TV Cream

Bric-a-Brac: C is for...

Colour Separation Overlay

The master at work Richard Stilgoe performs A Statutory Right of Entry to Your Home

From the invention of colour television to the advent of digital effects, CSO (or Chromakey if you worked for ITV) was the most prevalent special effect in the business. Subjects were photographed in front of a plain blue (or green) background, which was electronically replaced with a starfield, library footage of the Grand Canyon or a picture of Joe Gormley, according to taste. Limitations to this technique gave programmes of the era a distinctive look. The lighting had to be extremely bright, so the people in the foreground looked unnaturally washed-out compared to their background. Hair and shadows were the technician’s nightmare, adding a furry blue fringe around the subject if they weren’t careful – a sort of anti-Ready Brek glow. The result – every programme, from Blake’s 7 to The Kenny Everett Video Show to Nationwide, took on an eerie, fuzzy quality which just made telly all the more mysterious and imposing.



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    The single best (or worst, depending on your point of view) use of old-school colour separation overlay or chromakey simply has to be Starship’s video for ‘We Built This City’, which looked dated the moment it left the editing room. It’s on YouTube. Watch and learn.

  2. glam_racket

    June 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I wonder what the collective noun is for Stilgoes?

    Answers on a postcard or sealed envelope to….

  3. televisualcabbage

    June 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    A shower of Stilgoes?

    They breed in the wilds of Television Centre, ready for when needed to do a bit of whimsy when the country needs light musical relief…

    Not to be confused with Cox, the local witchdoctor…

  4. Martin M

    June 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

    An Essiglot of Stilgoes?

  5. Richard Davies

    June 22, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    The worst combination was CSO on top of very grainy stock footage, see the Pan’s People/Legs & Co (can’t remember which) dancing to Barbados for a good example.

  6. wilberforce

    August 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    remember when Macca used this for the video for “Coming Up”? it was raved over at the time, featuring Mr thumbs aloft not only as himself but also his younger Beatle self, Buddy Holly, and the mad keyboard player from Sparks among others…

  7. wilberforce

    August 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Having spent the previous night staring at the ceiling worrying I hadn’t got my facts right about Macca’s “Coming Up” video, I checked it out on Youtube…

    The bespectacled strat-playing guitarist is (I think) actually supposed to be Hank Marvin, although it’s easy to get him confused with Buddy Holly (especially if you haven’t seen the video for 30 years!)

    Don’t know who the bearded drummer is an homage to though (if anybody) – a left-field guess would be Idris Muhammad, although as he’s not wearing a Muslim prayer-cap I’m probably wrong here…

    BTW: check out Mrs Macca as one of the “backing singers” – it appears she’s as bad at dancing as she (allegedly) was at singing and playing keyboards!

  8. Martin M

    August 14, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Much better video (and song too,come to think of it) than that Outkast one that came out about 25 years after this…..the drummer used to crack me up as a kid…..but who is the ‘rocker’ Macca meant to be?

  9. Bob Hazard

    August 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I always thought the drummer was supposed to be Mick Fleetwood. Loved the drumming facial expressions, seen quite a few of those in my time whilst watching bands..

  10. David Pascoe

    August 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I read somewhere that the drummer in Coming Up was meant to be Ginger Baker.

  11. Bob Hazard

    August 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I can agree with that up to a point, however, Ginger Baker and smiling whilst playing is not something i would ever associate with him having seen him play a few times. I have also read that it could be a ‘composite’ of a few different drummers.

  12. wilberforce

    August 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    the penny has just dropped… “essiglot” is an anagram of stilgoes ha ha! very clever – the kind of thing the man himself would do.
    martin m, are you stilgoe in disguise?

  13. wilberforce

    August 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I watched “Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger” on telly yesterday – if ever there’s a film with obvious use of CSO, that’s it
    What makes it worse is that for some scenes the actors were actually filmed at the locations also used as CSO background, so they keep switching from normal-looking to “day-glo edges” virtually shot-by-shot…

  14. TV Cream

    April 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Just in case we’re ever in danger of underestimating the cultural significance of Statutory Right of Entry to Your Home, here’s the full-page Guardian feature which heralded its maiden broadcast in 1974:

  15. George White

    October 30, 2021 at 8:43 am

    NOtorious uses of CSO
    The Los Angeles airport bits in Doomwatch
    Using it to put George Cole in Austria in Quiller
    The dreams in Pennies from Heaven
    The House of Commons in both Dad’s Army and Citizen Smith
    The two Ernest Clarks in Doctor at Sea
    Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries – Death of an Old Fashioned Girl
    CSO car chases in The Capone Investment
    The Chester Mystery Plays
    Voltaire’s Candide
    SHades of Greene (1975) – CSO Paul Scofield!
    The Pallisers
    The Borgias
    The Muppet Show
    Count Dracula
    The Young Ones
    Accidental Death of an ANarchist
    Play for Today – The Adventures of Frank and the Flipside of Dominick Hide and the After-Dinner Joke
    The Train in the Rivals of Sherlock Holmes
    The train in Oppenheimer
    The CSO service station in Sink or Swim
    There’s an ep of Z Cars with yellow CSO thus yellow fringing.
    That’s My Boy
    Gnomes of Dulwich
    The Stone Tape
    Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width
    Italian TV’s Fatal EGgs –

    Quantel in the CLeopatras, Ballykissangel, Gallowglass, BIrd of Prey

    CGI in Murder Most Horrid, Backup, SHe-Devil , Palin’s Full Circle CSO in the titles to South of the Border

  16. Richardpd

    October 30, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    The first episode of The Goodies goes overboard with CSO when Graeme is showing off the features of the flat. All a bit hit & miss, but at least they improved the window blind / TV screen by the time of Kitten Kong.

    Monty Python’s early use of it is also a bit of a mixed job.

  17. George White

    November 1, 2021 at 9:22 pm

  18. George White

    November 3, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    Possibly this in the Missiles of october.
    Starlost like Moonbase 3 a Fox copro
    Carl Sagan’s COsmos
    Chroma key in For the Love of Ada and the Captain Beaky specals. Sykes at Christmas
    Treasure Island 1977, Six Dates with Barker
    Marne Maitland and Leon VItali’s CSO laundrette in SOftly, Softly
    CSO in the sci-fi con-set Howard Schumann ep of Red Letter Day – Amazing Stories with Ian McDiarmid.
    BOwie’s Baal
    IIRC the Plays for Britain with Peter Egan getitng a sex change and becoming a femme fatale, when he swaps lives with Sheila Gish, and the pig-humanoid air crew.
    Last of the Summer Wine

    THe Cleopatras used Scene-Sync.

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