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Video Inside, Film Outside

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"Gentlemen! I have bad news. This room is surrounded by film!"

From the very beginning of regular television broadcasting in Britain in 1936 and until the mid-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 videotape machinesnote  were so big and heavy they needed large outside broadcast trucks to transport them to the location. And that's not factoring in the complex power supplies providing their multiple operating voltages. Even though videotape allowed for much quicker turnaround than film (tape only needed rewinding, while film needed to be developed), editing on tape was imprecise compared to film. This made editing video in post-production impractical for anything longer than remote news packages. The video cameras also required very high light levels to avoid picture noise, which made them even less practical when working 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). Film had better dynamic range, making it easier and more forgiving to light and could be edited easily. This meant that interior and exterior shots have a completely different look. (Typical shooting schedules called for scenes filmed on location to be done first, with the studio scenes being videotaped on a later date.)

Although somewhat jarring to today's younger audiences, the lack of visual continuity was taken as normal by British viewers (and overseas viewers of British imports). However, there were exceptions. For example, as early as 1975, Doctor Who occasionally used videotape for exterior location scenes as well as in the studio (though the vast majority of stories pre-1986 were straight examples of this trope). In the US and West Germany, most shows were done completely in either film or video, while most other countries avoided outdoor shots as much as they could until the arrival of colour TV and U-Matic tape in the 1970s.

By the mid-1980s, this dual format began to be phased out as so-called "outside broadcast" cameras became more efficient, higher-quality and more portable. Betacam supersided bulky reel-to-reel and fuzzy U-matic tape, and computerized video editingnote  allowed for the same flexibility for video in post as film did, without the need to develop film. Productions therefore began to adopt either completely filmed or completely videotaped formats. Lower-budget productions preferred the latter because videotape had lower cost and faster turnaround compared to film. The technique almost completely died out in the late 2000s as productions switched to using HD video cameras, which gave a look in-between video and film and was ultimately cheaper than either of the former two. Consequently, this has become a Forgotten Trope for the most part, with later use only occurring as a result of creators intentionally choosing to invoke it.

An unfortunate side-effect of Video Inside, Film Outside is that it has rendered most, if not all, of these productions unsuitable for high-definition remastering; while film has a theoretically limitless resolution thanks to it capturing images on physical crystals, each frame of video consists of a concrete number of electromagnetic scanlines, locking it at a fixed maximum resolution. Most remasters simply treat the filmed portions to match the quality of the taped ones. Theoretically, the original film can be re-scanned in HD, but oftentimes, not all of the original film's negatives were kept, meaning the film footage will forever be SD.

When switching between film and video is used for style as opposed to technical limitations, that is Decade-Themed Filter.

Examples are far too numerous for a comprehensive list, but include:

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    British examples 


  • Not Only... But Also — notable in that the colour videotapes were wiped and only the film sketches survived.
  • Future Monty Python members Terry Jones and Michael Palin appeared in several late 1960s series using this technique for which only the film segments survive after the videotapes were wiped for re-use, including Twice a Fortnight and The Complete and Utter History of Britain.
  • Doctor Who got into this in a big way in the from the mid 1960s through the 1970s, after spending its first two seasons 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. It's been commented that Doctor Who fans are rather good at spotting the difference because of the levels of use. (It should be observed that the quality of the film stock used on the show was grainy and poor.) 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. Ultimately, due to a combination of difficulty with some film stock towards the end of his first season, as well as a severely reduced budget, starting with Colin Baker's second and final season, and lasting the whole of Sylvester Mccoy's tenure, the series was shot exclusively on video.
    • Due to a strike by the video camera operators, the first Jon Pertwee story, "Spearhead from Space", was shot entirely in film. This made it an extremely expensive production, but did have the unforeseen benefit that it was the only story in the series' history produced before 2009 that could be released in "true" HD.
    • "Robot", the first Tom Baker story, shot all the outdoor scenes on video, because the scenes with the titular robot would otherwise have required compositing footage with the robot shot on video with the other characters on film. The previous series' "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" had done this with dinosaurs on video and everything else on film, with results that were deemed unsatisfactory, so it was decided to shoot everything on video this time round.
    • "The Sontaran Experiment" was all shot on videotape despite being set entirely in a BBC Quarry. This was for several reasons: one was to save money (as it was a two-parter with virtually no budget that ended up in the season as an artifact of the new production team's desire to abolish the 6-parter format), and the other was as an experiment to see if it was possible to do everything on video from then on (until 1986, it wasn't).
    • 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.
    • "The Stones of Blood" was another story that used videotape for location sequences long before this was the norm. Mostly this was just due to the director's personal distaste for mixing video and film, but it did come in handy when the circle of stones that the story focuses around had to be recreated in the studio for the sequences set at night, which would have been much more obvious had the daytime sequences been shot on film.
    • Sometimes used as a means of Painting the Medium:
      • In "The Curse of Peladon", the arrival sequence outside the Citadel is shot on film despite being in the studio in order to give it the sense of being a real place.
      • The Battle in the Center of the Mind in "The Three Doctors" is produced in studio but shot on film to convey its surreal nature.
      • In "The Deadly Assassin", reality is all video with smooth motion and bright (some would say rather lurid) colours. The Cyberspace nightmare-world of the Matrix is all film, including the few studio shots (such as the Miniature Effects with the crocodile), with everything in a drab and muted, grainy colour palette (helped by the cheap and nasty-quality film) with the exception of the Doctor's ridiculously blue eyes. The whole effect is to indicate unrealness to everything there except for the Doctor's mind.
      • In "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.)
    • The Blu-ray boxed sets for the classic series invert the DVDs' practice of downscaling film elements to match the video elements — instead, the surviving film elements were remastered in proper high-definition, amplifying the visual disconnect with the upscaled videotaped footage.


