Reel-to-Reel is the sixth of seven technologies I’ve explored in Prior Art: analog media manipulation and vintage virtual reality.
“Software has eaten music production. It’s gotten much cheaper, more dematerialized, and extremely powerful. And it’s become sterile, automated, and over-produced. My work tries to make digital music seem analog, to blur the 1s and 0s with waves and voltages, noise and decay. When I see these Old School reel-to-reel tapes I hear the room noise hissing like electric snakes on a Summer lawn, the rich magnetic warmth of tape head transduction, and the slight aperiodic wobble of the motors resolutely unknowable in the face of unyielding digital perfection.”
Chris Arkenberg // @chris23 // harryselassie.bandcamp.com
Early audio used cylinders or disks to capture recording, until the middle of the 20th century when advances in tape recording provided a higher fidelity than ever before. Recordings were primarily made onto tape until the advent of digital recording. Tape recording allowed performers, who previously could only perform live, to record and edit their shows. It also enabled producers to create multi-track recordings where individual performers could record their parts and the producer could have greater control over how they combined into the final recording.
Recording studios used reel-to-reel tapes to capture individual performances and layer sounds. It also enabled editors to include sound effects like laugh tracks. In addition to the dedicated recording studios, radio stations would often have their own sound recording and mixing equipment as well. This was used for recording interviews and live performances at the station. It was also a way to create advertisements or underwriting spots that were pre-recorded and could be played between songs
Advances in tape technology were a closely-guarded secret during World War II. German engineers had accidentally discovered a much higher-fidelity form of recording than previously thought possible, and this was used to allow Hitler to broadcast supposedly “live” speeches from other cities. At the end of the war, U.S. Army Signal Corps member Jack Mullin came across two Magnetophon machines at a radio station in Frankfurt that he brought back home and reverse-engineered to develop the machines for commercial use.
One early adopter was Bing Crosby, who was a popular radio star who had grown weary of a live recording schedule. He saw the potential in pre-recording shows and promptly invested in the technology, becoming the first American performer to use it. Further development led to stereo and multitrack audio recorders. One of the first musicians to use those was Les Paul who also invented the electric guitar. These two inventions set the stage for the explosion of rock and roll music.
Editing a reel-to-reel recording is a manual process of cutting and combining tape. Some machines included tape splicers directly on them, but editing could also be done simply with a steady hand, a sharp blade, and tape.
The angle of the cut affects the nature of the transition. A “hard cut” is a strict transition from one tape to another where the tape is cut at a 90-degree angle. For a softer transition, editors use a “soft cut” of 45 degrees or a “super soft cut” of 30 degrees.
Zoëtropes are the third of seven technologies I’ve explored in Prior Art: analog media manipulation and vintage virtual reality.
“As a storytelling device first and foremost, I was always drawn to how animation can capture energy, possibility and emotion all at once…and in the most fantastical way. To paraphrase Steven Spielberg, ‘…with animation, fantasy is your friend’.”
Marcela Cordon // Instagram: @cordon3
Though progressions of drawings to indicate movement have been around for a millennium, the technologies to animate them developed rapidly in the late 19th century leading up to the advent of film. One of the first was the phenakistoscope (or stroboscope disc, or phantasmascope) in 1833. This arranged drawings radially on a disc, though its inventor Simon Stampfer imagined they could also be on a cylinder or loop of paper/canvas. Later inventions improved on this with similarly colorful names: the dædaleum, the zoëtrope, the praxinoscope, and the zoopraxiscope.
Zoëtropes have been built small enough to be held in one’s hand, and large enough to hold hundreds of people within them. Typically a zoëtrope can be viewed by multiple people at once since the slits surround all sides of the cylinder. More recently, artists have created 3D zoëtrope animations (using sculptures instead of drawings) and subway zoëtropes (using the motion of passing trains).
William Horner, inventor of the dædaleum, described his invention “as imitating the practice which the celebrated artist of antiquity [Dædalus] was fabled to have invented, of creating figures of men and animals endued with motion.” It’s unclear whether the name (which also translates as “cunning one”) or the content (one popular animation had a devil in it) led to its nickname: the “Wheel of the Devil”.
