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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.
Harry Marks: This is just a straight piece of lettering. It's black lettering with a white outline. If you move the film of this lettering, that's all that's on the film. If you move the film slowly, and controlled, while the camera shutter is open, you build a streak. What you have to do is go back and do it again and go back and do it again. With the stepper motors that we finally introduced, it was very controlled and we were able to get a smooth streak.
One of the challenges I faced getting into television was that my discipline was to design a page or a piece and say move this, move that, that's good, different color. Got it. Like it. Well, you do that in television, you've got to get it on there and you've got to get it off there and replace it, and that's a whole new discipline, is how you do these things.
Working with Doug was fascinating, it was an honor, but he really wanted to be a director. When 'Silent Running' came along and he got the job to direct it, he just dumped everything, and it was like, what do we do now? Bob Abel bought all of Doug's equipment and Bob had the foresight and also the connections to get it computerized so it was repeatable. So I did all of my work with Bob, and it was all backlit film, no computers. But what did start to happen was we did a lot of backlit stuff. We did candy apple. We called it candy apple, because we were doing reflections and all kinds of effects that you could do by shining lights through backlit film. Then we had the light table on which the film was mounted. We had that on the stop motors that would move it in tiny, tiny increments, in sync with the camera that was coming down this bed, now driven by small motors, and we did a lot of work like that.
This was his title of the show, 'TOMA', that I wanted to do it like building up a city, and these were very early tests. But you can see here that there are banding lines here. What that means is that our calculations were off and we were actually double exposing every time we brought the camera back. It should have been totally smooth, like that, just whoosh! That's a perfect streak.
These were all done with dots. Same technique. You move the camera, but this time we were moving also the-- moving the light table that the dot fed-- the film of the dots were on and we're also moving the camera at it so we're getting compound moves now. It was exciting experimenting with these things. The o nly thing about film is that you've got to wait till tomorrow to see what you did yesterday.
We had a period of very beautiful, exotic, textured motion graphics that were extremely complex and extremely expensive. I think we've gone back in many ways to a very interesting textural thing. I mean, I think when Kyle Cooper did that title for 'Seven', that was almost like watching a Doug Trumbull. I was like, oh my God, look at this.
There was the Saul Bass era. He had such a distinctive style that you knew instantly who did it. What we've been seeing lately, I am just thrilled with some of the things. I am also appalled at some of the things that the machines, the push button machines, have brought us because I remember going into a session once at ABC, and one of the engineers was sitting there, and he had one of my logos up, and he was pushing buttons, and it was flipping and flying and doing this and that.
He said, so, what do think of that? I said, I think it makes no sense at all. There is no path. There is no story. It's clever, it's wonderful, but it's got to do that for a reason and what you're not understanding is a path and the path can be very complex and you're not understanding the scale. The scale puts things into a whole different venue.
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