Channel 4 Videos: Promos

Digitalism with Channel Four and Max Headroom.

Making the switch to digital with Max Headroom (7.4mb) >> To comment and see other videos visit

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Like everything Channel 4 does, they’ve managed to make their digital switchover campaign that bit more creative then the rest of the bunch. Not only have they dug up bizarre eighties television icon Max Headroom, they’ve paired him with Ewen Macintosh from The Office.

Max Headroom made his television debut in 1985, the same year I was born, so the reference is going a little over my head. The BBC however refers to Headroom as the “original digital TV star” which makes him and his claim that “the future is here” a highly original and wry choice for Channel 4’s campaign.

5 replies on “Digitalism with Channel Four and Max Headroom.”

Bit of a longish post, I’m afraid. Bring a snack…

Matt Frewer (the actor playing Headroom) is twenty two years older and, sadly, looking it. (I can talk!) The original Max Headroom film starred Frewer as a human who became the basis for the so-called digital “presenter”. A spin-off TV series saw this “animation” presenting music video clips.

There was little digital about it. It was all on film, from the rostrum-camera photographed animation in the background, which fooled many (including my Computer Graphics lecturer at London’s Southbank University (Polytechnic, then)) into believing it was state of the art computer generation, to the heavy makeup on Frewer’s filmed head which was then pixellated, with the conceit being added-to by frequent “stuttering” of sound and image to hint at the slight lack of power in the “computers”.

Nowadays this could all be achieved. Back then, it couldn’t, so they introduced glitches to make it look like the technology was only just keeping up. Great idea.

I certainly liked the film and the first couple of episodes, but quickly became annoyed that so many people, who ought to have known better, didn’t see the fakery.

Still, it’s great to have the trick being played again, this time to help hide the fact that HD and digital are only now bringing broadcasting back up to the picture quality of analogue which has been lost since satellite digital broadcasting compression has become accepted. Higher resolution? Maybe. Higher quality? Nope.

The level of stuttering, colour intensity, pixellation are spot on.

— as we used to say

PS – Have loved this site for a couple of years now; well done John. Haven’t updated my website in, like, seven years. But I started out with putting Channel 4 and BBC 2 idents up in 1998! Links don’t work now, but I do appreciate your work and the fact it’s given me the ability to have spangly H.264 idents on my appleTV.

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