NBC didn't have a live peacock, though, right?
May 16, 2017 10:53 PM   Subscribe

When TV network logos were physical objects.
posted by Chrysostom (43 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, I'm so glad someone posted this ... I almost did ... It's crazy-fascinating, right?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:56 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

at least CBS never used a real eye...
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:08 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]

I don't know if it is no longer the case but I read an interview with a Chinese film director who said it was easier faster cheaper to just build sets and do real stunts than to use CG. It reminded me of my first CAD experiences in the 80's drawing a curved wall. It was faster just to build it in the real world.
posted by Pembquist at 11:25 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

I remember the filming of the Thames Television ident. There was absolute chaos in London for weeks.
posted by popcassady at 11:35 PM on May 16 [17 favorites]

Man, that HBO intro is a work of art
posted by darkstar at 11:36 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]

This is the coolest!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 PM on May 16

HBO flogged the hell out of that logo, the ran it on endless rotation between every movie.
posted by boilermonster at 11:52 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]

I love when you can see the sawdust and measuring marks in made things. When I was a kid, Percy Saltzman would conjure our weather with chalk. All the action came from his narration and the chalk in his hand swooping and sweeping across the continent. Later, he also had satellite photos printed so he could point out the interesting parts with his pencil. When he finished, he tossed his chalk in air and caught it.
posted by pracowity at 1:11 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

Needs more Justice.
posted by progosk at 1:19 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]

The HBO intro previously.
posted by TedW at 3:02 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

posted by hippybear at 3:22 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

I read an interview with a Chinese film director who said it was easier faster cheaper to just build sets and do real stunts than to use CG

If the Marvel movies were half as entertaining as Jackie Chan's non-US movies with their fights, I'd be more inclined to go see them.
posted by hippybear at 3:23 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

There was a minor fashion at the dawn of UK local commercial television stations to have silver sculptures as their idents - the two regions I remember are Anglia, who had a medieval knight on horseback rotating majestically if anachronistically to Handel's Water Music, and Westward with its silver galleon model of the Golden Hind. Although they appeared similarly impressive on screen, Anglia's was 4' tall while the Westward ship was more modestly sized. The story behind the Anglia knight is quite fun, and in the description of that clip.
posted by Devonian at 3:45 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I wish HBO would bring back that intro for their original shows. That was one of the single greatest things they did as a network, and it always got me excited when I was a kid.

Right now it's all of their stars going AHHHHHHH which is kind of cute but wears thin after the third time.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:14 AM on May 17

My favorite was the ominous Mark VII hammer.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:24 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]

I was surprised to see that this Windows 10 desktop wallpaper isn't all digital, but is essentially an actual window, a bright light, and a smoke machine.
posted by pracowity at 4:28 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

I cry foul on the BBC Globe-and-Mirror only being used from 1981 to 1985. Monty Python was spoofing it repeatedly during their series.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

Makes me think of the computer graphics sequence in Escape from New York that was actually a real-world miniature of the city painted black with white lines and then filmed with a snorkel camera because it would have been too expensive to generate the graphics in 1981.
posted by octothorpe at 4:55 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]

I am annoyed that I can't find any clips of SNL Weekend Update from the early 1980's that had the "NBC Dancing N" come in with papers for the anchors.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:20 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I'm old enough to remember the transition from bw to color as well. I also remember when all television graphics were flat and mostly cartooned. Then logos started getting a sheen, glossier and dimensional. Nothing like we experience now.
posted by judson at 6:46 AM on May 17

Oh, man. The HBO logo was SO EXCITING when it would play, because you could have MOVIES in your HOUSE! I knew the city scape was a model, but the simple effect of the starburst is quite amazing, as is the actual, chrome-plated logo. Just terrific stuff.
posted by xingcat at 7:27 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

I cry foul on the BBC Globe-and-Mirror only being used from 1981 to 1985

The "mirror globe" BBC idents were used from 1969 until 1985.
posted by briank at 7:35 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

at least CBS never used a real eye...

Watching the Andy Griffith Show on DVD, they have the original CBS 'eye' logo after the credits. It's a camera lens that opens up its aperture to display "CBS Television Network", then closes back down.
posted by hwyengr at 7:45 AM on May 17

Yes - as the linked article notes, there were three successive versions.

It was particularly nice the way that the original run on BBC1 of Life on Mars had the channel ident glitch back to the version in use in 1973.
posted by Major Clanger at 7:45 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

I assume a similar technique would have been used to film the ident shown before Open University televised lectures.

