How would I achieve the digital distortion effect seen in this David Bowie video from 6:20 to 7:10? Is there a term for this effect to help guide future searches?

Can't embed the video, so here's a screenshot Bowie Clip

  • See Adding random visual noise and errors to an existing video – specifically the noise bitstream filter and forcing a pixel format examples. It won't be exactly the same but it will be a good start.
    – llogan
    Dec 18, 2013 at 7:48
  • 1
    Welcome to Video Production. Could you please add some more detail as to what you are trying to accomplish. It wasn't clear from the video exactly what it is you are trying to do and if the link goes dead, it will be even more unclear what the question is asking. If you can describe the effect further, that would be a great help.
    – AJ Henderson
    Feb 25, 2014 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


Tough question, and I imagine that those effects may be combinations of many other effects (probably in a 3D package given the context of the video itself). Barnaby Roper has a pretty interesting skill set, and we could try forever guessing what he did without getting it exactly right.

That said, you should be able to accomplish a similar effect with purposefully induced compression artifacts. Getting those artifacts to animate seemingly organically like the video will be tricky.

Otherwise, dig into After Effects and start playing with combinations of all the distortion. Trapcode's Particular is (unsurprisingly) used throughout, but it's hard to pin down exactly what they're using it for everywhere. Still, Trapcode does have a small blog about the video, which might be able to direct you to further expertise:


You may also want to look into Trapcode MIR: http://vimeo.com/46449353; I don't think it was used for the distortion you've highlighted, but it's possible.

Happy hunting!


If your editing software can produce motion from the still image you can just take the last frame of from the previous portion of the video and set the stationary and moving points (and if you are doing some 3D-like effect akin to rotating in the Z-axis also the depth values).

Another approach is if you have a video that records the 'effect' and then you would replace the B-frame in that video with the previous frame of the last segment, but keep I-frames the same. I-frames are encoded in relation to the previous output... in fact that is what the effect tries to emulate i suppose, when B-frame becomes corrupted or just wasn't read, and you get that not only in GIF, but in many video codecs as well. However, for this approach some hackery is needed, as you have to know how to edit a stream that is already encoded.

I am not aware of any tools that do that automatically for you. But good luck.


There's a good discussion of it – "it" being "datamoshing" here. Not just how it's done, but also why you probably should not do it.

  • Thanks for the answer. As it currently stands, there isn't a lot of detail in this answer other than the link. If you could summarize a couple of the key points from the link (just in case it goes dead in the future) in your own words, that would make this answer much better.
    – AJ Henderson
    Mar 4, 2014 at 14:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.