The Future of Psychedelic Video Art // DPV First Anniversary Special – An Interview with Martin Stebbing

29 Apr

Psychedelic films are going 3D. Stebbing.

Martin Stebbing is a pioneer of a new form of psychedelic art. I first met Stebbing last September. After writing Stebbing to let him know about that we posted one of his videos on the DPV, I was amazed to find out that the artist’s new offices reside just a few minutes walk from my apartment in the Freidrichshain quarter in Berlin.

Visiting Stebbing in his studio, I could see where some of the inspiration for his stuff was coming from. The place was like the ultimate psychedelic experience candy store. It had a digitally controlled lighting system which was constantly streaming colorful rays of light across the room, and was full of curious artifacts like evasive holograms which were crawling across the walls, prancing robots and isochronic equipment. The most imposing piece of equipment, though, was a 65 inch Panasonic 3D HD TV, which Stebbing uses (besides 3D video games) to showcase his latest works of art, visually stunning high definition psychedelic 3D films.

If you thought Avatar was psychedelic, you will be in for some wild ride when you encounter some of Stebbing’s mind bending stereoscopic 3D works. Watching these videos in 3D one is struck by a feeling of witnessing a major leap in the history of psychedelic visuals, the dawn of a new art form: the 3D stereoscopic film[1]. My own reaction to these films was that of total amazement, laughing, breathing hard and even crying from joy, almost like during a real psychedelic trip. Surprisingly, the viewing experience of 3D films on the giant 3D HD TV is even more than watching 3D in the Cinema. After watching this stuff for 20 minutes, I noticed that I feel lightness, a high state of awareness, a sort of relaxation and am generally in a great mood. Could this be the effect of the lights coming off the screen? Is this some kind of 3D therapy?

The real boon, though, comes surprisingly enough after distancing oneself from the screen. Moving to the balcony which overlooks an imposing panorama of the Warschauer Str. train station and the Fridrichshain quarter, one is suddenly confronted with a renewed sense of appreciation for the multi-dimensionality of visual space. Indeed, it seems that in a similar way to the psychedelic experience, 3D psychedelic videos are capable of enhancing our perception of space and enable us see the world in a fresh way.

The goal of this kind of work, says Stebbing, is to change the fact that currently 3D can only be experienced if you watch the latest Hollywood movies. “By bringing abstract art and visuals out in stereo, there will be an alternative that many will appreciate.” According to Stebbing the current rise of 3D film is no historical glitch “It’s certain that stereo 3D is here to stay this time. It has had a few periods of fame in the past (60’s monster movies for instance) – but only now is the technology ripe enough for it to take off for real. It won’t be long before we can put the glasses away, and experience the glory of auto-sterescopic content.”

Is this where computer animated psychedelic film is heading to?

“I’m convinced it is going 3D. The added depth just makes a lot of sense when attempting to visualize something that by nature is multi-dimensional. Soon we will have access to new technology that can display holographic images in actual physical space. Being able to deliver psychedelic artwork in this fashion will open up to a completely new experience, where the viewers are actually ‘in there’ instead of watching flat images on a screen. Being able to experience abstract visuals in 3D space will allow a totally new level of immersion – especially when the visual output is synced to surround sound audio. I’m in the process of developing a new platform for delivering visual content in real-time. This will eventually be hooked up to a 360 degree dome screen to deliver some never before seen eye-candy.”

A 3D Spirit Molecule

Stebbing has been on a life long journey of trying to communicate the psychedelic experience through visual art. “The universe wants to observe itself, and artists, expressing their psychedelic artwork is a wonderful way of accomplishing this. I believe that psychedelics allow some users to connect more easily to the creative source of the universe.”

Interestingly enough, Stebbing turned his attention to 3D visuals after watching Avatar, the 3D blockbuster from 2009 which became the highest grossing films of all times. “It just makes a lot of sense to create my work in stereo [i.e. 3D films-I.H.], since we are spending most of our time in 3D space anyway” Says Stebbing.  “Being able to deliver that feeling of depth and spaciousness to the viewer is a great way to make the experience even more immersive than it would be in 2D.”

“After moving toBerlinand creating my first visuals for Der Dritte Raum, I realized that my 3D skills could be used for more than producing architectural visualizations. The interest to express abstract graphics is simply a desire to share what is going on in my brain with other people. Creating cool visuals is a great way to get the message across to a larger audience.”

Did anyone in particular influence your work?

“I have always been a big fan of Giger, but also artists such as Luke Brown, (whom I’m currently working with on the Spirit Molecule project), has been a great inspiration. I have of course also been inspired by the psychedelic experience itself. Trying to capture and visualize something that is so fleeting is quite a challenge though, but 6 years at the screen has provided me with the toolset that I require to do so.”

Can you tell us more about your involvement in the “Spirit Molecule” project?

I contacted Mitch Schulz back in October 2010 and showed him a few sample animations created with the custom developed software, Superflow. He liked it and asked if I would be interested in creating something for the special edition of the movie [which is based on the famous Rick Strasmann book “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” – I.H.]. The project is currently nearing completion, and will bring some incredible, audio-synced psychedelic visuals to screens around the world. Stay Tuned!”

Some videos by Stebbing:

Regrettably, it is impossible to show Stebbing’s stereoscopic 3D material on this website, with the current technological limitations. Here is a selection of some of his amazing 2D material. More of his videos are available on Stebbing’s Vimeo channel.

Data is Nature

Konkylie Mind I

Xeno Frost I


[1] The term “Stereoscopic 3D” animation is used here since digital animation software handles a 3D space.  In order to avoid confusion between 3D animations and 3D films such as avatar, the term “Stereoscopic 3D films” is used denote 3D animations watched with 3D dimensional (Stereoscopic) technology.

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