Sci-Fi-O-Rama

Creative Computer Graphics (1984)

May 8th, 2012 | Categories: Art | Computer Game | Low Palette | Retro | Scientific

Some original material here, as scanned from ‘Creative Computer Graphics’ (Cambridge University Press, 1984) this one I came across whilst searching through the Google Books archives, and intrigued I decided to order a hard copy. Google Books by the was is well worth a look, countless printed publications are logged and categorized dating from recent to way back. Most modern titles are subject to copyright so show just a selection of internal pages, but this is plenty to gain a flavour and if you have 10 mins to burn, I highly recommend a trawl through.

Creative Computer Graphics  - The Last Starfighter

Above: A still from The Last Starfighter (1984) this ‘Gunstar’ model is comprised of almost 400,000 Polygons, this was four times more than had ever been attempted with any other computer generated model and each frame took 5 minutes or more to render on the most powerful computer available, a Cray X-MP.

So a little more about ‘Creative Computer Graphics’, this was then, I presume, one of the definitive coffee table books of the day, it’s easy to imagine it having pride of place in a mid 80′s Pixar studio, or Graphics Group as they were then known. Bound inside are 144 glossy pages chronologically charting the rise of computer graphics technology from the tentative first steps of the 1950′s right through to the early 80′s. The book contains some wonderful imagery (often horrendously crude), and in addition there’s some very insightful reading on early computer graphic pioneers like John Whitney and Jim Blinn, it’s definitely worth a look. Here then is a snapshot of that zeitgeist…

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: Wireframe skeleton for an aircraft on Evans & Sutherland’s original picture system, an F15  Eagle I think ? anyway great colours indicating the various sections of fuselage. This is of course something that could be pulled from any modeling program today, but back in 1984, this was the bleeding edge.

Creative Computer Graphics - Videodrome

Above: A image developed for the 1983  David Cronenberg film Videodrome, a body shock horror (does he do any other?). It’s a long time since I’ve seen the movie, so I can’t say I remember this, the garish factor is obviously through the roof, and whilst undoubtably somewhat vulgar there is something enticing here. One thing is for sure, it’s so very, very eighties.

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: A nearly-solid wireframe image of a satellite in high orbit above Oceania, the density of the wireframe gives the Illusion of a sold surface.

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: A still from an animation designed at Montreal University, this is a simulation of a collision, in fact the scattered debris of a Chervolet Corvette…

Creative Computer Graphics - Tron

Above: A still from Tron (Disney 1982). Three video game warriors poised to transform in ‘Light Cycles’, the glowing red lines added optically over the top of the actors – I presume this means ‘in post-production’.

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: The books most interesting chapter is on computer art, and the early adopting artists. As with the other sections it’s a mixed bag, with plenty of dated graphics but on the spin there’s some really striking experimental imagery, which interestingly hasn’t really dated at all. Take for example the above image ‘Unititled’ by digital art pioneer Manfred Mohr, this is in fact a wooden construction, plotted by computer, of all the 24 diagonal paths of the diagnal 000-111, generated from a four-dimensional hypercube (also known as a tesseract). If this fascinating excersize in mathematical minimalism is slightly beyond you, dont worry, without further reading I’m with you…

creative_computer_graphics_7 Manfred Mohr

Above: Further experimentation with the tesseract, ‘Cubic Limit V: Restriction’ again by Manfred Mohr.

creative computer graphics 7 Mark Wilson

Above: ’Skew f28′ by Mark Wilson. This one was a little tricky to scan, and due to format I’ve had to scale it down, still it’s a very interesting piece and I imagine it’d look great run off a large format plotter printer.

Plenty more old school goodies inside but I’ll wrap up the post here,  if your interested in checking out more, have a browse through the title over at Google Books or you could pick up the hard copy for just a few dollars via Amazon.

 

To The Moon (Time-Life Records)

Aug 4th, 2011 | Categories: Military / War | Photography | Retro | Sci-Fi | Scientific

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Something of a special feature here, original photography scanned from the breathtakingly beautiful ‘To The Moon’ (Time-Life 1969) an audio and visual chronology that documents NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and (of course) Apollo projects. ‘To The Moon’ includes 6 doubled sided 12″ Vinyl’s full of famous radio transmissions and interviews, plus an accompanying 190 page slip case book, and that’s the focus of this post. Many thanks to Craig for the temporary loan!

The first thing that strikes when flicking through ‘To The Moon’ is the muted palette and hues of the colour photography. Bathed in a loving technicolor warmth, the imagery empowers the feeling of not just peering into the past, but through into another world, like suddenly everything could spring to life. What’s also unusual is the obscure nature or relative rarity of content, as you might expect in running and researching this blog I’ve mined many resources from this period, but scanning here presented gem after perfectly preserved gem.

