It's good to have hobbies. Some people just have more unusual hobbies than others. Michael Birken says he spent 11 months playing with Post-it notes. He wasn't writing memos or reminders, he was sticking them on the wall to create an elaborate stop-motion video tribute to his favorite classic games. He calls it Post-it Note Arcade.
The video includes footage of both Ms. Pac-Man and Mario. Birken says he recorded actual gameplay footage and then printed the images out, one frame at a time, to replicate on the walls around his office. He spent holidays and weekends posting the little pieces of paper up and filming the results. It's probably just as well his co-workers didn't have to witness this madness.
The resulting video looks good. The vintage video game music is all there and it's all just the right amount of crazy-obsessive. All told, Birken says it took 5,722 still images created out of 4,800 Post-it notes to make the video. He notes that changing background scenery was masked out and replaced with a consistent frame throughout the animation. At the end of the video, Birken confesses to having too much time on his hands.
A controversial project
It's worth noting that this video has stirred up some controversy on both YouTube and Reddit, with some viewers saying they believe it's not a real stop-motion, but that the work was all done on a computer.
I contacted Birken about the issue and he wrote back an epic e-mail describing the origin and process for the video, which is quite involved. I'll save the details for a post he plans to put up on his own Web site, meatfighter.com.
The process did involve a considerable amount of software to compensate for issues with brightness and flickering. He conducted the actual sticky-note filming at night, when he works in an office building and could control the lighting.
How did Birken manage to keep each frame accurate? He used blue masking tape as markers that were left up throughout the project. He wrote a piece of custom software that used those markers to orient the video, even if the camera was in a slightly different position.
"Each night, after setting up the lighting, I dropped a plumb bob from a string pressed against the upper markers. This enabled me to create a column of Post-It notes on each side of the frame," he told Crave. "From there, it was easy to create a rectangle around the frame, each Post-It note acting like a tiny square edge. That rectangular frame served as a kind of grid to orient everything."
The detail level of the e-mail from Birken is enough to convince me that this video is real. He also says, "One more thing, in all that time, I was only caught once by a fellow employee who visited the office on a Saturday to show his friends where he works. He saw the camera and the wall full of Post-it notes. They all told me the wall looked cool and they left shortly afterwards. He never asked me why I took everything down on Monday."
I expect the controversy will continue until Birken unveils all the method to his madness. He sounds to me like a dedicated tinkerer, the kind of person who will see a whimsical project through to the end. I'll let Birken have the last word: "Anyway, long story short, it was 11 months of pointless hell."