Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Monday, August 11, 2008

William E. Garity, Inventor

I'd like to follow, and conclude my Multiplane week with a little celebration of the inventor, Bill Garity.Bill Garity 1940
We met Garity several times before, as inventor of the click track and the method for making 3-D (stereoscopic) animation, and now as the patent holder of the Multiplane Camera. He is also one of the inventors of Disney's pseudo-stereophonic sound system Fantasound, of the film mixing console that used the Iron Pencil to follow the score, and of a sound fader that suppresses one channel while boosting another. He even invented a rig for shooting miniature airplanes for the war-time films. And lets not forget that before Disney, he had several vacuum tube patents to his name.

As important as he was to the technical development at the studio, and with him being the first person officially named manager of the studio, it seems surprising that not much has been written about him. He was justly made a Disney Legend posthumously in 1999, and it is on the Legends site we can read most about him.
Since details can drown in the plethora of Legends mentioned there,
I shamelessly lifted the following text from the Legends site:

Bill Garity from the Disney Legends page « Bill Garity gave Disney animation a technical edge. Among his contributions, the film pioneer helped put sound to the 1928 animated short "Steamboat Willie," the first cartoon to feature synchronized sound, and helped develop other inventions. Walt Disney soon came to rely on Bill, naming him the Studio's first manager.

"Bill Garity is an unsung hero of Disney history," said Dave Smith, director of the Walt Disney Studio Archives. "With his pioneering efforts in sound and camera techniques, he helped set Disney Studios apart from others, while his planning and supervisory expertise resulted in the building of a highly efficient Studio in Burbank."

Born in Brooklyn on April 2, 1899, Bill attended Pratt Institute of Art in New York. During World War I, he served two years with the Radio Research and Development section of the U.S. Signal Corps. After the War, he met radio pioneer Lee DeForest and for the next seven years helped develop early sound for film.

In 1927, Bill installed an audio sound system in New York's Capitol Theatre to accommodate the first newsreel with sound, which featured footage of the Washington reception of aviator Charles Lindbergh after his successful Atlantic crossing.

A year later, he met Walt while developing the Cinephone motion picture recording system. Their meeting was fate. Walt was determined to lift animation to a unique storytelling art form and Bill had the technical know-how to help him achieve his lofty goal.

With the success of "Steamboat Willie" and his new sound cartoons, Walt purchased Bill's recording system for his small Hollywood Studio and asked if he would install it and train a technician. Bill's anticipated 60-day trip to California lasted more than 13 years when he joined The Walt Disney Studios in 1929.

While there, Bill headed a department of 18 skilled engineers, who helped design, build and extend the capabilities of the animated cartoon. The team, under Bill's able guidance, also created the multiplane camera, which gave depth to animated films beginning with the 1937 short, "The Old Mill," followed by such animated classics as "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," and "Bambi." The invention, which made it possible to create camera movements, which simulated live-action films, earned an Academy Award® in the Scientific and Technical category.

In 1940, Bill's team invented "Fantasound," an innovative stereo system installed in theaters for Disney's classic, "Fantasia." The stereo system, which greatly enhanced the effect of the musical animation masterpiece, also earned a nod at the 1941 Academy Awards®.

A year later, Bill left the Studio to pursue other entertainment ventures, including serving as vice president and production manager of Walter Lantz Studios.

On September 16, 1971, Bill Garity died in Los Angeles. »

A very worthy Disney Legend! And a nice article, though they have forgotten to mention a few things in their write-up, like the stereoscopic process...

Bill Garity RecordingBill Garity nose his dialsBill Garity 1931< Click on it...
The left image, from Bob Thomas' The Art of Animation (1958) shows Garity recording at a music session with Frank Churchill conducting a studio orchestra. It is in Finch's Art of Walt Disney (1973) as well - we see more but smaller. With him in the picture Walt, of course, and below him Wilfred Jaxon Jackson. I believe the reclining gent in the dark suit to be gag man Earl Duvall.
I stumbled over the middle image... There must be lots more picture to this, but the person who cut the image on the reverse out of a Fantasia program also cut away a good part of our featured engineer...
The right image: when in the early 30's the staff of the studio congratulated Walt, probably on his two Academy Awards® in 1932, Jack King drew this caricature of "sound engineer" Bill Garity.

Let's not forget, on Didier's great blog, we saw the top of his head...

In one publication from 1940 on Fantasound, Garity credited Walt: "We've done things...most of them Walt's ideas, that looked impossible at first."

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 7

Can't get enough of the Multiplane camera either?
Here is my final posting to top off Multiplane week. I thought of spreading this out, like Disney's 18 month "year," but enough is as good as a feast, especially since most of the readers are out locating metal columns or attending welding class.

