Digital tech is fantastic — but I’m equally inspired by the real-for-real attitude that extended into the early digital age. Now that the French duo Justice have done a send up of a ridiculous number of early “motion graphics” (well, before they were really called that), I think there’s plenty of opportunity to get ideas for our digital world. Motioners, I have a challenge — well, two challenges, in fact:
1. How many retro animation spot references can you spot in this video? (The flying HBO logo being a personal favorite of mine — ah, that day when we first discovered premium cable. It was like entering the future. And you could tape stuff, too, like Fraggle Rock or whatever.)
2. Got any insight into how some of these original videos were produced? Computer graphics found their way into ad spots as early as the 1970s, even via the gang who would go on to found Pixar. But, of course, many productions continued to use traditional animation techniques well into the 1980s — heck, even Tron did a lot of optical work and even cel animation.
The inimitable Joel Johnson at Boing Boing Gadgets points to this video, and reader Reed Savory points out that the HBO logo was all models and traditional animation:
Here’s how they created “HBO Starship”, ca. 1983:
They don’t talk a whole lot about the actual letters, but you have to give HBO credit for making what has to be the most ridiculous — and strangely compelling — station ident ever. For me, the movies were always kind of a let-down after that — perhaps an early childhood sign that I’d get bitten by the visualist bug.
  • Man, that's an awesome video. I would agree that oftentimes, the movies did not fulfill the promise of the intro sequence.

    One happily notable exception: Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind.

  • The videos really look produced with the scanimate!

  • Thanks for sharing this – VERY COOL! I love how a lot of the effects (like the star burst) were created using "real" materials! That is inspiring in it's own right.

    Check out the Scanimate <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( for some early computer motion graphics (DVDs available too!)

  • John Sweet

    The best part was the A-Team style ending with the Stephen J Cannell paper toss.

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  • oscar

    That was a thing of beauty. And I agree – the Stephen J Cannel ending was icing on the cake.

    Youtube is also a treasure trove of old studio/TV idents and promos.

  • BirdFLU

    That HBO bumper video was interesting. Remember from the same era that HBO would show weird videos to fill time? Strange little 10-20 minute art films almost all of which were financed by the Film Board of Canada. There was also the weird alien cartoon video set to a 10 minute version of Kraftwerk's Autobahn.

  • bohus

    Also every April Fool's day, HBO would do some bufoonery with their logo. Once I remember them reproducing the elaborate sequence detailed in this "making of" video, but doing it very cheaply. At the end, the chrome HBO was hanging on a string in the air. I miss that kind of fun…