special effects

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Design History

When TV Logos Were Physical Objects

May 15, 2017

Christopher Jobson

It goes without saying that nearly everything made with graphic design and video software was once produced using a physical process, from newspapers to TV Logos. But some TV stations and film studios took things even further and designed physical logos that were filmed to create dynamic special effects. Arguably the most famous of which is MGM’s Leo the Lion which first appeared in 1916 and would go on to include 7 different lions over the decades.

Recently, television history buff Andrew Wiseman unearthed this amazing behind-the-scenes shot of the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française logo from the early 1960s that was constructed with an array of strings to provide the identity with a bright shimmer that couldn’t be accomplished with 2D drawings. The logo could also presumably be filmed from different perspectives, though there’s no evidence that was actually done.

Another famous physical TV identity was the BBC’s “globe and mirror” logo in use from 1981 to 1985 that was based on a physical device. After filming the rotating globe against a panoramic mirror, it appears the results were then traced by hand similar to rotoscoping. One of the more elaborate physical TV intro sequences was the 1983 HBO intro that despite giving the impression of being animated or created digitally was in fact built almost entirely with practical effects. You can watch a 10 minute video about how they did it below. (via Quipsologies, Reddit, Andrew Wiseman)

Update: It turns out the BBC Globe ident wasn’t rotoscoped or animated, instead it was recorded live using the Noddy camera system and the color was created by adjusting the contrast. Thanks, Gene!




The Visually Stunning ‘Tesseract’ Scene in Interstellar was Filmed on a Physically Constructed Set

June 12, 2015

Christopher Jobson


Spoiler alert. One of the most jaw-dropping moments of Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar is the climactic moment when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) enters a visually stunning environment that allows him to physically communicate through time using gravity. In the movie, the scene is manifested as a small library in his home that appears to infinitely repeat with versions of every moment that has ever occurred there. Essentially it’s a cube in four dimensions. Here’s a pretty good explanation of how it works:

The Tesseract is a means of communication for the bulk beings to express action through gravity with NASA. The bulk beings can perceive five dimensions as opposed to four, able to see every moment in the past, present, and future as well as influence gravity within any of those time frames. […] The tesseract allowed Cooper to communicate with Murphy Cooper [his daughter] in various time periods, presenting time itself as a dimension rather than linear. Everything is linked by the strings of time, which Cooper can manipulate. The beings made this comprehensible to Cooper by allowing him to physically interact with the Tesseract.

The idea of the tesseract scene alone was so daunting to the filmmakers, Nolan and his special effects team procrastinated for months before trying to tackle how it might work. After months of concepting and model building the team opted for the unusual approach of using minimal digital effects in favor of fabricating a massive set which the actors could physically manipulate. A remarkable feat considering not only the complexity of the concepts depicted, but the cost and labor of building something so large.

Included here are some shots of the set. You can watch even more of it here. (via Fubiz)







A Colossal


Cluster Earrings