Friday, May 23, 2008

Postage Stamp Shows 3-Second Sports Clip

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.

Austria, issued May 2008
Slower connections ... please wait

Take a good look at the approximately 3-second sport clip shown to the left. It shows three different perspectives of the winning soccer (football) goal scored by Andreas "Andi" Herzog for Austria in 1997. This goal provided a sense of strong national pride for Austria as their team defeated Sweden 1-0 in route to their 1998 World Cup appearance. The Austria postal administration has immortalized this television broadcast clip on a postage stamp issued May, 2008 in honor of the upcoming Union of European Football Associations' 2008 series.

By using advancements in existing technology, Austria Post has managed to put the moving image of this goal onto a postage stamp. While the initial technology to do so has been around over 60 years, and has even been applied to stamps before, this is the first time that such a detailed moving image has been put on a stamp.

The technology used is called lenticular printing. This printing method relies on a special lens, called a lenticular lens, to produce its magic. First, a total of 48 snapshots, or frames, of the original television broadcast were printed in a way so that tiny strips of the original images were alternated (interlaced). When a lenticular lens is attached to this interlaced image, it allows only one set of the 48 image strips to be seen from each viewing angle. By subtly changing the viewing angle, different images are displayed; if the angle is moved steadily, the image appears to move.

Lenticular printing is not new. Most people can remember getting prizes out of Cracker Jack snacks that would change when viewed from different angles. Some American breakfast cereal manufacturers put lenticular baseball cards in their products as an enticement for youngsters to purchase their cereal. Even some simple 2-dimensional dolls and similar knick-knacks had eyes that would blink based on the viewing angle. All of these were early forms of the lenticular printing process.

Those early lenticular images were somewhat crude and the motion produced was very jerky. The technology at that time permitted only a few images interlaced together, usually 2 or 3, and because of this, each image had to show a great range of motion. The human eye requires 16-24 images per second in order for it to be considered smooth movement.

This is by far the most complex lenticular image ever to appear on stamps. Other countries, such as Finland, Ireland, and Switzerland have produced lenticular images in the recent past, but those images are not as involved as the Austrian stamps.

The stamp is valid for postage, although I think it doubtful that people would use the stamp to mail something. I doubt that anyone would use such a novel stamp to mail something, preferring to hoard the stamp as a keepsake. Also, the stamp is of a large denomination, 5.45 Euros (about $8.50 US), that is would not be used for typical mail, but for packages or expedited services.

The stamp is very large. It measures 6.5 cm (2.6 inches) wide by 4.7 cm (1.9 inches) tall. With its size, denomination, and the novelty of moving images, it is sure to stand out in a stamp collection.

The stamp can be purchased from Austrian Post's online shop at cost (5.45 Euros) plus a small handling fee.

Previous Fun Friday Posts


Jan Doggen said...

Dutch mail also issued two of these in 2006, depicting two skating Gold medal winners at the winter Olympics.

Anonymous said...

Great story!

Glen Stephens, Sydney

dorincard said...

We'll see more such stamps, from various countries. Very cool!

rizzy said...

wow that's cool...another proof of soccer being god in europe

Anonymous said...

Great post! Just curious. Which country issued the first lenticular stamp?