A Proper Gander At Propaganda

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"Propaganda in the United States is spread by both government and media entities. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions. It's used in advertising, radio, newspaper, posters, books, television, and other media."  -  Propaganda in the United States - Wikipedia

"A man without a government is like a fish without a bicycle.” Alvaro Koplovich

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Hollywood Enterprises, Space Magic & Illusion: The Art and Crafting of Special Effects

Can you figure out the card trick?

image source: Look Deep into Our Eyes: Behind IDW's Smoke and Mirrors with ...

Hollywood special effects are amazing. The imagination and engineering exhibited on screen, is impressive. I can't help but think that the craft of filmmaking, and the technology that makes it easily accessible to the masses, is the real result of the technological advances made over a hundred years ago. Advances made by the likes of such notable figures as Edison, Tesla and Farnsworth.

National governments have always been interested in advancing civilization. Governments always represent economic interests that seek ever expanding commercial opportunity around the world. That was the main thrust behind the expeditions to the new world in the first place. The result is obviously the modern world. 

This modern civilized world is artificial by definition. But that's all civilization and culture can ever be. The artists and architect, the musician and poet, have always been employed by the wealthy, in service of promoting one myth or another. The word matrix is thrown around. The word comes from Latin, mater, matre, or in english, mother. 

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=matrix

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/matrix

Below is an example of Hollywood magic. It might not look like much here, but when the actual film is played back at the right speed, and the compositing process complete, the illusion of a collapsing building will be achieved. The viewers will believe they are seeing a real building collapse on screen. Obviously a traumatizing event to witness, but that's all parti the Hollywood fun, after all.

Miniature Skyscrapers Demolition

TSAirlines Jumbo Jet Crash Kills 722 (300 in the plane)

Below, the lengths Hollywood will go to the achieve a believable effect. James Cameron's film, Titanic, is considered a classic and for good reason. 

Titanic Movie 1997 Set Ship Construction Time Lapse

More Hollywood style "controlled demolition" below. 

Movie Miniature Special Effects Building Collapse

Another example below, this time of radio control, one of Nikola Tesla's gifts to the world. He exhibited a radio controlled submarine publicly, in Madison Square Garden in the late 19th century.  We can see how by using multiple techniques, a film maker can easily create a believable illusion.

http://cyberneticzoo.com/precyber/1898-telautomaton-nikola-tesla-serbianamerican/

"The earliest examples of electronically guided model aircraft were hydrogen-filled model airships of the late 19th century. They were flown as a music hall act around theater auditoriums using a basic form of spark-emitted radio signal."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio-controlled_aircraft

Biggest rc airplane in the world C-17

"PathĂ© News was a producer of newsreelscinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1970 in the United Kingdom. Its founder, Charles PathĂ©, was a pioneer of moving pictures in the silent era. The PathĂ© News archive is known today as British PathĂ©. Its collection of news film and movies is fully digitised and available online." This company was also a pioneer in the development of the art of special effects.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathé_News

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/special-effect-shot

An early example of a now very common special effects technique from the earliest days of cinema. The art of filming has always included the crafting of illusion. Below the use of film and dark room techniques,  to create a staged magic trick, circa 1902.

Zecca film from 1902. Use of freeze-frame to create magical effects. Magician enters set and as he walks about people appear behind him. he makes these oriental figures appear and disappear. A line of girls appears and disappears. He climbs a centre-piece which becomes covered in people.

PathĂ© Newsreel about radio controlled airplanes below.

Model Planes (1954)

"You will believe a man can fly!"  The illusion explained below. 

https://www.dga.org/Craft/DGAQ/All-Articles/1302-Spring-2013/Shot-to-Remember-Superman.aspx

Zoran Perisic IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0673830/

Youtube clip explaining the process, below. 

Archive footage, went through my old VHS tapes and found this beauty. Interview from 1979 / 1980. First interview discussing the Zoptic techniques used in Superman The Movie. RARE footage.

BBC Pinewood: 80 Years of Movie Magic

"Zoran Perisic, who was a joint winner of an Academy Award for Superman’s visual effects in 1978 and the recipient of an Academy Scientific and Engineering Award and a Technical Achievement Award.

Perisic: We had a lot of challenges on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001- A Space Odyssey with spacecraft and rockets flying against star backgrounds; I felt that there had to be a more efficient way other than rotoscoping and hand painted mattes. Later, while working at Yorkshire TV in England, I was experimenting with slit-scan, using back-projected live action images instead of back-lit moiré patterns as we had done on 2001 – A Space Odyssey. The results were interesting but with limited practical use. I wondered if I could use a thin strip of front-projection material in place of a regular clear slit; I could change the shape of the slit for each frame and so animate the slit-scan distortion effect. This would require mounting a small projector in front of the camera on the slit-scan machine I had built (and installed in our spare bedroom much to the annoyance of my wife).

However if I were to front-project a single frame onto a slit as it “scanned” across the full image the result would be an exact copy of the projected image even if the camera/projector unit was tracking in towards it (the projected image gets smaller but so does the image area seen by the camera lens!).

Needless to say I abandoned that experiment but was intrigued by the idea. Then a thought struck me – what if I were to use the same camera-projector unit to track towards a regular front projection screen while front-projecting a full moving image at 24 fps? (Auto focus and projector iris compensation would, of course, be required but that was all do-able). The result would be a perfect one-to-one copy of the projected image but an object placed in front of the f.p. screen would appear to get nearer as the camera unit tracked towards it resulting in an apparent movement in depth. Bingo!

That in essence was the genesis of Zoptic front-projection system.

The next step was to make a compact camera/projector package that was manoeuvrable so that the “object” placed in front of the front-projection screen could be made to appear to move in any direction within the frame as well as towards or away from the camera while in fact it remained stationary.

Using synchronized zoom lenses on the projector and camera enabled the system to create much subtler and faster maneuvers…and then came a super hero character whose costume featured a blue suit and a red cape – the very colors that make it virtually impossible to derive a good travelling matte using the color difference process (commonly referred to as “blue or green screen” process.) Front-projection was the best option."

https://www.fxphd.com/blog/effects-of-days-past-making-superman-fly/

Below two special effects clips from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001- A Space Odyssey.

2001 A Space Odyssey Ferris Wheel Effect

Centripetal Motion- 2001 Space Odyssey

Compare to this NASA Skylab video clip from the early 1970's, below.

Classic NASA Film- Skylab - #4

Below, video of a 1960's era NASA engineered gravity simulator.

Space Station Centrifuge Gravity Simulation 196x NASA color 3min

Compare the above clip to the one below:

Superman The Movie: Outracing The Train Scene

"Most of the major commercial aircraft companies employ SGI machines to model airflow around a craft--without spending the time and money to construct physical models and test them in a wind tunnel. Ford Motor Co. uses hundreds of SGI machines to visualize future car styles and simulate crashes.

Then, there's film. In countless movies from The Abyss to The Mask, a comedy due out July 29, SGI gear has turned special effects upside down. Where once each frame was painstakingly created using physical models, now software running on SGI equipment can create whole action sequences automatically--even virtual actors. While making The Crow, star Brandon Lee was killed before filming was completed. The movie was finished by using SGI equipment to digitally insert Lee into the new footage. The same techniques are making SGI a favorite on Madison Avenue, where agencies are using its gear to create dancing crackers, rubber phones, and other attention-grabbing graphics for TV commercials.

Hollywood provides more than just good PR. Says McCracken: "That market is stretching the rubber band the furthest for us in technology." In other words, says Thomas A. Williams, special-effects chief for Industrial Light & Magic, producer of the Jurassic Park special effects, "We drive them crazy." McCracken expects entertainment sales to double, to $400 million, in fiscal 1995.

Movies are only the start of SGI's move into entertainment. The deal with Time Warner Cable, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Co., could take SGI equipment wherever the cable system stretches. In the Orlando test, up to 4,000 homes will get stripped-down SGI workstations to surf through such interactive services as movies on demand, home shopping, and videogames.

BLOWN DEADLINE. Nestled in a corner of SGI's headquarters is the "Time Warner Living Room"--complete with couch, easy chairs, coffee table, and TV. Since December, SGI has hosted couch potatoes in focus groups to see how they use SGI's on-screen program navigator. Unlike interfaces that require people to actively seek information, SGI's navigator software works almost like a videogame. The laziest sofa spud can "fly" effortlessly into virtual theaters and malls.

