Remember the name

As the year draws to a close, naturally your thoughts go towards people you once knew who are no longer around.

Rob Milburn was one of the many, many people who I have never met in real life, but who I came to know online and regarded as a friend. Sadly, Rob passed away in January 2023.

Officially, Rob was a camera operator for ITV Channel, but he was so much more than that. As part of Rob’s work he looked after ITV’s Channel Island archive, and whilst he was transferring gems to digital formats he would upload bits and bobs he had discovered to Twitter and YouTube.

One of the regional advertisements that Rob unearthed became a bit of a social media sensation, helped in no small part by the enthusiasm shown for it by Louis Barfe:

Rob later made a documentary Major Benest and Me which talked about the making of this long-running series of advertisements and I think it is one of the most wonderful pieces of television I’ve ever seen.

After I said how much I had enjoyed the Chipsteaks commercial on Twitter, I immediately found I had a direct message from Rob, and we started chatting. I ended up doing a lot of bits and bobs for Rob when he was curating the Channel Archive for ITV Channel.

One of the first things we started chatting about was the Channel station clock from the 1960s. Rory Clark had found a tiny picture of this tucked away on a monitor in a photograph of Channel’s broadcast gallery (photographs of broadcast galleries are goldmines for finding lost presentation items). The clock had a very distinctive square face1.

Rob was very excited by this and rapidly found a much better quality copy of the same image and sent it to me.

The photo of the Channel TV station clock discovered by Rob Milburn © 1962 ITV Channel

I animated it for him and sent him back the result, and Rob sent me pictures of all sorts of Channel TV archive presentation goodies as a thank you.

Rob being able to send me a good image of this clock was very fortuitous as I needed the clock for a Transdiffusion Daily Start-up recreation. Here it is, including the clock:

The next time Rob contacted me he was asking if I would be interested in designing him a VT clock. The brief was that Rob wanted a VT clock for the Channel Archive clips he was unearthing, to place before the digital copies he was placing into the archive.

My first idea was to recreate the Michael Cox Electronics Ltd. VT clock that Channel Television used in the 1980s. I had already recreated the standard version of this clock and the font to go with it for Greg Taylor.

The Channel version was notable as it contained the Channel CTV logo, and a pretty good rendition of it at that. I drew the design in the vector graphics package Inkscape:

And then animated the clock in Blender:

Rob thought this was very nice, but he wanted something a bit quirkier, with a bit more character. So, going back to the Channel station clock, I thought I’d design something with a square border.

I drew the clock in Inkscape, imported the Inkscape file into Blender to animate and composite it. The effect I wanted on the keying was the keying on the 1970s Westward TV colour clock.

As a thank you for this, Rob sent me a reel of every single ident and endcap he had ever discovered in Channel’s archive. I was absolutely thrilled with it.

One job he asked me to to was to recreate a junction for his documentary Channel Strikes Back. It was about the unique situation Channel Television found itself during the ITV Strike of 1979.

He first asked whether I had strike captions that were shown in the rest of the country whilst Channel TV was the only ITV company broadcasting. I actually had both versions. The teletext version, which I recreated using the teletext editor Teditor in the BBC Microcomputer Emulator BeebEm:

And the 35mm slide, which I recreated using Inkscape and then “distressed” in The GIMP:

Rob then asked me to recreate three more items. A Channel Television logo 35mm slide transparency:

The Channel Television clock from 1979 counting up to two specific times (13:20 and 17:00):

And a slide that was particularly dear to his heart. Rob remembered seeing this particular slide being broadcast at the time, but it didn’t exist anywhere in the archive. However, Rob then had a bit of good fortune and found another gallery photograph that saved the day:

© 1979 ITV Channel Television
© 1979 ITV Channel Television

So, from that image, and Rob’s recollection of the colours, I could create a version in Inkscape:

As always with this sort of thing, not everything I did made its way into the final cut, but I was very pleased to have been a part of this documentary.

The last project Rob was planning sounded intruiging. In autumn of 2021, Rob asked me to work on a “hush-hush” animation; something I couldn’t tell anyone about.

What Rob wanted was an HTV aerial ident with the words “Archif Archive” instead of “Cymru Wales”. I was immediately very excited as I knew that meant Rob was going to be digging into the HTV/TWW/Teledu Cymru archive and unearthing gems.

I made the animation in Synfig and Inkscape, and sent it to him. Rob was delighted with it, but then I never heard from him again. I knew he was busy (he was constantly travelling all over Wales filming reports for ITV News Wales) and was fully expecting him to come back to me with some more jobs to do when he found the time.

But, suddenly, at the beginning of this year, I heard that terrible news that Rob had passed away.

Rob was a lovely, encouraging and kind person and I am so sorry that I won’t get any more emails from him asking for bits and bobs.

  1. The clock design itself being square was not without precedent in British Television; the BBC’s on screen clock from the era preceding the Bats Wings symbol was also square. ↩︎


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