Monday, December 26, 2016

It was 20 Years ago today!....Multimedia Production.

A Sargent Peppers reference, but actually probably closer to 25 years ago, when CD-ROM was introduced and some time after Multimedia became a thing for awhile.

I had been assigned researching Multimedia, and attended many conferences, like the first CD-ROM Conference. Also had access to evaluate the main  tools of the time.  Macromind Director (on the Mac), Swivel 3D,  GRASP (on the PC) and later Adobe Premier and others. All cool stuff.  I had come from developing the Fairlight Instruments Computer Musical Instrument  Series II and Series III music production systems that allowed a single musician to produce symphonic or band works, so extending that to Interactive/AV type media seemed like a good idea. I had the sound production side, and had always drawn so the visual side wasn't foreign to me either. The stuff you needed in addition to the technical side, that I had too.

The commercial things that came out around then where MYST in 1993 and various interactive games, edutainment from Broderbund, most of which I don't remember their names well enough to find them in Google. The SoundBlaster was a huge selling Audio Card of this period , and many tried to get into that game.

I started my own experiments with a 286 PC I had at home using GRASP, which was a scripted 2D animation system. You could move sprites around, interactively put up text and all that and produce a run time thing that fitted on a 1.2MB Floppy disk of the times.  Just drawing it all was slow though, so I came up with the idea to use models and do limited stop frame animation and roto-scoping.  To that end I bought my own Computer Eyes gray scale video grabber, and built some things to photograph and animate:

In GRASP I was reducing everything to dithered 1 bit graphics to fit in the space I had, so final image quality wasn't great.  Like this in fact when you look at it normal size:

Made a few things and eventually bought a Mac Performer 640, that had a built in color video grabber and sound. I could also use Logic, Premier and Director then.

Before it all got squashed in the multimedia compression those things liked more like this:

But this was way  before Gigabyte memories and discs become everyday items and we had huge problems making anything but very small postage stamp sized moving image and sound files. The computers and media of the time just didn't allow it. I had a website, but the allocated space was less than the small videos I was making, so distributing anything was difficult. We had 33K dial up modems back then too. So tiny 8 bit GIF images were normal, and I couldn't store the large images on the computer for long either. That is shown in the only other behind the scenes images I could read off old disks in 2016:

Well what I made with this stuff is now mostly on discs I cannot even read, like a 100 MB MO disc and 5" floppies, (was even pre the 100MB zip drives!) but the miniatures and models have stood up fine.  Look pretty good in fact, and way out lasted "Multimedia", a business Steve Jobs once described as a "Zero Billion Dollar Industry".

We have moved on since that time.

I actually found one of the larger and longer files and converted it to an MP4 and put it on our YouTube channel.  It was 320x240 pixels, 16bit color, 15 fps. It is all way to fast, as the files just got too big.  I remember having to set the CINEPAK reference frames every m frames to a very large number to make the files small enough.  Most of the other files I've found are 160x120 pixels... pretty much just postage stamps, and even shorter. It is like  3 panels of a much longer comic.  The background is Alien Archaeologists in Space.

Something I have made more recently (not including our SoundCloud Music Album or our YouTube Channel ), 5 years ago!, in a similar vein is this very limited animation edutainment thing on Aerodynamics.

Now YouTube makes distribution trivial, but the making of something worthwhile is still hard! Making something that more than a few people will bother to watch is much harder again.

We can be contact at Art & Technology

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