The feature length biopic, Pablo, directed by Richard Goldgewicht is a brilliant initiative both in its subject matter as its approach. I’m really looking forward to seeing this film. It is planned for 2010 but here is the all new trailer to whet your appetites.




It’s those lazy Sunday afternoon strolls that are at times most fruitful. Especially when one takes the pleasure of perusing amongst the dust and tatter of back-alley second hand book shops. Two rare gems caught my eye on this particular occasion: Graphic Design in Education Television (Beverley Clarke, Lund Humphries London 1974) A short yet precise introduction to understanding the techniques for broadcast design and in particular, educational television. Although a lot of its contents are today redundant, the book is testament to the state of graphic design in early television production. Clarke drives forward her claim for “The importance of graphic design for educational television…..(which) surprisingly has rarely been discussed.” She continues, “This is clearly an omission in a rapidly expanding profession.” Her claim is a bold stance to take for the time, graphic designers receiving little credit for their work in this domain, but foresaw a definite rise in the role of the designer and many educational programs.

Television in the 1960’s and 70’s was considered as an important medium for extending educational curriculum in schools. One of the better known instructional systems in the UK was the Open University which started transmission in 1971 and was an educational partnership with the BBC. The graphic design unit grew out of the parent department of the BBC creating a shift from presentational graphic work to informational graphics.

Interestingly, we have seen a rise in ‘information graphics’ on the Web in the past five years. Melhil Bilgil’s diploma work, ‘History of the Internet’ being one of the latest fine examples of how graphics can inform. Andrew Vande Moere’s superb website, Information Aesthetics documents this trend.


The second book to pop out from the shelves was The Technique of Film Animation (John Halas & Roger Manvell, Focal Press 1959). John Halas wrote incessantly about all aspects of animation and always with the intelligence that the finer realms of this medium demand. What is striking about this collaboration with Manvell, considered as the authoritative source book for its time, is the scope of animation they manage to present. Whole chapters are devoted to commercial work, public relations, propaganda, avant-garde, instructional and educational animation. Indeed, Halas went on to publish a complete book entitled Film & TV Graphics, a comprehensive survey of graphics in the domain from around the world.

>>> More links on Information Design


If there is one company that has had an influence on motion graphics for film and especially within opening titles, then it must be R/GA. With over 30 years experience R/GA had set out to renew title design after a sluggish time during the 70’s.

“Their firm was among the first to approach film-title design as a collaboration of creative talent and technology. The firm broke new ground…. It also generated many technical innovations that changed the industry and was fertile breeding ground for outstanding talent in film and television design” , Curran

>>> Watch the Reel

Image taken from Recreation 1956

“Breer’s early work was influenced by the various European modern art movements of the early 20th century, ranging from the abstract forms of the Russian Constructivists and the structuralist formulas of the Bauhaus, to the nonsensible universe of the Dadaists. Through his association with the Denise René Gallery, which specialized in geometric art, he saw the abstract films of such pioneers as Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Walter Ruttman and Fernand Léger. Breer acknowledges his respect for this purist, “cubist” cinema, which uses geometric shapes moving in time and space.” Jackie Leger

“Breer has restlessly investigated the single frame technique….He has explored new perceptual threshholds with his rapid montage technique, pioneered in the collage film, and experimented with the dynamics of pure abstract animation.” Russett & Starr. 1976

In an early interview at the Screening Room, Robert Breer explains his evolution from painter to film maker. From his background in ‘cartooning’ as a kid and later as a commercial artist for the army, Breer moved to Paris in the 1950’s where his interest in film developed “as an extension of (his) painting”. This excerpt from the Screening Room also includes one of his early experimental films, ‘Recreation’, 1956

>>> Watch Here
>>> Watch more of Breer at UBU

Achooo Mr. Kerrooschev 1960, 1:43 min, b&w, sound

“Stan VanDerBeek is the Tom Swift of the underground, an inventor of processes and approaches. He is also a collagist, a collisionist and like Georges Méliès, whom he claims as godfather, an illusionist. His earliest films such as What Who How, are animated collages, his midway films such as Breathdeath are collages of film technique and his latest works including Environmental Movie-Drome, are collages of media.”
Sheldon Renan.

