Flash Files I – Associated-Rediffusion 

1 January 2004 tbs.pm/3392

A selection of recreations from authentic sources of Associated-Rediffusion idents, clocks and other on-screen presentation elements, kindly provided by Dave Jeffery

The Flash animations require the Flash player. Click on each image to view the animation, which will appear in its own window.

An Original Ident?

Here are two of Associated-Rediffusion’s earliest idents and frontcaps. An excerpt of Elgar’s overture “Cockaigne in London Town” was used in the station startup, and an eleven note signature was derived from it for the ident (possible recreation above), which embodied the “3D” adastral that also appeared on the station clock, “Mitch”. (Note that the above recreation is somewhat speculative: see Which way did the adastral turn? below.)

A year or so later, the music used in the version below was adopted: the setting of the letters “A R” in Morse Code, arranged for two trombones and Morse key.

The same “dit-dah, dit-dah-dit” theme is used in this frontcap.

Which way did the adastral turn?

A commonly asked question is which way the adastral turned in Associated-Rediffusion and Rediffusion, London idents, clocks and other presentation elements. As far as we can tell from reliable sources, in the case of A-R idents shown immediately above, the star turned clockwise as the symbol formed up – at a speed that made it look as if it was like a cogwheel ‘driving’ the words – then stopped. In the case of Rediffusion, London, however, the adastral on idents rotates anticlockwise continuously. It should be pointed out that the ident at the top of this page is speculative in a number of ways. It is based on a static photograph, and although contributors remember this format, nobody we know recalls how it was animated. So the movement in our version constitutes artistic licence.

In the case of Rediffusion clocks in general – for both companies – including Mitch, A-R’s heraldic station clock for many years, the adastral rotates continuously anticlockwise – or at least, it did in the example we have on film from 1959 (see the film segment in Seen and Heard). This can also be seen in the Rediffusion, London clocks shown in Flash Files II, and in the ‘mystery clock’ at the bottom of this page.

In the case of adastrals used in ad breaks, the most familiar usage is the ‘expanding’ adastral, which rapidly grew to fill the screen. This effect has virtually become synonymous with the idea of the original ‘commercial break’. However, Andrew Emmerson brought our attention to the fact that this was not the only way the adastral was animated in ad breaks. His informant, Gerry, tells us:

“At certain times A-R used to show bursts of about half a dozen short, simple commercials. As I recall, each was only about 5 – 10s long, probably local advertisers who couldn’t afford full length slots and/or properly produced commercials. In effect they were they were the equivalent of local cinema ads.

“The adastral didn’t rotate in the usual way when separating these short ads. It appeared as if suspended by an invisible thread (like a mobile) and it turned around 180 degrees so that its rear side became visible, rather like an S turning around to become edge-on and then a Z. It wasn’t the usual peak white against black level, it looked ‘ordinary’ white and the background was like a curtain in a Photo-Me booth. The adastral didn’t rotate like a record, only about its vertical axis. As seen from above, the adastral rotated 180 degrees anticlockwise, the tines always starting from the conventional ‘S’ position.”

A Mystery Clock

Mystery clock

This unique file (above) is a recreation of a clock which is believed to have been used in the very earliest days of Associated-Rediffusion, before the more familiar heraldic-style “Mitch” clock was introduced by Leslie Mitchell (apparently in October 1956). Our version is based on a photograph (right) that appeared in the edition of Picture Post that appeared in the week of ITV’s Opening Night, and was captioned as the clock that viewers would see when the station opened. Again, exactly how this clock moved is a matter for speculation, but we think the results are extremely attractive. One newspaper report of Opening Night (Sept 22, 1955), the Daily Mail (published by Associated Newspapers, partners in A-R) of the following day, showed a clock similar, but perhaps not identical, to this one.

Click on the image above to display the clock, which will derive its time from your system clock settings. You can also download this clock as a screen saver (Windows only at present, regrettably). The screen saver also displays system time.

Other Flash files by Dave Jeffery can be found in 625: Andrew Wiseman’s Television Room

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