It Was 20 Years Ago…

February 21, 2020

The Day the Earth Caught Fire

January 2020 marked 20 years since I was first involved in a project for Network. I worked at BBC Television Centre and one of the grading suites was booked for a transfer of the film The Day The Earth Caught Fire for an external client, with Network manager Tim Beddows attending. The film was one of the first features acquired by the company which, until then, had focussed mainly on niche DVD releases such as the highly successful Charley Says public information film compilations. The feature was mastered in standard definition from a couple of prints in a single 14-hour day and would be the first time that the title appeared on home video, as well as being seen in its original cinemascope widescreen ratio. This work marked the beginning of an association with numerous Network Distributing projects over the next two decades, culminating in eventually becoming Network’s own colourist as part of its in-house restoration team.

Robin of Sherwood

Robin of Sherwood had previously been available on VHS, but it was felt there was definite room for improvement for a Network release over the existing analogue video masters that had been in use for over a decade. So the remastering began of all three series, with an all new digital video transfer comprising shot-by-shot grading from 16mm prints, except for the odd reel where – at the time in 2001 – no film material could be located, which necessitated re-grading and clean up of an old video master. A decade later I would find myself re-visiting Series 1 & 2 for High Definition remastering from newly made interpositives.

The Goodies

Although many classic comedies of the 1970s had either been often repeated or made available via home video, one curiously absent title was The Goodies – the madcap adventures of three chaps that entertained audiences for a decade. Network obtained the rights and set out to address this oversight by commissioning the restoration of 8 episodes for a DVD with the apt subtitle At Last!. The series was a mix of studio video recordings and 16mm film inserts, with the final master being a 2-inch video reel (except for two all film episodes). I was particularly keen to address the incredibly poor condition of the title sequences by calling up the very small amount of existing film material and also copies of any episodes where sequences had been lifted from. Then it was a case of piecing together the best sources of each shot, followed by a grade to even things out and finally manual clean-up.

Sykes

Another comedy series (of the more gentle variety) I was asked to restore was Sykes, the name of which immediately conjured up the memory of trumpet valves bobbing up and down. This again, was the usual BBC sitcom format of studio video scenes for interior sets coupled with external shots on 16mm film. I wasn’t aware of any film existing for the 1972 series except for the black & white film recording of the wiped episode Journey. It was bizarre then to discover, that although one episode video master had been junked, there were six complete studio recordings remaining in the archives. As I continued to work on Network projects, so my enthusiasm grew in different areas of their releases such as additional content. For example, the studio recordings were keenly utilised, as they not only provided 1st generation pictures for those episodes, but also allowed exclusive extended edits to be produced when I discovered some scenes and dialogue cut for time when compared to the broadcast versions. In addition, I was able to create some “In The Studio” behind the scenes pieces and courtesy of Network, I also had the opportunity to interview Eric in his Orme Court office… a most memorable and enjoyable experience.

The Sweeney

In complete contrast to the light hearted world of  BBC sitcoms, came the hard hitting police drama series from Euston Films, The Sweeney. With only the odd few episodes having made it onto the home video market, the time was right for Network to get the complete series out and in a remastered form. There was some pressure at the time to follow the trend set by a previous release of mastering in full 16:9 widescreen with commercial breaks removed, but this was swiftly overturned when a demonstration with the original 4:3 framing and the iconic Sweeney ad-caps made it clear that was the best method of presentation. The first series was telecine’d from original 1970s CRIs, a back-up film element somewhat inferior to the original negative but with care produced results superior to the then available analogue masters. Unfortunately, all that survived for episode 1 was a couple of faded prints. Although series 2-4 were mastered from superior newly printed inter-pos elements, the CRIs came in useful when the original 35mm sepmag audio dubs (the source for new 5.1 tracks) highlighted some cut scenes. With the footage long gone from the negative, the back-up element remained complete and allowed for certain scenes to be reinstated in full, such as the elderly character Tug Wilson being beaten up in Taste of Fear.

