“The Video Artist”: WTV’s “Tempest” (1981) was included in Night Flight’s 3rd Anniversary Special

By on November 9, 2017

Part Two of Night Flight’s Third Anniversary Special — which originally aired on June 9, 1984, and streaming with other original full episodes of “Night Flight” over on Night Flight Plus — included our “Salute to Video Art,” covering artists working in the then-new world of video and computer graphics.

In this episode, we featured video art by Nam June Paik, Will Powers, Philip Glass, Michael Jeffrenou, Laurie Anderson, King Crimson, and Dean Winkler, Tom DeWitt and Vibeke Sorensen’ s Tempest, created in 1981 at EUE Video in NYC (read more about Tempest below).

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As Pat Prescott says in her introduction, “Night Flight” was the “only national TV show regularly showing the best and latest in video art.”

Tempest —  which evokes a tempest as seen through the eye of a storm” — was originally included in the first season of The Video Artist, a sixteen-part limited series produced by Night Flight’s founder/creator Stuart S. Shapiro and Eric Trigg of Electronic Arts Intermix [EAI].

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Winkler, DeWitt and Sorensen appeared in an interview where they collectively discussed two of their pieces (the other being Voyage).

You can read more about this series in this previous Night Flight blog post about video artist Stephen Beck.

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“Dean Winkler,” Ms. Prescott continues, “is design engineer and artist, and a pioneer in video computer art,” although she’s introducing just one of the three individuals behind Tempest.

Winkler — along with Tom DeWitt and Vibeke Sorenson —  had formed a creative partnership called WTV, representing each of their names: W for Winkler; T for Tom; V for Vibeke.

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Tempest — which featured music by Sorensen with Walter Michael — won the Grand Prize at the First International Visual Music Festival, UCLA, 1982.

Read more about Dean Winkler, Tom DeWitt and Vibeke Sorensen below.

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1982 interview with WTV’s Dean Winkler, Tom DeWitt and Vibeke Sorensen conducted by Louise Etra

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Design engineer/video artist Dean Winkler began his career by designing hardware to improve linear editing systems, including a unique digital-to-analog converter which was awarded a U. S. patent.

Winkler collaborated with numerous video artists, including Nam June Paik and Phillip Glass, creating a body of video art which is now part of the permanent collections of museums worldwide.

Winkler co-founded, designed, built and operated Post Perfect, a groundbreaking post-production facility in Manhattan  NYC, where he designed and built Mixed Nuts, the first all-digital non-linear audio post-production facility.

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Winkler was also the Executive Producer of Crossroads Television and the CTO of Crossroads Films, a bi-coastal production company known for its distinct creative approach, where he oversaw production for broadcast and cable networks.

In 2009, he founded Winkler Consulting Inc. (WCI), who create moving images for television, film and immersive experiences, and provide post-production and visual effects supervision for film and television and an array of engineering services.

Winkler’s work has been recognized with over thirty Emmy, BDA/Promax, Monitor, ACM Siggraph, Telley, and other awards.

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Tom DeWitt completed his first film, AtmosFear (1966), at San Francisco State College, where he and fellow student Scott Bartlett also created a unique light show based on film loops, called OffOn (1967).

By the time DeWitt graduated from SF State in 1968, two of his short experimental films were included the collection of San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.

He returned to the upstate New York area, and continued working in film — using the facilities of WCBS in NYC to work on The Leap (1969) and Fall (1971) — before his interests shifted towards electronic music, computer graphics, and laser light shows.

In the mid-Seventies, while an artist-in-residence at the WNET TV Lab, DeWitt invented “panto-animation,” a  computerized version of the Rotoscope process now called “motion capture” (or “performance capture”).

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In the early ’80s, DeWitt’s work with WTV appeared at ACM Siggraph. Their group were commissioned by the Jimi Hendrix Estate to produce Little Wing (1982).

DeWitt also created computer graphics for the Rolling Stones’ videos for 2000 Light Years from Home and Paint It Black (1990), directed by Gerald Marks.

In 1984, while working in the Image Processing Laboratory of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a computer programmer, DeWitt discovered a variant on holography, called Diffraction Range Finding, a variant on holography.

Today, Tom DeWitt Ditto — he took the name Ditto when he married Beverly Botto in 1994 — works primarily as an inventor, doing research in optics.

He is also one of the founders of Canyon Cinema, as well as a Fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation as an artist, a three-time NEA Fellow, an AFI Fellow, and he has also been named four times as a Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation and served as a Fellow of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, where he designed a novel telescope.

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Originally from Denmark, Vibeke Sorensen ended up studying architecture, art and science, getting her International Baccalaureate Degrees in English Literature and Mathematics.

Sorensen went on to become an artist and professor working in digital media art, interactive architectural installation, and multi-site networked visual-music performance.

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She’s collaborated with scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, NASA-JPL, U. C. San Diego/San Diego Supercomputer Center/Neurosciences Institute of La Jolla, and the University of Southern California, primarily in developing new technologies.

She’s taught and developed programs in digital media at Virginia Commonwealth University, Cal-Arts, and Princeton, and was Professor and Founding Chair of the Division of Animation and Digital Arts, School of Cinema-Television, at USC.

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She received a 2001 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in Film/Video/Multimedia for her interactive architectural installation, Sanctuary.

Currently, she is Professor of Visual Art and Computation in the Arts, Media, and Engineering Program at ASU.

Watch Tempest and other examples of early ’80s-era video art in Part Two of Night Flight’s Third Anniversary Special, now streaming on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.