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Thursday August 21st 2014

UCSD Stargate Passage

UCSD Passage in Price Center.

This may look like a visual effect from a science fiction film, but it is actually just a passageway between two cafeterias in a building on the UCSD campus in San Diego.

The image recalls the slit-scan photography for the Stargate sequence used in Stanley Kubrik’s 1968 epic sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Oddysey. However this image was made with no special visual effects.

University of California SanDiego (UCSD)
UCSD is part of the University of California system of higher education. It is a top teaching universities as well as one of the major research centers in the U.S. It was founded in 1960. The 1,200-acre main campus is located near La Jolla, California a few miles north of downtown San Diego and not far from the great Pacific Ocean.

I was visiting the La Jolla campus and stopped in the Student Services Center around noon to eat lunch. This passageway separated two dining rooms. Maybe they are in different galaxies and the passage is a Stargate. I recall eating a hamburger from one of the galaxies, er, dining rooms. The food was OK, but not something I would travel a few light years to sample. Here’s a picture of the Student Services Center.

UCSD Student Services Center.

Technical Details
I shot this at 12.34pm on November 30 in a building at the UCSD campus in San Diego, California, USA. It was a bright and sunny fall day. This was shot indoors under flourescent lighting. Exposure control was set to fully automatic, which is what I use for a lot of travel photos.

The camera was a Nikon D700 full-frame digital SLR with a Nikkor 24-120 f/3.5-5.6 VR zoom lens. ISO=640, WB=Daylight, Program (matrix metering), and single-point Auto-Focus. Exposure details: focal length=24mm, focus=infinity ISO=640, WB=daylight, f/3.5 @ 1/100.

The camera was set to produce RAW+JPEG(basic). The JPEG was re-sized for the web with Lightroom Version 2.7. No editing. This is pretty much As-Shot.

Slit-Scan Photography
Slit scan is an animation technique that uses a moving camera to photograph a subject through a narrow slit. A transparency with some pattern is placed on a light table and photographed by a camera mounted on rostrum. For each frame of the animation, the camera moves closer and the slit is moved. The subject may also move. This is repeated for each frame of the film, 24 frames per second.

As mentioned before, slit-scan was used by visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull to animate the stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was later used on several television shows including Star Trek and Doctor Who. Whenever you see the Enterprise go into warp drive on the original Star Trek, that was slit-screen.

Here’s a youtube is some slit-scan from the opening title sequence of Doctor Who.

The Enterprise goes into warp drive. The early examples used slit-screen. The later ones used computer animation techniques.

Finally, here is the Stargate sequence from Kubrik’s 2001.

Here are some more articles about slit-scan photography:

Wikipedia entry for Slit-scan photography

Here is a simple description of the slit-scan technoque: Underview on Slit-scan

See Creating Special Effects for “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Douglas Trumbull, which originally appeared in America Cinematographer magazine.

2001 A Space Odyssey: Unwrapping the Slit Scan sequences

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