Three-D Issue 21: The BUFVC: Supporting Practice and Research

Sarah Allen-Reading
British Universities Film & Video Council

bufvc_fulllogo_pantone_5265Founded in 1948, the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) is a charity and membership organisation that aims to advance post-compulsory education and research by putting moving image and sound on an equal footing with text. Currently 82% of UK higher education (HE) institutions are members of the BUFVC, with membership extending to all staff and students within an institution. The result is that the majority of teachers, learners and researchers in UK HE, plus many in further education, have access to a wealth of free to use moving image and sound resources.

As an organisation, we passionately believe that audiovisual resources are an essential part of the mix in learning, teaching and research and our staff are here to support institutions by responding to content, copyright and research enquiries, to name but a few. Although our resources cross over into all academic disciplines, it is without question that MeCCSA colleagues can both work with us and benefit from our decades of experience and knowledge in the area of moving image and sound use in education.

Undeniably our most well known resource is the Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT) – the most comprehensive listings database of UK TV and radio programmes available. TRILT, which today holds over 17 million broadcast listings from more than 475 digital and cable channels dating back to 1995, is updated daily and allows users the opportunity to also view programme schedules (two weeks in advance of transmission).  Television and radio offers high-value content for use in learning, teaching and research and TRILT can help you to locate programmes easily and quickly. John Ellis, Professor of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London, sums up TRILT as: “BUFVC’s database of TV programmes, stretching back over ten years, is the best place from which to construct reliable references to TV programmes: it beats IMDB every time!”

Furthermore, TRILT provides access to over 750,000 hours of previously broadcast TV and radio content via the BUFVC Off-Air Recording Back-Up Service – we’ve been recording ten channels 24/7 from as far back as 1998 for our members to order programmes and use in teaching and learning.

BUFVCsearchHowever, our resources go much further than just TRILT. In 2011 we launched the federated search environment – an ‘all-in-one’ search engine, which provided users the opportunity to search across nine BUFVC online databases via a single entry point, including commercially available programmes from our Find DVD database, our database of every Shakespeare performance recording and extensive radio collections. The federated search environment was created with the aim to transform moving image and sound resource discovery by replacing the need for researchers to locate databases and collections through multiple channels, while enabling the creative discovery of content by opening up collections and connecting users with resources they were not previously aware of. Dr Ciara Chambers, Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Ulster, says of the search function “The BUFVC has consistently predicted and facilitated the needs of users and its highly effective online federated search platform demonstrated that tireless pursuit of improving the research environment for students and academics”. John Ellis just calls it “the new ‘supersearch’ facility” and remarks how, by using it “I keep finding unexpected material in newsreels and radio broadcasts which really enrich both teaching and research.” We, rather unsurprisingly, are quite happy with either description, but do encourage you to take a look for yourself to see how it may enhance your own work.

The BUFVC also plays a unique role in conducting research. We invest and participate in research projects, working in partnerships with institutions, to enhance sector understanding and/or produce outputs to benefit the wider community.  In fact, since 1999 our research team have been involved with 19 research projects related to moving image and sound, with new projects in the pipeline.

A particular area of research expertise is evident in our News on Screen resource – the world’s most comprehensive multimedia resource on the history of newsfilm. The online collection is research focussed and includes more than 180,000 newsreels and cinemagazine stories linked to moving image content, audio and digitised production documents. It has also recently benefited from new additions including Roundabout – 600 colour cinemagazine films from the 1960s and 1970s (available online to view). Dr Ciara Chambers, Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Ulster, regularly uses the News on Screen resource:

“Particularly useful is the News on Screen database which facilitated my research study into how British newsreels represented Irish events and catered for Irish audiences , particularly given the absence of any sustained indigenous newsreel production. The database covers almost all items produced throughout the newsreel era and contains links to digitized moving images and documents as well as a bibliography of pertinent books and articles and a searchable database of production crew. This information forms a comprehensive account of the newsreel industry in Britain and offers scholars a chance to scrutinise the birth, development and decline of the newsreels in terms of both content analysis and production context.”

BoB (Box of Broadcasts) National is another BUFVC resource that is pushing the boundaries of innovation in education. A unique shared online off-air TV and radio recording service, it enables all staff and students in subscribing higher and further education institutions to choose and record any broadcast programmes from 50+ TV and radio channels. The recorded programmes are then kept indefinitely and shared amongst all users, and can be edited, embedded and added to playlists.

John Ellis uses BoB via his institution’s subscription:

“Box of Broadcasts is utterly reliable as a lecture playback or an embedded link for students’ study, and it’s simple to create a clip of the section you need. BoB’s coverage is growing fast. Increasingly I find that someone has already booked a recording of a programme that I need: that’s the advantage of its crowd-sourced model. And now the ability to search the subtitles to almost all broadcast makes BoB a powerful research tool as well.”

However, the BUFVC is not just about content and access. We also advocate and champion the creation of new educational media production via the annual Learning on Screen Awards – the only UK awards celebrating and rewarding excellence in the use of moving image and related media in learning, teaching and research. There are a number of categories open to practice based staff and students at educational establishments who are leading the way in producing new and innovative educational material (broadcast, non-broadcast and multimedia). Plus the awards evening provides a great opportunity to showcase your work and network with fellow practice based colleagues, students and industry executives.

Dr Charlotte Crofts, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and Video Production at the University of the West of England, won the Learning on Screen 2013 – General Education Multimedia Award for the Curzon Memories App. The location-based app offers a unique learning experience to the user, by allowing them to explore the historic Curzon Community Cinema with their smartphone. Charlotte gives Learning on Screen a glowing endorsement (and no, we didn’t pay her!):

“I think having won the award, and being able to display the BUFVC Learning on Screen banner can’t help but to add weight to the project and it’s nice to be able to say ‘award-winning’ when applying for funding for future projects. Getting this kind of recognition from your peers makes it all worthwhile and is also a great way to demonstrate the return on research investment (the Curzon project was funded by a University of the West of England, Early Career Research Fellowship).  This is particularly important in the context of practice-research which can sometimes need further contextualisation as research. I’m writing a REF Impact Case-Study, so the award is also useful to demonstrate the wider educational benefit of the app.” Curzon

Upcoming resources

We continue to develop moving image and sound resources for use in education. Current developments of particular note for practice-based colleagues include this autumn’s release of a searchable database of the weekly Channel 4 press information packs (1982 to 2002), the result of a partnership with the University of Portsmouth and Channel 4 Archive. The packs were noted for their innovation in design and the wealth of information they provided, particularly their critical analysis of films.  Plus, we have the release of the latest version of BoB National, which will include a number of new key features, including the addition of the entire BBC archive since 2007 (that’s over 800,000 TV and radio programmes) added to the resource. The project is delivered in partnership with Jisc and the BBC and is the most significant upgrade to BoB National since its launch in 2009.

Enjoy using our resources – old and new – and do get in touch, whether it is a question for our information service, an entry to the Learning on Screen Awards or a new project proposal. Plus take a look at our latest membership brochure, which can be accessed online:


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