Recurring Nightmare

Sometimes, when you have a really nasty scab you know the best thing is to leave it alone. But you just can’t help picking at it. And that is the case with my sorry involvement with Big Centre Television.

Many moons ago I was asked to create a 10 second ident animation as a demonstration for a company that, at that time, was called City 8. I asked if there was any music, and was told that there wasn’t any and I should “just put something in”.

City 8 at that time had a logo, but they weren’t happy with it and they wondered if I could have a go at revising it, whilst keeping the rather nice purple colourscheme.

I began in Inkscape and designed a logo for City 8 that I was actually very happy with. It combined the numeral 8, a canal tunnel (think Dudley) with reflection (think THAMES) and had a solid portion and a mirrored portion (think ATV). If they had gone with this design it might have lasted until the end of the company.

Purple caption with white text: "City 8 Birmingham, Solihull & The Black Country". There is a logo made up of a canal tunnel arch making up a letter 8.
City 8 design. The tunnel reflection would have wobbled gently.

I showed them my design. And they very happy with it. For fifteen minutes. And then they got back to me and said that the name of the company had changed. It was now called Big Centre TV. And they wanted a rainbow colourscheme “just like Central” as they wanted the company to feel like a old friend that had been around for years.

I hated the new name of the company, and I was very unsure about the rainbow colourscheme and I got a complete mental block. I designed probably one of the worst pieces of work I ever did, in the hope that it would get rejected and they would give me some guidance that would help me do something better.

Navy Blue caption with white text saying "Big Centre TV". The dot of the letter i is a star, with a multicoloured trail in the shape of a letter "C".
Big Centre TV ident v2a

The trouble was, they loved it. And I was stuck with the bloody thing.

Meanwhile they liked the music so much, they asked me do to the start-up theme as well as the start-up animation. I was using a program called Rosegarden to create music at the time, and some SoundFonts that I had downloaded from the internet. You couldn’t really do classical music in Rosegarden, but you could do some quite convincing folk-rock.

Mercifully, Big Centre dumped the whole brand identity and music very quickly. About the only part of the identity that got any good feedback was the Big Centre TV testcard, and I pinched that from BSB!

A 16:9 ratio colour test card with the caption "Big Centre TV". The picture in the circle of the test card is a 3D model of Brindley Place in Birmingham rendered in primary and secondary colours.
Big Centre TV Test Card

When I put the original tune together I simply had too many ideas. I wanted to use a selection of folk songs from the area, as that had worked so well for the ITV companies Scottish, Tyne-Tees and Westward.

But on the other hand I also wanted to reflect other things about the area: the Rosie and Jim canals and the Irish navigational workers who built them; the Mellotron invented in Streetly and used by The Moody Blues and The Move; Brum Rock and the area’s vibrant British Asian population.

In the end there were too many clashing ingredients and the result ended up as appetizing as one of Letitia Cropley’s cakes in The Vicar of Dibley.

Here’s the original version of the start-up theme:

A month or so later I was asked to write a close-down theme. For this I kept it much simpler and just stuck to riffing off of the main “Birmingham Lads” theme whilst adding some breaks for ATV/ABC style chimes.

So here’s the original version of the close-down theme:

I had done several short pieces in MuseScore, usually transcriptions of pieces I liked by other people. So I thought I could try something longer, and something I had written myself. So the Big Centre theme was an obvious candidate.

One of the complaints about the originally music was it was driving everyone nuts as it was too strident. So when arranging the orchestral version I was very conservative, keeping the brass to mf (moderately loud) at most and used a lot of woodwinds to make it sound as mild as possible.

Here’s the finished orchestral version:

Overall I am really unhappy with the orchestral arrangement. What I did was simply transfer the parts in the Rosegarden arrangement to orchestral instruments; I didn’t really arrange it for orchestra at all. I did manage to make something that wasn’t as jarring as the original arrangement, but instead I did something that was bland. The dynamics in particular are very muted and samey.

I could have had some real fun with the arrangement but my memories of the almost universally unfavourable reaction to the original meant I tried to make it polite all the way through and the end result was deathly dull.

So don’t be surprised if I come back to this one in six months or so. As I said, some scabs you just can’t help picking…



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