Notes about video

March 1, 2020 permalink

The Making of Brilliance

In 1985, computer graphics were exotic enough that using them for a TV commercial was the kind of thing you might save for a Super Bowl ad slot, as seen in this short documentary. I would not have guessed that the first significant use of CGI on TV was for an ad illustrating the sexy (?) futuristic appear of _aluminum cans_.

(They fail to mention this in this mini-doc, but the ad studio was clearly lifting the chrome-plated sexy robots imagery of Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama)

August 5, 2012 permalink

Selectively Deanimating Video

Another SIGGRAPH, another mind-bending example of video being freed from linear time — Jiamin Bai, Aseem Agarwala, Maneesh Agrawala, and Ravi Ramamoorthi’s Selectively De-Animating Video:

We present a semi-automated technique for selectively de-animating video to remove the large-scale motions of one or more objects so that other motions are easier to see. The user draws strokes to indicate the regions of the video that should be immobilized, and our algorithm warps the video to remove the large-scale motion of these regions while leaving finer-scale, relative motions intact. However, such warps may introduce unnatural motions in previously motionless areas, such as background regions. We therefore use a graph-cut-based optimization to composite the warped video regions with still frames from the input video; we also optionally loop the output in a seamless manner. Our technique enables a number of applications such as clearer motion visualization, simpler creation of artistic cinemagraphs (photos that include looping motions in some regions), and new ways to edit appearance and complicated motion paths in video by manipulating a de-animated representation.

(Via O’Reilly Radar)

July 24, 2012 permalink

First Computer Graphics Film at T Satellite

Now that I have a retina display, I want a screensaver that looks as good as this 1963 AT&T microfilm video:

This film was a specific project to define how a particular type of satellite would move through space. Edward E. Zajac made, and narrated, the film, which is considered to be possibly the very first computer graphics film ever. Zajac programmed the calculations in FORTRAN, then used a program written by Zajac’s colleague, Frank Sinden, called ORBIT. The original computations were fed into the computer via punch cards, then the output was printed onto microfilm using the General Dynamics Electronics Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder. All computer processing was done on an IBM 7090 or 7094 series computer.

March 8, 2012 permalink

Boston News on the Morris Worm

[Video no longer available]

A fun Boston nightly news clip from 1988 on the outbreak of the Morris worm, one of the first Internet-spreading infections that caught mainstream attention. There’s much to love about this clip: the “part-time virus hunter”, the scenes of MIT’s computer labs, the bizarre (but maybe slyly satirical?) footage of the infamous Atari 2600 ET game inserted, um, I guess to, uh, illustrate something computer-y?

(Via Dangerous Minds)

August 3, 2011 permalink

Lucasfilm Games Tv Humor Video

If you’re a fan of the old Lucasfilm Games (and the kind of video game nerd that likes this sort of weird find…), don’t let your week go by without watching this internal Lucasfilm Games parody video unearthed by Mix n’ Mojo. Shots of Skywalker Ranch, Ron Gilbert, Larry Holland, jokes riffing off of the “Bo Knows” and “Spielvergnügen” (erm, Fahrvergnügen) ads, and even a song sung on the Ranch’s porch about their adventure games. It doesn’t get much more 1990 then this, folks!

(Bonus: watch for the boxed copy of King’s Quest V on the desk at around 8 minutes in — how’d that get in there??)

June 13, 2011 permalink

Extemeties Skateboard Video

Music – Blackbird Blackbird “Pure” //

Skateboarding – Aryeh Kraus

Director: Eli Stonberg //
Executive Producer: Danielle Hinde
Commissioner: Sara Greene
Producer: Josh Fruehling
Director of Photography: Ross Riege
Camera Operator: Hermes Marco
Camera Operator: Ariana Natale
Editor: Eli Stonberg
Asst Editor: Josh Sasson
PA: Jackson Hoose

Produced by Doomsday Entertainment //
In Association with The Masses //
Thanks to The Idealists //
Created for Burn //

Extremities: six GoPro cameras attached to the skateboarder’s arms, legs, head, and one mounted underneath the deck (my favorite), combined with a couple of static cameras for context. Between this and the hula hoop video, these little cameras are cranking out some fascinating new perspectives this week.

