There’s not that many people who’ve used a Spectrum to generate graphics for broadcast TV programs. DAVE BEESON, Graphic Designer for Central Independent TV has done just that. He’s also used an Atari 800 to produce title credits for a computer program — The Magic Micro Mission. It just goes to show what you can do with a home computer if you put your mind to it...
Dave Beeson began his artistic career by following a three year degree course in Graphic Design at Birmingham Polytechnic. During the course, students were supposed to specialise in either General Design or Illustration. Dave wanted to do both, and managed to convince the college to allow him to have his way.
A wise move on his part. When it came to the end of year show for final year students two talent scouts from the Birmingham based Independent TV station, ATV, saw Dave’s work, realised he was an all-rounder and invited him for an interview. Mr Beeson got the job, and joined ATV’s graphics department as an assistant. That was nearly seven years ago.
So what does working in the graphics department of a TV company involve? “I’m an all-rounder rather than a specialist,” Dave explained, “as we all have to be. You never know what’s coming through the door in this job: maybe it’s cartoons that are wanted one day, a logo the next, with charts and maps needed for current affairs programs all the time. I love the variety — the job only gets boring when there’s nothing to do.” Which rather explains why Dave is happy to work in any medium, and doesn’t have a particular specialism. “I can latch on to most techniques and copy styles fairly easily.”
Which is just as well. When Central TV (as ATV became in the last round of franchise reshuffles) decided to produce a computer program it was logical to have a go at producing the title graphics on home micros. Dave had bought a Spectrum a few months before work started on The Magic Micro Mission at the end of 1983 and had been telling everyone in the Graphics Department how wonderful these home computers were. He was the obvious choice when it came to working on graphics for a program on home computers...
“It was fun working with the people who wrote programs to run the graphics,” Dave remembered, “I produced screen designs on the Atari using Paintbox and Simon Goodwin wrote the programs that moved them round. I was very pleased with the end result.”
More recently, a program made in Central’s Nottingham studios on hacking required some short animated sequences to demonstrate classic hacking techniques. Out came Dave’s trusty Spectrum, reams of graph paper and four days of sitting up till two or three in the morning later... the finished result was put on videotape and edited into the program.
But what of the more expensive, professional graphics computers — does the life of a TV Graphic Designer involve much work at the top end of the computer graphics range? “The problem is that the graphics budgets for most programs are not large enough for computers yet. The more expensive machines can cost up to £500 an hour to buy time on, and that could be the entire budget. We tend to rely on traditional techniques — although some programs, like News at Ten and the BBC’s Nine O’clock News rely heavily on computer generated graphics.”
Dave’s looking forward to the arrival of a Quantel Paintbox — a whizzo computer system used to create effects and produce graphics directly onto videotape — The Nine O’clock News graphics, for instance owe a lot to Quantel... “There’ll be a bit of a scramble to get time on The Quantel, once it arrives,” Dave chuckled.
Apart from collecting Superman memorabilia — Dave’s got jumpers, radios, hairbrushes, masks, pencil sharpeners, all sorts of things with Superman on them — house decorating is currently the main Beeson hobby. Dave’s recently become a father and is decorating his family house, aided and abetted by his wife Roz who’s a textile designer by trade.
It’s a while since he last did any freelance illustrating — work for a Polish magazine several years ago was the most recent Beeson freelance job. A little bit more freelance work may be in the pipeline soon, just to help keep the family finances flourishing! Meanwhile his schedule of work includes a stint on The Price is Right in July, four months on Central News East and two series: Troubles and Strife and Parents and Teenagers. Snooker fans will already have seen some Beeson graphics — the title sequence using the triangular grid...