RESTORING A LEGEND
Episode 6 - Western Australia. Paul Shire Photographer
I've had heaps of people asking how I managed to restore the Floyd On Oz series and create a whole new series with never-before-seen footage called "Floyd On Oz - Special Edition", well, it's a LONG story so I hope you find it of interest.
Restoring Oz – and brief history on "Floyd on Oz"
The project started in late 1989 when co-producer, John Chase approach me to be principal cinematographer and editor on a new 10 part television series featuring legendary British chef, Keith Floyd.
The original series of "Floyd on Oz" represented a milestone in television production, it would be the first time the new Panasonic MII (that's pronounced M2) format would be used on an international television series. It also represented the departure by Keith from the BBC. Both Floyd and the director David Prichard felt this was a great opportunity to go independent.
The equipment was loaned to us by Panasonic after the organization that we were hiring from, AETV in Melbourne, reneged on the hire contract sighting that the project put the equipment at risk over a long period of time.
Our original equipment requirements included a Panasonic camera with a built-in video recorder which took 20-minute tapes, once this became unavailable, Panasonic provided a new camera and a portable video recorder which could record for 90 mins and was connected via a multi-core cable.
panasonic Mii videotape
The first week of shooting was in Sydney, New South Wales. Utilizing longer duration MII tapes, the shoot went flawlessly. The ability to playback in perfect colour was a double bonus, it meant we could check footage more or less anywhere. Remember, back then there were no colour monitors built into the cameras.
The shoot was relatively free of drama, there was, of course, the odd moment or two of disagreement between talent and director, and they were both working with an unknown crew, but when you’re a close-knit crew that’s only to be expected.
The only time we got into problems is when we were shooting in Northern Territory, unfortunately, it was a helicopter shoot (pic below) and an internal wire had broken in the multicore cable and we lost one of the colour channels.
On checking the rushes in the hotel, it was pretty obvious that we would need to reshoot this segment, the problem is you’re in the middle of Australia and there are no spare parts.
So out came the soldering iron, I jerry-rigged a section of cable, which was gaffer taped to the outside of the multicore cable, and we had our colour channel back, in the meantime we advised Panasonic in Melbourne of our difficulties, they sent an urgent message to Panasonic in Singapore, and a brand-new multicore cable was shipped express to Alice Springs and arrived a couple of days later.
When it came to editing, due to the disagreement we had experienced with AETV at the beginning of a shoot, it was decided to set up a temporary edit suite using two MII edit decks.
Using simple cut-only edit techniques, I created a classic A roll, B roll as one would if editing film. The two rolls of videotape were sound and vision mixed at the now-defunct Pro-Image in South Melbourne. This created the 1” masters.
Once these Masters had finished with both vision and sound mixing, release copies were made for the BBC, SBS in Australia, and converted to NTSC standard for PBS in the US.
As Keith Floyd was originally with the BBC, we had no problems pre-selling the series, however, what we did not expect is their technical division to go through our release version with the fine-tooth comb. The BBC, never having used Panasonic MII before, was skeptical that our tapes were up to their high standards.
From memory, I recall they rejected one of the tapes, in their words, “for excessive dropouts” (missing oxide on the tape resulting in vision distortion). I remember checking our masters and saw no such problems, a new copy was made and shipped to London. They also did not like Ep 10 which was shot in Singapore on Keiths' journey home so it was never screened in the UK.
I believe the series was only licensed to go to air once. As far as I’m aware, there has never been a repeat. However, the UK (PAL) Masters were stored in London by a distribution agent and seemed to have "vanished" over the years.
I use the same agent for another series I produced a few years later entitled “The flavours of South America”. Sadly, like the Floyd Masters we later found here, flavours was stored in inappropriate conditions in the UK, and subsequently junked, however, I still have the footage and all other elements of that series and will be releasing it later this year. (due for restored release in April 2021)
The original MII camera tapes suffered from a technical problem known as “stiction” which resulted in the tapes becoming unplayable. However, I did have the foresight to copy all of the camera tapes to another format, unfortunately, it's a sub-broadcast format, S-VHS.
Edit suite with David Prichard (foreground) and me.
each s-vhs tape held
two mii tapes
3/4" U-Matic Tape
good sound mix -
bad quality picture
I also had a low band ¾” tapes that had sub-standard vision with a timecode displayed in the corner. but luckily contained a full sound mix of the series.
My original concept was to lay down a bit of soundtrack from the ¾” tapes and re-synchronise my S-VHS footage for the vision, not the easiest of tasks when you consider that I was also adding segments I could not include in the original edit due to broadcast running time restrictions.
As a personal project with no commercial value, there was no hurry, and the project started slowly and quietly in 2014. By 2016 I was about a third into the project, and had 3 finished programs, all of which were almost twice as long as the original versions. "Floyd On Oz-Special Edition" was becoming a reality.
In 2018, as luck would have it, one of the original co-produces of the series, Pam Stockley, was cleaning out an old damp shed, there at the bottom of the pile of old VHS and BetaMax videotapes was the SBS Australia 1” broadcast copy and a backup of the entire series.
These tapes have been in the shed exposed to all sorts of weather conditions for almost 30 years. Boxes were undamaged, however on inspecting the tape, it was covered in a white fine mould. (see the pics below) Of the 20 tapes found, over 40% were a total right-off and could not be salvaged. My second problem is that nobody was using 1” videotape anymore, so finding a machine that would playback the tapes would be problematic.
1" tapes damaged with
3 hours later
both sides done
Again, luck stepped in and I reconnected with an friend who loved to collect old equipment and even better, restore old footage.
After I had removed as much white mould as possible and checking the tape surface to see if it could be salvaged I handed these precious masters across to James Patterson at the Australian Television Achieve, who then proceeded to clean the tapes properly and work his magic.
1" broadcast vtr
playing back ep 1
We salvaged about 75% of the usable 1” tape programs, it was back to the edit suite. Time for a re-think. Do I just use the salvaged masters and the S-VHS tapes and re-create the same programs OR do I continue with the dream of a “special edition” version putting all the things I wanted to use into a unique series of programs?
Floyd was no longer with us so there would be no new voice track that could be used, so whatever I did, needed to be able to stand alone.
I continued with my "Special Edition" with the blessing of the producer who owned the rights to the original series and the original tapes.
Up to this time I was re-edited and re-mastered into standard definition 16 x 9 widescreen, using the original Apple Final Cut Pro 7 editing software I had authored a box set DVD I was going to present to all the crew and I also had managed to create 720P HD versions.
However, with newer technology and a more powerful computer, going back to the original files I have remastered to full 1920x1080 HD using Topaz AI, a learning Artificial Intelligence upscaling and enhancement software. The files were re-edited and conformed using the DaVinci Resolve high-end editing system integrating Fusion and advanced Colour Correction, as used by major studios.
The final results are very good, in both 4x3 and 16x9 aspect ratios.
The restoration was never about releasing the series on a large scale to the public, but word got out, it was a personal project created by me for the original crew to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a fantastic experience.
If you want to know more about this project, feel free to email at this address:
Original series Cinematographer and Editor
Special Edition Producer