The 8 Scanimate systems were used to produce much of the video-based animation seen on television between most of the 1970s and early 1980s in commercials, promotions, and show openings. One of the major advantages the Scanimate system had over film-based animation and computer animation was the ability to create animations in real time. The speed with which animation could be produced on the system because of this, as well as its range of possible effects, helped it to supersede film-based animation techniques for television graphics. By the mid-1980s, it was superseded by digital computer animation, which produced sharper images and more sophisticated 3D imagery.
Animations created on Scanimate and similar analog computer animation systems have a number of characteristic features that distinguish them from film-based animation: The motion is extremely fluid, using all 60 fields per second (in NTSC format video) or 50 fields (in PAL format video) rather than the 24 frames per second that film uses; the colors are much brighter and more saturated; and the images have a very "electronic" look that results from the direct manipulation of video signals through which the Scanimate produces the images.
How it works
A special high-resolution (around 800 lines) monochrome camera records high-contrast artwork. The image is then displayed on a high-resolution screen. Unlike a normal monitor, its deflection signals are passed through a special analog computer that enables the operator to bend the image in a variety of ways. The image is then shot from the screen by either a film camera or a video camera. In the case of a video camera this signal is then fed into a colorizer, a device that takes certain shades of grey and turns it into color as well as transparency. The idea behind this is that the output of the Scanimate itself is always monochrome. Another advantage of the colorizer is that it gives the operator the ability to continuously add layers of graphics. This makes possible the creation of very complex graphics. This is done by using two video recorders. The background is played by one recorder and then recorded by another one. This process is repeated for every layer. This requires very high-quality video recorders (such as both the Ampex VR-2000 or IVC's IVC-9000 of Scanimate's era, the IVC-9000 being used quite frequently for Scanimate composition due to its very high generational quality between re-recordings).
Two of the Scanimates are still in use at ZFx studios in Asheville, NC. The original "Black Swan" R&D machine has been updated with more modern power supplies and can produce material in standard or 1080P high definition video. The "white Pearl" machine is the last one produced and is being kept in its original configuration for historical purposes by David Sieg at ZFx inc. The machines are installed in a working production environment with Grass Valley switchers, Kaleidascope effects systems and Accom digital disk recorders for layering.
Use in TV and films
- Community season 5, episode 11, "G.I. Jeff"
- Earth, Wind & Fire's "Let's Groove" music video
- NBC Sports
- Monday Night Baseball
- ABS-CBN bumpers 1986-2005
- Battle of the Network Stars
- Monday Night Football (1970's intro)
- The Electric Company
- CBC (1975-1985, Exploding Pizza ID)
- South Carolina ETV identification
- New York State Education Department TV production identification
- Logan's Run (Carousel sequence)
- Star Wars (tactical display in Death Star war room)
- Demon Seed
- Sesame Street
- Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp
- Be Forever Yamato and Final Yamato
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Oompa Loompa musical number)
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
- The Letter People
- Zoom (Season 4, 1975)
- Square One Television
- Krofft Supershow
- The Next Step Beyond
- Villa Alegre
- Post-Newsweek Stations (ID's, 1974)
- Legends of the Superheroes
- Read All About It!
- Powerful Scratches
- Walt Disney Home Video (Neon Mickey ID)
- The Disney Channel (During the network launch)
- WGN-TV (Opening for The WGN 8:00 Movie)
- You and Me Kid (show's opening sequence)
- Beat the Clock (1979 opening sequence)
- Carlson, Wayne (2003). Section 12: Analog approaches, non-linear editing, and compositing (from A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation). Retrieved March 13, 2004 from http://accad.osu.edu/~waynec/history/lesson12.html
- Sieg, David W. (2003). Scanimation in the Analog Days by David Sieg Retrieved June 23, 2017 from http://scanimate.com/article.html
- Sieg, David W. (2017). The Scanimate Site Everything Scanimate Retrieved June 23, 2017 fom http://scanimate.com
- The Scanimate Site
- Scanimation in the Analog Days (An explanation of the Scanimate system)
- Meet the Engineer Preserving The Last Analog Motion Graphics Machine, Viceland