May 19, 2014

Orphans Film Symposium trailer

When Dan offered the opportunity to our Curating class to make a trailer for the Orphans 9 film symposium, I jumped at it. Making a trailer for a film festival about orphan works whose theme this year was obsolescence felt like an interesting way to approach some of the ideas we were discussing in class. Plus, I knew the venue for this year’s Orphans, the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam, would be passing on some material to work with, which sounded intriguing.

My first stab at a trailer was working with early 1900’s film footage of Dutch girls smiling at the camera that had been preserved, digitized and provided by EYE. The trailer wasn't what we were looking for and ended up on the cutting room floor. (I later would go back to these girls and create a trailer with a much different feeling that would screen at Orphans.) After swinging and missing on the first try, I went back to the drawing board for an entirely different approach. Deciding to focus more on the video and digital aspects of obsolescence rather than the film qua film ones, I started a search at the ever-useful Internet Archive for the term ‘obsolescence.’ There were not a great number of results but enough to spend some time digging through and, ultimately, plenty for making a short trailer. The entire trailer, except for two clips, is comprised of audio and video material gathered from the Internet.

The trailer was edited on Final Cut Pro in a 1080p HD sequence with a 16:9 aspect ratio at 24 fps. Most of the source material was in standard definition video with a 4:3 aspect ratio at NTSC standard frame rate. To edit the source material into my FCP sequence required me to use software to convert the frame rate to 24 fps and up-res the video to a 1080 pixel width. But, in order to keep from distorting the source material’s 4:3 aspect ratio I had to up-res to a non-standard 1440 pixel width and leave black bars along side the image, or pillarbox it.  

I will now go through the trailer shot-by-shot and discuss the source material for both the video and audio clips.

Opening shot:

This clip comes from the show Computer Chronicles. This 30min show ran on PBS from 1983-2002 and covered various aspects of the personal computer industry, focusing on the most recent technological advances. Almost all of the episodes of Computer Chronicles have been made available on the Internet Archive, which is where I found this episode. It is licensed under Creative Commons License 2.0.

According to the Internet Archive this episode is titled “Optical Storage”. Since all of the episodes are hosted on the Internet Archive, it seems to have become the de facto authority on this show. There is little other information about it readily available and WorldCat search leads me to believe little to nothing has been written about the show. Another website,, claims to have “a document detailing every episode of the Computer Chronicles including season and broadcast information” complied by series creator Stuart Cheifet. Indeed, in this document there is a listing for episode number 715 from the seventh season (1989/1990) titled Optical Storage. This date corroborates the episode description on the Internet Archive:

As we entered the 1990's, the big technology news was the move from magnetic storage to optical storage. It was the year of multimedia and the CD-ROM. This program looks at several applications including Grolier Encyclopedia, PC Globe, Headstart III, PC Splash, The Listening Booth, USA Travel, PLV, the NEC Portable CD-ROM CDR-35, the Sony rewritable optical disc Drive SMO-S501, and the video laser disc application "Advanced Combat Trauma Life Support". Also a look at the CD Interactive (CDI) and Digital Video Interactive (DVI) platforms. Originally broadcast in 1990.

I used eight seconds from this episode for the first shot in the trailer. The first four seconds have the original, synced audio. The audio for the following four seconds, inserted when the guest Richard Enriquez starts talking about CD-ROM, is the sound of a record needle being placed on a record album, followed by static. The audio file was downloaded here, and is licensed under Creative Commons License 0.

The second shot in the trailer uses a clip provided by EYE:

This clip is the trailer that EYE, back when it was known simply as the Netherlands Film Museum, would run at the beginning of their screenings. My understanding is that it would also be placed before any film works that they had helped preserve. The clip appears to be originally from a 16mm film, but is has obviously been transferred to video (likely U-Matic or VHS) before being digitized. This can be known because of the head switching noise seen at the bottom of the picture. What is often considered a technical transfer mistake and an aesthetically displeasing artifact is in this case a wonderful example of different obsolete formats poking through our slick digital image. This 15-second clip came to me silent. The audio that goes with it in the trailer is the sound of a rotary dial phone being dialed, starting with 1 and going to 9. The audio file was downloaded here and is licensed under Creative Commons License 0.

The third shot in the trailer:

This shot is the title card from a short piece I found on the Internet Archive titled, appropriately, Obsolete Technologies. It is described as “short video about early motion picture technologies” and contains original footage of various motion picture technologies as well as a soundtrack playing from a functioning phonograph cylinder player, which we also see footage of. The production credits list “planet E productions, inc./dir. M. Ersoz.” There is no license associated with it and I downloaded here. I used 4 seconds of this clip for the trailer and removed the original audio. I replaced it with the sound of a “computer connecting to the Internet with AOL using a dial-up modem.” This audio file was downloaded here and is licensed under Creative Commons License Attribution 3.0.