December 30, 2010 permalink

Bute Tarentella

[Video no longer available]

Experimental animation pioneer Mary Ellen Bute’s short film Tarentella was selected this week for preservation in the National Film Registry as a culturally significant film. From the press release:

“Tarantella” is a five-minute color, avant-garde short film created by Mary Ellen Bute, a pioneer of visual music and electronic art in experimental cinema. With piano accompaniment by Edwin Gershefsky, “Tarantella” features rich reds and blues that Bute uses to signify a lighter mood, while her syncopated spirals, shards, lines and squiggles dance exuberantly to Gershefsky’s modern beat. Bute produced more than a dozen short films between the 1930s and the 1950s and once described herself as a “designer of kinetic abstractions” who sought to “bring to the eyes a combination of visual forms unfolding with the … rhythmic cadences of music.” Bute’s work influenced many other filmmakers working with abstract animation during the ‘30s and ‘40s, and with experimental electronic imagery in the ‘50s.

Bute’s final piece was an interpretation of Finnegans Wake, one of the very few attempts ever made at staging Joyce’s novel of troubled dreams.

November 13, 2010 permalink


Eyewriter 2.0 + Robot Arm = Livewriter. Combining the FFFFAT Lab’s inspirational Eyewriter project (named this week as one of Time’s top 50 inventions of 2010, and now glasses-free!) with their GML RoboTagger Sharpie Magnum-wielding robot arm, kids were able to try out the eye-tracking graffiti system to print out giant-sized tags of their own names. These projects touch on so many of my favorite areas of interest, so very cool.

November 11, 2010 permalink

Frank Zappa on “What‘s My Line”

[Video no longer available]

Frank Zappa as the mystery guest on What’s My Line. Pretty dry, to be honest, although some might find interest in hearing him go into surprising detail about the video-to-film process used in filming 200 Motels (it was shot and edited in PAL video then upconverted to 35mm, a novel process at the time).

So why do I post this? Because at the 2:50 mark he references the awesome Time Life photo of him and his parents, confessing that it was “too purple.”

(Via They Might Be Giants’ Facebook)

September 20, 2010 permalink

iPad Light Paintings

This film explores playful uses for the increasingly ubiquitous ‘glowing rectangles’ that inhabit the world.

We use photographic and animation techniques that were developed to draw moving 3-dimensional typography and objects with an iPad. In dark environments, we play movies on the surface of the iPad that extrude 3-d light forms as they move through the exposure. Multiple exposures with slightly different movies make up the stop-frame animation.

We’ve collected some of the best images from the project and made a book of them you can buy:

Read more at the Dentsu London blog:
and at the BERG blog:

From Dentsu London, Making Future Magic:

We use photographic and animation techniques that were developed to draw moving 3-dimensional typography and objects with an iPad. In dark environments, we play movies on the surface of the iPad that extrude 3-d light forms as they move through the exposure. Multiple exposures with slightly different movies make up the stop-frame animation.

Take that, Picasso.

July 25, 2010 permalink

Artoolkit in Quartz Composer

Augmented Reality without programming in 5 minutes

I can vouch that this works, and it’s pretty straightforward once you manage to grab and build the two or three additional Quartz Composer plugins successfully. I had to fold in a newer version of the ARToolkit libs, and I swapped out the pattern bitmap used to recognize the AR target to match one I already had on hand – the default sample1 and sample2 patterns weren’t working for me for some reason. Apart from that, Quartz Composer’s a lot of fun to use, almost like building eyecandy demos with patch cables and effects pedals, and it’s already on your system if you have Xcode.

(Via Make)

June 27, 2010 permalink

Bit Trip Runner

BIT.TRIP.RUNNER, one of the best games I’ve played this summer. A hypnotically synaesthetic music platformer, something like an inspired cross between Vib-Ribbon and Michel Gondry’s Star Guitar video. Well worth the few bucks if you’ve got a Wii.

(Seen above is a run of level 1-11 by YouTube user NintenDaan1, the level that I’m currently stuck playing over and over again trying to get all of the bonus gold…)

May 8, 2010 permalink


We’ve all been exposed to a glut of volcano videos lately, but this one has something I’ve never seen before. If you watch a few seconds in you can see the first of a series of visible shock waves rippling through the cloud of ash. Yikes.

April 12, 2010 permalink

Boards Interactive Magazine Walkthrough

Boards Interactive Magazine – Walkthrough from Theo Watson on Vimeo.

For the March 2010 issue of Boards Magazine, Emily Gobeille and I worked with Nexus Productions to develop an interactive cover experience called Rise and Fall. Here is a little preview of the experience.

You can download the software and the cover from:

Update: Found out you can buy a copy of the magzine for $7 by emailing – . You can also download the cover as a pdf from the link above.

