the John Whitney Biographical Web Site

"My computer program is like a piano. I could continue to use it creatively all my life."

Before studying in Paris, John Whitney Sr. made 8mm movies of a solar eclipse with his home-made telescope. "He was a builder all his life" as quoted by his son, Michael.

John Whitney Sr. also studied at Pomona College in California and then continued in England where he studied music and photography informally. In the 1940's he began studying images in motion with his brother James which eventually brought them to an experimental film festival in Belgium in which they won first prize. Further experimenting with this new medium, Whitney began producing 16mm. films for television in the 1950's. One of the works produced at this time was the title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Following that Whitney directed several short musical films for CBS television and in 1957 worked with Charles Eames to create a seven-screen presentation for the Fuller Dome in Moscow, in which the screens were the same size as those used at a drive-in theater.

In 1960 Whitney founded Motion Graphics Inc., which worked to produce motion-picture and television sequences and commercials with an analogue computer. The analogue computer that Whitney started off with was created from machinery that was used for an M-5 Antiaircraft Gun Director. Later, some of the M-5 components were replaced with those from an M-7, a more sophisticated machine, to create a gigantic twelve foot high analogue computer which Motion Graphics used to produce its work. Whitney continued to perfect the analogue computer and the effects that it could create for many years.

In 1961, John Whiney Sr. produced a piece called Catalogue in which he put together all of the effects that he had perfected with his analogue computer.


Information source: Expanded Cinema, Gene Youngblood Copyright © 1970