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Datamoshing 101: How to Make Your Footage Look Trippy

Learn all about what datamoshing is and the best ways to create your own datamosh effects! Let’s glitch out!

There are certain pixel and glitch effects you see and can’t help but wonder: “How can I achieve that exact look?” This can become difficult because the term “glitch” can refer to so many different things!

However, one of the most requested pixel-glitch effects that’s exploded in popularity is called “datamoshing.” You’ve definitely seen it by now—pixels glitch in an organic manner and appear to either melt, duplicate, or create a projection map-like effect on the next scene of a video.

Datamosh Effect
An example of datamoshing.

Datamoshing really went mainstream with the release of A$AP Mob’s “Yamborghini High” music video. The video features heavy datamoshing all throughout.

So, What Is Datamoshing?

In short, datamoshing messes with a video’s compression, causing the pixel information to become corrupt. Compressed videos contain i-frames and d-frames. I-frames are essentially a complete image of a video frame, whereas d-frames are comprised of where pixels from an i-frame need to move to.

The d-frames are much more efficient for video compression since they store only pixel movement data rather than an entire image. However, if the d-frames become corrupted, or if the i-frames get removed, the pixels onscreen will move in some extremely glitchy ways.

This results in what we call the datamoshing effect.

Datamosh Effect Example
Historically, datamoshing was an undesirable effect, caused by errors with video compression.

Historically, this would be an undesirable visual effect because it obviously means an error has occurred with the video compression or video signal.

The first time I saw the effect (the unintentional version), I was watching a video on a handheld digital-TV receiver. You also may have seen it occur while watching satellite TV during a thunderstorm, where there may be some interference with the video signal.

Types of Datamoshing

As mentioned earlier, when errors occur with a compressed video’s i-frames or d-frames, datamoshing is the result. There are two distinct pixel effects this can create (or sometimes a mix between the two).

The first is if the video’s i-frames get removed. This typically results in pixels from a previous scene getting projected onto the next scene. It almost looks as if the pixels have been projection-mapped or tracked onto the next shot.

I-Frames Removed
An example of datamoshing when the i-frames of a video are removed.

The second type of datamoshing glitch occurs when a video’s d-frames are duplicated. This causes the image and colors to melt or bloom together because the pixels are being duplicated multiple times along the same motion path.

Duplicate D-Frames
An example of datamoshing when the d-frames of a video are duplicated.

How to Datamosh Video Footage

There are two primary methods you can use to create datamosh effects on your video footage. The first, and the method I personally recommend, is using the appropriately named After Effects plugin Datamosh.

I recently used this plugin for a variety of animations found in the video below from PremiumBeat’s own Lewis McGregor.

The second is by manually adjusting the i-frames and d-frames of a video clip, using a free video editing program. Let’s take a look at each method below!

Datamosh Plugin

Datamosh is a third-party plugin for After Effects available on aescripts.com. The plugin costs $39.99, but it’ll save you countless hours of frustrating trial and error and free you up for more creative experimentation.

I recently did some datamosh edits for a client project, and I can’t imagine achieving those effects without using Datamosh. The plugin essentially streamlines the entire datamoshing process.

Datamosh After Effects Plugin
Logo for Datamosh After Effects plugin. Image via Datamosh.

Once you have the Datamosh plugin installed in After Effects, you then have options for duplicating d-frames and setting the interval, duration, and end point for the effect. You also have an option for removing i-frames, as well.

The plugin even includes some easy-to-use presets, allowing you to quickly create a variety of datamoshing effects. Check out the Datamosh Quick Start Tutorial for a breakdown of the plugin and more information about datamoshing.

Creating Datamosh Effects Manually (No Plugins Required)

Creating datamosh effects manually requires quite a bit more work. However, if you’re a no-budget filmmaker, this may be your only option.

First, you’ll need to export the sequence of video clips that you’ll be tweaking with datamosh effects. Next, you’ll need to import your exported video into a video editor called Avidemux, version 2.5.4. (It’s important to note that this method only works with version 2.5.4.)

Avidemux is essentially a simplistic video editor, but it includes options to adjust the i-frames and d-frames of a video. This allows you to manually create your own datamosh effects. Justin Odisho has a tutorial walking you through how to datamosh using Avidemux.

If you’d like to know more about datamoshing and how the manual process of datamoshing works, check out the website datamosh.com. They feature links for where you can find programs such as Avidemux, as well as datamoshing settings recommendations and more.

More Trippy Video Effects

Are you looking to create even more trippy effects? Check out 4 Trippy Ways to Blend Footage in Your Video Projects. In that Shutterstock tutorial, Robbie covers datamoshing, as well as displacement wipes, double exposures, and key transitions.

For more glitchy fun and motion design advice, take a look at these articles:

Cover image via Axro.