Back in mid-May, we explored how to recreate Star Trek’s transporter effect on just about any computer video editing platform. DigiEffects’ new “Damage” applet solves another piece of the puzzle for those who wish to play Gene Roddenberry at home: the view screen.
Actually, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but only slightly. Star Trek: The Next Generation and its successors have often taken advantage of video effects similar to this one, to make otherwise pristine video footage appear like it's been traveling for light years or breaking up because of an incoming ion storm or two.
DigiEffects' Damage is designed to is generate video effects that replicate the sort of faulty picture common in videotapes and traditional over-the-air television. Compatible with Adobe’s Premiere Pro and After Effects as well as Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Autodesk’s Combustion 4, and Red 4 by Boris FX, the names of the four separate plug-ins included under the Damage give a sense of what they do: Artifact, Blockade, Interference, and Skew.
You can get a sense of what the individual plug-ins look like on the Damage homepage. Artifact generates a heavy dose of thick squares, simulating tape drop out, or “laser rot”, for those who remember laser discs. Blockade simulates, more pervasive tape drop out effects, as well as snow and other forms of terrestrial interference. Interference is an even more intensive-appearing effect, adding a thick layer of black artifacts over the picture — think of that UHF channel you could only barely get in, and only when atmospheric conditions were absolutely perfect. Skew adds a combination of simulated electrical interference (that pesky slow rolling bar over a TV image) and snow. In its most intense setting, the underlying video is only intermittently recognizable.
DigiEffects’ motto for their Damage plug-in is “You have great footage. We can fix that.” And indeed, they certainly can. But why would you want to “Damage” that footage in the first place? Actually, there are a variety of applications for Damage once it’s part of an editor’s toolkit. For simulating the look of material shot in the last 30 years or so, video artifacts could make an effective substitute for the cliched black and white, scratched film or sepia-toned look that Hollywood typically uses when it wants to telegraph "old medium." (I recall watching an ESPN segment on failed NFL draft picks a few years ago, that used sepia-tone and scratches to age material that was obviously shot on color video only a decade or so ago).