I grew up in the country just outside Walwa, a small town on the Murray, an hour or so upriver from Albury. My dad was an electrical engineer working at the local butter factory and on Saturday nights, he was the projectionist at the local picture show. Mum sold tickets, and as long as the movie was considered suitable, my younger brother, sister and I, got to see the standard serial, cartoon and double feature every Saturday night for about 15 years. Otherwise we slept in the car.
As soon as I was old enough to see out the projection booth, I would help re-winding reels, threading the projectors, and changing the arc rods. The task I had most often though, was to change the advertising slides at interval. Synchronising to a soundtrack that came on an acetate 12 in disk, I would insert the slides from a stack and change them in time to the recorded voice. Sometimes I would get to add the company name, or a date in indian ink on the bottom of the slide, at other times I got to create the whole message on a clear glass blank. The local CWA cake stall, an upcoming clearing sale or school concert all got a personal touch, complete with illustrations. They must have been pretty awful but it felt good to see them thirty foot wide in front of an audience full of school friends.
When I was 18, our family moved to Melbourne (and I started the advertising photography diploma course at RMIT where we were taught how to make glass projection slides), and when we kids had all left home, my parents moved to Traralgon to run the picture theatre there. I helped out with promotional TV commercials, and programmed a Monday night ‘art house’ series. (These sometimes played to an audience of only half a dozen of the nearby Gippsland uni lecturers; Jean Luc Godard wasn’t big in the Latrobe Valley.) On one visit I poked around the theatre ceiling and found some boxes of old movie posters, ad slides and a collection of the acetate recordings to go with them. In some future incarnation I’ll get around to recreating a 1950’s country town cinema ad break.
So who was he last month?
That’s me, with the prototype of my Portable Remote Image VR Transmitter (PRIVRT pronounced ‘Private’). The photo above shows an early prototype of the field unit that uses cheap parallel processing 8-bit devices (in this case an Amstrad 100 Notepad but recent models use those plentiful Toshiba 1000 b&w notebooks) to capture real-time landscape information for VR environments. My work running Grey Interactive in Canberra, is purely a distraction to my ongoing VR research from my home-workshop in Bungendore, a small country town just outside of the ACT. My magnum opus will be to create a complete VR model of a country town’s letter boxes, hopefully completed before they all get Internet connections.
Is that really Fred Harden?
After the Smile Geek! piece, I figured this was a good time to show that anyone who says they’re ‘holier then thou’ ain’t always. This shot was in a series taken for The Video Age, a monthly tabloid format magazine that I wrote equipment reviews for, way back in the early eighties. I never wear a hat but somehow I took one along and posed in it, for this “I want to be Francis Ford Coppola when I grow up’ shot. (At the time I did. There must have been something in it. An attractive black girl with an American accent came up to me in a noisy Sydney bar about this time and shouted “I love your movies!” All I could think of saying was “Thanks!” and wondered how she knew about the Super 8.)
Tip: Take your hands out of your pockets and get rid of that hat!