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MARCH 2009
Don Bluth, Muybridge, and an animation tutorial
Bullet Time, (almost) 1884
Sallie Gardner: The Horse Behind the Photograph
A Popular Inspiration

23 March 2009

MUY BLOG moves!

I have now decided to upgrade from this hand-knitted version of a blog, to the real thing. Muy Blog is now at Wordpress.


18 March 2009


Promotional video for Electric Company Theatre's STUDIES IN MOTION,

Inspired by the life and work of 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, whose instantaneous photography and exhaustive studies in animal and human locomotion foretold the invention of the modern-day cinema.

In 1885 Muybridge embarked on a mission of cataloging animal movement and human gestures, dissecting time and in so doing, revealed a world invisible to the naked eye. However, Muybridge is haunted by the ghosts of his past actions; the man he killed, the child he abandoned, and the woman he thought he knew. The play, a physically and visually explosive spectacle, explores themes of memory, identity, and the quest for meaning at the very beginning of our culture's obsession with images.....

....A mesmerizing and dazzling play.... Premiered in Vancouver in 2006, tours Canada in 2009. Mar 24 - 27 2009 presented by the Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse.

Electric Company Theatre

photos by Tim Matheson.


THIS BLOGPOST will soon appear at:

Muy Blog on Wordpress

15 March 2009

Don Bluth, Muybridge, and an animation tutorial

Veteran animator Don Bluth, who was responsible for the feature cartoons The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, and Anastasia, presents Don Bluth Animation Tutorials on DVD:

Learn to Animate: Nuts and Bolts
This lesson will highlight the important contribution of Edward Muybridge to the art of cinema and animation therefore giving the student a broader understanding of frames per second and timing. All motion pictures give you an illusion of life by showing you a series of still photographs at the rate of 24 per second. That principle is basic to the understanding of learning to animate.

Run Time Approximately: 42 Minutes. Not Available in Stores... $29.95.

More at: Don Bluth Animation

Daguerreotype(?) of James King of William, on which the engraving published by 'Muygridge' was based.

The portrait propped on Don Bluth's desk is not in fact Muybridge, but James King of William, a crusading editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, murdered by a local criminal. The lithograph was published by Muygridge (as he was then known) and his publishing partner at that time W.H. Oakes, shortly after the 1856 assassination. More about King, and the dramatic story of the Vigilance Committee who hanged his murderer on the morning of his funeral, here.


09 March 2009

Bullet Time, (almost) 1884

According to Wikipedia:

[Bullet-time] is the effect used in The Matrix, and other movies, and is achieved roughly the same way as Muybridge set up his shots. In effect, however, Muybridge had achieved the aesthetic opposite to The Matrix's bullet-time sequences, since his studies lacked the dimensionality of the later developments.

But not in this example, which certainly has dimensionality.

My crude animation of Animal Locomotion Plate 527, Spanking a child, will I hope demonstrate that the technique generally known as "bullet-time" and made famous by The Matrix (1999), has a long history. This animated sequence (two of three series of the same subject, joined together) was taken by Muybridge during his sessions at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1884-5. But this wasn't, apparently, his first experiment with the technique. An article in the New York Times in 1881 (February 19) entitled 'Instant photography; results of the California experiments' described an earlier session, for a specific purpose.

Mr. Muybridge, once in the studio of Mr. Perry, watched with interest the artist endeavoring to outline the picture of a California coach and four. He had Mr Muybridge's pictures as a guide. But these were broadside views, and he wanted a quartering view. Mr Muybridge hastened back to Palo Alto, arranged five cameras in a semicircle and concentrating upon one point, galloped a horse over the point where the electric current was completed, and produced a perfect picture of a horse at fullest speed, as seen from five different points of view, all at the same instant of time and while, of course, the horse was in one and the same position. Now, an artist with these pictures as guiides can draw a horse in any position desired.

It must be admitted, however, that neither of these sessions - not the galloping horse nor the spanking woman - were quite bullet-time. For one thing, Muybridge never animated the result - so they were only ever seen as strips of printed photographs - and even when animated the spanking scene is less visually dramatic than the Hollywood examples, partly because of the almost plain background, which reduces the effect of a 'sweeping eye'; the subject could almost be on a turntable. For another thing, in the movie sequences known as bullet-time the action actually progresses in ultra slow-motion, whereas in Muybridge's sequence shown here the action is frozen - the woman doesn't, you will be pleased to learn, actually spank the child - her arm doesn't move. Nevertheless, it is an interesting precursor of a technique that entranced cinema audiences when The Matrix was first seen.

In fact, the totally frozen moment - with the multi-camera view tracking around the subject - was developed during the 1980s, and was originally known as "time-slice". There's a good account of the history of the technique in The Guardian, which includes mention of time-slice inventor Tim MacMillan:

But, since motion pictures began in the Victorian era, with Edward Muybridge's pictures from sequential still cameras of running men and galloping horses, Tim concedes even he may not have been the first. "You think, maybe there was a mistake one day, and all Muybridge's cameras went off together, and maybe on some shelf there are these glass plates of this horse, time-sliced, by Muybridge".

A mistake? No, no.......

Spanking, as a subject for motion photography, would be taken up by the Lumières, or rather their gardener, who delivers the same punishment on the famous hosepipe-prankster boy, in an equally unconvincing enactment - but it hasn't been a major theme of subsequent movies. (No, please don't tell me I'm wrong.....)


03 March 2009

Sallie Gardner: The Horse Behind the Photograph

The website FoolishPleasure: Thoroughbred Horse Racing News, Notes and Opinions, has a blog entry by 'Valerie', detailing a biography of Stanford's horse Sallie Gardner, subject of many of Muybridge's photographs.

' just four days, Sallie Gardner ran - and won - six races totally 52 furlongs, or 6-1/2 miles!

While by no means a complete list, the harness racing descendents of Sallie Gardner through her daughter Eleanor include 1950s pacer Meadow Ace (by Adios), late 1970s-early 1980s California-bred pacer - and winner of over $770k - Courageous Red (by Peter Lobell) and 2000s champion filly pacer Midnight Jewel (by Keystone Raider).

Thus, when she died on May 6, 1888, Sallie Gardner was much more than a horse made immortal by photographer Eadweard Muybridge - she was a talented race mare who produced both winning standardbreds and thoroughbreds.'

Lots more about Sallie Gardner here.


01 March 2009

A Popular Inspiration

The Animal Locomotion plate 465, Child bringing a bouquet to a woman, continues to be a popuar source of inspiration for artists. The latest two examles on YouTube are the work of 68-year-old Jack Otis of Austin, West Texas:

I am an artist who chose animation as his medium. Commercially, I am retired, but I still do my own work. OPUS OCHO (1982) - So-named because it was my 8th personal film, was done with a grant from the Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP). WOMAN AND CHILD Based on a photographic sequence from the work of Eadweard Muybridge, this animation was originally done for Opus Ocho as line work. This is a silent colored pencil version.

Opus Ocho

Woman and Child


Muy blog email: Stephen Herbert

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