San Francisco experimental filmmaker Scott Bartlett spent the mid-1960s making film loops for various West Coast light shows. In the summer of 1967, he partnered with Michael MacNamee and liquid light specialist Glenn McKay, of the light show outfit Head Lights, to make OffOn, the first “electrovideographic jam” in America, at a television studio in Sacramento. Prior to that undertaking, Bartlett had worked with Tom Dewitt on a “mulitprojection light concert” called Timecycle. Together and separately, the two had shot and developed more than two hundred film loops; they picked out twenty or so to use as the basis for OffOn.
Bartlett had also previously developed a number of handmade lighting devices and techniques, including the use of food dye to color filmstrips and Mylar reflectors to create deliquescent photographic effects in his films. For this early hybrid film and video piece, Bartlett combined his and DeWitt’s loops–printing as many as eleven of them onto a single piece of film–with McKay’s real-time rear-projected liquid projections, processing them through a two-channel video-effects unit; the resulting imagery was filmed off a studio monitor by MacNamee. The two video sources were put through further video effects, and then Bartlett edited down the footage and created an electronic soundtrack of overlaid drones, chimes, and pink noise with DeWitt and composer Manny Meyer.