George and the Dragon

Later in 2004, I found myself returning to sitcoms with the ATV series George and the Dragon, but with no original video tape material existing the entire series was transferred from available 16mm film recordings. A mixture of prints and negatives were sent in via the ITV assets contact Mark Stanborough (now an important member of the Network team) for transfer to Digital Betacam. Like other comedy series of this era, there were no on screen episode titles which made identification a little tricky, but with the help of original ITC sales paperwork and TVTimes listings the information, was eventually pieced together. Right up to the wire though, it appeared that the “complete series” phrasing wouldn’t be applicable as one episode was missing. Some episodes had multiple film copies, so these cans were checked and just when it looked like we were out of luck, we found the episode needed, mislabelled as another in the last can. It turned out to include an early television appearance by Tom Baker. Another aspect of the transfers, was the ATV identification – care was taken to make sure all the episodes had the appropriate ATV logo front and end that they would have had on original transmission, from the 2-inch videotapes. Being destined for overseas sales, ITC distribution logos were spliced into most of the film reels in place of the ATV ident.

Throughout this time and the following years, I was also producing masters for Carlton/Granada and many of these would end up being eventual Network releases, including Thriller, Strange Report, The Persuaders (later re-visited for Blu-ray), The Secret Service, and Space:1999, the latter being the first archive series I remastered in high definition.

With the improvement in techniques and technology, later HD masters were created via a film scanner as opposed to a telecine, and the resulting non-linear workflow produced even better results for series such as The Professionals and

The ITC series have always been a favourite of mine and in more recent years, after leaving the BBC and joining Network (as did Amanda Whitby, a crucial part of the Network restoration team), we have produced complete series HD masters for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Department S, The Zoo Gang, Hammer House of Horror, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, Joe 90 and Man In a Suitcase. As well as feature film masters for Death Line, Assault, Take Me High, The Smallest Show on Earth, and Sweeney 2 amongst others.

Twenty years later from that initial feature transfer and I still count myself lucky to be a part of Network, with the chance to continue working on classic iconic TV series and feature films.

Jonathan Wood, Restoration Colourist

Order Robin of Sherwood

Order The Goodies… At Last a Second Helping

Order Sykes: The Complete Series

Order The Sweeney: The Complete Series

Order George and the Dragon: The Complete Series

Use the discount code NETWORKBLOGRESTORATION20 to receive 25% off Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Series (Blu-ray & DVD), Robin of Sherwood: Jason Connery, The Goodies… At Last a Second Helping, Sykes: The Complete Series, The Sweeney: The Complete Series, and George and the Dragon: The Complete Series until 4pm, Friday 28th February.



Comments:21

  1. Richard Bevan Reply
    20/02/21

    Fantastic work done by Jonathan and the Restoration team. It makes a huge difference to watching these shows again. Robin of Sherwood has personal memories as I was a fillm student on attachment to the HTV series in 1985 when Jason Connery played the title role.
    Much praise for all the painstaking work on vintage shows like George and the Dragon which I never saw when first aired. Coincidentally I did come across it (poor transmissions) on You Tube recently when I was exploring vintage comedy, so maybe Network should make sure it has exclusive distribution of the series after all the hard work restoring it?

  2. Anthony Cochrane Reply
    20/02/21

    I also congratulate all involved in HD restoration. I was wondering if The Saint or Damgerman might be on the list for this process.

  3. Stewart Stafford Reply
    20/02/21

    I loved this blog post. Fascinating and maybe worthy of its own documentary someday so we can see the techniques in action? I’ll share this on my social media accounts so more people can enjoy it. Keep up the good work, Jonathan and Network!

