Tag Archives: loch ness

Episode 574: Trade Secrets

“Life force? What does that mean?”

So it’s late 1968, and you’re, let’s say, fourteen. You started watching Dark Shadows on and off in the spring, and during the summer you became completely obsessed with it. You love the characters, you love the crazy stories, and you love that weird, intense connection you have with your friends when you talk about it.

You even know some kids who swear that they actually saw the episode when Barnabas shot Angelique through the heart — and with her dying breath, she turned herself into a bat and bit him on the neck.

But that’s the thing about afternoon TV in 1968 — it only happens once. They’ll run episodes of Bewitched or Gomer Pyle or The Carol Burnett Show a couple of times, but Dark Shadows is a paper-thin phantom that shimmers seductively for half an hour, and then disappears into the void, leaving a stunned audience of teenage thrill-seekers to rub their eyes and grope their way back into the daylight, talking about the wonders they’ve seen, and lording it over the unfortunate few who couldn’t get home in time to witness it for themselves.

You can’t catch Dark Shadows in your hands. It’s like the wind, or like a dream that you try to hold onto when you wake up. It’s like a ghost.

And then one day you get the chance to hold some precious fragments of the Dark Shadows life force, plus a stick of bubble gum.

Continue reading Episode 574: Trade Secrets

Episode 305: Paranormal Activity

“Is it necessary to continue to threaten me? I know the status of our relationship.”

Today’s episode opens with a shot of David walking through the woods, with a sunny meadow behind him. This is the show’s first use of chromakey, a new special effects technique that they’ll come to rely on for all sorts of supernatural malarkey. This shot only lasts about ten seconds, but it’s an incredibly important moment in the development of the show. Also, it looks awful.

Chromakey is very familiar to modern viewers; it’s also called “bluescreen” or “greenscreen”. You film the actors in front of a colored screen, and then you replace that color with the input from a different camera. It’s used for TV weather maps, and for the news correspondents on The Daily Show reporting “live” from unlikely locations.

If the lighting is set up properly, and if the actor isn’t accidentally wearing something blue, then you can create the not-very-compelling illusion that the actor is standing in front of something. And if the lighting isn’t set up properly, then it looks like this.

Continue reading Episode 305: Paranormal Activity