Video Film Recording: A New Production Paradigm For 1960s BBC Drama

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Critical orthodoxies around British television drama suggest the ‘developmental model’: a transition from a ‘theatrical’ production mode based around live performance mediated through multi-camera studio, to a ‘cinematic’ mode utilising film, post-production editing, and location shooting. As Jacobs (2000) has argued, the introduction of videotape in 1958 arguably did little to change the model of studio production until the late 1970s: ‘… segments of drama lasting up to 30minutes continued to be recorded on videotape in continuous time ‘as if live’ until the introduction of time-coded signals on the tape in the mid-1970s … In this way some of the style and aesthetics of early pre-1955 television had considerable longevity’ (Jason Jacobs,The Intimate Screen: early British television drama, Oxford, 2000, 24). Drama produced in the multi-camera studio could be transferred to film, but this ‘telerecording’ method—filming straight off a monitor—was deemed low quality and was largely unsuitable for sale to the lucrative US market. This paper examines an abortive attempt by the BBC to develop a method of combining multi-camera studio production with outputting direct to film. Known variously as ‘videofilm,’ ‘Video Film Recording’ (VFR) or ‘Intervideo,’ this process attempted to combine electronic multi-camera technique with the medium of film to provide high-quality film programmes without compromising the speed and efficiency of multi-camera studio production. The resulting programmes would maximise studio use and require minimal post-production editing, but would produce high-resolution filmed programmes for the international market. However, the system was never developed to the stage where it was used in regular production. Drawing on files at the BBC Written Archive, this paper examines the development of the VFR system in the 1960s and the reasons for its failure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-404
Number of pages15
JournalHistorical Journal of Film Radio and Television
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


  • Television production
  • liveness
  • videotape
  • multi-camera
  • studio
  • tele-recording


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