  4. Steve Sullivan Reply
    20/02/21

    This is a thoroughly interesting article on the sheer scale and depth of detail that Network and Jonathan Wood go to in order to bring us these wonderful British television series in the bets possible 2K quality. I view all your BD releases through a JVD HD projector onto a large fixed wall screen so every detail can be seen (well, until the UK goes 4K native). I am regularly impressed with the HD restorations, esp The Sweeney (series 1), The Professionals, and the 35mm ITC series released to date, all of which look far better than many American feature film release – truly. I was delighted to hear about the ATV station restoration too which is one of my favourites. Play it back in slo mo and just see how much detail went into its production – presumably all created by hand in those days, the golden age of British television when most of the advertising revenue went into programme making and not … but enough of that. I just wonder what Network might surprise us with next! They seem to keep pulling rabbits out of the hat. I agree with Anthony above that a BD release of Dangerman (hour long series) would be a treat. The unique atmosphere it created was tangible. Maybe a B&W season – The Saint. Or maybe do another deal with Studio Canal to present the Edgar Wallace Mysteries on BD (again, fantastic atmosphere)? But I expect that’s too much to ask… 10/10 Network!

  5. Paul Hillam Reply
    20/02/21

    I have always enjoyed the Network DVD range, adding many to my collection of vintage television over the years. I am quite familiar with the sort of restoration work that goes on behind-the-scenes in getting old film prints and video material into the sort of upgraded quality audiences today expect to see.
    I spend much of my free time as one of a group of people assisting Kaleidoscope TV Archives by searching out lost tv programmes and material from early format video tapes like Shibaden, CV2000, U-Matic, N1500, N1700, Betamax, Video 2000, etc. A hobby unto itself of course, scouring decades’ worth of old domestic video tapes for those programmes and recordings the BBC, ITV, etc wiped all those years ago. Material does survive out there, it’s just a case of looking for it.. I am proud to say I have found quite a lot of missing tv and returned it to the Archives – so that perhaps some day, some of it at least could end up going to Network DVD for future releases. Keep up the good work and it’s always great to see Jonathan’s name appearing both on early tv and the connection to this range.

  6. Tibor Ipacs Reply
    20/02/21

    It was a fascinating read, hats off to all involved. The Professionals (even in DVD) look as good as it was filmed today – only the clothes and cars give away the age. Keep up the good work and greetings from Hungary.

  7. Shaun Robbins Reply
    20/02/21

    Fantastic work to date. Network definitely sets the bar when it comes to restoration & remastering, second to none. Personal Blu-Ray favs so far… the Professionals, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Avengers Cybernauts, Persuaders, HD21, UFO. Would love to see HD21 (2) feat. cherry picked Thunderbirds, Protectors, Space 1999, episodes. Hopefully, Stingray Blu-Ray follows soon. Please consider Blu-Ray best of BBC, ITV 60s, 70s, 80s comps. If you hand pick the right TV shows, surely would be best sellers? Plus, please could Network start tapping into American TV episodes. Blu-Ray comps of hand picked, best episodes from popular American TV series should again be instant best sellers… Mission Impossible, Hill Street Blues, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O… the choices are endless and amazingly no-one’s done it… a Market waiting to be tapped into…

  8. Alan Russell Reply
    20/02/22

    I’m a massive fan of the work of Jonathan and his team, right from the early days of their work they under took on my favourite show Space:1999 while at BBC Resources.

    This blu ray still looks great upscaled now to 4K, even though it was one of the earlier Network releases (would be nice to be revisited again and released it that format though 👍).

    In the meantime I have enjoyed and purchased many other blu ray and DVD releases since from you, and most recently was impressed by Captain Scarlet, Randall and Hopkirk and Joe 90 in HD.

    Keep up the excellent work JOnand Network

  9. Jeff Reply
    20/02/22

    I’m still hoping that Network will release the remainder of The Sweeney on Bluray.

  10. Sean Reply
    20/02/22

    Wondered about ‘The Sweeney’ restorations and if they are cut versions? An Australian company, Umbrella, have released uncut versions as they did with Minder. Anyone know why we can’t have uncut versions in this country?

