Pete Terry on the advent of electronic graphics

So the advent of electronic must have caused major ripples within the graphics department?

It did. It did for all of us in a way, because we had all… we were all of a certain age. And of course, this is before the mobile phones and before the household PC, household computer. So, we as a breed, we used to… metal rulers, pens, pencils, Rotring pens, Letraset. So, we used to working with our hands, cardboard, creating imagery, cell, hand-painted animations. So, the skillset isn’t totally natural to go from that to actually a more technically minded sort of operation, and I think I alluded to earlier that a lot of our staff were that much, perhaps seven or eight years older than me. So, it was a middle aged department on the whole without too many youngsters. So, it was a huge, huge learning curve, and I remember some… I wouldn’t say anyone took to it like a duck to water, but a number of us became very, well obviously proficient, good at it, etc, but there were one or two that certainly struggled. And it was obvious in perhaps their future programmes stayed away more from the heavy use of electronic graphics because there was still a need for drawing illustration and what have you, traditional skills. So, yes. The word “Revolution,” I think, is about right within the business, for sure.

And did that cause union problems? Were there long discussions?

I’m trying to think now. I don’t really think that were particularly union problems. Obviously, there was the new sense of what duties and what skillset you then needed to encompass certain payments, additional payments or a change of working title, but as a piece of equipment, it was never… there was no sense of the Luddite approach in that sense at all, no, because it was… by that time, that was the future. Yes. So, there was no problem actually having in, but I think, to be fair, the unions helped to protect and evolve new working titles, really, as people then became proficient with it. Because of course, it’s… because I can remember seeing TV programmes soon after saying, “What are we all going to do with us spare time? Because all these great pieces of equipment can do so much so quickly, you’ll get all your work done in three days.” But hey ho, funnily enough, it means you can do a lot, lot, lot more work that much faster. So, in a way, ironically, deadlines became tighter and a lot more work, looking into the future as they evolve. But I remember we had to do… I did a booklet and we did introductory reviews and workshops for producers and researchers because there was this new beat called electronic graphics. So, the way graphic design was then outputted and, more importantly, required and requisited – is that the right word? – actually authorised and required, it had to be… it was a new learning for the whole building. So, we had producer workshops where producers would come up and look at the equipment and, like I said, researchers and very… and of course, we then developed a lot tighter working relationships with the VT editors, the videotape editors, whereas once upon a time, we would not really have had a great deal to have done with them. So, yes. It formed very different working practises as well to introduce it to the building.

So, you continue to work as head of the electronic graphics department.

Yep. So, from… that was ‘86, and yes, I retained that title until I left, which was in 2005, I think it was. 2005 or 2006, I can’t remember it. But yes, about that time. And obviously, electronics just grew and grew. And in a way, a bit like a tsunami, it took over the whole department because graphic design then was electronic graphics, and everything of the past was consigned to the past. Excuse me. Certainly, by perhaps 1990, the old had completely gone in that sense and it was by 1990, sort of three or four years later, it was a completely new way of working.

And the electronic equipment is coming more and more sophisticated?

Yes. I mean… but to give you some example, when we started the department, one of the market leaders at the time, and I’m not sure where they sit now with a company called Quantel, which was in Newbury. And in fact, the only time I’d flown in a helicopter, the Newbury helicopter picked myself up and an engineer and a manager, and we flew by helicopter from Manchester all the way to Newbury and back, which was thrilling. But yes, Quantel were the market leaders, and they had a system called The Paintbox, which was the kind of Rolls-Royce system of graphic design. And to give you an idea, I think when we brought that into the company, one Paintbox was £120,000. And now, your mobile phone, or the graphics capability of a little graphics card in your computer can do a thousand times more than the Paintbox could ever do, and for pennies, and that then… we’re not going that long back with the £120,000, just to give you some idea. So, it was also an expense by the company to invest in the equipment. And of course, the company, we brought their return for it, but the return was a natural evolvement of graphics for the whole station.

Leave a Reply