Before he struck out into the burgeoning field of computer animation, Robert Abel (1937-2001) studied at UCLA, earning a degree in film and design. One result: Freight Yard Symphony (1963), a mini-masterpiece of mixed-media modernism.
The film uses cut-out animation, combining original artwork and photos, to capture the energy of a rail yard in operation. The simple, geometric visuals show the influence of the title sequences of Saul Bass, with whom Abel would later work. Freight Yard Symphony is a strikingly accomplished experiment in design, especially for a student film, and it looks even better now thanks to a restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Watch it below:
Abel went on to a legendary career in computer graphics. After graduating, he worked with artist and inventor John Whitney, one of the pioneers of computer animation, before going solo.