Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

18 FEBRUARY, 2010

HBO City: Artisanal Animation Magic Circa 1983

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Craftsmanship lessons from the 80’s, or why 100 lightbulbs are putting Tim Burton to shame.

With all the stop-motion, time-lapse, paper-cutout, tilt-shift, CGI animation floating around these days, it’s easy to fall into the all-too-common trap of modern arrogance, assuming we’ve practically invented these art forms and none of this has ever been done before, let alone well. We, of course, are here to wiggle a disapproving finger and prove otherwise.

In 1983, HBO made a short but impressive opening sequence that really embodied just what makes HBO “premium” — brilliantly conceived and produced with enough meticulous craftsmanship to make Wes Anderson feel inadequate and send Tim Burton’s set designers running to mama.

Now, a short documentary goes behind the scenes of the elaborate production process.

If there’s something missing, you know something’s missing, but you don’t know what it is. So you put in as much detail in it, so the eye picks up every little thing.

Six craftsmen worked for over three months to create close to 100 unique buildings for the 30-foot-long HBO City, each handcrafted with painstaking precision to produce one of the best-constructed model cities ever built — with working lightbulbs in all buildings, headlights on the cars and buses, and hundreds of unique trees covered in handmade foliage.

Even when the model was finally completed, bringing it to life as an opening sequence was equally elaborate — it was photographed with a bleeding-edge computerized camera, filming for 14 hours something designed to last 20 seconds on the screen.

We didn’t want just a line. We wanted to communicate to the viewer that when they were turning on HBO, they were tuning into an entertainment center.

This sort of patient, labor-intensive, artisanal entertainment craftsmanship is quite rare these days. (Though the fantastic Moray McLaren We Got Time animation does spring to mind.) And while the digital revolution may have opened the doors to incredible CGI whimsy, we have to wonder whether it has also, ironically, reduced our capacity for such meticulousness. Could the digitally-induced shrinkage of our attention spans be eating away at our attention to detail — and at our tolerance for the effort require to attend to it?

Because in this world of ubiquitous Flashturbation, there’s still something to be said for the art and craft of old-fashioned, hands-on, painstaking creative tinkering.

via Movieline

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04 AUGUST, 2009

Animation Spotlight: The Falcon

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Retrostalgia goes avian, or what old cameras have to do with humanitarianism.

We love steampunk. We love stop-motion. And we love vintage cameras. Thereby, we absolutely adore The Falcon — a delightful steampunk stop-motion animation composed entirely of macro-photographed hardware pieces from disassembled vintage and antique cameras, for that indulgent analog/digital experience.

The story stars Professor Weston (ISO 50), Silly Patty (+2/-2 EV) and ‘Howell’ the Owl (f/256), as they journey throughout the Focal Kingdom searching for dinner, with cameos by Falcon Minette, Argus AF & C3, Mercury II, Yashica TL, assorted Weston Light Meters, and various Polaroid Land Cameras. (Read the full story synopsis here.)

The film comes from The Shamptonian Institute, a wonderful humanitarian / culture collective that engages in anything from disaster relief advocacy to vinyl recordings preservation.

We encourage you to explore their fascinating library of media artifacts, including vintage ads and retro Eastern European postage stamps.

11 MAY, 2009

We Got Time: Hand-Illustration Meets In-Camera Animation Magic

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What a French invention from 1877 has to do with superb modern animation.

A couple of weeks ago, a fantastic video for Moray McLaren‘s We Got Time made waves with its brilliant in-camera animation magic. It’s pure creative genius — despite the utter visual indulgence, it isn’t stop-motion, no computer super-imposing was used, and everything you see is exactly what rolled off the camera.

The animations in the side-on views were produced by the camera capturing the moving reflections from the mirrored carousels, and the animations in the top-down views were created by matching the cameras frame rate to that of spinning record.

Now, we go behind the scenes with London-based animator David Wilson, who directed it and hand-drew all the illustration.

Beyond being a pure joy to watch, We Got Time is a testament to our belief that creativity is simply the genius of combining existing resources — knowledge, ideas, inspiration — in completely revolutionary ways: In this case, a vintage Praxinoscope device and old-school hand-drawn illustration.

Brilliant.

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15 JANUARY, 2009

Vintage Russian Ads

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What Dostoevsky has to do with sausage art and bicycles.

Today, we’re looking at that weird limbo of Russian heritage between the cultural zenith of the Dostoevsky era and the nadir of Russia’s current status as the Gas Grinch – namely, vintage Russian ads, the intersection of art and commerce.

Tobacco

From tobacco to tailoring, the collection speaks to a striking resemblance between the cultural valuables of Russian society and those of the Western world circa early 20th century, debunking the whole “us vs. them” notion of lack of cultural common ground.

Shoes

Cocoa

And while much of the typography and illustration appear to… ahem… “borrow” from their Western brethren, we notice some surprisingly sophisticated techniques rarely seen in Western vintage ads — such as this perspective treatment of type:

Bicycles

Soda

Courtesy of English Russia. (Remember sausage art?)

But before we get too caught up in the cultural common tangents here, let’s not forget the other side of the whole Soviet-American relationship, clearly and stride-stoppingly revealed in the Soviet propaganda of the day.

Freedom from the American

We encourage you to play around with English Russia, the second most addictive source of relentless amusement we’ve discovered last year.

via Coudal

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