The project uses the Ferns library for tracking ( ) and the whole project is open source released under the GPL v2.0 . Grab the source code here:


Digital Directors:
Emily Gobeille –
Theo Watson –

Produced by:
Nexus Productions –

Sound Design:
MOST Original Soundtracks –

Made with openFrameworks –
Using the Ferns library for tracking –

Boards Interactive Magazine – Walkthrough. Gorgeous interactive promo piece: you hold up a copy of the magazine (or a reasonable facsimile…) in front of your webcam, and the app responds to and tracks its orientation, letting you navigate through an playful graphic design landscape. I saw a small live demo at SXSWi, and the audience was definitely delighted. Built with openFrameworks and the Ferns object detection library, the app is entirely open sourced, too!

February 1, 2010 permalink

Animascope Automated Animation Process

A circa-1966 industry ad for Leon Maurer’s Animascope process for producing animation on the cheap: animation without drawing and with fewer pesky artists! Similar to but different than rotoscoping, this process used high-contrast photography and actors in contrasty costumes with their skin painted white and contour lines painted on. The performers would then be filmed dancing around under bright light on a black-lined stage, and the resulting photography could be composited onto traditional background plates. Weird, but sort of a primitive version of mocap, and done for the same economical reasons.

(Via Cartoon Brew – for more info on the process, a good place to start might be this comment left by Brew reader Kustom Kool)

January 24, 2010 permalink

Visions of the Amen a Voice Responsive Kinetic

Visions of the Amen, a voice-responsive kinetic sculpture by artist Mitchell Chan (demonstrated in this video by soprano Ashleigh Semkiw). The software is written in Processing, the hardware is controlled by the ArtBus interface being developed at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kind of like a real-world oscilloscope.

(Via Make)

January 17, 2010 permalink

The GML Robotagger: Automated Calligraphy

GML (Graffiti Markup Language) drawings from are converted into DXF via a small Processing utility. Motion paths for a robot arm are developed from these DXF files using Rhino and MasterCam. The ABB IRB-4400 series arm is wielding a 2″ Montana Hardcore marker. Developed 11 January 2010 by Golan Levin and Jeremy Ficca in the CMU Digital Fabrication Laboratory (dFAB).

Concept: Evan Roth, F.A.T. Lab
Programming & Production: Golan Levin
Machining & Motion Planning: Jeremy Ficca

Co-produced by the CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and the CMU Digital Fabrication Laboratory, in cooperation with FAT Lab and For more information please see

The GML RoboTagger. Automated calligraphy via the Graffiti Markup Language and an industrial robot arm gripping a giant Sharpie or Montana Hardcore magic marker. Tele-tag.

There’s a bit more about the project on Golan Levin’s blog.


December 22, 2009 permalink

FluidPaint: an Interactive Digital Painting System using Real Wet Brushes

FluidPaint: An Interactive Digital Painting System using Real Wet Brushes. An experimental project by Tom Van Laerhoven of the Hasselt University Expertise Centre for Digital Media in Belgium. Unlike previous digital painting applications, this one uses actual water (detected by a surface-level IR emitter) to record strokes on the surface and more correctly models the tip of the brush being used, whether rounded or fanned, and it can even simulate a sponge. Looks like it makes some convincing watercolor-like images.

More info: Brush Design for Interactive Painting Applications (PDF)

(Via John Nack at Adobe)

December 22, 2009 permalink

Magician Marco Tempest Demonstrates a Portable AR Screen

Magician Marco Tempest demonstrates a portable “magic” augmented reality screen. The system uses a laptop, small projector, a PlayStation Eye camera (presumably with the IR filter popped out?), some IR markers to make the canvas frame corner detection possible, Arduino (?), and openFrameworks-based software developed by Zachary Lieberman. I really love this kind of demo – people on the street (especially kids) intuitively understand what’s going on. This work reminds me a lot of Zack Simpson’s Mine-Control projects, especially with the use of cheap commodity hardware for creating a fun spectacle.

(Via Make)

December 11, 2009 permalink

Hito Steyerl: In Defense of the Poor Image

Still from Ghosts Before Breakfast

The poor image is a copy in motion. Its quality is bad, its resolution substandard. As it accelerates, it deteriorates. It is a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution.


At present, there are at least twenty torrents of Chris Marker’s film essays available online. If you want a retrospective, you can have it. But the economy of poor images is about more than just downloads: you can keep the files, watch them again, even reedit or improve them if you think it necessary. And the results circulate. Blurred AVI files of half-forgotten masterpieces are exchanged on semi-secret P2P platforms. Clandestine cell-phone videos smuggled out of museums are broadcast on YouTube. DVDs of artists’ viewing copies are bartered.3 Many works of avant-garde, essayistic, and non-commercial cinema have been resurrected as poor images. Whether they like it or not.

