Any good books, resources about how they made motion graphics pre-CGI?
November 18, 2015 4:49 PM   Subscribe

I am fascinated by 70s/early 80s motion graphics, most often in the form of TV station bumpers and network identities. A great example is this show reel from 1978. How on earth did they get these effects with (I'm assuming) optical printers and mirrors?
posted by Senor Cardgage to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
A good start would be this MetaFilter post about Scanimate, an analog computer used for video effects in that era.
posted by zsazsa at 5:30 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

The description of the video you linked actually has a brief explanation of the processes used, if you missed it. (Motion control and mattes, it looks like. Lots of both.)

Not quite what you were looking for, but this video about the 1983 HBO intro goes into some detail about how they created the shiny, spinning, CG-looking HBO logo using analog techniques.
posted by neckro23 at 6:02 PM on November 18, 2015 [13 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that the rays of light zooming you effects were done with slit-scan. Here's a video showing how that technique worked.
posted by octothorpe at 6:57 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cinefex started in 1980, and was primarily concerned with film effects, but would certainly be full of the kind of techniques folks were using in station IDs and whatnot.
posted by egypturnash at 7:01 PM on November 18, 2015

Rostrum camera.
posted by Hogshead at 7:24 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to work in animation layout. It looks to me like lot of those sparkly effects were done with interruption mattes. The camera had a light below a stage platten. You would cut narrow slits in black paper that lined up with the contours of the shapes (wherever you wwanted the glinting), then another sheet of black paper with more or less perpendicular slits was dragged slowly across it (on animation pegs). The light would shine through, moving across the track of the stationary sheet. A star filter would make it look pretty cool and the size of the "star" effect as well as it's rotaion could be animeted. You could use coloured plastic gels with diffusion filters for the different glowing components. You could crank the camera up and down for zooming, every glowing component needed it's own "pass"and the camera had to be re-aligned and run through identicle motions for every pass. Everything being built up as a carefully orchestrated multiple exposure. Later, just before CG came it, the cameras were computer aided but beofre that, people stayed up all night doing drugs.

Also, you could just animate the motion of the light on animation paper and then it would be cut out of sheets of black paper, with all the above mentioned effects added.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:50 PM on November 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

...also, there's a lot of animated over-exposures to get certain elements to glow really brightly for a few frames.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:42 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

You may be interested in seeing how they achieved the "computer" animations for the old Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV show.
posted by davejh at 11:15 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came to post the HBO video neckro23 noted above. Fascinating.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:00 AM on November 19, 2015

If you can get to a university library older issues of the SIGGRAPH proceedings should have all the technical details of the various insanely cool devices .
posted by sammyo at 7:19 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

A lot of the sparkles and the star wars stretched lettering and streaks used computers. Look up the "slit scan" technique (from 2001 A Space Odyssey) . A standard animation stand had stepper motors attached to the gears and a single slide of art would be photographed while a narrow slit was dragged over, then the camera was moved an increment closer and the next frame incremented. Often the entire roll of film would be rewound multiple times for each small effect in the frame.
posted by sammyo at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2015

I used to do those effects for AV shows and presentations, and had a Forox in my living room before I scrapped it (kept the head though). Cinefex was invaluable for learning new techniques, along with American Cinematographer, and a couple of the trade magazines like A V Presentations. This wikipedia page on multi-image has some good info.
posted by sentientsock at 12:45 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ah yes! Old school motion graphics, you need to go watch the "Creative Inspirations" documentary on Harry Marks. That link requires a Lynda subscription, but there, are umm, "other ways" to find it if you are creative.

Marks was responsible for a lot of the early motion graphics in the style you mention, especially for ABC, such as this "Movie of the Week" opening from 1969.

Good stuff!
posted by jeremias at 12:00 PM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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