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Where Have All the Digi-Trails Gone?: Nonlinear Editing Killed Them, Every One

We’re here at San Francisco’s Exploratorium to see Dutch artist Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest exhibition. One of his many kinetic sculptures struts its stuff. Jaw dropping!

Eventually we wander off to, dare I say it, explore the Exploratorium. We enter an empty room and see ourselves projected in posterized color with digi-trails following our every move.

“OMG,” I say to Tricia, “It’s SqueeZoom from the 1980s. You can’t do that these days.”

The Big Squeeze

At home, I dig out my old videos from the SqueeZoom days. The Molinare 1980 showreel is packed with them—trails, trails and more trails. Then, so hip and of the moment; today, crude and dated. But love is blind and I love them all. (Watch the 1980 Molinare showreel, hosted by James Smiley here. )

My Vital Industries SqueeZoom edit suite with four VTRs is £400 an hour. Booked almost seven days a week, it pays for itself in six months.

Tonight I Get High

 From the Molinare showreel

Tricia and I live on the top floor of Molinare, our video facility. I love my new toy so much that on the rare occasion when it isn’t booked, I sneak downstairs with my own VCR and plug into SqueeZoom. Tra la!

I am the Wizard of Oz! Effect 51—trails galore. Effect 67—the image does multiple repeats. Finally I feed SqueeZoom back into itself and out comes endless streaming, changing colors, digi-trailing to infinity.

Where’s my copy of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown?

Ampex ADO

Four years after SqueeZoom, I buy an ADO (Ampex Digital Optics). Sadly, SqueeZoom can’t rotate the picture XYZ and can’t do perspective, but ADO can and more.

It’s $150,000 and as revolutionary as the SqueeZoom was in her short life.

Today, late 2016, I buy an ADO control unit on eBay for $29.99 including shipping.

Ballet Trails

 From the 1985 Quantel Encore promo

My favorite trail video is the ballet dancer in my 1985 Quantel Encore DVE promo—$160,00 a snip but so beautiful.

Vintage Treasures

You can’t do these effects anymore—not in Adobe After Effects, Apple Motion, Boris FX, Apple Final Cut Pro X, GenArts Sapphire, Red Giant TrapCode, Tiffen DFX, you name it. Sure you can make wishy-washy trails and blurs and a zillion cute particle effects, but they don’t even come close to these real-time hardware-created babies.

Digi-trails—gone the way of Bakelite ashtrays, lava lamps, VW T3 vans, Sinclair ZX computers … and whatever happened to Arthur Brown?