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

Many British TV drama and comedy shows of the 1970s and early 1980s were shot on videotape using multiple cameras. That was fine for the interior scenes, but when it came to location shooting, the cameras and videotape machines were so big and heavy they required a large outside broadcast truck to transport them to the location. For this reason, many shows used 16mm film for exterior footage, since the equipment was much more portable and film could be edited easily. This meant that interior and exterior shots have a completely different look.

Examples are far too numerous for a comprehensive list, but include:
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch[1] in which this is lampshaded by a character (on videotape) looking 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?"
    • Also lampshaded in a sketch when 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?"
  • Porridge
  • Blakes Seven
  • Colditz (except for the final episode which was entirely on film)
  • Not Only but Also - notable in that the colour videotapes were wiped and only the film sketches survived
  • Doctor Who (although the first colour serial, "Spearhead from Space", was entirely on film due to a studio technicians' strike)
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Tomorrow People with the exception of The Revenge of Jedikiah.
  • The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries had this.
  • Part of the Retraux feel of Look Around You involves accurate use of this.
  • Fawlty Towers
  • The Sandbaggers
  • To the Manor Born
  • Blackadder but only the first. Well, there's some airplane footage in the fourth.
    • Which was taken from the 1976 film Aces High.
  • Sapphire and Steel though only one of the six serials had location footage.
  • Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
  • Open All Hours
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (The 1981 BBC version.)
  • The Kids in The Hall was a rare North American example.
  • 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.
  • Gilligan's Island, another North American example, 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.
  • All Creatures Great and Small
  • Season 2 of the original series of The Twilight Zone is another North American example, 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, thus the editing of tape was next to impossible. 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.
  • 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.
  • Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, as lampshaded by Mystery Science Theater 3000.

 Fingal: I've been doppled!

Mike: And I'm on film suddenly!

  • 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.
  • In a North American Inversion, The Wire used film except for outdoor security camera footage, which was videotape.


  1. "Society for Putting Things On Top of Other Things"
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