Blacktop is the Eameses’ second film. Charles felt inspired to create this cinematic exploration of abstracted imagery after watching a janitor wash down a schoolyard across the street from the Eames Office. He was so intrigued by how the water crept across the asphalt that he decided to film the process in live action.

Don Albinson handled the hose and movement of the water, and Charles filmed the scene with a handheld 16mm Cine-Special camera, filling the frame with close-up visuals. The image could not be viewed directly through the shooting lens, so Charles had to adjust continuously for parallax viewing—a challenge for any amateur cinematographer. Charles then edited the film himself on homemade equipment, synchronizing it to Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  

While Blacktop is very different from the Eameses later films, the Library of Congress calls it “a quintessential Eames product, combining many of their favorite preoccupations—from their ability to see ‘found objects’ in new ways to Ray’s interest in abstract art and Charles’s determination to educate himself in science and other technical matters.”

Blacktop can be purchased at the Eames Shop as one of three films on the DVD The Films of Charles and Ray Eames: Volume 2.

11 minutes.  Color.