  11. Alan Reply
    20/02/22

    great work and all, but where is The Sweeney Series 2+3+4.

  12. Matt Reply
    20/02/22

    It would be fantastic to have Dempsey and Makepeace fully restored, full length and remastered, and issued on blu-ray. One day perhaps! 😉

  13. Barry Thompson Reply
    20/02/23

    Any chance of releasing The Nanny and the Professor?

  14. Ross Ironfield Reply
    20/02/23

    Fascinating read, Jonathan has the best job in the world. In fact there can’t be much left now to restore and remaster? Got to say the work you’ve achieved, particularly the HD restorations, are absolutely superb. Always been a huge fan of the various Gerry Anderson and ITC series, and knowing them so well, the comparison in quality to the original is often unbelievable. Keep up the good work, please can we see The Secret Service in HD?

  15. Christine Alexander Reply
    20/02/23

    On behalf of the Robin of Sherwood fan club, Spirit of Sherwood, i would like to thank you for your great work on restoring this extraordinary series for DVD and blu-Ray! Nothing is ever forgotten! (Fans join us at Spirit of Sherwood on Facebook and online at http://www.robinofsherwood.org)

  16. David Rayner Reply
    20/02/24

    Please look into the possibility of releasing on DVD the Columbia Pictures presentation of the Xanadu Production, “THE BOY AND THE BRIDGE”, an enchanting British film, made in the summer of 1958 and released a year later in 1959 and starring nine years old Ian MacLaine as a little Cockney boy named Tommy Doyle. Believing his widower father has killed a man and believing that the police will also be out searching for him to put him away in an orphanage, Tommy runs away from his Bermondsey lodgings and takes refuge in a room at the top of one of the turrets of Tower Bridge. There, coming and going unseen, he makes a home for himself and a friend…a seagull he names Sammy…at the same time keeping his presence secret while, with all the ingenuity of a nine year old, he furnishes his hideaway with a bed, a chair and table; a gas cooking ring and many other items. Meanwhile, his father, who hasn’t in fact killed anyone. is desperately searching for him. It all ends happily and on the whole is a utterly charming film with little Ian MacLaine fitting his role like a glove. Malcolm Arnold’s beautiful score enhances the film considerably and the on location filming of the exteriors and interiors of one of London’s most iconic landmarks and the River Thames and the Pool of London as well as the Tower of London are totally fascinating. Unfortunately, this film, which was given a Royal Premiere in 1959 and was entered as the British entry into the 1959 Venice Film Festival, has been badly neglected since its release. It’s never been shown on television nor released on video or DVD and is only available to view as a pay to view download on BFI Player.

  17. Dave Reply
    20/02/25

    Please, please, please re-release the 1st series of the Sweeney on blu-ray and then release the other series too.

  18. Rick Davy Reply
    20/02/25

    From me, a genuine massive thanks for all that you do and for highlighting what is required (in this article) to produce the wonderful HD versions of our favourite shows that many of us take for granted. Keep up the good work!

  19. Russ Reply
    20/02/27

    I can only marvel at the outstanding results your expert touch has produced.
    I look forwardr to seeing the future projects.

    Thank you. Your efforts in creating excellent entertainment are much appreciated.

  20. Greg Chapman Reply
    20/02/28

    Superb article Jonathan Wood, as is the restoration work

  21. Scott Anderson Reply
    20/02/28

    I had been buying a lot of restored movies in the late 90s -mostly Universal horror titles and was directed to your website through a film fan forum. I’ve been a regular customer ever since and have really enjoyed your growing catalogue. I was surprised to find how well the restored 60s tv shows looked – The Prisoner and Man In A Suitcase being two favourites of mine. Titles like Callan must have been an enormous challenge and I salute how much of this important tv series you managed to restore.

    Many thanks

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