Fleischer Rotoscope

In mid-1977, after the release of the Video Animation System (VAS), Lyon Lamb began work on an alternative method to the film rotoscope process, which was invented in 1915 by Max Fleischer.

Lyon Lamb's basic rotoscope concept centered around the Lucigraph, a now antiquated and cumbersome tracing system with a movable lens and bellows that allowed the user to manipulate flat art. The Goodkin Corporation built the Lucigraph in New Jersey. John Lamb flew back to Goodkin, ran some tests, and within months the Lucigraph was adapted to fit a modernized, video rotoscope solution.

Goodkin Lucigraph

A high resolution black and white monitor replaced the flat art. The electronics were placed on the face of the unit. The entire Lucigraph unit was encased in a wood box to intensify the light from the video image, added for ease of tracing. It worked surprisingly well.

The Video Rotoscope operated in conjunction with the original 1/2" reel-to-reel Lyon Lamb VAS. In a dark room, the user would locate the image he wanted to trace, put the VAS in pause, place a hand on each reel and "rocking" them simultaneously, would then count every fifth video field to achieve film speed (24 fps) and stop. Then trace and repeat. It was an arduous and labor intensive process, but it worked! In the Fall of 1977, the Lyon Lamb Video Rotoscope was ready for production.

To demonstrate its potential, John Lamb set out to create something that had never been seen before: a rotoscoped, rock n' roll video. It featured Tom Waits, a fascinating young artist and his song "The One that Got Away". Titled "Tom Waits for No One" the video was released in October 1979, and disappeared almost as quickly as the video rotoscope had been created.

In the end, the only item more obscure than the seminal video "Tom Waits For No One" would be the Lyon Lamb Video Rotoscope, the innovative product that made the rotoscoped video possible, and represented Lyon Lamb's second analog innovation. Rotoscoping is found regularly in music videos today - but in 1979, "Tom Waits for No One" would become a genre defining event, released nearly two years before Bakshi's "American Pop" was released into movie theaters.

Lyon Lamb Video Rotoscope