctoral students. Rowan Aust researched her PhD in the history of television film and video editing. Tim Heath researched his PhD in the changing roles of, and technologies used by, television sound engineers.

ADAPT benefited from further assistance of students and staff in the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London. We are particularly grateful to the department’s art and design technicians Helen Adams and Sarah Peacock, and to the many students who worked as camera operators, sound recordists, data wranglers and runners during the project’s reenactment filming days.