A Milton Bradley employee, William E. Lincoln, improved upon the invention by shifting the viewing slits up so that new strips of animations could be easily swapped out. In a savvy marketing turn, he also called his invention the “zoëtrope” which translates to “Wheel of Life” – a much more family-friendly name.
Before film could capture motion, no one could prove for certain how particular motions occurred. Eadweard Muybridge, a photographer, was commissioned in 1872 by Leland Stanford to photograph horses to help settle a $25,000 bet as to whether a racehorse’s hooves all leave the ground at once when running.
After years of technological and personal setbacks, Muybridge succeeded in rigging a series of specially-designed equipment with tripwires to rapidly capture a series of images documenting one full gallop. Two of those sixteen images definitively revealed that all four hooves were off the ground. Muybridge spent the rest of his life improving on this technique for creating motion studies.
A little creative reuse led to these spooky holiday decorations. Earlier this year, I bought a half-dozen frames that I intended to use for wall art. Often frames will come with both a wall hook and a fold-out arm so they can be used on the wall or standalone on a surface. These particular frames are mostly wire so the fold-out arm was plainly visible and looked wrong. I carefully wrenched them off of the back of the frames and the metal hinges holding them. I like to reuse materials whenever possible so I stared at these for a little while to figure out if I could do anything with them. I noticed the shape looked a bit like a stylized coffin, and they’re covered in black velvet. Perfect opportunity to try out velvet painting!
Since the coffin shape was a bit off-kilter, I thought the skeletons should be too. I decided they should all be striking poses a la Vogue. I used white acrylic paint on a very dry brush – any amount of water, including water leftover on a freshly-washed brush, kills the effect. To further spiff it up I added a sparkly silver border with washable Crayola sparkle glue. There was a small amount of black ribbon attached to the back (formerly to provide tension to the fold-up arm) that I folded back on itself and sewed into a small hanging loop. Styling!
This weekend I took the Bookbinding I intensive class at The Crucible in Oakland. This is right up my alley — I like working with paper and fabric, and I found that those skills carried over nicely.
We started with paper folding and learned about some subtle aspects of paper. Plain copy paper is surprisingly high quality for book purposes. It has notably different sides, too, and will accept folding better if you pick the right side: if you bend it lengthwise on each side, you can find one is slightly more accepting of the bend than the other. It’s called the “wet test” as I guess getting it wet can also reveal that too. Probably destroys your paper along the way though.
There’s a lot of cutting of paper and fabric, so an eye for measurement and mat cutting or other Xacto knife experience comes in handy. A little bit of needlework experience from cross-stitching, crochet, or knitting also helps for the bindings.
This was a fun way to use fabric and paper remnants. I’ve started a Creative Bookbinding board on Pinterest to gather neat applications of these, and I’m already planning a few more books to make.
In order, we made:
Super Bowl 50 is upon us in the Bay Area, and one of the teams is staying at a hotel just down the street from the Works/San José gallery. I created this piece for their upcoming show titled SUPER Hunger Anti-Valentine BOWL Games Part 50. The call for entries encouraged “commenting on sport and the season” so I took more of an editorial approach to this one.
I like to watch football with friends, especially when they’re involved in fantasy football due to the constant shifting of allegiances and opinions about particular games. While there’s plenty to criticize about the sport, the topic I kept coming back to is the recently updated bag regulations for NFL stadium events. It bothers me because it uses an inconsistently-applied logic about security, and in a spot of doublespeak, promotes its awkward guidelines as a “convenience”.
Public events typically have guidelines about what can and cannot be brought in from the outside. In 2013 the NFL released an updated set of guidelines about how items can be brought in. These guidelines are a puzzling mix of size, visibility, and brand restrictions. A bag must be transparent unless it’s as small as one’s hand…and a transparent bag cannot show any logo expect club and NFL official logos.
These restrictions limit bags only. They do not limit carrying items in jackets, cargo shorts, or other pockets. Most people do not wear pocket-laden clothing in daily wear, and the trend in women’s clothing is to have shallow pockets (2-3” deep) or no pockets at all. In practice, these guidelines primarily impact women (purses) and parents (diaper bags).
It’s disheartening that female fans are singled out to change their behavior and appearance for the sake of seeing a live football game. It is insulting to imply that this is safer or more convenient for anyone. The only convenience here is the convenient side effect of selling more NFL-approved merchandise.
