Max: The Subliminal Credits

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The ABC series was the playground of the show's art and graphics crew, who slipped a number of subliminal and surreptitious credits into the productions, as well as a few inside jokes. Here's the ongoing listing.

The First-Season Subliminal Credits

Episode Subliminal Credit Names
Fred Raimondi
Cliff Ralke
"Body Banks"
Fred Raimondi
"Security Systems"
Fred Raimondi, and
Billy Fox
Peter Sternlicht
Fred Raimondi, and
Bill Stewart

In the ABC pilot episode, the first cut of the opening credits ends with an ad from Network 23 sponsor Zik-Zak: a fast-cut montage of fragmentary images, mostly showing an Asian man's face with various Zik-Zak logos fading in and out, and a bizarre combination of elements such as a bowl of cereal and a spark plug. It is hard to tell how this montage was meant to fit into the story, as it lies between the more formal opening credits and the formal start of the show with the "20 Minutes into the Future" fade-in. It is, however, meant to represent the "blipvert" so crucial to the plot, and may have simply been inserted to show off the work of the editors.

A shortened version of the montage was included in the opening credits of all following episodes.

Observant viewers may have thought they... saw something extra in this blinding slide show. They were right. If the sequence is viewed at slow speed, or frame by frame, names in a simple computer font appear, laid across the other visual elements. They are the names of the graphics crew, who in this era of television did not rate standard credits, and so felt free to add their own. The added names are found in five of the first-season episodes, but the joke (or hack) must have been spoiled during the hiatus, as no second-season episodes contain such inserts.

This list is authoritative and taken from the Shout! Factory DVD release, which was made from network broadcast masters. References to names appearing in other episodes may be due to fan/bootleg edits that put a clean set of opening credits from one episode on another; references to an absence of a name may be due to those frames being lost in a poor-quality or edited copy of an off-air recording. The names last about seven frames each, and are quite noticeable at normal speed... if you know to watch for them.

So Who Are These Guys?

The shocking truth behind these embeds is that "Fred Raimondi" was actually "Blank Fred," who was tried in Video Court for this subtle "zipping" and reduced to component molecules for his crime. Such is justice 20 minutes into the future.

Okay, seriously.

Fred Raimondi is a very successful fx and title designer, still working in Hollywood. He is probably the primary architect of the dazzling Max Headroom opening credits, and used his position - and an entirely relevant sense of humor, and a bit of outrage at the lack of formal credits for his work in that era - to insert his name and those of some of the other digital creative artists in the high-speed edit.

His web site covers his long and distinguished career, but omits this ancient prank. Perhaps he'd prefer to forget it.

I am indebted to the early Max web page by Bruce Marcot that brought these "embeds" to wide attention, including mine. Bruce's page is still up, still full of amusing bits and worth a look.