– Excerpted from Hito Steyerl’s piece in e-flux journal #10

(Via Rhizome)

December 8, 2009 permalink

Metallica Pinball

[Video no longer available]

Metallica singer James Hetfield commissioned playfield artist Wade Krause and game developer Tanio Klyce to create a custom Metallica pinball table, and they did just that. Excellent.

For the hardware they sanded down and repurposed an old Earthshaker table (it has a rumble effect gimmick built in, which sort of makes sense for a heavy metal themed game), and created custom music and sound programming using a Gumstix and Arduino Mega microcontroller to keep watch on the original Williams System 11 CPU’s signals. Double excellent.

(Via ArsTechnica)

October 29, 2009 permalink

At Home with English: Austin, Texas ESL Public Access Show

“At Home with English”, a fabulous early 1990’s low-budget ESL public access TV course filmed here in Austin, TX, dredged up by the Found Footage Festival. A truly exemplary bit of late-night public access weirdness. I’ve been mentioning this guy to friends for years, always hoping to catch it on so I could tape it. Glad someone’s found a copy, and they’ve even tracked down the star for an interview! This highlight reel’s pretty good, but it’s edited down considerably: each segment was made all the more absurd because they would go over each of the verb tenses repeatedly using the same odd inflection, interspersed with a super-macro-closeup shot of a woman’s lips reciting the vocabulary.

October 11, 2009 permalink

Phillip Torrone Rides the Square Wheeled Tricycle

(video no longer available)

Phillip Torrone rides the square-wheeled tricycle from the Math Midway, a traveling exhibition of mathematics. Figuring out what kind of catenary curves would be needed for differently shaped wheels is a branch of mathematics that I’m happy  exists (as far as I know the problem dates back on some level to the 1960s, but for a good recent illustration of the math involved, check out this PDF from a St. Norbert College mathematical modeling class).

(Via Make)

September 22, 2009 permalink

Cho Chabudai Gaeshi — Flip the Table

Taito’s new Cho Chabudai Gaeshi, a game based on a literal interpretation of the Japanese idiom “flip the table” (chabudai gaeshi). It gladdens my heart to see new weird games being made for the arcade. At least it’s easier to relate to than Boong-Ga Boong-Ga.

As one commenter on Kotaku notes, “If they localized this in the US it’d have to be called ‘F*ck This’”

(Via Offworld)

September 18, 2009 permalink

Laser Cave Prototype

Interactive Audio Visual installation for
Mekanism’s “After School Special” art show
location: gray area foundation for the arts

concept/construction : suryummy
visuals : suryummy
audio : suryummy, herbie hancock, various manipulated retro logos
software : VDMX

This is like a model of the world I wanted to live in when I was a kid, somewhere between Tron’s MCP mainframe world, Cybertron, and Marble Madness.

(Via Make)

August 23, 2009 permalink

Touchable Holography

“Touchable Holography”, a hardware demo by researchers from the University of Tokyo at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference. This mostly builds on the work they presented last year involving their “Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display” (PDF), a device that shoots out directional ultrasound to simulate haptic pressure, like the impact rain has when it hits your skin. I don’t think this current display counts as holography exactly (the image is made with a refracting mirror, just like Sega’s 1991 arcade game Time Traveler!), but being able to reinforce the illusion with the sensation of touch is a cool idea. Hopefully they can expand it to use more than one of their ultrasound boards so they can simulate a feeling that’s more than one-dimensional. Also good to see that researchers are using the inexpensive, off-the-shelf Wiimotes for projects like this.

(Via Make)

August 9, 2009 permalink

The So Called Mother of All Demos the

The so-called “Mother of All Demos”, the technology presentation given by Doug Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute, which introduced to the world a number of useful developments: hypertext, the computer mouse, timesharing, email, video conferencing… And this was a bit over forty years ago, just before the ARPANET went online. Pretty amazing times.

The videos are available in more digestible chunks over on Stanford’s MouseSite.

July 10, 2009 permalink

Its Weird to See How Generic the Times Were in

It’s weird to see how generic the times were in 1990: way more acid wash denim and pastel colors, but otherwise the clothing wouldn’t look too out of place at the mall today. The storefronts and water displays still have their decidedly 1980s look, though. ‘90 and ’91 were the formative years when I spent a lot of time at the mall during the summer, bothering the folks at Babbages (they had an Amiga set up to play Lemmings and LucasFilm Games demos!) and whatever comics / gaming stores were around back then, or wasting quarters at Tilt. PS: Terminator 2’s mall sequence was probably filmed not too far from one of these scenes, around the same time.


