January update

After a hectic Michaelmas term where we could hardly draw breath between degree ceremonies, lectures, training material & podcasts, this term has started at a slightly more manageable pace, allowing us time to do a bit of housekeeping, update computers, and equipment maintenance.

Last term we recorded and produced 25 lectures, 21 Podcasts, 12 training films and 13 Ceremonies as well as our in-house activities such as video conferencing, duplication and digitisation carried out by our very capable and efficient maternity cover temp, Cynthia, who has been a real star since she started, having been thrown in the deep end with the technology.  However, this is probably nothing compared to dealing with 3 irascible technicians running about like headless chickens with the busiest term we have ever experienced, but she’s managed us all beautifully and we will certainly miss her when she retires in March.

Our major project this month has been recording promotional material for the Theology Department.  We have been out and about recording with academics and students – even going as far as Birmingham to interview an alumna who is now head of Religious Studies at a girls state grammar school.  This has been a very enjoyable project to work on and the members of the department have been very friendly and made our job easy.

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“Just you wait Henry Higgins, just you wait!”

MPU Blogs are like buses – you wait nearly a year and then 2 turn up within days of each other!  But I thought I would write this while it was relatively fresh in my head.

One of the great joys of filming around the University is that we get to see things and go places that other employees or students don’t often come across, or learn interesting little facts.

Meet Henry Sweet (pictured left) an English Philologist, phonetician, grammarian and pioneer in language teaching.  He was a student at Balliol College and was made reader in Phonetics at Oxford in 1901 and this portrait hangs in the hallway of the Phonetics Department in Wellington Square where we were filming last friday.

An irascible sort, he would eavesdrop on conversations furiously taking notes and categorising voice sounds and accents.  He developed his own unique type of shorthand or wrote using the symbols of his “Broad Romic” system of phonetic notation, could pronounce 72 vowel sounds and was engrossed in his studies to the exclusion of social amenities.

Does this ring a bell???  Yes, apparently Sweet is widely regarded to be the inspiration behind the character, Professor Henry Higgins, in George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” and upon which the musical “My Fair Lady” is based.

Bernard Shaw, who regarded Sweet as a man of genius, writes in the preface of ‘Pygmalion’ about his ‘Satanic contempt for all academic dignitaries and persons in general who thought more of Greek than of phonetics’. The play’s Professor Higgins, he says, is not a portrait of Sweet: ‘With Higgins’s physique and temperament Sweet might have set the Thames on fire.’ There are, however, ‘touches of Sweet in the play’ and I think this is enough for Oxford to count one of the most recognisable characters in English literature as one of its own!

So for all you cantankerous academics out there – watch out, you could be the next inspiration for some would be playwright!!


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Michaelmas 2012

I know, I know – it’s been around 10 months since this blog has been updated. But in our defence there are only 4 of us in the team which generally means we are running around like idiots most of the time and ‘blogging’ isn’t high up on our list of priorities. However, having been battered by tweets from Kate Lindsay, Liz McCarthy & LTG – I have decided to sign up for the 23 things programme, which is being run as part of Engage: Social Media Michaelmas and try and do better this year.

We have a busy term ahead – packed full of lecture recordings, podcasts & promotional films and I hope to showcase some of these over the coming weeks, so watch this space!!

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What’s Happening at MPU…

Seasons greetings!

This is the brand new blog from the Media Production Unit, one of OUCS’ newest additions. The little elves down here at 6 Worcester Street have been working their stockings off in the run-up to Christmas and believe me, the new year looks like it’s going to get off to a flyer!

Conrad has just finished the editing process on the last degree ceremony of the year and is now turning his attention to setting up his flash new edit suite, which he informs me will provide him with a more flexible way of working. Along with that, he is also preparing the unit for the migration to the new operating system next year.

2012 isn’t even upon us yet but Karen has already got 13 lectures and seminars booked for the new year! So book early to avoid disappointment! Karen is just applying the finishing touches to the Wolfson podcast, in which there is information about their scholarship programmes and how students can benefit from them. That will be available on iTunesU at the start of next term, as will the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine’s (NDM) podcast, which is also available on the NDM website. I don’t know a thing about clinical medicine but I helped film some of it and it’s pretty interesting stuff!

Lisa has been busy plugging the Media Production Unit by talking to the OUCS news and ‘Conference Oxford’, look out for our features in the next issues of both publications.

Just to get you in to the mood for the new year I’ll leave you with news that Karen and Charlie are going to be filming for the website of the Bodleian’s new Romance exhibition. Perhaps even more tantalising, we have had reports that we have been asked to film a debate between Oxford’s very own high priest of atheism; Richard Dawkins, and the Archbishop of Canterbury; Rowan Williams! You heard it here first folks!

Rest assured I will keep you updated on all that happens here at MPU, so why not follow us on Twitter, @MPU_Oxford. You can also visit our website at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/media.

If you don’t hear from us before, from everyone here at MPU have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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