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Creative Inspirations: Harry Marks, Broadcast Designer
Illustration by John Hersey

Looking beyond the edge


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Creative Inspirations: Harry Marks, Broadcast Designer

with Harry Marks

Video: Looking beyond the edge

Harry Marks: I remember the first thing that kind of caused a stir was a spot from Mod Squad, because in that idea of we don't have to tell the whole story. We want them to see the show; we don't want to present the show. We just had one line. It was 'Three cops: one black, one white, one blond' and that was it. People were saying, what? That's it. It became a very popular spot and it became a style for us.

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Creative Inspirations: Harry Marks, Broadcast Designer
1h 9m Appropriate for all May 20, 2009

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Harry Marks is considered by many to be the godfather of broadcast design. More than any other individual, he changed television by doing things with graphics that had never been attempted before. Not only did he pioneer the use of emerging imaging technologies, but he did so with style and reason. His pioneering work in the field of CGI brought him into collaboration with many other industry pioneers, including Douglas Trumbull, Robert Abel, Carl Rosendahl (whose company evolved into DreamWorks Animation), and Dale Herigstad. In the early '80s, Harry had the idea of bringing together people who work in the disparate fields of technology, entertainment, and design, so he partnered with Richard Saul Wurman and the TED Conference was born. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers on a historic journey through the extraordinary career of Harry Marks.

Subjects:
Video Motion Graphics Creative Inspirations Documentaries
Author:
Harry Marks

Looking beyond the edge

Harry Marks: I remember the first thing that kind of caused a stir was a spot from Mod Squad, because in that idea of we don't have to tell the whole story. We want them to see the show; we don't want to present the show. We just had one line. It was 'Three cops: one black, one white, one blond' and that was it. People were saying, what? That's it. It became a very popular spot and it became a style for us.

I look at it now, I see how crude it is. But it still broke through. I mean, it's like breaking through the fourth wall in theater. I mean we went outside the box. I think that's what made all the difference, of people being totally drawn into this tunnel. When Movie of the Week came out, it was perfect. I think it was certainly for me it was a turning point, because it started to be seen outside of, if this was the screen, to see outside of the box, that there is a bigger world out here.

I just had a different viewpoint about what I wanted to do. One of the things that was changing the way I saw things was this young man came into my office one day, as a lot of people did. "Would you like to look at my 8 mm reel,' 'or my 16 mm reel, or my drawings, or whatever." He, this guy came in and he had mud on his boots and he had a Pendleton jacket, he was big guy. He had two big 35 mm film cans.

I'm like this is different, this is not the 8 mm thing. He said, I just got back from England. I've been working with Stanley Kubrick for seven years on this film called '2001', and I have some of the outtakes here, and I thought you might like to see them. We set it up. We had a 35 mm screening room, we set it up, and I think I was on the floor. I had never seen anything like this in my life. That last sequence of the Stargate, it's called the Stargate Sequence, where you've got Keir Dullea's face and the helmet and all of these reflections coming off the helmet and this journey... I mean, a trip that was really visceral.

You know I felt really pulled into it. I said to Doug, how did you do that? He just told me, he said, we just scribbled on the film and pushed the camera down a 40-foot bed, with the lens open. Then we pulled it back and we put up another piece of film and we did it again. My thought was if there was any way to translate this graphic madness that he'd created into something that was legible, we would have something totally unique.

It was not repeatable. You couldn't say could you do this a little different, because it was all hand done, hand pushed. It was quite remarkable. I mean, when we looked at dailies, we were both astounded that we could read Movie of the Week, we could read the ABC logo, and we had something. It answered a question, I think, that had always been in my head because televisions were small then. 13 inch was pretty normal. But I always felt that I could feel that there was a much bigger world outside there, that this 13 inch was a window, porthole, and you could look around here and maybe you could see something else.

I think that's what Doug's work brought to us. We had a porthole and there was a huge world out there and we were going to travel through it. I think that became kind of my mantra for the rest of my working time, was flying and going through things and scale, things that were much bigger than you had thought before.

I think the idea of making things huge in the person's eye, even thought it's not, can be very spectacular. (Music playing.) (Male Speaker: The Movie of the Week.)

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