Electric Dreams: Using The Internet To Locate Missing Material

The rise of the Internet and video-hosting sites such as YouTube has given missing episode hunters a new tool to locate rare material from around the world.

Lance Meenach shares his experiences of tracking down lost programmes, and how using the Web has aided him in that search in this exclusive feature for Wiped:

‘My primary interest started when I was younger. My father brought home a VHS of Doctor Who story ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’, which I loved.

When watching a few of the Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell VHS releases I noticed some gaps – thus I learned of gaps in the TV archives, and not only of the BBC and Doctor Who. I discovered that masses of material were missing from other broadcasters’ archives.

So I attempted to work, research, and learn as much as possible to attempt to restore some of these missing pieces of TV heritage. My father had been a professional musician, so having been raised around music I felt a particular attachment to music material.

To attempt to locate and preserve these moments in TV history assist to serve and to enlighten future generations of TV enthusiasts, historians,and archivists.

Using standard resources as well as electronic resources has aided in new discoveries, as well as promoting further research using both resources in tandem.

With the Internet, electronic databases are readily available and communication has been made both simplistic and fast. The ability to easily upload and post material from any number of sources has also aided in the growing popularity and use of the Internet in research of this type.

In unison all these aspects allow for a new frontier of possibilities for locating material that otherwise may have never been made available.

In regards to YouTube, this simplistic method of being able to load any manner of material from your PC with ease, and have a healthy viewing demographic, attracts larger amounts of posters and viewers than other rival sites.

YouTube’s large community environment is an enticing lure for collectors wanting to further enlarge their collections. Where otherwise they would not even mention the material they possess in public, by posting some segments of their material on-line other collectors with similarly rare material can then see what they have , and what other posters say they have.

Through on-line sources, as well as checking a US government archival listing of the visual contents of the US Library of Congress, I was able to find three episodes of TV series Spotlight. More importantly I discovered that every episode of Associated Rediffusion’s The Hippodrome Show existed on b/w 16mm film, as did the Spotlight editions.

As for my most exciting discovery? I would have to say the discovery of the Private CV-2000B video recordings of Irish singer and star Patricia Cahill, who had been wealthy enough at the time to afford the CV-2000B Videocorder to record her TV performances, and some other related material from both RTE TV (Irish), BBC,Yorkshire TV, ATV and other broadcasters.

Programme material included Sunday Night At The London Palladium; Stars On Sunday; Val Doonican Show and Olympia S.O.S., among others.

Patricia had apparently asked her husband to tape her TV performances, to watch later. They had a 5 ft mast on top of a five-storey house to record broadcasts. These had been kept since original transmission.

A few years ago they wanted to find a transfer service, one which would be able to handle the 405 line 1/2 open reel video recordings. They located a private transfer company in Belgium who made the transfers of these tapes to DVD. I’d been asking around a few of the vintage video transfer services in Belgium in regards to classic video formats, and recordings from the UK in particular.

To my amazement, the company responded saying they had recently transferred a very large collection of Sony CV-2000B videocorder recordings of off-air TV, and that there was a good deal of UK TV material present. After some time I was able to gain permission from the owner to send a screen grab to prove the existence of said material.

Later, I asked about the possibility of displaying the material in some way to which the owner agreed to post some short segments of the recovered transferred collection on YouTube.

The material posted from the ‘Cahill Collection’ stands out for me as the most prominent of finds, and the most interesting. Here are links to some of the clips:

The Val Doonican Show – clip one

The Val Doonican Show – clip two

Early BBC-2 Ident Continuity

Patricia sings ‘Something’ from Irish TV (RTE):

Sunday Night At The London Palladium – clip one

Sunday Night At The London Palladium – clip two

Sunday Night At The London Palladium – clip three

As for missing clips, or performances I would like to find? There is an awful lot of music material I would love to have a chance to see one day. One would be the 500th edition of Top Of The Pops. Further material from Lift Off would also be a welcome addition as would BBC TV show Disco2; 45; The Six-Five Special; Ready Steady Go; Crackerjack; Colour Me Pop; Thank Your Lucky Stars; Russell Harty; LWT Music Special; Pink Floyd’s performance of ‘See Emily Play’ from Top Of The Pops and the Beatles performance of ‘Rain’. Any Slade, T.Rex, Sweet, and The Who performances would also be fantastic!