MTV-Top of the Hour

In July 1981, I was the youngest director/animator (and therefore, cheapest!) at Perpetual Motion Pictures. It was pretty much assured that I would be brought into a pre-production meeting with clients from Warner AmEx about needing a station ID for their about-to-be-launched cable channel, called MTV. They had chromes of the moon walk from NASA and a logo design. It was up to me to create the piece for the launch on August 1st. The original video is the top screen-- the next was created a bit later to conform with the National Campaign design.

And it ran - twice an hour (top and bottom of the hour) 24/7, until it was replaced a couple of years later with the animated version, which then ran for years!

Click here for AWN article  written by me about the creation of an MTV icon, appearing on January, 1998.

Even though I have had a lifetime of work after these initial MTV pieces, this is what people seem to identify me with. It's not that I'm ashamed of them, on the contrary! But I was an employee asked to do what I was always asked to do-- come up with "something cutting edge! Something no one has ever seen before".  And for a cable company-- one of dozens that were being formed in the early 80's. That MTV took off and things clicked, I was as surprised as anyone would have been at the time.

That first meeting was memorable. Of course, I found the enthusiasm in the room infectious. I was a bit puzzled about using the moon landing, since by then, they were pretty much commonplace and NASA wasn't exactly cool. But planting a flag on the moon was a great idea-- better than Everest!

Frank Olinsky's logo was interesting-- I'd been working commercially for a while then, and I was totally aware of the symmetrical CBS eye, symmetrical NBC peacock, and symmetrical ABC (3 lower case letters).  When I asked how they wanted it presented on-screen-- center the "M" with the "V" veering offscreen, or center the logo with it looking off-balance-- the table left it to me to decide. What about the inside design? Again, whatever I could come up with.

All this happened before computers-- this had to be made within a week, shot on film and delivered to be ready for the launch.  I needed to do camera tests (cynexes) for balancing the bottom light exposures:  the animated flags needed to be colored on tissue paper with markers to be shot that way. I needed to make mats for the flags for the wiping designs, get the final music track to be "read" to keep everything in sync.  All that to say, it was a race. And it was done.


At MTV, Bob Pittman was the chairman, Tom Freston was in charge of advertising, Fred Seibert and Alan Goodmen were the creative directors. MTV hired Tom Pompesello to create the music.

At Buzzco Productions, Buzz Potamkin was the producer, I was the designer/director, and I did all the animation for the top of the hour, and the ink and paint department made the flag mats. Neil Lawrence read the music track at record speed so I could sync the animation to the music!


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