  • 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."
  • Porridge
  • Blake's 7
  • Children of the Stones
  • Colditz: Except for the final episode (which was entirely on film). The series also used it for effect like Doctor Who— the Colditz courtyard was a studio set, shot on film to reinforce the idea it was outside.
  • 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.
  • Similarly, Ronnie Barker's now-lost series His Lordship Entertains was shot indoors on video — except, Once an Episode, for a filmed exterior physical-comedy sequence with no dialogue.
  • The Tomorrow People (1973) 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: The third serial, revolving around a strange family living in an apartment building, uses film for establishing shots of the building and for a sequence set on the building's roof, and video for all interior scenes. (The other serials are video-only, with even the outdoor scenes being studio sets.)
  • Secret Army
  • 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 (1978)
  • 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.
  • Father Brown (ATV version starring Kenneth More.)
  • Edward the Seventh (aka Edward the King in the USA). Because of the show's perceived prestige, as a Costume Drama about The British Royal Family, the exterior footage was shot on more expensive but better quality 35mm.
  • Van der Valk: First two series only, where the exterior location footage was shot in and around Amsterdam while interiors were taped at Teddington Studios. Subsequent series were shot entirely on film in the Netherlands, except for one episode that was shot on location in London.
  • War and Peace (1972 BBC adaptation)


  • The Black Adder (the first series). The later series simply didn't feature any location shots, apart from the title sequences of Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth, plus some aeroplane footage in Blackadder Goes Forth which was taken from the 1976 film Aces High.
  • Only Fools and Horses, except for the episodes "To Hull and Back" and "Miami Twice", shot entirely on film (and minus Laugh Track). However, there were also a few instances where outside scenes were actually shot on videotape; "As One Door Closes" (during the graveyard scene) and "The Jolly Boys' Outing" (where Del, Rodney and Uncle Albert are looking for a hotel to stay in) are examples of this.
  • The BBC TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981).
  • Early seasons of Red Dwarf show this during the rare scenes in which the crew is not inside the Dwarf.
  • The music video for New Order's "Run 2" invokes this, contrasting videotaped concert footage of the band with 35mm footage of a bereaved old man (played by acclaimed English actor David Warrilow) and a child performer in the streets of New York City. Note that this was in 1989, when the trope was approaching forgotten territory outside of intentional invocations of it, thanks to the rise of professional camcorders making it far cheaper to shoot on videotape both in-studio and on-location.
  • The 1985 Anglia Television adaptation of Alice in Wonderland has the real world scenes shot on film and the Wonderland scenes shot on video via blue-screen.
  • The first two series of Taggart and its pilot Killer. From the third series onwards the series was shot entirely on film.