A quick disclaimer on the scans, I’ve tried my best to match the tones of the book, but of course some scans work better than others.

Top Image: I often tend to start a post with the image I deem strongest, most outlandish or simply just the personal fave. The above is no exception, akin to a Renaissance masterpiece, with perfect pose and expression. What’s it all about? it’s part of development testing for the Mercury program, a researcher carefully measures how far a test subject, restricted by a pressure suit, can push ’spokes’ basically to gauge how away far the capsule controls should be.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Gemini 6 splashes down 26 hours after launch. Once again a stripped back, gorgeous array of vivid colours, the fact that it’s slightly out of focus just adds to the painterly feel.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Three early twin rotor helicopters (a type I’m unfamiliar with) sit against a cold and barren volcanic backdrop. No prizes for guessing this hostile landscape is Iceland, here the astronauts explore the lunar like terrain to help familiarise with the adventures that lay ahead.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: This abstract image is actually a long exposure of Astronaut Gus Grissom sitting within the fearsome ‘MASTIF’ (an acronym for Multiple Axis Space Test Inertia Facility). The g-force throttling, spinning MASTIF is designed to help teach an astronaut how bring a tumbling capsule under control.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Engineers test a fragile-looking Mariner 4, this early interplanetary probe will embark on an 8 month fly-by mission to Mars.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: The Seven Astronauts of the Mercury Program try on their distinctive silver space suits. Composed of a rubber inner layer, and an outer aluminised shell these outfits are tailored to fit each astronaut precisely, to the point that even a few extra pounds would feel akin to being squeezed in a vise.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: An Atlas booster surges skyward from the launch pad carrying astronaut Wally Schirra. He rides atop inside Sigma 7, the tiny black and white capsule surmounted by the red escape tower.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: This ominous vast metallic structure is the inners of the gigantic liquid oxygen tank that forms part of stage 1 of a Saturn V Rocket, as used in NASA’s Apollo and Skylab projects.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Friendship 7 (Mercury) soars skyward carrying John Glen. To myself as a child of the late 70′s/80′s Nasa missions predominantly mean the Space Shuttle and Cape Canaveral. This retro panorama of concrete towers, bunkers, pads and gantries (also at Cape Canaveral) seems somehow much more futuristic, a spaceport from which rockets hurtle to the furthest flung reaches of the solar system. Or alternatively on a somewhat darker note, this fearsome array of rapidly developed rocketry technology, birthed out of the Cold War’s arms and space race, also serves to remind how close our world came to nuclear annihilation.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Prior to the liftoff of Gemini 5, Conrad and Cooper lie expectantly on their couches (combined photograph). This image is presented vertically from within the book, but it’s spun horizontally here, Cooper (right) looks almost waxen inside the helmet.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: 5 Days after the Soviet Spacewalk, several astronaut’s wives watch in tremendous anticipation as the first Gemini lifts off with its two man crew. Love this, a broad brushstroke of expression and emotion, much more than just one moment captured here, these faces beam back all the pride, thrill, terror and raw astonishment the Space Program can present. Or maybe it’s a just a summer snapshot with the greatest collection of 60′s sunglasses ever captured by camera.

To The Moon - Time Life Records

Above: Astronaut John Glenn peers through a simulated capsule window, he observes star groupings at the Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina. Sighting on the vertical blue line which represents his flightpath, he learns to recognise the stars he will need as navigation guides when he gets into space. What to say about this one, definitely one of the most powerful in the book with a real Dave Bowman / 2001: A Space Odyssey feel, though of course Kubrick’s masterpiece arrived several years later.

Too The Moon - Time Life Records

Too The Moon - Time Life Records

It’s only fitting that we sign off with more details on the source, so last but not least here’s a few shots of the box, book and inlay, nicely showing off the colour coded vinyl, If your interested in picking this up then ebay of course is the best place to start, seems to crop up fairly regularly. Here’s a breakdown on the publication.

TO THE MOON – Book Plus Musical Recordings. Time Life Productions 1969. THE BOOK (Section II) captures the story in pictures and text for generations to come. 190 pages. – Slip Case Book: 12-1/2″ x 12-1/2″ (Includes records).

Dedication: To the yet unborn generations of the world who, in centuries to come, will be able to listen and understand that this extraordinary achievement was accomplished by “average men” like their fathers . . . Michael Kapp.

