THE HISTORY OF ASTRONOMY
a video presentation

GRAPHICS & WORDS: GEORGE PETROS
MUSIC: JONN SERRIE
CONSULTANT CONVERSIONAIRE: ROBERT LUND
DIGITAL DOCUMENTARIAN: PAUL HORTON

The History of
The History of Astronomy

George Petros, with music by Jonn Serrie

1986: photo and illustration collage of xeroxes, scratchboard, ink, grease pencil, and acrylic on bristol board, 4” x 420” (cut into twenty-one 4” x 20” strips), shot for reproduction with a photostat machine. The accompanying text, not shown in the video, was prepared via MacWrite on a Mac 512. (Viewable here)

2010 additions: photo and illustration collage via Photoshop, 2,000 x 29,908 pixels, executed on a Mac mini; voice overdubs processed via Audacity; two music tracks by Jonn Serrie: “First Night Out” in its entirety, segueing into the first two minutes of “Continuum.” Both tracks appeared on the 1994 album Planetary Chronicles Vol. 2, on Miramar Records.

In 1986 I created The History of Astronomy for inclusion in EXIT Magazine. A graphic timeline of all things heavenly, it drew upon astronomy, astrophysics, science fiction, mythology, cosmology, aeronautics and UFOlogy. I cut out photos and illustrations from old cheap books, most of which trumpeted the Space Age, to use along with my own drawings. A bar of text consisting of astro-related wit and wisdom ran above the timeline. After its publication I never gave it another thought.

In 2009 art director and digital documentarian Paul Horton suggested making an updated The History of Astronomy into a movie. He adapted it for video by scanning and assembling the graphic strips, combining them with new graphics, and cutting it all up into eighty-two 1920 x 1080 images, via Photoshop. He recorded me reading the text for use as a voice-over.

To convert those images into a ten-minute movie, designer and programmer Robert Lund wrote a PHP program that generated a continuous pan (at 60 frames per second to maximize the smoothness of the visual experience) and generated 34,830 frames. He combined the resulting movie with the voice-over and music, and added the credits and fade-out, via iMovie.

Space Music maestro Jonn Serrie agreed to allow use of his music for the soundtrack. His cosmic coolness adds that perfect something, evoking zero-gravity bliss in interstellar overdrive (see my 1995 Seconds Magazine interview with him). Check out Serrie’s music at thousandstar.com

Many thanks to John Vondracek, Paul Rachman, Deanna Lehman, and Les Barany.