1990s and later

  • One Foot in the Grave, from start (1990) to finish (2000).
  • Waiting for God
  • Keeping Up Appearances is an aversion, being shot almost entirely on videotape save for a single establishing shot of the cruise ship in "Sea Fever".
  • As Time Goes By, only for the first series.
  • 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.
  • Used for Retraux for the reconstructed Doctor Who footage in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • In Toast of London, it is used as Stylistic Suck in the Cutaway Gag when Toast reminisces about his time playing an alien in a 1970s episode of Doctor Who — the modern-looking digital production suddenly turns to ugly-coloured 4:3 (letterboxed) footage at 50FPS. The visual effect is so bang-on that it it looks almost like dubbed old footage.
  • In Absolutely Fabulous film was very obviously used whenever the episode was shot on-location overseas. In the episodes that take the cast to Morocco, France and New York City, it's pretty obvious which scenes were shot on film (mostly anything outdoors that could not easily be recreated in a studio) versus the scenes still set overseas but shot on videotape in a TV studio back in the UK. Film is also used for some of the physically smaller UK locations (such Saffy's college lecture theatre), where it was difficult/impossible to both sufficiently light the room and fit a large videotape machine inside. By the time of the 4th series (aired in 2001), scenes set in Paris and even aboard the Eurostar were shot on-location onto digital tape.

    Other examples 
  • The Bund, a Hong Kong TV drama that had Star-Making Role for Chow Yun-fat.
  • Cosmos was shot on video in the studio and film on location.
  • Gilligan's Island was shot entirely on film. However, while the island was a soundstage, everything on the water had to be filmed at a certain L.A. lake, so the film stock changes.
  • The Kids in the Hall was one of the few North American shows to use the technique.
  • The Chemical Brothers' music video for "Let Forever Be", directed by Michel Gondry, uses videotape for the real world scenes, and film for the fantasy sequences where the girl in the video imagines herself as part of a troupe of dancers. Gondry has said this was an homage to said British television shows.
  • The early seasons of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers mixed video in the scenes with American actors with film in the Japanese Super Sentai footage (therefore making it easy to tell when the Japanese footage kicked in, and when American shots were substituted during otherwise-Japanese film sequences for various reasons). And fitting the trope name, most of the former is on soundstages and the latter on outside locations (specially the quarry every single Toei production uses for fight scenes!).
    • An even more obvious example came from In Space, Lost Galaxy and Lightspeed Rescue — all three had various interior sets (mainly the Astro Megaship and the interiors of Terra Venture's command tower and the Lightspeed Aquabase) which would be shot on tape, but however they did it, it would have even smoother-looking footage than the normal American stuff.
    • One of the toku shows created in the wake of PR's success, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, actually averted this — any Japanese footage looked as smooth, if not smoother than, the videotaped American footage; this was because the Japanese producers, Tsuburaya Productions, had just begun using D-2 digital videotape for their effects-based scenes.
    • A weird case for Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, as the early-00s Kamen Rider series, including Kamen Rider Ryuki, were shot with earlier models of digital camera and tape, and have an overall-videotape style appearance; Dragon Knight's US footage, on the other hand, was likely created using newer technology and therefore has a more film-like look to it; this results in it being very obvious where the Ryuki footage begins.
  • Quebec children series Passe-Partout, which originally aired from 1977 to 1991, used video inside and film for outdoor shots.
  • Technology Connections: Conversed in "Film: the reason some of the past was in HD". Alec talks about how some shows, such as Cosmos and Monty Python's Flying Circus, were shot on video when on sets and on film when on location. He also says this is because a 16mm film camera was far less bulky than video equipment for a few decades.
  • Season 2 of The Twilight Zone (1959), though there are only six episodes ever recorded on videotape ("The Lateness of the Hour", "The Night of the Meek", "The Whole Truth", "Twenty-Two", "Static", and "Long-Distance Call"), using four video cameras on a studio soundstage at CBS Television City, as a cost-cutting measure mandated by CBS programming head James T. Aubrey. However, videotape was a relatively primitive medium in the early 1960s. CBS had to shoot "Live to Tape" because editing videotape was next to impossible back then. Even worse, the requisite multicamera setup of the videotape experiment made location shooting difficult, severely limiting the potential scope of the storylines, so the crew had to abandon the videotaping project.
  • Happened during the early seasons of You Can't Do That on Television, excepting for one episode where the entire cast involved themselves with a huge Ottawa-based charity walk.
  • Inverted with the film Bamboozled: for budgetary reasons, most of the movie was shot on-location on digital standard-definition camcorders, but the minstrel show scenes were shot with 16mm film on an elaborately-designed studio set.
  • A rare American Soap Opera example was in the debut episode of The Young and the Restless in 1973. It opened with a filmed exterior scene of one of the main characters on a hitchhiked ride in the cab of a semi truck, with the driver telling him that he's stopping in Genoa City, Wisconsin (the show's setting), then cutting to a video shot of his fiancee (who he walked out on) looking out a window and worrying about him.


Video Example(s):


Monty Python

The Society for Putting Things On Top of Other Things have found themselves in a terrible dilemma -- they're surrounded by film.

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