Motion Control and Other Adventures; copyright by Roger Holden

Greetings from Lawrence, Kansas, in the "Land of Oz." Lawrence is home to Mad Magazine artist Paul Coker, who created the characters for the classic Rankin-Bass production, "Frosty the Snowman." Lawrence is also home to world famous author, William S. Burroughs. The "Reading Rainbow" feature books are filmed here. Lawrence is host to a tremendous music scene. Lawrence is only 20 miles away from the central headquarters of NewTek, the Video Toaster people. They reside in Topeka, Kansas. I am Roger Holden, and I operate an animation and audiovisual research facility called 21st Century Sound & Vision.

I attended this year's retreat at Starved Rock, and let me tell you that this was a special excursion not to be missed. I hope that all of you seriously consider attending next year's retreat. Networking was awesome, animated presentations were stunning, and the beautiful scenic surroundings were inspirational. I took some 3-D lenticular pictures of the scenery. I will make reprints available at cost to ASIFA Central members.

At the retreat, I presented a synopsis of my past and present work. In 1981, I designed a motion control system that allowed dozens of feature "Reading Rainbow" books to be filmed in Lawrence. My system was used up to and through the 1987 season. Currently, the "Reading Rainbow" books are still being filmed in Lawrence by animators Oscar and Janet Rojas at the Dolezal Animation Studio. "Reading Rainbow" won the 1993 Emmy for Best Children's Series.

The 1981 system previously mentioned was designed around an Atari 800 computer and 4 Superior Electric stepping motors. Communication from the computer to the motors occurred through a printer port with parallel output. I wrote the software in assembly language and Basic. The system achieved super smooth pans, zooms, or combinations to an accuracy of 1/2000 th of an inch. For "Reading Rainbow" artists would cut out pictures from children's books or use the original artwork. They would then prepare those pictures for the camera by painting over printed words and by hiding book seams. Occasionally, cels were created to produce animated effects such as a lightning bolt, eye blink or volcanic fire. Camera moves were designed by drawing them on translucent tissue paper overlapping the artwork. These tissue drawings were used as guides for finding the starting and ending positions for the animation computer. The motion control system was then programmed to execute the shot with a variety of accelerate and decelerate options for each of the 4 axes of motion. This allowed for smooth curved pan effects. This technique was beautifully effective on Paul Goble's book, The Gift of the Sacred Dog. This book told the traditional Native American story of the gift from the Great Spirit of the horse to the people. The colorful artwork of the book is brought to life through smooth camera moves, curved pans, music, and narration by Michael Ansara. Keep an eye out for this "Reading Rainbow" episode which shown repeatedly.

In 1984-5 I designed my next motion control system for Tec Films, Dallas' oldest surviving film studio. In 1987 I opened Magic Visions studio in Lawrence and designed a third motion control Oxberry animation camera system. Over the last 7 years we have produced a music video tribute to William S. Burroughs (which aired in Canada and, in part, on MTV's 1990 "Buzz" series), won international awards for an illustrated music video tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and won the Film Advisory Board's Award of Excellence for our picture animated story which presents issues of fair housing to children in a manner that they can comprehend. We have also received a grant to develop and explore innovative uses of tactile sensations and sound to communicate imagery to visually impaired or blind people.

In 1994, we incorporated 21st Century Sound & Vision. We have exclusive rights to a no glasses 3-D film and video process developed at the University of South Carolina. This technique can be seen on ordinary TVs and videotapes without the use of special screens or glasses.