It is wonderful to see that Scott Nybakken has published the story and images from the Esther video on the web. This video was made while he was working at CoSA using technology that I helped develop. (My name at the time was Sarah Lindsley, if you were wondering why I’m not mentioned in the credits).

I have fond memories of Scott’s development of the video. The song Esther was an almost constant background music during many of the early days at CoSA. In 1990 and 91, the office was part art studio and part software lab. It was a fine thing to have space (physically and psychically) to be creative. I had a little open studio at the back of the office where I worked in charcoal in my spare time, across the room from where I worked in HyperCard, Macromind Director, and C code.

PACo was most well known when it was published with a reduced feature set as Quick PICS by Paracomp. But in the early days, you could specify palette transitions (aka ‘LUT-fades’ in the reminiscences of John Greene) and sound sync points using labels in SoundEdit. I wrote most of the transitions in PACo, although that might have been after Esther was created. All I remember are the fades and color cycling. I wish the whole video was on-line, but I’m sure that would be a bit of work. When I was first developing Shockwave, I calculated that the bandwidth of modems at the time was comparable to the throughput of CD-ROMs when we developed PACo. I always thought that Adobe should have resurrected the old code and turned it into a web player… it would have been blazingly fast. The player was small enough that a sample movie and the code to play it would it fit on a floppy (I think they were 400K then). I’m still hanging on to my old Mac that has a SCSI connector and the Syquest drive and cartridges in the garage. Some day soon I’ll have to publish my CoSA archive to the web before it succumbs to bit rot.

I watched the whole slide show this morning. Thank you Scott for putting this little piece of history together. My favorite image is this one:

6 thoughts on “Phish and the Esther video

  1. Sarah,

    Thanks for sharing this, bringing back TONS of memories of Hypercard, Director, mTropolis, AfterEffects and all of the arts/tech things that drew me away from theatre, traditional animation and fine arts back in the (really) early 90’s. I was (still am) also a HUGE Phish fan. ;-)

    It might just be me being silly and sentimental, but I tend to feel that despite the faster processors, vast amounts of memory and storage and the collaboration made possible via the internet that in general it’s only gotten harder for non-geeks to make creative stuff with technology.

    Blogs are great, but expressing yourself through words isn’t everybody’s forte, nor is text necessarily the best way to present an idea.

    I know English based scripting languages fell out of fashion for various reasons, but as much as I love some of the concepts behind tools such as Flash, Processing, OpenLaszlo, Yahoo! Widgets, etc. – I can’t help but wonder how ‘average people’ (re: Peter Small -‘How God Made God’, Brian Thomas – If Monks had Macs’ – who made great things with no comp sci background) are going to contribute, beyond publishing text. Dot syntax, semi-colons, curly braces, subversion, mvc, delegates, etc all seem like a very big step backwards. A few years back I had huge hopes for Dreamfactory (, but alas the too went enterprise…

    Oh well, for the next couple of hours I’l going to live in a simpler time, vicariously reliving these experiences thanks to this wonderful presentation set the Phish playing in the background. Perhaps I’ll dig out some guache and a little E.E. Cummings and ditch the computer for a day. ;-)


    Bryan Rieger

  2. Funny side note: some of that PACo code still resides unused inside Adobe After Effects to this day.


  3. Those days of Scott animating to Phish cross my mind every once in a while still – and it is great to know that the work exists in part or whole – I’d like to see it again.

    I was too much of a novice to archive my digital video created at CoSA for Richard Boulanger’s music performance at Brown. if and when you are able to unarchive old files I’d love to see that again as well.


  4. I just had a memory flash of helping the super wonderful Sarah turn the CoSA space into a holographic gallery. I also remember going with Scott to a Phish concert and being incredibly excited about all the transitions we could now do in PACo because of Sarah, and trying to talk Trey into PACo kinds of animations rather than AfterDark (After*DARK*- this was pre-After*Effects*) kinds of animations. Fortunately Nybakken had brought his pastels which got Trey off the swirly generated graphics thing.

  5. Resurrecting this thread from 2006… I’m now working on restoring the original video (somewhat) for Phish’s manager!


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