(I studied for my law degree with the OU and although I have fond memories of the graduation ceremony at the Barbican Centre I was slightly disappointed that the convocation didn't process in to the OU fanfare.)
posted by Major Clanger at 7:52 AM on May 17

Yeah, I'm gonna cry foul too because there's a whole insane rabbit hole of BBC ident/continuity stuff that's simply amazing.

BBC had all kinds of mechanical things besides the globe. They had mechanical clocks. They had cameras that could swivel to show various trouble cards. They had this amazing piece of op art that hypnotized school children until their educational programs began (and when you find the secret of how this worked, it will blow you away)

Here's a BBC tribute to the ident, with some historic mechanisms on display.

(And none of this was rotoscoped. It was a live camera pointed at a live thing, which sometimes went wrong)
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:53 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

Here's a video with all the various idents for ABC (the American one) from 1946-2014
posted by briank at 8:06 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

I like the look and the music of the old PBS logo in the 70's. The moog music and all.
posted by boilermonster at 8:31 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]

I could also swear I saw a live peacock in an NBC promo... I'm now thinking it must have been something made by a specific show as a lark, and not the network itself. And perhaps only used once.
posted by ejs at 8:54 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

The live peacock did exist! It wandered across the frame and was accidentally painted when it went past an open window. It was only used once, before a screening of "Shazaam"

This is a great post. Practical effects always fascinate me and these are great examples. That HBO clip looks as amazing as I remember it from the 80s. Watching some of the behind the scenes of was a treat.

JoeZydeco - I hadn't seen that hypnotic diamond before and it's fantastic. I looked up how it was made and the actual mechanism viewed as a whole is about as hypnotic as the filmed version.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:09 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]

One of the UK computer magazines at the launch of Channel 4 in 1982 ran a programming competition to see who could best recreate the channel's deconstructing/reconstructing ident. Which was surprisingly hard in BASIC.

Delighted to learn from the Open University mention above that the fanfare sting of the ident came from a longer piece, Divertimento by Leonard Salzedo.
posted by Devonian at 9:14 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I could have sworn the Coronet Films logo was a real rotating crown, but I appear to be wrong.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:17 AM on May 17

When I worked at NBC [a long time ago] I was tasked with the thankless task of trying to recreate this logo in Harvard Graphics. Never got it right but after a while I could almost draw the darn thing freehand. That little beak is a killer, though.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:21 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]

The BBC TV version of Hitchhiker's Guide featured "computer graphics" animated traditionally by hand, then back-projected onto a tiny screen when the Guide needed to be shown in someone's hand.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:21 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

WGBH's*, though. And the music has been the same since 1972. I wonder if there were actual pipes for some of these, or if it was all CGI.

*This YouTuber is very comprehensive about their logo videos! You will see almost every variant.
posted by droplet at 12:35 PM on May 17

briank: "Here's a video with all the various idents for ABC (the American one) from 1946-2014"

Oh wow, those rainbow colored early 70's ones are awesome.
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 PM on May 17

If you were a GenX kid in the USA, the ident that really mattered was the CBS Special Presentation one.

Typically this meant you were sitting down to watch a Charlie Brown special after dinner. Cartoons after dinner used to be special things.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:17 AM on May 18 [15 favorites]

YES!!! No matter what the special turned out to be, that logo sequence always created expectations of Charlie Brown!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:22 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

Once upon a time I had the CBS Specail Presentaion music as my alert for image and/or movie messages on my phone because: Charlie Brown.

I should find that sound file again...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:04 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Although it wasn't a physical object or a live peacock, does anyone else remember the special logo NBC used years ago when they showed "The Wizard of Oz"? To alert viewers that the movie started in black-and-white, and there was nothing wrong with their color TVs, the logo sequence featured an animated penguin. Whether it was followed by the traditional peacock I don't recall.
posted by elphaba at 10:54 AM on May 29

JoeZydeco that is exactly what I came in here to say and link!!!

When I clicked that link, I literally got goosebumps and I felt like running into the next room like a little kid. That one is so, so great.
posted by Caxton1476 at 8:54 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]

It's funny that we've gone from being amazed when a visual was made with a computer to being amazed when one wasn't!
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:25 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]

I have just gone from being amazed.
posted by pracowity at 11:35 AM on June 5

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