TV Cream

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


Yes, that's Mike Oldfield, fiddling with his own personal Mirage. The get.A go-ahead company founded in Newbury in 1973, Quantel is, perhaps more than any other institution, responsible for the change in the appearance of British TV from the 16mm film and caption card biscuitty sludginess of the 1970s to the twiddly, neon and pastel-hued, pin-sharp ‘electronic wine bar’ look of the 1980s. It all kicked off in 1978 with the introduction of the DPE 5000, a little box with a few buttons and a joystick that enabled excitable producers to flip the picture about the screen with the same gay abandon with which Terry Wogan treated his Blankety Blank question cards. LE departments took to it like ducks to water, and since the damn thing was so expensive it would be made to pay for itself anyway, it colonised the screen like crazy within a couple of years. Then came Paintbox in 1981, which enable wacky colourisation effects (end result: even more lurid magenta and lime green on the screen than before). Finally 1982 saw Mirage, a supersized box of tricks that enabled Paul Jackson to fold the Waterboys into a saxophone-shaped blob and spin them around the Saturday Live studio as the whim took him. By that point, TV was irreversibly digitised, and sales of Telecine units and Letraset plummeted.



  1. Richard Davies

    August 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Also much used by the Doctor Who production team in the 1980s.

  2. Olaf Schirm

    July 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I did use the Quantel Mirage at that times as one of the few (or the single?) operator(s) in Germany. It needed to be programmed in Pascal if you did not want to stick with the factory presets. As I remember, programming was a pain and very time consuming, but I came up with new and unseen effects. I did use it a lot for German TV (i.e. in “Solid Gold” music shows) as well as for the music video of QUEEN “living on my own”. Freddie Mercury worked on all effects with me in my studio.
    I will post some photos of with the Mirage on my website
    all the best, Olaf Schirm (symboter)

  3. George White

    May 5, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    Quantel titles
    Our Friends in the North
    The Ambassador 1998
    Growing Pains
    Hamish Macbeth
    Pride and Prejudice
    JUdge John Deed
    Between the Lines
    Lives and Loves of a She-Devil

  4. Richardpd

    May 5, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    The Russ Abbott Show used Quantel a lot for transitions between sketches, where the last frame of one would do something like turn into a Champagne bottle, which would spray out some fizzy pixels which would become the first frame of the next sketch.

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