Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back to the Future with Max Headroom

Say hello again to Max Headroom – the first computer generated TV host.

Ironically, this Max Headroom episode is about Blipverts, little blasts of TV ads that make the audience’s heads explode, and, this video is interrupted by quick, current day web ads, that... you get the idea.

Suggestion: FF to spot 20 minutes remain, when Max Headroom is born. It’s here that the show kicks into high gear. Here's the link:

In the premiere episode, set in an anonymous, yet uncomfortably familiar world "20 minutes into the future," television has become the only growth industry and ratings are the networks only concern.

The Max Headroom character originated in 1985-86 as an announcer for a music video British television channel, Channel 4, called The Max Headroom Show. The intent was to portray a futuristic computer-generated character. Max Headroom appeared as a stylized head on TV against harsh primary color rotating-line backgrounds, and he became well known for his jerky techno-stuttering American-accented speech, wisecracks, and puns

The Original Max Talking Headroom Show was made by Cinemax in 1987.

Network 23 is revealed as an omnipotent conglomerate that monitors the world through hundreds of satellites. In this forbidding society, household television sets have no "off" switches and communication is total and instantaneous.

Corrupt, manipulative executives have enabled the Network to become the world's most powerful station, due largely to the invention and secret use of "Blipverts," television commercials that are compressed and transmitted into the viewers' minds to prevent "channel switching."

But a lethal side-effect of "Blipverts" on some viewers leads to a series of extraordinary "accidents" that the Network board members try to hide from the public.

When the Network's star investigative reporter, Edison Carter (Matt Frewer), discovers that his own organization is behind this diabolical plot, he sets out to expose the cover-up. During his investigation, Carter is involved in a near-fatal incident, and nervous Network executives take him for a computerized memory scan to see what he has learned.

Bryce Lynch (Chris Young), the Network's brilliant, teenaged head of research and development, uses the opportunity to test his new invention, which records a subject's memory while computerizing its image on the screen.

This test results in the accidental "birth" of Carter's computerized alter-ego, Max Headroom (Frewer), a stuttering blend of human mind and powerful microchip, who inhabits the television airwaves. Carter and Max join forces under the watchful eyes of Network controller Theora Jones (Amanda Pays) and continue the investigation.


The real image of Max was not computer generated. Computing technology in the mid-1980s was not sufficiently advanced for a full-motion, voice-synced human head to be practical for a television series. Max's image was actually that of actor Matt Frewer in latex and foam prosthetic makeup with a fiberglass suit created by Peter Litten and John Humphreys of Coast to Coast Productions in the UK. This was then superimposed over a moving geometric background. Even the background was not actual computer graphics at first; it was hand-drawn cell animation like the "computer-generated" animations in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV series. Later in the U.S. version they were actually generated by a Commodore Amiga computer. But when these things were combined with clever editing, the appearance of a computer-generated human head was convincing to many.

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