Computer graphics question (80s music videos)

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Taurus, Apr 9, 2008.

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  1. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    I was curious about the gear used in some of the music videos back in the 80s, for example:

    Go West's "Call Me" (listen to those drums thump - such fun eighties pop!)

    Talking Heads' "And She Was"

    Both are from 1985.

    I remember being so amazed that they could do those things and imagined some large computer system to do so, something like the VAX computer used in my college's math building.

    Does anyone know really what type of system was used to make these types of videos?
     
  2. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    The two big CG companies in the late 1970s/early 1980s were Computer Image Corporation in Denver (I think), and Dolphin Productions in NYC. Both pioneered some amazing, very cool graphic designs, used by HBO and lots of commercials. Back then, it would take days, even weeks to do a few seconds of animation that could probably be done in a flash on a 2008 computer.

    I don't think they used VAX's, but I did visit Dolphin Productions in 1977, and only remember that they told me they had a (stunningly high) 50 megabytes of storage in-house! Wow...

    I think that's equivalent in cost to about 50 petabytes today.
     
  3. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    ^ Thanks.

    I think though the Talking Heads video was put together by hand, since the end credits never mentioned anything computer-related (I'm not used to music videos including credits, so missed them the first time around). Looks like that film took a lot of work, photographing all those objects and pasting them together using traditional optical methods, along with I guess stop-action methods.
     
  4. Kustom 250

    Kustom 250 Active Member

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Yeah the Talking Heads one looks like it was done by hand. Maybe some compositing, but nothing that couldn't be done by hand.

    The Go West is a lot of Blue/Green screen and paintbox effects. Quantel was probably the major company making standalone paintboxes at that time.
     
  5. jkauff

    jkauff Putin-funded Forum Troll

    Location:
    Akron, OH
    Reminds me of Todd Rundgren spending all kinds of bucks building Utopia Video in Woodstock, churning out effects-laden videos that anyone with an Amiga could do a few short years later.
     
  6. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    Something I think news broadcasts had been using for awhile already i.e. weather maps and those "TV screens" behind the anchor, so nothing special I guess.

    Any idea of what might have been used for the Dire Straits "Money" video? THAT really blew me away when I saw it back then, blocky figures and all. (though a more interesting question might be, what was used for the making of the movie TRON, though Google must have something listed discussing that).
     
  7. Kustom 250

    Kustom 250 Active Member

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Didn't Todd use an Amiga? Or at least an Amiga based Video Toaster?


    Man were those slow. I remember watching one render a utah teapot at a demo. It took nearly an hour to get a video sized frame. Remember, 10 seconds of video is 300 frames. I remember a lot of baby sitting to make sure crashed machines were back up and rendering as quickly as possible, we couldn't afford any down time.

    The amount of money spent "back in the day" to get stuff output to even videotape was huge. It took a lot more then just an Amiga or Mac. A Betacam deck was $30k if I remember right. We only needed one since all we were doing was graphics. You needed 3 to edit.



    Hah. I remember how excited we were to get a 32 second Accom and a 1gb drive. Cost? At least 3 times what my car cost.
     
  8. Kustom 250

    Kustom 250 Active Member

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    I don't recall exactly who did MFN. At that time is was probably all in house software.

    A bunch of companies worked on Tron.

    "Tron itself required custom code from four seminal CG companies: Mathematical Applications Group Inc. (MAGI), Information International Inc. (Triple-I), Digital Effects, and Robert Abel & Associates."
     
  9. Kustom 250

    Kustom 250 Active Member

    Location:
    Wisconsin

    Yep, weather graphics is where a lot of computer stuff got used first. Back when I started we hand painted animation cels and made slides of 'em for the "over the shoulder" news graphics. That would have been 1985ish. No computers at all in the art department of the station I worked at. The weather computer had 8 colors.
     
  10. Wilkie

    Wilkie New Member

    Location:
    Richmond, VA, USA
    Yes, but the first Toaster didn't ship until September 1990. Todd was on board from the beginning, producing several videos with his Toaster. He even started an animation company running a bank of Toasters all networked together ...a groundbreaking idea at the time. By the time NewTek released the 2.0 software in 1991, Todd had helped with some of the Lightwave animations in the video "Revolution" used to promote Video Toaster 2.0. Of course, it's on YouTube with his credit at the end...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nymVNhy4dw8
    To avoid the cost a good single-frame recorder, I bought a Personal Animation Recorder [PAR] card from DPS to record my Lightwave (Toaster 3D) renderings. With this device, I could playback the animation from hard drive in real time. Friends that worked for local stations would drop by with their portable Betacams, and it would only take a few minutes to capture to tape once the time-consuming rendering step was completed.
     
  11. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    Wasn't the Talking Heads video "And She Was" done by the same team responsible for Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer?
     
  12. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Ah, I forgot about Bob Abel & Assocs., over on Highland Avenue in Hollywood. They got really toasted when they screwed-up all the effects on Star Trek and got fired (circa 1978), but they recovered enough that they did many commercials and music videos (and title sequences) during the early 1980s.

    Abel did some brilliant, brilliant FX work during those days, including many Clio award-winning commercials -- though a lot of their most famous ones, like the 7-Up spots (walking logo, butterfly girl in space, etc.) were done with conventional blue-screen and lots of optical work, not CG.
     
  13. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    (kind of off-topic but what the hell!) Robert Abel & Associates. That takes me back to 1993-95 when I was selling HT and audio gear. That's because some of that company's CG art was in a program called Beyond The Mind's Eye which we had on Laserdisc. We used it a lot in combination with the HT demo system to get people's attention as they wandered by the demo room......and it worked great too. People would just come in and stare for minutes at a time. The videos I guess would now be considered kind of primitive but to me anyway, the colors and creativity & just plain art shown in so many of the clips still draws me in while watching it (I own a VHS version). The music was done by Jan Hammer btw which was recorded quite well.

    One of the several videos was called "Hawaiian Punch" because - tada! - it was a commercial for that product but in the version on the Eye disc the can had that name replaced with something generic. The other one I actually first saw on a commercial here for a soft rock radio station, and it's called "Dreams" (you can check it out here - it starts at the 37 second mark; the one that immediately follows with the granite tiger, called "Power", is also theirs). Btw most of the choppiness seen in these is Youtube, not the videos themselves.
     
  14. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    Thread kinda fizzled out, so I'm posting a link to a modern music video (2002 actually) that I found recently, from a downtempo album I've really enjoyed the past five years:

    "Destiny" from the album simple things by Zero 7.

    It looks to be a CG version of rotoscoping. I think some portion of it is done by hand but not sure. Whatever, it's a nice video and fits the song well I think.

    Music note: this is one of just about 4 tracks that include lyrics - the rest are instrumentals. Plus both vocalists, Sophie Barker & Sia Furler are really cute! I don't usually listen to love songs but this is different - just very nice.

    The opening track called "I Have Seen" also has a feel-good vibe. Lovers of large stringed instruments :) should check out track 12, "End Theme", an awesome song to hear on a powerful system.
     
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