Side 1 – Prologue: The First message from man on the moon… The beginning of rocketry . . . Tsiolkovsky.

Side 2 – Prologue: World WAR II ends… US seizes remaining V-2’s and the German rocket team surrenders to the Americans.

Side 3 – Mercury: National Space and Aeronautics Administration is set up under the Eisenhower Administration.

Side 4 – Mercury: U.S. Space Probes… Russia photographs the moon with Lunik III… President Kennedy.

Side 5 – Mercury: Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 makes a successful flight and sinks.

Side 6 – Mercury: Slayton is grounded . . . Ranger 4 to the dark side of the Moon.

Side 7 – Gemini: Russia, three-man capsule . . . Vietnam war escalates . . . Russian spacewalk.

Side 8 – Gemini: Armstrong and Scott dock with an Agenda but tumble end over end and must make an emergency landing.

Side 9 – Apollo: Grissom, White and Chaffee die in a ground test for the first manned Apollo.

Side 10 – Apollo: Schirra, Eiselle and Cunningham… the first manned flight with a Saturn IB.

Side 11 – Apollo: McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart prepare first manned test in space for LM… In Earth orbit, perform crucial docking.

Side 12 – Apollo: At Cape Kennedy during the long countdown Liftoff for Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins . . . Trans-lunar injection . . . Separation of Columbia and Eagle.

** Audio notes

If your even mildly into electronic/dance music, you’ll know that these hallow vinyls have been heavily sampled through the years. For further reading on that check this excellent post created by Craig (lender of book) over at DJ History http://www.djhistory.com/forum/to-the-moon

Here’s a taster, Lemon Jelly ‘Space Walk’, this track samples Ed White’s spacewalk during the Gemini program. Made more poignant as he tragically died in the Apollo 1 fire.

Finally I’d just like to point out how uplifting writing and researching this article in particular has been, To The Moon radiates a real sense of wonder and I hope that’s reflected. NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs were truly awe inspiring, this post is dedicated to all those involved.

2010 Cassini Orbiter Gallery

Aug 20th, 2010 | Categories: Photography | Photomontage | Scientific

Cassini Saturn Photography

Cassini Saturn Photography

Cassini Saturn Photography

Cassini Saturn Photography

Cassini - Saturn Gallery

Spotted this breathtaking selection of abstract space photography earlier today and thought it’d make a good meander to the flow of the blog…

This post then is something of an expanded retweet which I first saw linked via We Are Build’s Twitter feed http://twitter.com/BuildsBlog. The full article comes via Wired Magazine and that’s where you can see a complete set of 12 images. Here’s my thoughts and notes on the selected imagery…

All 5 photographs have been taken this year by NASA’s enduring Cassini probe which started it’s long mission to Saturn and it’s many moons back in 1997. Cassini–Huygens was developed as a twin NASA/ESA venture, with NASA constructing the Orbiter and the Europeans building the Huygens Probe (lander) which touched down on the surface of Titan (Saturn’s largest moon) on January 14th, 2005 transmitting data (via Cassini) back to earth for 90 minutes. Whilst not without some glitches both probes have been a phenomenal success making many significant discoveries such as confirming the existence of liquid hydrocarbon lakes, cryovolcanoes and mysterious “spokes” in Saturn’s rings, plus with plans to potentially run Cassini through to 2017 there is of course scope for learning so much more…

Top Image: The Icy moon of Tethys in silent transit around the enourmous gas giant. Tethys is just one of sixty two discovered Moons in orbit of Saturn.

2nd Image: The moons of Rhea (large in frame) and Epimetheus, despite the deceiving appearance these moons are in fact 250,000 miles apart. Rhea with a diameter of of 946 miles is Saturn’s second largest moon whilst at just 70miles across Epimetheus ranks 16th largest.

3rd Image: The dark side of Saturn cast’s a long heavy shadow across it’s rings – stunning! – the aforementioned moon of Thetys can be seen top right whilst Enceladus spins away bottom right.

4th Image: Perpetual storms on Saturn can feature wind speeds in access of 1000 mph and can be interspersed with violent cracks of lighting, amazingly Cassini managed to capture this phenomenon on film, check it out. Though unimaginably fast Saturn’s wind speeds are in fact trumped by those of far flung Neptune which can clock over 1300mph!

Bottom: Dione (Saturns 15th largest moon) is dwarfed by the looming Titan. Titan appears yellow in colour and is the only moon known too have a dense atmosphere, consisting of 98.4% Nitrogen with Methane making up the remainder… possibly not a holiday spot then.

**

As I mentioned do check the full post at Wired for another 7 images, or indeed try the NASA source.

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