Video Inside, Film Outside
"Gentlemen! I have bad news. This room is surrounded by film!"
From the very beginning of regular television broadcasting in Britain in 1936, up until the 1980s, British TV drama and comedy shows were made using multiple electronic (video) cameras in studios. That was fine for the interior scenes, but when it came to location shooting, the cameras and (after their introduction in 1958) videotape machines were so big and heavy they needed large outside broadcast trucks to transport them to the location, to say nothing of the complex power supplies providing their multiple operating voltages. The cameras also required very high light levels to avoid picture noise, which compounded the impracticality of working with them on location. Consequently, many shows used 16mm film and audio tape recorders for exterior footage, since the equipment was much more portable (often battery-operated) and film was easier and more forgiving to light and could be edited easily. This meant that interior and exterior shots have a completely different look.
The rough American equivalent is the "soap opera effect"
, so named for the fact that many soap operas are shot on video to save money. This is chiefly a problem that comes up with top-of-the-line high-definition televisions, which have features designed to smooth out motion blur that, effectively, double the frame rate and produce an image reminiscent of a daytime soap.
Examples are far too numerous for a comprehensive list, but include:
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- Not Only But Also - notable in that the colour videotapes were wiped and only the film sketches survived
- Monty Python's Flying Circus has several sketches lampshading this.
- "Society for Putting Things On Top of Other Things". A character (on videotape) looks out of the door. The moment he does so the scene switches to 16mm, and he declares, "Good Lord, I'm on film! How did that happen?" After repeating the experience with the room's other doors and windows and determining that they are "surrounded by film", the characters come up with the idea to dig an underground tunnel; while not actually shown, it would have worked because such a scene would have been filmed on set and thus on video.
- A sketch in which Graham Chapman's army officer character tries to halt a sketch that's on film. "You can't stop this sketch! We're on film!" "Well, that doesn't make any difference to the viewers at home, does it?"
- The sketch immediately following the first appearance of the Spanish Inquisition, where Graham is recruited by a BBC executive, played by John Cleese, to be The Straight Man in another sketch. As they walk toward the location of the other sketch, Cleese observes that "We're on film at the moment."
- Blake's 7
- Colditz (except for the final episode which was entirely on film)
- Dad's Army
- Doctor Who got into this in a big way in the 1970s after spending the 1960s preferring to shoot everything, even "outside" scenes, in a studio on video.note In the 1980s, as technology improved, it transitioned into doing location shooting in video as well.
- Sometimes used for effect: In the serial Snakedance, a 'ritual' segment set in wilderness yet clearly produced in studio is shot on film to appear as if it had been shot outdoors. (And/or to subtly emphasise the trancelike nature of the ritual by introducing a visual disconnect.)
- For the serial "Planet of Evil", interior scenes were videotaped in the studio and exterior scenes on the alien planet were filmed on location — the location in question being another studio, namely Ealing Studios, which required the use of film as opposed to videotape at the time.
- Robot, The first Tom Baker story, actually shot a handful of exterior scenes in video, to aid with the special effects needed in that serial.
- It's been commented that Doctor Who fans are rather good at spotting the difference because of the levels of use.
- It would be less noticeable on black and white episodes, which only exist as film copies of the original videotapes - except that for remastering purposes a technique called VidFIRE was developed, in order to restore the smoother 'video look' exclusively to scenes shot in the studio.
- The Onedin Line
- The Goodies played with these limitations somewhat by having most of the dialogue-based scenes filmed indoors in videotape, while a lot of the filmed outdoor scenes were silent (with a Bill Oddiefied score) experiments in slapstick comedy. Averted in the three Christmas specials which were entirely on film, and have obviously ADR-ed dialogue.
- The Tomorrow People with the exception of The Revenge of Jedikiah.
- The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries had this.
- Fawlty Towers
- The Sandbaggers
- To The Manor Born
- Sapphire And Steel, though only one of the six serials had location footage.
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
- Open All Hours
- Rumpole of the Bailey
- The Good Life
- Last of the Summer Wine
- Only the first 12 series were made this way. Series 13 was shot entirely on video, from Series 14 the studio audience was dropped and the show was produced entirely on film (until the move to HD in the mid-00s anyway).
- Survivors was notable for averting this trope by filming a large percentage of its run entirely on location, a first for the BBC and unusual even today. Much of the camera work ended up being carried out by the Outside Broadcast team, who normally covered sports fixtures or concerts.
- All Creatures Great and Small
- The Concept Video for David Bowie's "D.J." (1979) uses this, with the side effect that it furthers the contrast between the title character's public and private lives. On the filmed city streets he's happy, confident, and surrounded by his fans, but in the videotaped studio — where he's presumably alone — he's having a dangerous mental breakdown.
- Mind Your Language is known for this as well, and it particularly stands out as the outdoor film shots are grainier than the indoor video shots.
- It's quite noticeable in Mr. Bean, especially as the outdoor scenes are much more fast-paced (usually involving driving) than the slower and more meticulous studio scenes.
- Part of the Retraux feel of Look Around You involves accurate use of this.