Powers of Ten is the famous short film by Charles and Ray Eames. I would be remiss if I did not mention this film, one of the original visual essays. Made in 1977, it is an illustrative look at the scale of… well, scale! From the Eames’ official site:
We hear about scale every day, whether it be supertankers, stars burning thousands of lightyears away, the study of microscopic viruses, or global warming. Understanding scale, or as the Eameses said, “the effect of adding another zero,” has the power to make us better scholars and better citizens.
Courtesy of the Eameses, here is the film in its entirety.
Slate’s James Hughes wrote a nice article about the history and impact of the film, with a healthy dose of Chicago pride. He says,
Endlessly imitated in commercials and Hollywood films (Men in Black and Contact among them) and predating Google Earth (and Google Mars) by decades, the zoom continues to captivate viewers, leaving them either awed or overwhelmed by journey’s end. Paul Schrader, a devout admirer of the original “rough sketch” Powers of Ten film that predated the final Chicago-based version by a decade, wrote that the interstellar roller-coaster ride allowed the viewer to “think of himself a citizen of the universe.” Charles Eames wanted the film to appeal to a 10-year-old as well as a physicist and claimed the goal was for viewers to experience a “gut feeling” about dimensions in time and space. The message was received.
If you’ve ever seen this camera zoom out in other movies or tv shows, and didn’t know it originated with the Eameses, I hope you received a pleasant surprise.