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Shed Talks Series. One-hour talk followed by Q&A. Bar. Doors open 7pm.

How a WWII surplus computer in a Los Angeles garage sparked off today’s electronic effects industry

Although a commercial flop on its theatrical release, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is now venerated as a classic of Hollywood cinema. This film about romantic obsession has in turn generated obsessive affection amongst subsequent generations of filmmakers and writers; a passion that culminated in 2012 when it was voted to the top spot in Sight & Sound magazine’s once-a-decade poll of the greatest films ever made.

This talk will explore a less-well known aspect of Vertigo’s importance in film history – its title sequence. The innovative opening credits for Hitchcock’s 1958 film features the first use of computer animation in a motion picture, made in a Los Angeles garage by the experimental filmmaker and computer graphics pioneer, John Whitney Sr, under the art direction of the famous designer, Saul Bass.

By telling the story of how Whitney adapted discarded WWII military computers to assemble an animation machine to make Bass’s images come to life Richard Stamp will trace Whitney’s influence on a now-global special effects industry that has spawned some of the most spectacular images of modern cinema – from the psychedelic colours of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to the impossible realities of the latest Marvel Studios film.

Richard Stamp PhD is Subject Leader in English Literature at Bath Spa University, where he teaches classes on C19-20th European literature; by night researching the history of early computer motion graphics and abstract audio-visual animation.

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