First the simplified drawing printed in Bob Thomas' Art of Animation (1958). It shows how the levels can move in relation to each other. Where the patent art was a complex schematic, this one is down to the basics...
Working the Multiplane 3

The camera at work - first in plain clothes (a clearer version of the one in the first posting of this series), then in lab coats, the two right images seemingly press pictures - the gent on the right seems to be the department head. (Suggestions anyone?)
Working the Multiplane 1Working the Multiplane 2Press image

The next picture on the left has a caption written up: « The multiplane camera room. This new type of camera, developed within the studio at a cost exceeding $75,000, is seen at the left. It consists of seven movable horizontal planes so that characters can be shot at various levels. Each level can be individually lighted. The multiplane method also serves to give an illusion of depth to the photography. In many cases, it is not necessary to shoot a scene on the multiplane camera. Only about 30 per cent of the footage of "Snow White" was shot on the multiplane. » So this probably dates from early 1938, and seems to show the same camera as in the first picture above, with a fixed camera level. Note there is only one camera operator on the Multiplane crane. The Snow White draft only mentions two scenes specifically using Multiplane, Seq. 3-B Sc. 1 & 3, the end of her collapse with the animals' eyes. Some scenes are using the larger 6½ Field, though, and we saw in a technical reference that these first could only be shot on the Multiplane camera. It was used as a big version of a stationary setup!

The center image comes from the curious French 1987 exhibition catalogue "Les Artistes de Walt Disney," edited by Pierre Lambert, who later did those wonderful glossy art books. I still wonder where he got his list of the Nine Old Men from... The neg number indicates that this was shot for a TV show. It seems to be a still for The Tricks of our Trade—more later. Note the holder for the glass panes.

On the right we see Walt himself visiting the camera department during the shooting of Alice in Wonderland in March 1951.
Working the Multiplane 3Working the Multiplane 4Shooting Alice

As a treat within a treat, here is a little collection of Card Walkeriana. As you probably know, Esmond Cardon "Card" Walker (born in Rexburg, Idaho 1/9/1916 - died in La Cañada Flintridge, California 11/28/2005) started as mailroom clerk at Disney in 1938. Then worked in the camera department, and became one of the unit managers for short subjects. US Navy during WW2, then, back at Disney, head of the ARI, the Audience Research Institute, Disney's focus group research department. Vice president of advertising and sales in 1956, elected to the board 1960. President in 1971, CEO in 1976, Chairman of the board 1980, retired as CEO in 1983, member of the board of directors until 1999. Named Disney Legend in 1993. He was "one of Walt's Boys." But here, of course, we are only interested in him as cameraman.

First the image from Finch's Art of Walt Disney (1973) with Walker top left, on the same camera as in the previous two images. Then the lamp voltage regulators, with the future company president on the phone. Then the same setup as above but with Card on the left - with eyes closed. Finally four members of the crew, with Card Walker at the top...[and below him Truman Woodworth, Dick Grills and Bob Gibeaut.]

From FinchLamp Voltage ControlCard and bossCrew with Card Walker on top

That's all very nice, but of course the most important thing we can do is to remember to revisit the films that were made possible with this invention—not because of the camera, but because of their amazing storytelling and entertainment.

Relive the excitement of The Old Mill!

Watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, "Walt Disney's First Full-Length Feature Production in Multiplane Technicolor." "When the script called for the camera to "'truck up' for a close-up," the lens remained stationary, while the cels moved upward." (From TCM).

Then see the second film released as being "in Multiplane Technicolor," Pinocchio—especially sequence 2 scenes 1.01 to 1.06—for arguably the most famous Multiplane shot over the rooftops of Geppetto's village, laid out by Thor Putnam, and costing as much as a $48,000 by itself, more than an entire short film. "The backgrounds which we were able to use on this camera for Pinocchio were twice as big as those which fitted into the original multiplane set-up used in Snow White." (From TCM's notes). The Pinocchio draft mentions most all Multiplane scenes.

Watch Fantasia again. It is brimming with Multiplane shots!

Check out the opening of Bambi as laid out by Dick Anthony.

Admitted, there are scratches and cel flicker. Still, you'll have to agree, the effects added by the Multiplane camera are stunning...

We end Multiplane week with the following piece that someone uploaded to YouTube. You can find this on one of the Disney Treasures DVDs - from the show The Tricks of our Trade, the February 13nd, 1957 Disneyland episode. It was obviously produced for entertainment, but hey, you see the actual camera at work! (As in Walt's intro to The Old Mill).
Nowadays, using computer technology "virtualizes" the Multiplane camera, so in most animation software used for hand-drawn film, one can in some way simulate by pressing a few buttons what might have taken a large crew weeks to accomplish back in the analog days of Pinocchio and Fantasia. I think it is good to learn how things used to be done, the hard, old-fashioned way, so we can make a better product in the future. Some things were more fun to do because it was harder to do them. Only occasionally I had the chance to work directly with a similar contraption, and yet - - -
I miss the romance of the Multiplane camera...

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 6

The camera on the "Archives Multiplane" is a Bell & Howell 35mm camera. It uses Zeiss lenses of several focal lengths.

Here are first two images I shot of the camera. For display purposes a mirror has been attached so one can see the top of the camera. The little exposure table is attached to the camera and shows exposure times from half a second to eight seconds. Then a box on display of the Zeiss lenses, 50mm, 72mm and 117mm focal lengths.