A La Mode 1959, 6:18 min, b&w, sound

UBUWeb have just put up 15 films by Stan VanDerBeek on their website. This is a wonderful collection of some of his most important works. VanDerBeek is often cited as one of the pioneers of computer animation and multimedia art and his musings can be watched here on the topic. I recently sat down for a viewing of some of his earlier works, Science Friction and A La Mode which are pertinent films in regards to the history of motion graphic technique. The use of collage and cut out, mixed with bold graphic elements, drawn animation and video are akin to the Beat Generation and Monty Python, indeed Terry Gilliam has been quoted to mention VanDerBeek as a huge inspiration. That inspiration remains strong to this day. There a hundreds of motion graphic pieces that draw from this technique, a good majority of which I’m sure have little conscious thought for this man’s achievements fifty years earlier. At the time of creating Science Friction, VanDerBeek was trying to evolve what he calles a “litera-graphic image, an international sign language of fantasy and satire. There is a social literature through filmic pantomime, that is, non-verbal comedy satire; a ‘comic-ominous’ image that pertains to our time and interests which Hollywood and the commercial cinema are ignoring.”

The graphic image has become an international sign. A system of signs that are being used for means of visual communication whether it be political, commercial, educational or cultural. Some more comedy satire though is in dire need for today’s serious matters. More satire please, more satire !

>>> 15 FIlms by Stan VanDerBeek
>>> Machine Art
>>> Exhibition & article

© National Film Board of Canada

© National Film Board of Canada

© National Film Board of Canada

There’s an amazing amount of historical and technical information over at the National Film Board of Canada website. One of the most interesting links leads to an archive of writings, photos, objects and artwork by Norman McLaren. For those interested in his artistic as well as technical approach to animated film, you’ll be spoiled for choice. McLaren documented practically all his works and they make for revealing reading. He also embarked upon a little history hunting himself, writing a short piece on animated sound, entitled, A Brief Summary of the Early History of Animated Sound on Film. / by Norman McLaren. – 1952.

Other important texts include a booklet on cameraless animation. A statement written by McLaren commentating on key themes in his work. And a letter written by François Truffaut to McLaren.

Full Archive Here >>>

Population Exposion 1967

Pierre Hébert is one of those unclassified moving image artists, right out there on the boundaries. The work of the Canadian artist is wide ranging in form and technique. His 20 plus film career, the majority within the walls of the National Film Board of Canada, reveal an atypical creator who developed a hybrid of styles and techniques.
His first film, ‘Histoire Verte’, came into creation in 1963, scratched directly onto bleached film, the results mirroring earlier work of his predecessors, Norman McLaren and Len Lye. Etching directly upon the medium became an important technique for him and is recurrent throughout his career. Earlier experiments use simple graphic forms or blocks of colour that play with the viewers perception. Later works develop a more figurative approach to animation incorporating various techniques such as paper cut out, lettering, live action as well as more illustrative work.

Histroire Verte 1963

An interesting aspect of Hébert’s films is the connection with sound. Hébert played with the abstract qualities of sound; his first film mixes raw recordings of scrubbing and scratching noises most probably taken from the etching process itself. ‘Opus 3’, 1967 and ‘Around Perception’, 1968 were part of a series of more formalistic experiments with sound and image. These films all played with the concept of retinal persistance, the intermittent flashing of basic graphic forms, overlaying to create new forms and new combinations. The visuals are crude however the quality of abstraction is effectively expressed. With all these early experiments, it is the music that acts as a narrative structure.

Around Perception 1968

In later films, he begins to work with more musical compositions albeit within the free framework of improvisation. Many of the projections for Hébert’s work found their place within live performances, musicans improvising along with the film. For ‘Technology of Tears’, 2004, the music was performed by Fred Frith and John Zorn. It was created for a live dance performance the moving images becoming an integral part of the mise-en-scène. He even had Ornette Coleman score one of his more figurative and political works, ‘Population Explosion’, 1967, and this relationship with improvised music shaped many of his notions about how to animate and cut his films to such an extent that he went on to scratch directly onto film in live perfomance with the musicians.

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