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August 4, 2023

Perfectly Timed 1978 Rocket Launch Clip Hailed as “The Greatest Shot in Television”

James Burke, a British science historian, had only one chance to nail this scene. A clip from the 1978 BBC television show Connections, season 1, episode 8, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” which could be considered the best timed shot in television history.

In the video, Burke passes a motionless spaceship with the American flag flying in the backdrop as he walks. He eventually pauses to explain that if hydrogen and oxygen are both released in a small space, mixed together, and set on fire to them, “you get that.” As soon as he finishes speaking, he turns around and gestures toward a spaceship that is about to launch in the distance. In particular, in 1978, it was what many would consider a once-in-a-lifetime filming opportunity. “Destination: the moon, or Moscow,” the historian says as the video fades out.

In a Blue Dot interview, Burke reveals how he timed and shot the moment perfectly. “I wrote 10 seconds of words, it takes 1 second to walk in, 1 second to point, and 1 second to pull focus on the rocket... you can hear the countdown so at 13 seconds I stepped in and did my bit. We took it home and said to the BBC look what we did! And they said ... Looks like back projection.”


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