Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blast from the Past

'Incredible Slidemakers' Posters Available Again

© 1976 The Incredible Slidemakers

There are about 35 people in the world who would probably love to get their hands on a brand new copy of the classic 1976 Incredible Slidemakers poster (shown above). That is now possible because yesterday, while cleaning up the studio, I found 50 pristine copies.

In another envelope I found a like number of pristine Mesney's Third Bardo posters (printed on UV-reflective paper) dating from 1973...

© 1973 The Incredible Slidemakers
Front and back of the reversible poster designed by Tom Ridinger when he and I collaborated and the company's name was changed to Mesney's Third Bardo. 'Bardo' derives from to the Tibetan Book of The Dead in which the third bardo is the twilight state between death and transfiguration... which always seemed an appropriate description of an artist's lot in life.

© 1969 Douglas Mesney
The poster featured my first photo illustration, 'Space Lady'.
It was done in 1969 by traditional airbrush work on a black-and-white print.
The original and the posters were printed on
blacklight-sensitive paper that glows under UV light.
That makes this picture the precursor to our current 'Nite Lights' style,
printing giclées on UV-sensitive art paper.

Up on another shelf I found a neatly bundled roll with about 100 copies of the classic 1972 New York National Boat Show poster, smothered in dust and cobwebs.

© 1972 Mesney's Third Bardo
The boat show and Bardo posters are two classics that were designed by Tom Ridinger, himself the subject of a recent blog (Inter-Continental Color).

The Incredible Slidemakers poster dates from a time near the apex of that enterprise's arc. It was an arc of triumph for those who participated. They were the ones who pioneered 'multi-image' and special effects film work.

© 1991 Douglas Mesney / Incredible Imagers AB
Multi-image was (is?) a term used to describe slides shows on steroids.
For about 10 years the use of multiple projectors became a fad amongst big corporations (who could afford them). It would take almost as long to tell you the story as my career in multi-image lasted. For me it began with a mistake. An example is the 60-projector image wall arcing around a Saab at the Frankfurst Auto Show in 1991... my last European show before returning to The States.

In 1973 we started tinkering with slides at Mesney's Third Bardo. Slide shows and speaker-support slides were an ad-on to the photo and graphics work we were doing for George Rounds at the New York National Boat Show.

Slides turned out to be fun. Soon we were selling chart-and-graph slides for all sorts of corporate presentations. There was a big market for fancy ones. The fancier and more expensive we made them, the more people wanted them. (Sighing... 'those were the days, my friends'.)

On one occasion our slide-copy camera (a Forox® at the time) overexposed a few titles. They were designed as dark blue and came back from the lab looking like neon.

© 1974 The Incredible Slidemakers
Our first reaction to the mistake was, 'yikes!'
That quickly turned to 'Ohhhhh Wowwwww',
which translates now as 'OMG'.

A Star Is Born

Instantaneously, we were into the special effects business. I surrendered all my star filters and other fruitcake filters to the Forox® department and we were off to the races.

Within a year we had a reputation around New York. Within two years that reputation spread across the USA. Within three years we had a bucket of awards and a stash of cash (for new toys).

Whenever people saw our graphics they'd say, 'incredible!'. So we changed the name of the company from Mesney's Third Bardo to The Incredible Slidemakers. The name stuck ...people still call me 'Mr. Incredible'.

© 1975 The Incredible Slidemakers
Close-up of Incredible Slidemakers poster showing
a three-slide special effects transition for a multi-image slide show.

© 1975 The Incredible Slidemakers
After taming, the original mistake became one of ouor most popular
special effects, called an 'Outer Glow', shown above as a three-slide split
for a wide-screen, three-projector slide show.

The poster was the focal point of Incredible's 1976 promotion, revealing 60 of our most complex special effects. Some of them seem gaudy now, as well as nostalgic. All of them are truly 'incredible' considering that they were made before PhotoShop® ...before computers... before well, anything...!

A talented crew used an assemblage of modified photo gack hanging off a pair of Forox® slide-animation cameras to shoot the effects you see on the poster. Somewhere I have a copy of an old US Patent that we got for a rotating stage based on a set of electric trains.

The original Incredible Slidemakers at play.
Anyone who was there can tell you,
I ran
Incredible like a kindergarten laboratory.
Talk about R&D, we reversed the usual ratio,
devoting virtually all profits to new toys.
Everyone was encouraged to explore
his or her versions of the Muse.
Guess you could call that a 'Muse & Views' management style.
Doesn't work well for the enterprise, but employees love it.
Left to right: John Leichmon, Tim Sali, Douglas Mesney, Fred Canizarro
and Rocky Graziano. Jim Casey is foreground right and if you know
who is forground left, clue me in please.

Now, here's the most 'incredible' part of all... I still use many of those same pieces of equipment and photomechanical techniques right here, right now, at Vashon Island Imaging.

Just yesterday I did a big slide copy job for a Vashon artist. She needed an 'instant portfolio' made from about three dozen slides show her installation pieces.

The slides were photo-copied using a Nikon digital camera mounted on a copy stand rigged with the old Forox light box and the old Chromega color-enlarger light source, both survivors of the Seventies, like me.

If you use a scanner, you know how long it would take to do three dozen slides the right way (ie., not automated).

Now consider this... I had a working set of digital files in less than an hour.

You see, traditional techniques like those have not been improved by the digital revolution, when it comes to fine arts reproductions using the giclée printing process. There are many reasons for that explained in my book, Giclée Prepress - The Art of Giclée as well as in earlier blogs. But I digress...

That kind of speed and efficiency allows us to offer artists affordable file-making. Face it, how many artists can afford Tango scans? Without Tango or similar quality digital scanning, photomechanical techniques using a digital camera produce better results.

And, how long did you say it would take to produce those Tango scans? ...Uh huh.

Cheaper, Better Faster

You used to have to choose two of those three attributes when you shopped for digital transformation of slides. Now you get all three... at Vashon Island Imaging (

Customer perception is the most critical part of any business proposition. In this case the customer is an artist seeking a high-quality printed portfolio for a reasonable cost.

I don't need to tell you how important it is to put the squeeze on prices these days. We do that by adding value instead of lowering our rates.

Vashon Island Imaging
puts the squeeze on prices.

We are able to deliver a $15 package that includes 'scanning', basic prepress, an 8 X 12 print on art paper, and an internet-sized version. That combo adds enough value to make the total perceived value-to-price ratio irresistible for many artists. So it's win-win and we are also finding that families are also using the same offer to have their old photo albums captured and restored before they fade much farther.

Again, it's a question of speed and efficiency. Those two are critical for a business. Even if you are 'only' a hobbyist printer, you got stuff to do, right? Time is of the essence.

Limited Edition

These posters are truly limited editions. They just don't get more limited than this.

If you're one of The Incredible Slidemakers and would like a copy of our infamous promotion poster, get in touch. They're free for you guys (except for a $12.95 handling fee). For the rest, copies are available for $39.95... while they last.

For a more complete back story about Mesney's Third Bardo and The Incredible Slidemakers please refer to the Epilogue of Giclée Prepress - The Art of Giclée. (An on-line biographical slide show is available at

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