PKD's Scramble Suit In A Scanner Darkly Movie Trailer

The highly anticipated movie version of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly will (probably) appear in theaters this summer. A new trailer highlights the look and feel of the film. The trailer emphasizes elements found in Dick's work; it is a dark vision of an America in which everyone is continually monitored and recorded.

One of the more interesting elements of the trailer is that it clearly illustrates the scramble suit, an intriguing piece of technovelgy. The suit is worn to give a perfectly anonymous appearance to undercover police detectives.


(Keanu Reeves in a scramble suit)

The scramble suit ... consisted of a multifaceted quartz lens hooked up to a million and a half physiognomic fraction-representations of various people: men and women, children, with every variant encoded and then projected outward in all directions equally onto a superthin shroudlike membrane large enough to fit around an average human.

As the computer looped through its banks, it projected every conceivable eye color, hair color, shape and type of nose, formation of teeth, configuration of facial bone structure - the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond, then switched to the next...
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's scramble suit)

At the end of another exhausting day of paranoid investigation, the suit can be removed, and one's ordinary identity resumed.


(The scramble suit comes off)

The unusual look of the film is achieved with a technique known as interpolated rotoscoping, in which a program called Rotoshop determines vector keyframes of timed images, and then interpolates frames automatically to achieve smooth animation. Older viewers of the film will probably be reminded of a similar technique used by Seventies filmmaker Ralph Bakshi (I'm thinking of the Ringwraiths in particular). Even older viewers might remember that Walt Disney used a similar technique of basing animation directly on filmed live action in the very first animated film Snow White (completed in 1937). Marjorie Belcher was filmed pantomiming the actions of Snow White; initial tracings for the animators were taken directly off the moviola.

For comparison, you might want to take a look at the mimetic polycarbon suit worn by Lupus Yonderboy in William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer.

The new movie trailer is available all over the web (try here); I found an interesting description of the creation of Snow White here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/22/2006)

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