1988. National Video Center. NYC.
Pam Thomas from MTV called. She and Peter Lauer had been asked to re-edit a music video for Rob Base & DJ E Z Rock that needed help. The footage was sub-standard and there was very little of it. Rather than re-shoot, the record company reached out to them to try and “save it in the edit.” Pam was the perfect person to call. She was/is an amazing creative. Adventurous and decisive.
I had been experimenting with the “Mitsubishi P60U,” a small B&W video printer that graphic artists were using to print out frames for storyboards. I would print out every third frame from one-inch videotape and draw on top of the prints with magic markers. I would then put them under a title camera in my edit suite and animate them. The result was a crude, grainy animation that looked like the same thing I had done in high school art class. The first one I did was a short clip of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. When Pam called she said she wanted to do the same thing for “It Takes Two.”
We started printing out all the frames from the video. I would pause the one-inch tape on a frame. Press the print button. Wait about 60 seconds for it to print. Advance the tape 3 frames. Repeat for 3 or 4 hours until we printed enough frames to inter-cut with the existing video. With magic markers the three of us went to work writing, sketching and scribbling on the prints.
Putting the prints under the title camera, we started animating them. By that time we were lucky enough to have a black box called the “Abekas A62,” the first digital storage system developed for TV stations to do live replays of sporting events. A technician could record up to 60 seconds of video on a disc and instantly play it back without having to rewind a tape. With the prints under the camera, we recorded them with the A62 one click at a time to build the animations. (Those are my hands in the music video holding the prints under the title camera around 2:20 and 3:16 into the song.)
We started cutting the animations into the video and restructuring the existing footage. The song is 4:57 long and we had only 3 minutes of footage, so needless to say we had to re-purpose and repeat a lot of shots. When the video was released the song was already a big hit, so it got a lot of attention. Every other day someone wanted to use the same technique for their music video, promo or commercial. I got really busy, and National Video tried to convince me to start charging my clients for the printer. Of course I did not.