Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coney Island Pixelvision Footage

Among my old videotapes in the basement was some footage I shot of Coney Island on a friend's Fischer Price Pixelvision camera back in the summer of 1993. Most people will probably find this stuff dreadfully boring, but to me there is something fascinating about it.

I notice there are a decent amount of Pixelvision videos on youtube, which is perhaps appropriate since the compression process doesn't really make the footage much worse. The charm of Pixelvision has always lied in its lack of fidelity to (and distortions of) the image as perceived by the human eye. While this is hardly the best Pixelvision footage on youtube, it's also far from the worst (at least I figured out how to crop the image to get rid of the gutterboxing).

The first video is my recording of a ride on the famous Cyclone roller coaster (considered by many coaster enthusiasts as among the best in the world). I was hoping for better results than what I got here--you see more of the back of my friend Tim's shirt than the coaster itself. Still, I'm pretty sure this is the only Pixelvion footage of a ride on the Cyclone known to man, and that should count for something.

The second video is longer and is just a compendium of some of the sites and sounds of Coney Island circa 1993. The Cyclone is featured again, but I was more interested in capturing footage of the abandoned and decaying Thunderbolt roller coaster. Footage of the Carousel turned out pretty nicely.

For me these unreliable, fragmentary, low-fidelity images serve as an analogue for memory itself. Over time, our memories lose detail (in a sense becoming increasingly pixelated through the years). The Thunderbolt roller coaster I filmed that windy summer day was demolished in 2000 after sitting dormant since 1983. I found some strange beauty in its decaying structure that is hard to explain. But my memory of it now is hardly any more vivid than the grainy Pixelvison footage seen here. Perhaps there is some beauty to be found in that as well.


Peter Hennig said...

I think the purpose of those clips has been realized -- it really is like looking into crevices of memory to pull out pieces of detail.

I just can't believe that was 15 years ago...

BTW I still have that pixelvision camera -- thinking about selling it along with alot of other things that do nothing but accumulating dust.

Pete Bilderback said...


Glad you had a similar reaction to this footage. It might be deadly boring to nearly anyone else, but it's not like I'm forcing anyone to watch it, right?

Do you have any idea what a Pixelvision camera goes for these days? I couldn't find any on eBay, which suggests they are at least scarce (if not valuable). I know they still have somewhat of a following, though not as much as during the early-to-mid-90s.

We're trying to get a bunch of stuff together for a Yard Sale (kid's stuff and stuff that's not valuable enough to put on eBay). It is easy to accumulate a lot of junk.

Peter Hennig said...

I have no idea how much a pixelvision goes for these days -- I guess as long as the music cassette format is still around it won't be completely obsolete.

Pete Bilderback said...

I've looked and can't find much info. I saw one listed online for $100--nothing on eBay. I wouldn't be surprised if you did well on it.

Maybe I should buy it from you so I can finally get around to doing that Pixelvision remake of Citizen Kane I always wanted to do.