041 > Experimental Cartography – in 3D!
"The involvement of the Royal College of Art, which at first sight seems a strange place for the development of a new branch of computer technology, came about because of Bickmore's insistence that the new-style map-making should not be hampered by the graphic conventions that had grown out of the methods of cartographic draughtsmen." 'Computers and the Renaissance of Cartography', by T A Margerison Experimental Cartographic Unit, Royal College of Art. December 1976

041 > Experimental Cartography – in 3D!

Tony Pritchett’s archive contains 16mm film, correspondence and other production materials relating to his work with The Experimental Cartography Unit.

Between 1973 and 1976 Tony created 3D anaglyphic moving image of sea beds using 16mm colour film.

I was lucky enough to view this with Tony, and also to interview him about it. The eBook will contain a chapter dedicated to his work with the ECU. I’ll also be speaking with Prof Bob Hopgood, (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory alumni), who told me:

“We had quite a close relationship with ECU. We both had PDP15s and used the other site as backup if one or other went down for any reason.”

I’d obviously also like to track down people who worked at the unit. This is the trouble with researching and documenting the archive. It’s a potentially unending fascinating project.

Steenbeck at No.W.Here. for more information about research done here and the generous help of James Holcombe, click the photo.

The image above shows a Steenbeck that we viewed his work on. I used my phone to film the screen. In this way I made a low resolution record of all the archive. the Steenbeck was pretty ancient and running at the wrong speed!

In 2022, Jez Stewart and The BFI kindly scanned a feet of 3D work in the archive. A great deal of footage still requires scanning – but it has been so inspiring to see a small amount of it in high resolution. I aim to get all the footage scanned, not only in order to document it in this eBook and make it available for others to study – but also so I can screen it at my 3D club, ‘The Stereoscopic Society’.

A frame of film showing a pair of stereoscopic 'anaglyph' glasses.
This stereoscopic image comes to life when viewed though red/cyan anaglyph glasses.

Now put on your glasses!

You will hopefully be able to make out three depth levels, (‘Surface, Mid-Depth and Sea Bed) . Please note that this image is compressed for web-use, which lessens and muddies the 3D effect).

Tony's archive contains the different plates (left and right eye views) used to create the imagery. I really want to get it all scanned so that it can be preserved and shared - but also so that I can have a go at creating some 3D work with it. I'll be using software to work out the parallax maths - so my job will be a LOT easier!!
Often 'Job Numbers' can be found on 16mm film leaders. It's then possible to cross-reference this with paper listing s of the code. The listings often contain more information about the computer used.
A great way of prompting the audience to remove their spex. As a 3D filmmaker I can appreciate this elegant and fun solution.
An example of the 2D imagery in the film.
A fascinating booklet in Tony's archive. Click the image above to read Prof Bob Hopgood's PDF conversion of 'Computers and the Renaissance of Cartography', by T A Margerison Experimental Cartographic Unit, Royal College of Art. December 1976. HUGE thanks again to Prof Hopgood for his help with this project.
Tony was a world-builder. He is work is an evolving CG landscape (c. 1967-1982). I have many recordings of him speaking about his childhood love of creating maps of both real and imagined places.
He was also a keen stereographer. Here's one of several 3D photos in the archive. 
I converted it to anaglyphic 3D. It's a bit low resolution here, but in higher resolution it is clear that Tony is an excellent stereographer!
This reminded me of a film made by Culham Lab 'Worth A Thousand Words' (1967) about computer animation - enabling scientific simulations to be observed over time. The computer language, hardware, program and subroutine developed to achieve this was used by Tony to create The Flexipede. Click the image to watch the film.
There are a lot of rusty paper clips in the archive. Trust the RCA to be different.
Glasses in the archive. There are red/green and not red/cyan. Hopefully I'll find something indicating why Tony made the change from cyan to green. I expect it is because red and green are not complimentary colours, so they give a stronger colour cast over the 3D image.
Throughout his career, Tony used folders to organise his projects, interests and freelance jobs.
There are many fascinating insights into Tony's workflow - and the context in which he was creating work, in the ECU folder.
There's a lot of research to be done into exactly what tech Tony ended up using. Of course as ever I am relying on Professor Bob Hopgood's indispensable expertise!
It appears that Tony used an existing subroutine to convert images into stereo and adjust 'parallax' ie. the distance between left and right images which determines their perceived position in 3D depth.
The archive contains a wide variety of materials. this letter from Tony here provides a wonderful insight into his process. Here we see evidence of typical dedicated and hard-working animator behaviour! : )
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