Monday, 7 August 2017

The All-Time Best-Ever YouTube Vid?

Being under pressure from depression and duties, I have to offer only light blogging tonight. Tonight I upload nothing on the analytical philosophy of perception and action. Instead, I draw attention to what is in my own subjective ranking a top YouTube video. Here is something - for us with our computers, essentially a little piece of television, although for its originally intended 1936 audience a cinema clip - exposing television as a thing of scant value. 


The junk, or el-cheapo, side of television already emerges when we reflect on the modern domestic use of this medium in Mr Donald Trump's rise to power, or again on its modern use as a foreign-relations tool. In particular, it has been urged on me that the modern Moscow foreign-relations application of television - in Russian-language outlets available in Germany, and therefore viewable by Germany's sizeable contingent of Russian-speaking voters - is to be analyzed in the context of the upcoming 2017-09-24 Bundestag elections. 

Tonight, however, we should instead recall the past of our parents or grandparents. 

Put into your YouTube search interface, folks, the search string television comes to London 1936. Look for an upload of 2007-09-19, by YouTube user "lswrsi", under the title "1936 Television song", to a duration of exctly two minutes. In my corner of the Web, the material is available through the URL As of UTC=20170807T204320Z or so, I find it has garnered a view count of just 64,893 - not even one fiftieth of what so unintentionally hilarious a piece deserves. 


A briefing on technical background: 

  • Since the 1936 BBC cameras had low sensitivity, it was necessary not only to light the Alexandra Palace studio powerfully (perhaps with "Klieg lights"), but also to operate the lenses at low f-numbers (as when, on an ordinary manually operable camera, we open the diaphragm all the way). The inevitable penalty was a shallow field, with focus correspondingly critical. In practical production terms, this meant that it was fine for a lone performer to sing, especially if her gestures were minimized. Drama, on the other hand - I gather the valiant BBC did try, in those prewar days, to telecast Ibsen - became awkward. In this particular clip, the potential production bottleneck can be guessed at from the vocalist's management of  her hands: she does move them, and yet keeps them a little unnaturally close to her torso.
  • Contrast had to be enhanced with makeup. So lovely though the vocalist looks, she was in fact heavily plastered -  with various accounts from this era suggesting combinations of brown and green, or green and rouge, or purple and rouge. The flesh-coloured makeups familiar from the contemporary studio were not feasible until cameras became more sensitive, after the war. 
  • Contrary to what the prewar BBC itself cautiously expected upon launching its television service, the reception radius was generous. I have seen somewhere a reference to a prewar viewer in Cambridge - in other words, to a successful home television-receiver installation far outside the targeted Greater London surrounds of the Alexandra Palace mast. When war came to France, the German occupation authorities found it expedient to retain the prewar French equivalent of the BBC television service. The French antenna had been installed, dramatically enough, on the Eiffel Tower, for maximum range. I gather that British military intelligence considered the Reich content - Dr Goebbels's Paris colleagues might have attempted televising some ciné-journalism, along the lines of their Sieg im Westen film - potentially helpful. The Eiffel Tower telecasts were accordingly monitored near the channel coast of England. Monitoring personnel did strain mightily, deploying not the Yagi receiving-antenna design familiar from the 1950s onward, but some nightmarish Rube Goldberg contraption resembling a spiky tipped-up bedframe. 
  • The BBC television, in contrast with the prewar and wartime Eiffel Tower (and again in contrast with the prewar and wartime Berlin Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow) ended abruptly in the late summer of 1939. BBC telecasting did not resume until 1946-06-07. For some people had had a brainwave, I think in the tense days immediately following the Wednesday which was 1939-08-23. That was the Wednesday on which Molotov and Ribbentrop signed their pact, killing diplomacy. The brainy people had reasoned thus: Alexandra Palace is not broadcasting on medium-wave, or even on the beamed short-wave radiated at Daventry for audio by the BBC Empire Service. At Alexandra Palace the BBC is telecasting, rather, in the exotic, exceptionally-short-wave, VHF régime - helpful as a navigation beacon to the Luftwaffe. BBC television went most suddenly dark. It stopped in the middle, not of some blithe "pictures-out-of-space", "we bring Television to you" song like the one in our vid, or again of some deep-and-meaningful Ibsen, but of a Walt Disney cartoon. 

When I call this production, as I did above,  "a top YouTube video" in my subjective rankings, I exercise restraint. Ever since I discovered it a few years ago, this particular vid has been my uncontested, complete-and-total, winner-take-all YouTube favourite. So forget about the analytical philosophy of perception and action tonight, folks. Relax instead, as "Vision and Sound are on", at your home screen. 

[This is the end of the current blog posting.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated. For comment-moderation rules, see initial posting on this blog (2016-04-14).