CreditsSmith, Alvy Ray
PublisherXerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center)
Place of PublicationPalo Alto, California
DescriptionOriginally recorded on Ampex 1-inch videotape or a prototype rhodium-plated videodisk at PARC, 1974. Edited on Ampex 1-inch videotape. Transferred to DVD by Richard G. Shoup, 2002. Duration 15:01.
Alvy Ray Smith created Vidbits on Dick Shoup’s SuperPaint videographics system using software written by Shoup or added to the system himself as needed. It is a collection of artistic experiments using the world’s first complete 256-color (8 bits per pixel) raster graphics system—video in, image manipulation and creation software, video out. Animation was often achieved by recording directly to videotape as a program executed—typically using SuperPaint’s colormap feature that reassigned colors to pixel values in real time, under interactive control with a stylus on a tablet. The pixel pattern was typically created with one of Smith’s software hacks. Another animation method used frame-by-frame recording to a videodisk, then transfer of a completed sequence to videotape. The cartoons are an example. They feature the classic walk cycle taught by famed animator Preston Blair (dancing hippos in Fantasia) in his $1.50 how-to-animate book which Smith was studying. Smith’s friend Dell Washington contributed her digitized face to experimentation in some of the shots. The soundtrack is excerpted from The Planets by Gustav Holst (c1914) and is not synchronized with the imagery. Smith used Vidbits for his entry into New York City’s avant-garde video art scene in the 1970s.