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Art Binninger's STAR TRIX: Of Clay And Cardboard

1. Pre-Trix: Getting from There to Here

Home | 1. Pre-Trix: Getting from There to Here | 1a. Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Filmography 1970-1972 | Tom Vs. Joe La Rita Episodes 9 - 16 | Tom Vs. Joe La Rita 17 - 24 | 2. Airman Art | 3. A Starship Is Born | 4. The Changing Scene | 5.The Second Time Around: STAR TRIX II | 6. Up In Smoke: STAR TRIX III | 7. Out of Uniform, Into the World | 8. The New Trek Begins | 9. Sidetracked and SMEGed | 10. Building Sets And Momentum | 10a Sliding Into Space | 11. Lights! Camera! Stop-Action! | 12. Kitchen Counter Cinema | 13. STAR TRIX: THE FLICK | 14. STAR TRIX: THE FLICK Reel 2 | 15. Silly Art, TRIX Are For Lawyers | 16. Moving On | 17. ESCAPE FROM VEGAPINTO | About Me | Favorite Links | Contact Me
Moppets And Martians 

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   I began making amateur Super 8 movies while a sophomore at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Long Island. After pedalling my bicycle along my N.Y. Daily News route, I had enough money to purchase a GAF Ansco movie camera for $20. I also bought a Bell & Howell Super 8 projector for a whopping $63 along with a blinding flood lamp and a roll of Kodachrome film. I shot my first cartridge that night, January 3, 1970.
   The Ansco didn't last long (it took a fatal plunge from an improperly strapped camera case) and was replaced with a Lafayette Electronics Super-8 camera with a 3 to 1 zoom lens. This camera would carry me through my high school film experiments that would lay the groundwork for the STAR TRIX films.
   Starting out in film, I mimicked things I liked. One strong influence was the MY FAVORITE MARTIAN TV series that was running in syndication at the time. I enlisted my younger brother Tom to play a Martian and his look-alike earth friend. Being unable to do a split screen effect with the Super-8 cartridge, I contrived to show both characters using quick cuts and quick clothes changes. When my youngest brother Larry got tall enough, he was used as a stand-in and photographed from the back with Tom facing him from the front. 
   From late 1970 to April 1972, I cranked out 24 four or five minute short episodes for the series which was named "Tom Vs. Joe La Rita"*. All were shot silent but fortunately Tom's facility for pantomime made the "stories" somewhat coherent. Actually, they weren't so much stories as they were a few sentences scribbled on a piece of loose leaf paper. They were mainly a hook on which to hang an experiment of some kind. For example, wanting to try a very fine thread for levitation effects to see if we can avoid having it photograph. 

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My second camera

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   Unlike the MY FAVORITE MARTIAN series, I filmed a final episode where the alien kid returns to Mars. He flies to Cape Kennedy in his spaceship and docks with an Apollo moonrocket just before it lifts off. In 1971, Eastman Kodak introduced it's XL (Existing Light) movie cameras with high speed Ektachrome 160 film. It was designed to shoot under low light conditions, reducing the need for the glaring floodlamps. Trying a role of Ektachrome in my Lafayette camera, I photographed movies off the screen, hoping to be able to combine several projected images together. This was a crude form of optical printer. 

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Spaceship movie and slide composite

 Utilizing a slide projector with images of earth from space and the Saturn 5 rocket, I combined footage of the spaceship model shot against a black velvet background and photgraphed the composite image with Ektachrome 160. It worked well except for a slight strobing due to the camera and projector speeds not matching exactly. This arrangement would be modified over the years to allow me to shoot spaceships, star fields, planets and other effects for Super-8 films. It wasn't until I went into the service that I found out this can't be done. As Uncle Martin would say "Sometimes ignorance is an ally".

*About that title: Even before getting a movie camera, Tom and I were goofing around with the other kids doing the Martian thing. We put the makeshift antennaes on Tom and tried pass him off as an alien. When someone asked the Martian's name, Tom called him Joe La Rita (a fracturing of the name of 1960's Three Stooges actor Joe De Rita). So when I started making a series of films, Joe La Rita was the unlikely name of our extraterrestrial.