Memorex, a 50-minute odyssey through the VHS generation

"The sequel to Smash TV's critically acclaimed "Skinemax", Memorex is a 50 minute VJ odyssey, a tribute to an entire generation who grew up with only a TV and a VCR for a babysitter. Sourced from over forty hours of 80s commercials pulled from warped VHS tapes, Memorex is a deep exploration of nostalgia and the fading cultural values of an era of excess. It's a re-contextualization of ads - cultural detritus, the lowest of the low - into something altogether more profound, humorous, and at times, even beautiful." [Vimeo]


    1. I think it was part of the Night Flight opening, but it might have been something else. Might have been a movie theater chain’s logo.

      I called the guy who I think did it. I’ll get an answer of some kind about it.

      1. I don’t think it was Night Flight.  or not from the time when I was watching, anyway.  I seem to remember it as a Saturday morning cartoon lineup intro?

    2. It’s a commercial for the rock musical Starlight Express. Thanks for watching and the kind words everyone, hope you enjoy it.

    3. I just figured it out! It’s from a mid-80’s Disney Channel show called D-TV where they combined Disney cartoons with popular music (I suppose it was their answer to MTV). Here’s a link to the wiki page It was driving me crazy, too…..

  1. I was born in ’75…so much of this footage long ago burrowed deep in my cerebral cortex: the puppet McNuggets! Shredder! Max Headroom! ‘I pity the fool that don’t eat my cereal’ etc etc…

    50 minutes seems awful long for this bloated Blip-Vert: remember what happened to the couch potato that watched too many of those?

    But I’m all for re-contextualization…and detritus.  I just love me some detritus.  But one quibble: the ‘fading cultural values of an era of excess’.  I’m sorry…are we living on the same planet?  The hairstyles may have changed and the cars more efficient (and a great deal faster): but our cultural values of excess are alive and well…

    The magnetic tape may fade, but conspicuous consumption is here to stay.

    1. I was a small child during the 80’s so a lot of the things resonate, but being so small I don’t really remember the contexts for any of the imagery. This is jumbled just like is in my head, without context… so for me 50 minutes would be great to throw on the screen while I draw or something because… wow… why is all this random stuff so familiar? Somehow I have a terrible suspicion that if I were dying and my “life” flashed before my eyes it would be more like this.

  2. Oh, man.  my tapes of Night Flight are some of my prized possessions.  really surprised there’s none of the epic HBO station ID–the one with the stop-motion cityscape into the computer-rendered logo.  I was sure it would  pop up in the “intros” sequence, but it just went right into the breakin’ sequence.

    looks like I’m down the rabbit hole with this one.  see y’all in an hour.

    edit: oooooh, Laurie Anderson at aprox 20:00!

  3. The HBO logo wasn’t computer-rendered! Once watched a short on HBO itself ‘splaining how it was done, all stop-motion models and everything. ‘cept the splashy explosion bit, that was two printed mylar sheets moving against each other creating a moire-like pattern. 

    1.  wow, good info!  I just assumed digital since it was post-Tron.  I actually remember seeing that short, but that part obviously didn’t stay with me.  the amount of effort put into non-digital effects back then is staggering.

      here’s the station ID:

      1. I volunteered in college for a video production club for my college. I spent a lot of time there. We used to have a Chyron machine that put in, as we called it “Cheesy Video Effects” like all the spinning fades. We mainly used it to add captions to our video show a la MTV, but it did a lot of these type effects that are shown in the video.

        We recorded everything to tape. There was no digital yet. We had read about a $200,000 editing software that we drooled over (and I’m sure it did way less than the stuff that comes preloaded on Macs these days). We knew computers were going to revolutionize video, particularly editing, but it just had not come down in price enough and the computers were so crappy that were available to the public. 

        Pixar came out with their first short while I was in college. I saw that at an animation festival. That festival also featured one other short that was half digital, half traditional animation. I knew this was the future. It was so exciting to see just those few minutes of computer animation. 

  4. The three breakdancers coming up the stairs were also used in the video for Datassette’s brilliant Bayesian Funk video from last year.

    It’s like a combination audio/visual version of this.

  5. Holy crap! I did that structure you ride down at 18:06. It’s supposed to be the hull of an America’s Cup yacht. I designed each section in the computer and then we printed them out and cut the cross sections out of metal and laid them out to match. That way we knew we should be able to dissolve from the virtual to the real during a camera dolly through the hull because the real was made from the virtual. I remember thinking it was amazing to see the (smaller scale) hull I designed become a real object on a table.

