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Picturing Our Past

Picturing Our Past brings into focus the rich history of Welsh film and television. Its five chapters follow the compelling story of early pioneering silent film making, through the coming of sound, colour, the impact of television and up to the present digital era. Each chapter is illustrated with five key film clips from the period studied.

This new book was written and compiled specifically for digital release by award-winning director Colin Thomas and Iola Baines, Moving Image Curator at the National Library of Wales Screen and Sound Archive.

Released on iOS and Android, this app encapsulates the milestones of Welsh filmmaking history once referred to as “that fertile legacy” by respected historian Dave Berry. The bilingual enhanced ebook was put together by us Thud Media with the support of the Books Council of Wales and Film Hub Wales.

“This new e-book is an exciting and innovative way of presenting the National Library’s rich audiovisual collections, offering users a fresh and contemporary pathway to engage with this inspiring heritage.”

– Pedr ap Llwyd, Chief Executive and Librarian of the National Library of Wales

*App launched: 4 May 2021 at a streamed special event featuring Cornish-Welsh musician Gwenno, feminist filmmaker Michele Ryan and punk rocker turned S4C presenter Aled Samuel. A specially recorded trailer narrated by Cerys Matthews was showcased.

Development

We developed this interactive ebook app initially as an iPad companion. This was the target platform the Books Council of Wales supported the creation of this digital publication for, and it showcases the written and video content together in great fidelity.

As with our previous publication The Dragon and the Eagle, designing an interface and reading experience for this text was given consideration. We were not looking to directly replicate a book in its layout, but rather utilise the benefits of connected media with quick access to the features available. The excellent video content is served by a streaming platform we set up to allow for the delivery of this sizable resource while maintaining the app’s light install size.

This digital approach gives the ability to easily flip the text between the English and Welsh language versions, while annotations/footnotes that can be launched with a simple tap when a reference is cited in the body of the text.

Alongside carefully typesetting the written content, collating and standardising the video clips was a major task. With all the permissions and fair-use provisions consulted we pulled together this collection from several sources, local contacts, Colin’s reference material, and the brilliant National Library of Wales Screen and Sound Archive. Every one of the 25 clips were then edited here to extract the key moments and were then deinterlaced, scaled and uprezzed (where needed) to be encoded for high streaming quality.

The resulting app is both an engaging reading experience and useful tool in introducing Welsh filmmaking, its history, and the stories behind these works. A great jumping off point for further exploration of Wales’ filmic past and inspiration for it’s future.