Month: March 2014

Invention of stereo sound: Alan Blumlein

From Abbey Road Studios.

Alan Blumlein – the man who invented stereo

Alan Blumlein is a true lost genius, an EMI engineer, who during his brief life propelled Britain to the vanguard of the modern electronics world. Celebrations of some of Blumlein’s outstanding achievements in audio, television and radar were highlighted in the BBC Radio 4 programme, “The Man Who Invented Stereo.”

Blumlein invented stereo sound and the modern TV system while working for EMI during the 1930s.  He lodged the patent for “binaural “sound, in 1931, in a paper which patented stereo records, stereo films and also surround sound. He and his colleagues then made a series of experimental recordings and films to demonstrate the technology, and see if there was any commercial interest from the fledgling film and audio industry.
The tests included him walking and talking in one of the Abbey Road studios to show how sound could move and recordings of multiple overlapping conversations to demonstrate how his techniques could “open up” the sound being recorded.  Please use this link to hear some of the experimental stereo recordings made at Abbey Road. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7538101.stm

In January 1934, Blumlein used his stereo-cutting equipment at Abbey Road to record Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as it rehearsed Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony.

In his short life, Blumlein devised over 120 patents and is considered as one of the most significant engineers of his time.

His career was tragically cut short due to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1942. There is much secrecy surrounding the crash as Blumlein and his colleagues were working on a top-secret government project at the time, developing radar. When he died Alan Blumlein was 38. He received no obituary and still does not appear in Who’s Who.

Here is a very good book about his life and inventions.

 

And a video from the Audio Engineering Society.

Video Assist, Jerry Lewis 1966 behind the scenes featurette “Man in Motion”

A very good video about "Jerry's Noisy Toy." Here is a more advanced version seen in the behind the scenes film "Man in Motion"

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Ed Catmull’s new book Creativity, Inc about Pixar

I have pre-ordered it! Cartoon Brew has a review.

Ed Catmull, Pixar

As a young man, Catmull had a dream: to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream first as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged an early partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later and against all odds, Toy Storywas released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed, all of which debuted at #1 at the box office—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and ideas that defy convention, such as:

 

• Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.

 

• If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

 

• It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.

 

• The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.

 

• A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.

 

• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.

 

Here is an excerpt from Fast Company,

A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Our decision making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group. Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments. So how can a manager ensure that his or her working group, department, or company embraces candor? By putting mechanisms in place that explicitly say it is valuable. One of Pixar’s key mechanisms is the Braintrust, which we rely on to push us toward excellence and to root out mediocrity. It is our primary delivery system for straight talk. The Braintrust meets every few months or so to assess each movie we’re making. Its premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid. The Braintrust is not foolproof, but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal.

 

While I attend and participate in almost all Braintrust meetings, I see my primary role as making sure that the compact upon which the meetings are based is protected and upheld. This part of our job is never done because you can’t totally eliminate the blocks to candor. The fear of saying something stupid and looking bad, of offending someone or being intimidated, of retaliating or being retaliated against—they all have a way of reasserting themselves. And when they do, you must address them squarely.

 

The Braintrust developed organically out of the rare working relationship among the five men who led and edited the production of Toy Story—John Lasseter,Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, and Joe Ranft. From Pixar’s earliest days, this quintet gave us a solid model of a highly functional working group. They were funny, focused, smart, and relentlessly candid when arguing with each other. Most crucially, they never allowed themselves to be thwarted by the kinds of structural or personal issues that can render meaningful communication in a group impossible. After the release ofToy Story 2 [when the Braintrust helped turn around a film in danger of foundering], the Braintrust evolved from a tight, well-defined group working on a single film into a larger, more fluid group. Over the years, its ranks have grown to include a variety of people—directors, writers, and heads of story—whose only requirement is that they display a knack for storytelling. The one thing that has never changed is the demand for candor.

Update: from the TAG blog, “Not quite the kindly and avuncular studio head depicted in all those sunny books about the animation business.”

Infinite Escher

Infinite Escher integrates 3-D computer animation with High Definition video to tell the story of a boy who moves between reality and a fantasy world, where computer graphic replicas of the works of the Dutch artist M.C. Escher come to life.

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Leslie Iwerks Creating Documentary About Walt Disney Imagineering

Disney plans to pull back the curtain on its Imagineers with a feature-length documentary that explores the history of the division behind the designs of its theme park rides and other attractions.

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PARTICLE FEVER documentary about the Higgs boson, edited by Walter Murch.

Particle Fever follows six brilliant scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, marking the start-up of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet, pushing the edge of human innovation.

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Dolby Presents: Silent, a Short Film

"Silent" is an animated short film created by Academy Award® winning Moonbot Studios. It celebrates how storytellers, inventors, and technology work together to create cinema magic.
The story follows two street performers who dream of bringing their "Picture and Sound Show" to life.

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SOC 2014 – The Motion Picture Camera: Past, Present and Future

History of The Motion Picture Camera.

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Congratulations to Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki.

Great minds think alike. Facing the Void. From American Cinematographer.

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