Daily Archives:September 20th, 2022

May flights of angels…

While I don’t really have very strong feelings about whether or not we should have a monarchy now, I do believe that if you’re going to have one, then ours has been about as good as you could get! It’s not at all clear to me that countries that have got rid of theirs have, as a rule, received something much better in exchange.

So with that in mind, and being aware of history in the making, I settled down to watch some of Her Majesty’s funeral today, and got hooked… and gosh, it was rather well done, wasn’t it? It’s very pleasing to think that, after recent embarrassments like Brexit and Boris, there are some things of which we as a nation can still be proud. The combined ranks of the BBC, the Crown, the Church of England and Their Majesties’ Armed Forces can pull off some impressive stuff when they set their minds to it.

My mind, of course, also kept drifting to the technical achievements. The wonderful camera angles, with no other cameras in view. The enormously long but very slow zooms vertically down from the ceiling of the Abbey. The shallow depth of focus on the jewels atop the crown. The very great depth of focus over Winston Churchill’s shoulder as his statue looked down on the passers-by below. The synchronisation of marching video and drum-beat audio, when the cameras must often have been far enough away to delay the audio by a noticeable amount. (I realised after a while they probably had radio mics near the drummers so as to transmit the audio at the speed of light instead.) It’s hard enough for most of us just getting the audio levels right when recording a single bagpiper. To pull off this kind of production at any time is quite a feat, but to do it live, spread across an entire capital, and pretty much flawlessly… well, count me impressed. If the Duke of Norfolk didn’t already have a duchy, he would have deserved one for organising this! But this was mostly the achievement of thousands of anonymous and very skilled people.

Then I wondered, too, how many bytes of data iPlayer had to cope with today, and took my hat off again to whomever was responsible for keeping those millions(?) of livestreams going for hours on end. It really wouldn’t have been the time for unexpected network load to crash your routers, or for sudden reboots caused by unexpected software updates. I bet the technical team are breathing a sigh of relief tonight!

This was the first occasion I had actually sat down and watched any live TV in a very long time. The last time, I think, might have been when the armoured cars started rolling into Iraq in search of those weapons of mass destruction… So that would have been… 2003… nearly 20 years ago. Gosh again! I do watch lots of things on a television screen, but they’re almost all movies, or recordings or streamings of shows that other people discovered a decade ago and we’re only just getting around to binge-viewing now! We’ve been in this house for five years and I haven’t got around to connecting the TV to the aerial yet, so we watched today’s events on iPlayer — which was probably higher resolution anyway — and it looked fabulous rendered by AppleTV on our nice 4K TV.

And that’s remarkable in itself. The last event of its kind — the funeral of George VI — was the first royal procession to be broadcast on television. Grainy, black-and-white, low-resolution cathode-ray-tube- & valve-powered television… and so few people owned a receiver then that almost everybody would have had to follow in audio-only form on the radio, and then read about it a day or two later in the papers. How things have changed, in one reign.

I wish King Charles a long and happy life, but when his time does eventually come, I expect we’ll be viewing it in some sort of fully-immersive holographic projection. Though, as my friend Tim pointed out when I suggested it on Twitter, fully-immersive holographic projection will probably turn out to be just a fad. Remember 3D TV?

But in either case, I hope it’s still produced by the BBC.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser