The First Plugin: The Origin Of Motion Design
The More You Know
Around 1984 I was sitting in my living room in my footie pajamas and watching Saturday morning cartoons. The commercial breaks and production company openers were FULL of animation. But it wasn’t cell animation or even stop motion. It was often blue and full of grids and starbursts.
“The More You Know” flashed across the screen and DIC and Hanna-Barbera logos swirled around in their blue and rainbow glow.
These animations swirled around my living room and my brain with out of tune Moog synthesizer jingles playing over them. Star-filters and dusk chrome gradients filled my head and every second of TV I could sneak in before my parents woke up.
This was the first “Motion Graphics” that I remember seeing. And those blue swirls have stuck with me throughout my over 10 year career in Motion Design and animation.
Chasing The Light
Thousands of other kids my age grew up seeing all this stuff and some of us made the decision to figure out how this animation stuff is made.
We traded formulas around to get that TV look JUST RIGHT.
Scanlines? Check! CRT Effects? Check! Glows? Check.
So many of us were trying to emulate the look we remember from the early 80s living room. And we were getting pretty dang close!
This excellent Justice Video probably got the closest to really nailing these effects.
But as with most emulations, you can get pretty dang close but it’s never absolutely perfect.
I kept thinking “How in the heck did they make this stuff to begin with? How is it that we have all this new technology, plugins, and computing power and we cant make something look the way it did over 30 years ago?
Scanimate is the answer.
It’s All About Analog
Finally discovering Scanimate was absolutely the missing piece in the pixel puzzle.
Here was a huge analog computer from the 1970s with the ability to make real time animation.
The result was filmed and manipulated on a monochrome CRT screen and then colorized all through analog circuits.
It was then I realized why these effects were so had to emulate. The analog nature of the machine and the filming of actual phosphor made a look that was almost impossible to emulate with digital manipulation.
Just like photographers chasing the “film look” and music lovers chasing the “analog sound”, we too were looking to our past to try and emulate old technology with modern tools.
I obsessed over this machine. And when I found that there was still one in working condition, I knew that I just had to see this thing for myself. I was telling everyone about this thing. I even did my entire presentation at Half Rez 2014 on the Scanimate.
Scanimate Presentation from Half Rez 2014
My passion about the Scanimate came out during an interview with Lynda.com. And they loved the idea of making a documentry about it. Months later, I was on a plane to North Carolina to actually see and play with a Scanimate!
I just HAD to see what the actual process was like making an authentic analog animation just like the ones I was chasing for over 30 years.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with original Scanimate Artist, Roy Weinstock and Scanimate Technician and owner Dave Sieg to talk about how the Scanimate got started and how all the magic worked.
I also couldn’t pass up the chance to make an authentic Scanimate animation with the machine. You can my perma-grin in the film when they finally got my logo up on the CRT. It looked just like what I was searching for all these years. In all it’s analog glory.
Greyscalegorilla Logo Animated With An Original Scanimate
Thanks to Roy Weinstock, Dave Sieg, Everyone on the Lynda.com team and the excellent film crew for helping make this kids dream come true.