Sketches on the Origin of Multimedia and Computer Animation

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Szkice do genezy multimediów i animacji komputerowej

Sketches on the Origin of Multimedia and Computer Animation

The multimedia and computer animation are interrelated disciplines. Their common denominator is the computer, which make sit possible to combine different media, thereby integrating many previously separate forms and strategies of communication. Reduced to a binary code, they fuse into a plexus of sensations that stimulate many sensual, cognitive and affective paths of perception, which have an effect on the brain's modalities at the same time. This is a mode of perception close not only to our everyday feeling of the world but also corresponding to the dynamics of our lively imagination.

Just as in popular human perception, a significant role is also played in the multimedia by the image, yet it is received not as a static one but as an incessant flow of the stream of changing visual impulses, which makes kinesis and animation important elements of the multimedia. However, because digital animation has at its disposal a broad range of techniques of controlling real mechanical movement or generating motion-illusion pictures, the origin of the multimedia also appears to be thus complex and multidirectional.

The directions that usually suggest themselves are performances of the neo-avantgarde of the 1960s, and film, especially film animation, popularly often identified with the term 'animation'. While agreeing with the fact that these relationships occur in many multimedia areas, the author points at the same time to other directions of the origin of the multimedia, including the importance of the early visual mechanical media and the performative character of their spectacles.

In this context, a significant point of reference is the rich history of mechanical simulations of forms of life. Automatons with human and animal shapes, whole mechanical theaters driven by a hidden mechanism, whose working can be described with a mathematical algorithm, have absorbed the imagination of the most eminent designers since the ancient times. Another important reference perspective is magic lantern performances. The career of that lantern started in Europe from the 17th century. The interest in it was accompanied by many inventions which contributed to the multi-theme history of that medium, whose height of popularity lasted from the close of the 18th century to the next one. One more interesting theme concerning the origin of the multimedia is the history of a discipline, which is called visual music, and the related ideas of music of colors and instruments of colors, which mechanically modulate hues according to the musical notation.

These several themes pertaining to the early visual media point to the often underrated context of multimedia origin. In the royal courts, at fairs and in theaters variétés there were held spectacles arousing general interest, which used media devices. From the point of view of the so-called cultured man these were merely shows of trivial curiosities and contemptible entertainment. However, it was they that opened the visual media to new possibilities. In the ludic form they promoted the inventions of human genius that aimed at the illusion, simulation or representation of the world in as complete manifestations of it as possible. These "frivolous" toys seem too be crucial from the perspective of the origin of a new paradigm of multimedia culture being formed in front of our eyes. The media drawing on that earlier tradition became a vehicle for transforming consciousness, broadening memory, enlarging the knowledge to strengthen the mind and creativity. They simultaneously appeal to all the senses, imitate and enhance the creative abilities of the human mind, at the same time emphasizing the possibility of individual choices, freedom of speech and association, and personal self-expression.

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Annales UMCS, Artes

The Journal of Maria Curie-Sklodowska University

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