Is your bag (or wallet? or phone?) smaller than your hand? If not, would be comfortable carrying your possessions in a clear plastic bag for everyone to see? Before attending a live football game you now should read up on how to stay safe on gameday given the new guidelines. Or these amusing ways to beat the bag ban. Funny how none of this is an issue for hockey, or soccer, or other organized sports.
The middle area shows the smaller-than-your-hand bag criteria in real size. There is a mirror inset here to reflect on how purses are a part of one’s identity. This size is far smaller than a standard purse – so to belong, you must conform to the right size.
The large dotted area is the 12″x12″ transparent bag maximum. Since anything you’ve got in there is free to be seen, I covered the area in eyes. There are 32 eyes, to be precise: a woman’s eye to represent each of the 32 NFL teams. They are (roughly) laid out in the cardinal directions to reflect the AFC/NFC team divisions, and each one reflects each team’s colors.
Purses are normal. These foolish guidelines treat them as uniquely threatening, and they reflect poorly on the NFL’s attitude towards its own fans.
Here’s the full set of vinyl toys & musician portraits I made for the Hues/Muse artist takeover at Chromatic Coffee last month. A few sold, so for the ones that didn’t I’m looking into either potential retail spots in SJ or online (possibly Etsy?) to hang a shingle & sell the rest. If you see any you’re interested in or if you’d like something in a similar style, let me know!
This year, instead of spending my creative energies on a holiday card (doh) I focused on creating a “thank you” gift for Make It Legit. What started out as a theme for my blog became my business name when I decided to strike out on my own this last year. Though there are many people to thank for their kinds words and support, there were a handful of people (okay, maybe two handfuls) that were pivotal in making this a success. These are the people who alerted me to opportunities, stood by me as references, and/or were my key client contacts that made it happen. I wanted to thank them properly at the end of the year.
This was one of those ideas that popped into my head nearly fully formed. I think it may have been my subconscious harking back to the first assignment I had at my first post-college job: creating stamp graphics to use to indicate spec states (draft, final, etc.). I tracked down that file so you can bear witness to the folly of those unnecessary drop shadows…I will only say in my defense that the team liked and used them, and they looked pretty reasonable at the time.
I wanted to make some kind of physical good that would be interesting-looking and potentially useful. An old style wood-handled rubber stamp fit the bill. I got these made at Simon’s Stamps where I also bought simple stamp pads. Gotta make ’em usable right out of the package! I hadn’t ever thought of a brand color for Make It Legit since my logo is black and white, so I picked the “Grasshopper” ink because it was a cheery shade of green. It’s natural, it’s positive, it’s “go”. Why not?
The card is designed in Illustrator, and after a few fruitless attempt to make my printer work with cardstock I took it down to Kinkos instead. I mostly eyeballed the size to leave a reasonable amount of room for the LEGIT stamp. The mat cutter makes clean lines very easy, and a bone folder gave it the proper folded-card edge. The actual stamping was more challenging than I expected to uniformly land ’em centered and at a reasonably jaunty angle.
Originally I was going to send these in bubble-wrap envelopes, but I wasn’t happy with the different ways I found to bundle the stamp, pad, and card. At one point I had cut cardboard squares and pseudo-shrinkwrapped them. I took a stamp and pad out for one last attempt to find the right-sized box. With the actual pieces in hand, I realized they’d fit perfectly in CD/DVD mailers. Plus: the way they fold means there’s a lid to open for a nice reveal of what’s inside. Double plus: by sheer coincidence, the cards I’d made fit perfectly in the opening to be seen first before discovering the rest of the contents.
It was pretty involved but well worth it. I’m grateful for the people that made this happen, and am happy to already have a few folks on my 2015 list!
**bonus: I got motivated enough to write up some career-ish thoughts about this project and the motivation behind it on LinkedIn. Go check it out!
I’ve been meaning to do something, anything, to my work laptop so I can distinguish it from others. Scott gave me this Skull Candy sticker a little while ago, and I decided to make the skull glow.
I made a few test runs of different faces with little scraps of a napkin, and ultimately decided to stick with the face as is.
After realizing it wouldn’t fully cover the Apple logo, I decided to turn the apple leaf and part of the top into bunny ears.