A Luna Blue

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Even if stock footage is the farthest thing from your mind, it's worthwhile to log onto A Luna Blue's website (Alunablue.com) to look at a few of its highly entertaining and often quite trippy abstract sequences. Each one lasts only 10 seconds, so a few are just enough to clear the personal memory cache after spending an hour or two poring over endless variations of essentially the same product shot or sitting through a tedious meeting.

But, of course, husband-and-wife filmmakers Raymond and Barbara Pettitt didn't create the site only for entertainment purposes. They launched it and the Los Angeles-based company last year to market royalty-free abstract images and motion sequences. "Our taste led us to this niche," says Barbara. "We're not the least bit interested in lifestyle stock footage, and shooting people sitting at desks or in nursing homes." The name A Luna Blue is derived from one of her favorite scenes in Bernardo Bertolucci's Luna. "It's an amazing shot, magic hour meets the Italian blue sky with a full moon," she says.

After only a year, A Luna Blue offers 17 motion CDs, each devoted to an abstract theme such as body blurs; kaleidoscopes and geometrics; fireworks and astronomical imagery; CG amoebas and other imaginary microscopic creatures; and various treatments of a wide assortment of national flags (including North Korea and Iraq). There are eight CD collections of images, mainly macro views of foods like eggs, red peppers, mushrooms and some very suggestive raw seafood shots that would make one hell of an obscene gumbo. They plan to double the library by the end of 2004. Neither of them has much to say about where their style comes from. "It's just what's in our heads and what we like," says Barbara. "When I look at something and frame it, I know that's the way I see it."

Purveyors of royalty-free imagery rarely hear from their customers how the images are used, but the Pettitts expect that many of the images and motion sequences will be used as background plates for copy blocks, or composited with other footage. A seafood image reportedly has been used for an album cover, and they recently fielded a call from someone looking for elements to use for a piece to be displayed on a large urban LED screen.

"We'll learn what the public wants as we go along," says Raymond, a cel animator and a 20-year veteran of the effects business with credits on Ally McBeal, Contact, Charmed and Birds of Prey. "But for now we spend a lot of time watching commercials, then we'll think of a theme we'd like to spend time on." Nearly all the footage in the motion titles was digitally generated and everything is available in D1 NTSC and PAL, HD, DVD and 320 x 240 for the internet and Powerpoint presentations. Images are scanned from 35mm transparencies in 36-bit color and single images can be downloaded in either CMYK or RGB. The body blur clips, however, originated on film. "I thought of body parts that are interesting and came in close enough so sometimes you aren't sure which part you're looking at, but you always know it's skin," says Barbara. Then they mixed in some stills, layering a pan across a still image over a body moving through the frame of a locked-down camera.

Raymond is presently working on a four-CD package built from circa 1950 8mm footage of family scenes and people-less landscapes and cityscapes. The funky 8mm look was exaggerated in telecine, and he is using filters and rotoscoping to create animated watercolor effects over the original footage. A transplanted Brit, he formerly owned One Point Five, a London-based design and production company with clients such as Disney Europe, the BBC and a number of ad agencies. One Point Five collected a string of awards over its 10-year lifespan, including two BASTAs, but when business slowed in London about 15 years ago he began picking up freelance gigs in Los Angeles and emigrated 12 years ago.

Barbara studied film at the San Francisco Art Institute and made a series of sync-soundless narrative shorts that screened at Cannes and other film festivals. A series of feature development grants from the American Film Institute inspired her move down to L.A. in 1980, where she met her future husband after two mutual friends independently and nearly simultaneously offered to arrange a blind date. She's also a writer, and snippets of her neo-Beat poetry accompany each collection of images or key frames. For example: "my train slid into union station as dusk slammed into the sky. high heeled girls cruised the boulevard; the promise of a body blurred by."

That must be the octopus in the Manolo Blahniks.

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