Twenty-five years later, the video for Michael Jackson's "Black or White" evokes powerful nostalgia. Now made poignant by the singer's untimely death, the directness and optimism of the lyrics is characteristic of an early-1990's America that had seen the toppling of the Berlin Wall just two years before: "I said if you're thinkin' of being my brother / It don't matter if you're black or white." But what made the song an instant sensation and arguably one of the biggest reasons why it lingers in memory is the groundbreaking use of morphing, a computer-generated effect that created smooth, rapid transitions between a series of diverse human faces.
Senior Lecturer Barbara Meier of Brown University's Department of Computer Science (Brown CS) was a major contributor to the morphing sequence, and Cartoon Brew has just interviewed her as part of a fascinating oral history of the effect, which became extremely influential in the years to follow. "The sequence made morph a household word," she says. "I remember going to the cast and crew premier of Star Trek VI just a month or so after 'Black or White' came out and someone in the audience yelled out 'MORPHING!' during the movie! Of all the pieces I worked on in my career, this is the one that most people have seen and associate with my production career."
The full story is available here.
The image above is © 2016 by Propaganda Films. For more information on this post, please click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.