The fourth shot:

The next shot in the film also come from Computer Chronicles. It is the opening of episode 113 “Storage Devices” from May 7, 1984, sped up to 466%. As is noticeable from this still, the clip has a serious tracking issue and something other technical problem causing the video to jump. This is how it came when I downloaded it from the Internet Archive. Similar to the head switching noise in the old Netherlands Film Museum trailer, what would normally be the mistake of a bad transfer is a welcome artifact in this trailer. The clips runs for a little fewer than four seconds and the audio is a continuation of the dial-up modem sound from the previous shot. The official title on the Internet Archive is “Storage Devices (5/7/1984)” and the episode description is:

Floppy drives, hard drives, and bubble memory. Guests: Al Shugart, Seagate; Frank Sordello, Memorex; Gary Kildall, DRI. Products/Demos: 5 ¼ inch floppy drive, 3 ½ inch floppy drive, RCA CED videodisk, 3680 1.2 GB spindle disk.

There is no licensing associated with the clip.

The fifth shot in the trailer:

I downloaded this clip from the Internet Archive but I can’t find it again! I tried all my keyword searches again but simply cannot find this clip. This makes a good example for why it is just as important to archive metadata along with actual data. (UPDATE: The clip has been found. Actually, Dan Streible found it by searching for the terms “living forever”. I had searched “obsolescence”, “obsolete death”, even “extropianism”, all to no avail.) This clip is from G4TV and has no metadata to go with it, not even a publication/broadcast date. This is really illustrating some of the weak points of the Internet Archive! It can be viewed and downloaded here.  Anyway, I used the original synced audio, which runs for about six seconds. The first three seconds are the original video. The following three seconds, and the sixth shot, is a creepy looking Dutch guy smoking a pipe that was part of the original Dutch Girls footage provided by EYE, slowed down to 22%:

The seventh shot in the trailer is another opening from Computer Chronicles. This time it is from the same episode as the opening clip of the trailer, episode 715 from 1990. The clip runs about eight seconds and it at its original speed:

The audio under this clip is a continuation of the dial-up modem sound from the third shot in the trailer.

The following shot is a 12 second long montage of the shiny, iridescent sides of CD-ROM and laser disc. It is comprised of 15 different clips that I edited together and sped up to 630%. The clips all come from three Computer Chronicles episodes that I found on the Internet Archive. One of the 15 clips comes from episode 113 whose opening was used in the fourth shot of the trailer. 10 of the clips come from episode 312 “Optical Storage Devices” which aired on November 19, 1985. I downloaded it here. The episode description:

A look at the newest mass storage devices including the compact disc ROM. Guests: Tim Oren, Activenture; Fred Lloyd, Information Storage; Bob Kalthoff, Access; Ed Schmid, DEC; Dave Davies, 3MGary Kildall, Digital Research; George Morrow, Morrow Computing. Products/Demos: Activenture Knowledge Retrieval System, Information Storage WO Drive, Encyclopedia on a Disk, ISI Worm Disk, Digital Equipment CD-ROM Drive.

The four remaining clips in the montage come from an episode titled “Lasers and Computers (1/14/1985)” on the Internet Archive. I cannot find this episode in the episode list I have been using for episode numbers. This goes to show the poor state of the cataloging of the Computer Chronicles series. I am inclined to think the date on Internet Archive is correct since it is so specific, but there is no way for me to confirm that at the moment. Also, the Internet Archive, as I mentioned earlier, seems to function as the de facto (though incomplete) archive of the Computer Chronicles series. (Though, is there such thing as a ‘complete’ archive?) Anyway, I downloaded it here. The episode description:

Laser disks and optical storage devices are changing the way we can use computers. Guests: Jeff Tully, Pioneer Video; Vladimir Langer, Sony; Rick Dyer, RDI Video Systems; Jay Eagle, Proton Corp.; Gary Kildall, DRI. Products/Demos: Pioneer Laser Disc Player, Astron Belt, Halcyon Home Entertainment Sys, Vidlink.

The audio under the montage is a continuation of the dial-up modem sound from the third shot in the trailer. A shot from the montage:

The final two clips in the trailer also come from Computer Chronicles. Both come from episode 715 “Optical Storage”, also used in the opening of the trailer. Both clips have their original synced audio.

Shot 9:

Shot 10:

The Ophans 9 logo in the credits was created by NYU Tisch School of the Arts faculty David Bagnall:

David also created a great Orphans trailer that can be viewed/downloaded here.

The EYE logo/trailer was created and provided by EYE:

The audio the runs under these clips and the rest of the credits is an:

Error Dial Answering Machine Telephone Line External Recording "We're sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and dial again" German, French, Italian and English language.

It was downloaded here and is licensed under Creative Commons License Attribution 3.0.

The entire trailer can be viewed and downloaded here.

The other Orphans trailer using the Dutch Girls footage can be viewed and downloaded here.

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