Finally, here is what you would see if YOU were a cell, looking up at the lens.
You may think it's strange, but I get a kick out of that...

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Friday, August 08, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 5

As I mentioned in a comment, I was told that there are three cameras in existence: there is one in Paris, and as far as I know it used to be on display in Florida. Then there is the one at the Archives and finally there is one supposed to be "usable as spare parts only." David mentioned there would be one at the Walt Disney Museum at the San Francisco Presidio, which I would guess (!) to be the one from the Archives.

It is the one from the Archives that I took a few pictures of. Here is first the console, then a few detailed images of one of the levels. The second image shows the locking mechanism that keeps the level in its place. It is obvious from this that the maximum depth of a level is the distance between the teeth on the front and back columns (minus a little bit).

When I took the photos, the rig sadly was very dusty: while in use in the Camera Department, there would not be a speck of dust on it. They had air blowers to remove dust and lint from clothing as you went in, and the area was slightly pressurized to keep dust from entering in other ways.


One of my friends recalled that when the Camera Department was "re-purposed" as offices, the Multiplane cameras were in their corners, unloved, filled with sticky notes and coffee cups - a sad ending to a great invention. Hopefully we can at least keep enjoying the thought of this great camera in the future, as they are reverently exhibited...

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 4

The question arises - what is new in this patent? It is a different application from the one we saw two postings ago!

Again, it was applied for by Bill Garity on behalf of Walt Disney Productions, filed May 8th, 1939, granted April 28th, 1942. It thus was filed between the patents of the last two postings.

This patent introduces the "photometric device" and its workings, and shows that the background could be mounted at an angle using a mirror. Otherwise, it is just a simplified version of the patent applied for half a year earlier!
Or am I missing something?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 3

Of course a new camera needs a new - light meter, or photometer!

So Bill Garity and Halley Wolfe applied for on July 31st, 1940 and were granted, on January 13th, 1942, a patent that pertains a device that can measure the light intensities on the artwork at a distance far enough away to be valuable, but close enough to allow for the layer above it without measuring its own shadow.

The patent mentions that the meter is easily movable to different parts of the drawing or title to be photographed. The fact that measurements are taken on a display away from the measuring device, connected by a wire, must have been a boon, too. Note that there are twelve claims to this patent, all confusingly alike for a non-engineer like myself! Well, it does mention that it also gives means for precise calibration and prevention of overloads, so that sounds practical enough.

Figure 2 shows clearly that this was designed for use on the Multiplane camera, also illustrated in the text where the example is given that the light intensity of a background that is further away from the camera should be appreciably greater than that of cels or drawings nearer the camera lens...
If you built a camera rig based on yesterday's drawings, making this will be a cinch, and you'll need it...

[2024 addition: Halley Wolfe was born in Porterville, CA, 7 Oct 1909, died in Los Angeles 21 Oct 1976. Started at Disney 31 Oct 1938. Listed in the 1950 census as "underwater sound tech" for the U.S. Navy.]

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In Glorious Multiplane - 2

We continue Multiplane week with the original patent.

The first drawing of this patent is in my mind the most beautiful patent drawing ever, one I some day may want a big poster of up on my wall. The patent was applied for by Disney engineer Bill Garity on behalf of Walt Disney Productions, two days before Mickey's 10th birthday, on November 16, 1938. It was granted April 23, 1940.
Note: The Old Mill, officially the first film to use the Multiplane camera, was released a full year earlier, November 5th, 1937!

In the first sheet we see the apparatus surrounded by the air vents. The columns 3 & 4 (and a similar set behind them) that support the camera and levels A to E are hollow and have the weights of the camera level can slide up and down inside them. Levels A and B are animation levels, C and D underlays and E holds the background.

Sheet 2 shows the top frame and the camera level, sans camera. The top drawing shows both - we see the frame, and within it the camera level with the holder for the camera, while the bottom drawing has this removed. When we compare with yesterday's photos (bottom right), we see that the drawing explains "the old rig." In sheet 3 we see the top and camera level from the side, with the camera in place.

Sheet 4 shows the animation level, and the placement of the lamp housing that goes with it. Sheet 5 shows the system of the platen (the glass that presses the cels down) and the peg bars.

Sheet 6: the overlay/underlay level where the glass plate can travel East-West. Sheet 7 the background level.

Sheet 8 explains the light holder, while sheet 9 shows the actual path of the light as reflected by the small adjustable strips of mirror around the lamps. We also see the viewfinder and the motorized exposuresheet holder, that moves to the next frame when the exposure button is pressed. Finally we see an example of a Disney 5 Field sheet of paper or cel next to a "new" 6.5 Field piece of artwork. The last change is itself hardly earth shattering - just make it larger. To see the conversion to ACME Field sizes, see my converter ==>

The final sheet shows the schematic for the electrical system, from the switchboard to the camera carriage and the exposure sheet indicator. Remember that all other things were all controlled by hand! No step motors to control pegbars or levels heights!


The written description goes in-depth with all the details in the well-known dry and pretty boring way. Still, you'll have to read it...
Isn't this fun? You can build your own!

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