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Society Leader (lightpainting and 3D)

My residency at the Banff Centre in October 2014 gave me an invaluable opportunity to start working with the materials I’d accessed in the nitrate film vaults at the Library of Congress in Culpeper VA, and during a day-long visit to Library and Archives Canada in Gatineau QC.

One of the most captivating discoveries I made was a lovely example of the Society Leader (aka All-Purpose Leader), easily identifiable by its countdown, featuring concentric circles with four arrows pointing to the tops and sides of the frame. (The numbers SIX and NINE are also spelled out in text only.) Originally proposed by C. L. Townsend in the May 1951 issue of the Journal of the SMPTE, the Society Leader, like the Universal Leader that followed it some fifteen years later, was intended to address the specific needs of the emerging television broadcast industry. (Appropriately, the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, founded in 1916, officially changed its name to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in January 1950. This important industry organization is known colloquially as ‘SIMPTEE’.)

The particular 35mm example I found in Gatineau had a distinct colour caste, rendering the various elements in rich hues of yellow, orange and red. It was this instance I decided to work with, using photos taken on site, 3D modeling software (SketchUp), and my newly acquired Pixelstick.

Lightwriting 1

Lightwriting 2

The geometric character of the Society Leader was also suggestive to me of a three-dimensional profile akin to a highrise cityscape. This led me to create a digitized version in SketchUp that I could manipulate at will. The extruded elements, below, show one such experiment.

Society 3D

Note that all of these images are interpretations of the Society Leader (1951), and shouldn’t be used for archival reference.