    1. Very cool! Was hoping we would hear from some of the designers and actors we used in this. Nicely done, always interesting to see impressive work from the early computer animation scene.

      1.  If you can find the original “The More You Know” logo it would be pretty cool. It dates back to around ’88 and used slitscan on an animation stand to make the star and tail, not 3D CG as it does today.

  6. The eighties were not all flying Lucite logos and girls with big hair in aerobics uniforms of thongs and floppy t-shirts. It was also …

    Never mind, I got nothing.

    More seriously, I’ve actually been afraid to go back and re-watch Max Headroom, for fear of finding out that it’s been worked over by the Suck Fairy since the first time I saw it.

  7. looking ahead – this type of thing will not be possible.   Digital media storage is basically non-archival.  The only thing that keeps old files available is be duplicating them on servers, DVDs, etc.  The availability of current examples most of the types of things in this compilation will be gone in 30 years.  Without how taping, individual collections will be basically non-existent.

    This is a fundamental issue that people have not fully understood.  Saving cyano-dye writable media (DVD, CD, etc.) is at best a 10 year proposition.  Continuing to copy it to next hard disks is increasingly onerous – sound files, picture files, video clips etc.  People are bumping into terabyte ranges for stored media files.  Tivo?  forget about archival.

    Ultimately, this will all be disintegrated.  Meanwhile, you can go to any yard/garage sale or flea market and pick up loads of VHS tapes that are still playable.

    Youtube?  Fazebook?   As soon as it is not economical, those servers will be shutdown and the content stored disappeared.

    We are becoming more and more Eloi and Morlochs every year.

    1. I reduce everything to a long series of digits and put a decimal place at the left. Then I make a precision notch in a stick that proportion of the way from one edge. One notch on a stick. Stores everything. But you have to place it verrrrrrry carefully.


    2.  Yeah, it’s fascinating how much the VHS media still works years later, considering how fiddly the mechanical technology is. I watch old movies on VHS frequently. I’m not sure that we can just “write-off” CD/DVD storage just yet (but I could say that the errors in DVDs are getting harder to overcome than with VHS).

      Eventually, everything will degenerate.

      But Yragentman is right: the recent new media data storage systems are more delicate than we sometimes think.      

    3. There’s very little storage media that *is* ‘archival’ with the possible exception of the book. Film certainly isn’t (the amount of it that has degraded to explosive brown goo is horrifying) and VHS isn’t either – it just hasn’t been around long enough for us to know exactly how long it will ultimately last (30 years is a miniscule amount of time.)

      1. Magnetic tape is definitely more archival than other alternatives.  Audio tapes from the 40s-50s is still reliable.  Magentic tape for data storage has been validated for 100 year retention.

        The bigger point is that individuals no longer record on anything close to archival so the libraries of random home video camera material and recordings of tv shows (with ads) has stopped being generated.  Even mix tapes and amature “shower” recorders no longer happen.

        Meanwhile, there are still hundreds of thousand, millions of audio cassettes and VHS tapes in basements and garages that are still playable and will still be playable 30 years from now – UNLESS they get wiped out in a flood by super storm Sandy’s sisters!!

  8. I was in CG during the period 1986-1992, and I remember going over many of these to copy the hell out of them, how pathetic does that sound now. I’m at the 20 minute mark and wondering if anything I did might still show up. Kind of hope not.
    I will take issue with the Vimeo caption that the implies that the 80’s were a period of excess. Compared to the 14th century they were, compared to the wretched excess of today I don’t see it. A lot of this looks almost innocent…

  9. I’m not sure how healthy it is for me to be played the deep contents of my visual imagination against the outside of my eyes.

  10. It’s almost annoying how much of this material is taking up memory space. Not to quibble, but it’s not all 80s material, nor is it all sourced from commercials. Some candy ads and the Playboy one are ca. 1992; I recognize them from old tapes of second and third season eps of MST3K. I also don’t believe the cult movie Repo Man ever had an ad spot. They included a clip of Otto (and Miller) flying off to space in the Chevy Malibu “this is intense!”.

    Good stuff.

    1. All of the commercials included were at least aired between the years of 1980 and 1989. Some material, like Happy Days, were obviously re-runs from the 70s by then. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing from the 90s, Full House is about as late as it gets in this. You have to remember that some commercials, like the McDonalds ice skating one and Whatchamacallit, continued airing well into the 90s.

      And yes, believe it or not, there was a TV spot for Repo Man. Was excited to find it, as we included that film in our previous video Skinemax.

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