The payoff could be millions of set-top boxes based on SGI technology. SGI is feverishly working to embed many of the graphics features of its $5,000 Indy workstation into a $500 set-top box for Time Warner that will be manufactured by Scientific-Atlanta Inc. It's no easy job. In addition to chucking components such as monitors and disk drives, SGI must design in Scientific-Atlanta's technology and figure out how to shrink the whole thing into a few chips so that the boxes can be manufactured profitably. Already, SGI failed to meet a deadline for stripping down the Indy into a prototype for the set-top box, which helped push back the Orlando trial from April until at least October."

From http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/1994-07-17/the-gee-whiz-company:

"SGI's sprawling Mountain View (Calif.) campus has become sort of a mecca. Celebrities such as artist Peter Max, director Milos Forman, and author Michael Crichton stop by to "grok" the latest technology. The offices look like a Soho gallery, what with exposed beams, winding steel staircases, and unusual art--mostly sculpture, as befits a 3-D company. This is the promised land--at least to its 4,200 employees and the 2,500 hopefuls who apply for jobs each month. The unofficial company motto: "Serious fun."

And serious money. When SGI reports fiscal year results on July 20, analysts expect a $141 million profit on a sales jump of at least 35%, to $1.5 billion--the third straight year of accelerating growth (chart). Its 52% gross profit margin tops workstation rival Sun Microsystems Inc.'s 42% and is more than double the level of PC powerhouse Compaq Computer Corp. Even though it is largely confined to a 3-D niche, SGI passed IBM and Digital Equipment Corp. in 1993 to capture third place in the $10.5 billion workstation market, according to International Data Corp. And with its shares trading at around 23, SGI's $3.3 billion market value now tops those of DEC and Sun. Even President Clinton has noticed. When he and Vice-President Al Gore unveiled their technology policy in Silicon Valley last year, their only corporate stop was SGI.

But can SGI keep the magic going? In targeting everything from supercomputers to videogames, SGI may be taking on more than it can handle. What's more, few companies have managed to make a smooth transition from selling leading-edge technology to serving high-volume consumer markets. That will stretch SGI's management and marketing skills as never before.

But SGI seems to love a challenge. In all of computing, there are few tasks more complex than the creation of 3-D graphics. Until SGI, most workstations could create only crude 3-D "wireframe" images that resembled skeletons. The microprocessors, or silicon brains, in the workstations didn't have the power to draw complex graphics. No wonder. To create 3-D solids on a computer, you have to position thousands of different-shaped figures side by side, like pieces of a puzzle. Then, the figures must be converted into visible images by assembling tens of thousands of picture elements, or pixels--the myriad dots of light on the screen. Finally, to make the images move fluidly, they must be redrawn 30 times a second.

Two key innovations, based on the ideas of founder James H. Clark, make SGI's graphics fly. While an assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University from 1979 to 1982, he and six students came up with novel ways for building a cheap graphics computer. The result is the Geometry Engine, a collection of custom chips for speeding up model creation, and the Graphics Library, a set of 120 software rules that help developers create programs that turn models into realistic 3-D images."

PS: THE FUTURE is PAST

"The SGI Onyx, code named Eveready (deskside models) and Terminator (rackmount models), is a series of visualization systems designed and manufactured by SGI, introduced in 1993 and offered in two models, deskside and rackmount. The Onyx's basic system architecture is based on the SGI Challenge servers, but with the notable inclusion of graphics hardware.

The Onyx was employed in early 1995 for development kits used to produce software for the Nintendo 64 and, because the technology was so new, the Onyx was noted as the major factor for the impressive price of US$100,000[1]–US$250,000[2] for such kits.

The Onyx was succeeded by the Onyx2 in 1996 and was discontinued on March 31, 1999."

"Graphics subsystem

The Onyx initially used the RealityEngine2 or VTX graphics subsystems, and later, InfiniteReality, which was introduced in 1995.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Graphics

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SGI_Onyx

Onyx RealityEngine2 demo

Political Allegory in a Cartoon From The Late 20th Century

Wizard 1977 - Full