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Aug 8, 2013

Putting Things in Perspective - Powers of Ten

Space, realistic special effects, 1977. Words (and a number) more closely associated with the first Star Wars film. However there was another movie, albeit a short one, released the same year which was equally, if not more, mind blowing in its depiction of space.

Powers of Ten escaped my attention until recently but has instantly become one of my favourite pieces of filmmaking. Suddenly so many visual references to it in movies make sense.



Not only is it an impressive technical achievement, and one which still looks amazing 40 years later, but manages to put the universe in perspective with incredible mathematical accuracy. The camera zooms out from a 1 x 1m picture of a man and woman having a picnic in a park in Chicago at a rate of a power of ten each second. It reaches 1024m before it starts zooming back in at an accelerated rate. It slows down again when it reaches the hand of the man, zooming into an atomic level down to 10-16m.

Of course science has come a long way since 1977 and we can see a lot further in both directions, that doesn’t make the video any less awe-inspiring though.

It was directed by husband and wife architects, furniture designers and filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames and had its special effects designed by Alex Funke who also worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It took 13 months to complete the eight minute film.

An early prototype version made in 1968 is less polished but has the fascinating addition of a clock which shows how fast time moves on Earth in relation to the viewer who is moving close to the speed of light.



A computer generated remake was created in 1996, as part of a documentary entitled Cosmic Voyage, but lacks the magic of the 1977 version, and bits of the older movie look better. A great argument for the magic of practical effects over computer generated ones.



Wiki: Powers of Ten,

Mark is a freelancer who specialises in creative copywriting and content creation. Starting out as a freelance blogger he's experienced at putting his copywriting skills to work on a variety of subjects and can easily turn his hand to different styles. In his years as a freelance writer he's always brought a creative edge to everything he's written. 

In addition to being a freelance copywriter and a hard-working wordsmith Mark has also forged other forms of content for the web and print working as a photographer, video editor and a general content creator on a freelance basis. 

Some Like it Sloth
Riding the Dartington Donkey
High Cross Piano

Based in Devon Mark lives within questing distance of the UK's Middle Earth aka Dartmoor. He likes his detectives hard-boiled, his eggs runny, and his time travel non-paradoxical.

These are the freelance content creation services available from Mark:

  • Freelance copywriting
  • Freelance blog creation
  • Freelance writing
  • Freelance photography
  • Freelance video editing

If you need a freelance writer, photographer, or video editor get in touch with Mark to find out how he can help:

Royal Albert Memorial Museum - Cloning Collections
Exeter City Council - Armed Forces Day
National Trust - South West Christmas Card 2013

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