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The opening titles for Britain's first science-fiction serial, 'The Quatermass Experiment', which brought fear to living rooms across Britain on its first transmission in 1953. It was created by Nigel Kneale and broadcast live from Alexandra Palace. It told the story of the return to Earth of the UK’s first manned space flight and its aftermath. When it was discovered that the sole astronaut survivor of the original crew has been infected by an alien being that was bent on destroying our world, a manhunt was mounted to prevent an apocalypse.
The opening titles were still the domain of the signwriter in the early 1950s, working in a style inherited from the movie industry, with hand painted brush lettering, placed at an angle on the screen. For 'The Quatermass Experiment', the captions were filmed on a rostrum camera and superimposed over a billowing cloud of smoke. Due to its popularity with audiences two further serials were produced to popular and critical acclaim, ‘Quatermass II’, which was transmitted live from Lime Grove Studios in 1955 and in 1958, ‘Quatermass and the Pit’, also transmitted live.
John Sewell, the BBC’s first art school trained graphic designer, joined the BBC from the Royal College of Art in 1954. After the gradual recruitment of other pioneering designers, the influence of the burgeoning BBC Graphic Design Department began to make an impact, with fresh ideas and the curiosity to explore the possibilities of the audio-visual medium.
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