1964 Bell Labs Film About How to Make Films with a Computer

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This fascinating film was produced at AT&T’s Bell Labs in 1964. It was made by Ken Knowlton to describe the use of computers to make animated films. The film itself was created entirely on a computer. This is a glimpse into the groundbreaking work that led to the computer graphics we all enjoy so frequently today. Knowlton was both an artist and a computer graphics programmer who developed several programming languages for producing bitmap animations.

Interestingly, Ken Knowlton worked closely with pioneering experimental filmmaker Stan Vanderbeek at the Bell Labs on many early computer animations. Vanderbeek is the subject of my prior post about his short film, ‘Science Friction.’

 

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Science Friction: 1959 Experimental Film by Stan Vanderbeek

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This is an amazing and beautiful film by pioneering American experimental filmmaker Stan Vanderbeek. His work encompassed collage animations, live events, and early experiments with computer graphics.

The technological explosion of this last half-century, and the implied future are overwhelming, man is running the machines of his own invention… while the machine that is man… runs the risk of running wild. Technological research, development, and involvement of the world community has almost completely out-distanced the emotional-sociological (socio-“logical”) comprehension of this technology. The “technique-power” and “culture-over-reach” that is just beginning to explode in many parts of the earth, is happening so quickly that it has put the logical fulcrum of man’s intelligence so far outside himself that he cannot judge or estimate the results of his acts before he commits them…

Stan Vanderbeek

 

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Seeing the Digital Future: 1961 AT&T Corporate Film

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Here’s a 1961 corporate film from AT&T that tries to predict the wonderful digital world of the future, including online shopping!

 

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Jeff Keen’s Dreams of the Archduke Sketchbook

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This is a short film made for a gallery showing of works by the late great British artist and filmmaker, Jeff Keen. It’s a soundless page turn through a series of brilliant and inspiring pages in a sketchbook. If you are at all familiar with his amazing film work, you will see how directly connected to that work these pages really are.

 

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If you are unfamiliar with Keen’s incredible and very influential film work, here is a treat for you. It’s his ‘Marvo Movie’ from 1967.

 

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Cinderella: Fantastic 1947 Soviet Union Feature Film

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Filmed in the Soviet Union just after World War II, this is a rare gem of fairytale movie making. It’s a fantastically colorful telling of the tale that stands as a welcome contrast to the Disney approach. The film features one of Russia’s greatest stage actresses, Faina Ranevskaya, as the stepmother. It was produced by the Soviet LenFilm studio and directed by Mikhail Shapiro and Nadezhda Kosheverova. I think it was originally filmed in black & white but was recently colorized for a DVD release. The colorization works well within the context of a fairytale with grand stage scenery and theatrical costumes.

 

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Beauty and the Beast: Russian Animation

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This is a 1952 Soviet film adaptation of a variation on the Beauty and the Beast story called 'The Scarlet Flower', written by Sergey Aksakov in 1858. This story focuses much more on the bargain made between the unseen beast and the girl's father when he touches the scarlet flower on the magical island that is the beast's home than in the versions most American audiences are familiar with..

The animation technique in use here is called rotoscoping. Actors were filmed in costume doing their character movements, then traced frame-by-frame to create what was supposed to be a more realistic animation. In fact, rotoscoping often produces a curiously lifeless movement in conflict with the more fantastic backgrounds.

 

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