June 30, 2009 permalink

Spongebob Guru MTV Promo

This new series of promos by Pepper Melon reminds me of the good ol’ days when MTV was running experimental stuff like Liquid Television and the more subversive late-night blocks of animation with Ren & Stimpy, MTV Oddities, The Maxx, and The Brothers Grunt (maybe not so much that last one…). If Cartoon Network’s ditching cartoons, maybe the more artful ones can migrate back to MTV (which stopped caring about the M part of its name way before most Spongebob watchers were born anyhow, as the cliche goes). See the rest at Cartoon Brew.

June 30, 2009 permalink

Animatronic Luxo Jr.

An animatronic version of Pixar’s Luxo Jr. has appeared outside Disney’s studios in Hollywood, performing a couple of different shows depending on the time of day. That’s some fluid movement there! Even in robotic form, the character exudes more pathos than most animated film characters do in their respective movies. (Via Boing Boing Gadgets, which has the other Luxo performance video handy for watching)

June 27, 2009 permalink

Mind-Controlled Addams Family Pinball

Mind-controlled Addams Family pinball! But can you do it with a lit lightbulb in your mouth?

Compared to invasive Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI), non-invasive BCI systems based on Electroencephalogram (EEG) signals have not been applied successfully for complex control tasks. In the present study, however, we demonstrate this is possible and report on the interaction of a human subject with a complex real device: a pinball machine.

(Via GameSetWatch)

June 23, 2009 permalink

The Final Footage from the JAXA KAGUYA / Selene moon probe

The final footage from the Japanese JAXA KAGUYA/Selene moon probe’s telemetry camera before it crashed to the surface (as planned). There’s something poignant about these last bits of video – after the years of engineering, planning, and information-gathering, it’s got to be hard not to personify the things. See also my favorite science/UI video of all time: final telemetry from the NASA Huygens probe.

June 9, 2009 permalink

A Little Love: The Art of Bill Melendez

Documentary: A Little Love: The Art of Bill Melendez. A great short video taking a look at Meléndez’s work for UPA, the quick transition he made from working on those shorts to the graphic design of the classic Peanuts tv specials, and also the influence that he had on Wes Anderson’s films (I’d gotten the Charlie Brown / Max Fischer connection, but never noticed the homage where Max is walking with the little plant for Margaret Yang – brilliant). Via Cartoon Brew.

April 30, 2009 permalink

Miles Edgeworth: Turnabout Prosecutor First-Look

(video no longer available)

First localized video from the upcoming Phoenix Wright spinoff, “Miles Edgeworth: Turnabout Prosecutor”. Notable for the series is the move to adventure game-style sprites for the character interaction / investigation scenes. Watching this I realized what must be done: we need a hacked ROM of “Streets of Rage” with these sprites of Edgeworth, Gumshoe, and new “sidekick girl” character Kay replacing Alex, Adam, and Blaze! </videogame nerdery>

April 26, 2009 permalink

Db We Used to Say Pirating I Mean the Term

DB: We used to say “pirating.” I mean, the term pirating was used for my early work.

CA: Was it really?

DB: Yeah. For example, when I started, there were no home-recording units. There was no TiVo. There was nothing like that.

CA: I must have been very difficult for you to get that footage.

DB: It was. There was no way to get the footage I needed directly. I had to find people inside the industry who believed in my artwork and were willing to get images out to me. So they called me a “pirateer” of imagery. That had a very romantic sound to it: “Oh, she’s the one who pirated imagery from television.”

Maybe this is the real difference between our generations. In pirating, originally, there was no way to talk back to the media. That’s why I did it. The stuff was coming one way at you, and there was no way to arrest it, stop the action, divert it, alter the vocabulary, or change the syntax.

From Do It 2, a conversation between Dara Birnbaum and Cory Arcangel. Artforum International XLVII, No. 7, p198

April 22, 2009 permalink

An Appreciation of Ted Cassidy

(video no longer available)

Follow me. Ted Cassidy is one of my favorite sitcom actors. Few people seem to know that he also played “Thing” on the Addams Family tv show! (why the show’s producers got the 6’9″ guy to cram himself under whatever table / Victrola / box that Thing pops out of instead of just hiring a second actor, I don’t know)