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Last week I directed a quick commercial for an apparel client’s kid’s line. The spot is called Suburban Carseat Blues, a parody of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, although many people don’t have memories that go back that far and therefore may think that I started this card turning thing, that I’m speaking for all of us, and that I’m the spokesman for a generation. A generation of curly dimpled lunatics.
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The image below is a panoramic photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge taken from the deck of a Ferry crossing the East River in New York. At the time the photograph was taken the bridge would have been about seven years old.  John R. Connon, a Canadian living in New York, took the photo using his best known invention, the cycloramic panoramic camera, which was patented in 1887.11669_pan_bridge_ferry_1520

The image below is a still captured from SA’s panoramic music video of Macy Gray performing at a party full of old cinema and new media types, captured in Hollywood with me directing for Social Animal. Like John Connon more than a century ago, I’m also an immigrant from Canada working on new panoramic format advances while living in the ‘States. Coincidental, eh?

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Click on the image below to link to Reid Parham’s Experimental Flash project: get off the island by spelling out S-O-S with coconuts.
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Social Animal’s 2008 holiday card depicts a lad opening his Christmas present, which happens to be a BB gun. I don’t think that the card is very controversial but if someone were to interpret it as fostering the moral corruption of children, we’d be playing out a story as old as holiday cards themselves…

Social Animal's Holiday Card 2008

The first commercial Christmas card was designed and printed in London in 1843, at the suggestion of British businessman, Sir Henry Cole and featured an illustration of John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), a well known British painter and member of the Royal Academy. At that time Henry Cole had to send hundreds of Christmas messages, which he thought would take a lot of time and then came up with the idea of Christmas cards. He commissioned the card because pressure of business had prevented him from writing to all his friends at Christmas, as was his usual custom.

The first Christmas card shows 3 pictures:
  • In the centre, the card depicted three generations of a family in a party, raising a toast to the recipient of the card .
  • to one side the hungry receiving food;
  • to the other side the poor being clothed.

The card drew criticism because showing a child enjoying a sip of wine was considered “fostering the moral corruption of children.” But with most people the idea was a great success and the Christmas card quickly became very popular.

A digital zoetrope? As a new media nod to media that once was new, this image links to a Flash version, by Magnetic North’s creative director Brendan Dawes, of the original Edward Muybridge Zoetrope. A single image strip gradually moves across the stage in relation to your mouse. The more you move your mouse right, the faster the strip goes until eventually you see a moving image. For the Flash heads, this uses duplicate movie clip to create an infinite strip. Flash head or not, Bren has created a timely work worth considering.

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And as Paul Harvey would say if he knew my password, here’s the rest of the story: “In 1872, former Governor of California Leland Stanford, a businessman and race-horse owner, had taken a position on a popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse’s hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with this assertion, called “unsupported transit”, and took it upon himself to prove it scientifically. (Though legend also includes a wager of up to $25,000, there is no evidence of this.) Stanford sought out Muybridge and hired him to settle the question.

To prove Stanford’s claim, Muybridge developed a scheme for instantaneous motion picture capture. Muybridge’s technology involved chemical formulas for photographic processing and an electrical trigger created by the chief engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, John D. Isaacs.

At the Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Muybridge gave a series of lectures on the Science of Animal Locomotion in the Zoopraxographical Hall, built specially for that purpose in the “Midway Plaisance” arm of the exposition. He used his zoopraxiscope to show his moving pictures to a paying public making the Hall the very first commercial movie theater.”

Since Muybridge’s time, for a hundred years media was a one-way communication, an often delightful monologue. Now it’s a dialogue, portable and interactive. A processing sketch, an iPhone app. You may not even tend to call it cinema — but in a way it is. Just as you may not have tended to call Muybridge’s work photography — even though he himself did — but in a way cinema is photography, too. Photography with the speed and vitality of horse racing. Like Bren’s work which is programming with horse racing’s vitality and which acknowledges his foundation on the shoulders of new media giants from previous generations. As to whether all four of a horse’s hooves leave the ground at the same time during a gallop, see for yourself…

I’ve been told by a friend who is a biblical scholar that this star formation, which was so remarkable that I was compelled to photograph it during my visit to Jerusalem, hasn’t been in this configuration for 2000 years.

Star Over Jerusalem

Oops. While I was in Rome, SA delivered a quick commercial to our client with an apostrophe missing in the subtitle of the word “Let’s”. By the time the spelling mistake was discovered, the spot had a quarter of a million views on YouTube and it therefore wouldn’t be practical to remove it. So far nobody has mentioned the omission. Except me, here. Shhhh.

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Then, I caught this Library Newsletter that had also made an apostrophe error, apparently adding the apostophe that we’d mistakenly omitted to to a place where it doesn’t belong in “ricochets”.

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Lets Let’s all be more careful about apostrophe’s apostrophes.

I’m excited to be collaborating with Norwegian animator Tom Idland. It is a pleasure to be adding new media characters to the Old Hollywood themed party in the Macy Gray 360 degree interactive video. All along, I’ve wanted to feature the widest variety of party guests that themselves represent various eras in traditional media and new media and for me the guest list has always included a pixelated character. Now Lucy (see below) will be gracing our dance floor, bringing that vision to fruition, or at least virtually so. Multifaceted Lucy is fun to work with. As Tom says, “So few ‘details’ but still so alive!” Velkommen.

Lucy dancing in 360 degree interactive music video

Lucy dancing in 360º interactive music video

Rome is simply marvelous. A kind of jungle – humid and beautiful, loud at times, peaceful at others. It’s a place where you can hide behind the foliage.

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Media imagery is now for the most part advancing on screens, rather than in print. This makes me an enthusiast of motion design. It’s the design on screens that are fundamentally driving the common aesthetic, much in the way that album covers and magazine layouts have in the past.

Below is a screen shot from Social Animal’s upcoming show open for O’Reilly‘s Ignite, “a geek variety show,” according to creator Brady Forrest. In creating a motion design for the geek audience, we felt that it would be nice to feature a new graphic style and we came up with a code based tool, programmed in processing, that allowed our designers to virtually paint with video. The resulting graphics have a live performance quality that I’m excited to explore in future projects and, strangely enough, seem to confirm the onslaught of preschool theorists who are jumping up and down about the importance of finger painting and story time to America’s future workforce. We’re always looking for outstanding storytelling and finger painting talent at Social Animal, unfortunately no nap time.

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