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How They Did the “Breathing Television” Effect in ‘Videodrome’

Welcome to How’d They Do That? — a bi-monthly column that unpacks moments of movie magic and celebrates the technical wizards who pulled them off. This entry looks into the breathing television effect in Videodrome.

When David Cronenberg directed Videodrome in the early ’80s, he was coming off of a series of fiercely original indie horror films largely financed under Canada’s favorable tax-shelter laws. While Videodrome began life as a tax-shelter picture, early in production the project was picked up by Universal Studios. Working under more commercial auspices had drawbacks. But it also meant that Cronenberg was working with a much larger effects budget. Which, in the hands of the Baron of Blood, certainly did not go to waste.

Videodrome follows Max Renn (James Woods), a small-time porn mogul who’s on the hunt for “tougher” programming. One of his minions dredges up a pirated broadcast of a plotless torture session called “Videodrome.” Sensing he’s on to something that could redefine entertainment, Max searches for the creators of the program. However, with each exposure to the Videodrome signal, Max’s grip on reality begins to blur into something entirely new…and fleshy.

Videodrome Television Effect

Cronenberg was only a child when television first started to ingratiate itself into people’s homes. Anxious parents warned their children not to sit too close, fearing some pernicious radiation might affect attentive minds. In a video-interview with Mick Garris, Cronenberg underlines that “it’s totally misleading” to describe Videodrome as a criticism of television. “It’s really

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