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, and Les Barany.