Quantel Mirage

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The Quantel Mirage, or DVM8000/1 "Digital Video Manipulator", was a digital real-time video effects processor introduced by Quantel in 1982. It was capable of warping a live video stream by texture mapping it onto an arbitrary three-dimensional shape, around which the viewer could freely rotate or zoom in real-time. It could also interpolate, or morph, between two different shapes. It was considered the first real-time 3D video effects processor.

The Mirage was programmable - new shapes could be created by writing programs in the Pascal programming language on an attached Hewlett Packard computer. This made the device extremely flexible, but such programming was difficult and it became a highly specialized skill known by few.

Physically, the Mirage was a large device whose processing equipment filled a full-height 19-inch rack, weighed 400 kilograms and consumed over 4 kilowatts of electrical power.

One famous Mirage user was Mike Oldfield, who purchased one for his extensive home music studio and video production facility. Signature Mirage effects can be seen in the Wind Chimes video album, in the form of rotating spiky spheres and granulated morphing effects.

The Quantel Mirage did never-before seen effects, but required heavy math/geometrical programming via the HP computer to define the basic shapes that real-time video would be mapped onto. One of the effects shown on the National Association of Broadcasters trade-show floor to introduce the Mirage was a flattened Coke soft-drink can on video. The Mirage in real-time re-assembled the can on a tube, then allowed you to tumble or travel within it while it rotated with partial transparency - allowing you to see the Coke logo in reverse on the opposite side of the can as it would turn.

A common spinning globe effect can be seen on the opening of USA for Africa's "We Are The World," and the Cyndi Lauper "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" music videos.

The programming of the HP mini computer was so complex that only basic canned effects would be practically used by video editors in productions. In the late 1980s, Sony's Broadcast & Professional Products division would solve this problem with a track-ball/"Centipede" video game-type controller on their Digital Multi Effects DME-9000, code-named "SYSTEM G." The $250,000+ device would in real time allow a flat image to be extruded with texture while real-time video was mapped onto it (no waiting for renders). Given the cost, only a few were produced and many of the engineers who worked on the project in Japan were moved to PlayStation development.

As of 2011, while these effects can be produced off-line and rendered in non-real time (often taking hours to tweak, render and revise), there is no 3D texture real-time broadcast video or film effects machine for the Quantel Mirage or Sony System G, which explains why these effects are not seen in live news, entertainment or sports programming, unless they were pre-produced days or weeks in advance.

Trivia: During the closing credits of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, ABC Sports Broadcaster Jim McKay, seeing a Quantel "MIRAGE" Operator title rolling on the screen, commented, 'Mirage? I thought everything we've seen during these games were real.' Musician Michael Jackson was also said to have purchased a Sony System G for use in his video studio work. Quantel is best known for their invention of the "Paintbox," the first successful painting and manipulation of video graphics using an all-digital, uncompressed and uncompromised, proprietary hardware and software system, and Dynamic Graphic Animation. This preceded by decades what is now termed Adobe "Photoshop" and "After Effects" motion graphics in popular culture.

These 3D texture, real-time effects were coincidentally the 3rd iteration of advanced picture manipulation devices that became known as DVEs (Digital Video Effects). Initial devices would do relatively simple squeezeback effects (think a rectangular box graphic over the shoulder of a news or sports anchor person).

The first "wow" effects were made possible in the 1977 $200,000 "SqueeZoom," manufactured by Vital Industries, which won an Emmy Award for its achievement. SqueeZoom DVE effects could be seen during CBS' broadcast of the 1978 Grammy Awards, where album cover art would flip and tumble (on the "X" and "Y" geometric axis) as nominees names would be announced.

In 1981, Ampex would take DVEs to a new level, introducing Z-axis and perspective and be awarded an Emmy for their Ampex Digital Optics (ADO). All DVEs after this date would include X-Y-Z axis, rotation and perspective.

The migration to High Definition video powered development of even more-powerful real-time DVEs in all broadcast production today.

These DVE generators from the 1970s and 1980s gave birth to graphic effects that now allows you to flip album cover art on an Apple iPod or a page-turn effect on an Apple iPad.

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