PXL2000

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
PXL2000
FisherPrice-PXL2000. IMG 20200524.jpg
Variant models3300 and 3305; PixelVision, Sanwa Sanpix1000, KiddieCorder, and Georgia
ManufacturerFisher-Price
Introduced1987; 34 years ago (1987)
Batteries6 x AA battery
Video shot in 1994 with a PXL2000

The PXL2000 is a toy camcorder produced by Fisher Price in 1987. Designed for maximal economy, it records extremely low-resolution monochrome video and audio, all to compact audio cassette.

It was on the market for one year with about 400,000 units produced. Its minimalist aesthetic has since been sought collectors, artists, media historians, and filmmakers, with usage in major films and yielding dedicated film festivals.[1]: 20 

Development[edit]

The PXL2000 was created by a team of inventors led by James Wickstead. He sold the invention rights to Fisher-Price in 1987 at the American International Toy Fair in Manhattan.[2]

Design[edit]

The PXL2000 consists of a simple aspherical lens, an infrared filter, a CCD image sensor, a custom ASIC (the Sanyo LA 7306M), and an audio cassette mechanism. This is mounted in a plastic housing with a battery compartment and an RF video modulator selectable to either North American television channel 3 or 4. It has a plastic viewfinder and some control buttons.

The system stores 11 minutes of video and sound on a standard audio cassette tape by moving the tape at nearly nine times normal cassette playback speed. It records at roughly 16.875 inches (428.6 mm) per second, compared to a standard cassette's speed of 1.875 inches (47.6 mm) on a C90 CrO2 (chromium dioxide) cassette. In magnetic tape recording, the faster the tape speed, the more data can be stored per second. The higher speed is necessary because video requires a wider bandwidth than standard audio recording. The PXL2000 records the video information on the left audio channel of the cassette, and the audio on the right.[3]

In order to reduce the amount of information recorded to fit within the narrow bandwidth of the sped-up audio cassette, the ASIC generates slower video timings than conventional TVs use. It scans the 120 × 90 pixel CCD 15 times per second, feeding the results through a filtering circuit, and then to a frequency modulation circuit driving the left channel of the cassette head, as well as to an ADC, which creates the final image for viewing.

For playback and view-through purposes, circuits read image data from either a recorded cassette or the CCD and fill half a digital frame store at the PXL reduced rate, while scanning the other half of the frame store at normal NTSC rates. Since each half of the frame store includes only 10800 pixels in its 120 × 90 array, the same as the CCD, the display resolution was deemed to be marginal, and black borders were added around the picture, squashing the framestore image content into the middle of the frame, preserving pixels that would otherwise be lost in overscan. An anti-aliasing low-pass filter is included in the final video output circuit.

Marketing[edit]

The market success of the PXL2000 was ultimately quite low with its targeted child demographic, in part due to its high pricing. Introduced at US$179 (equivalent to about $410 in 2020) and later reduced to $100 (equivalent to about $230 in 2020), it was expensive for a child's toy but affordable by amateur video artists. The PXL2000 was produced in two versions: model #3300 at $100[4][5] with just the camera and necessary accessories; and #3305 at $150[6] adding a portable black and white television monitor with a 4.5-inch (110 mm) diagonal screen. Extra accessories were sold separately, such as a carrying case.

It was also produced as Fisher-Price PixelVision, Sanwa Sanpix1000, KiddieCorder, and Georgia.[7]

Revival[edit]

The PXL2000 has received a minor revival in popularity since the 1990s among filmmakers, due to its point-and-shoot simplicity and low-grade aesthetic. Because the unit is degradable and obsolete, its use is aligned with a certain romanticized mortality, unfit for serious mainstream appropriation. Erik Saks wrote this: "Each time an artist uses a PXL2000, the whole form edges closer to extinction."[1]: 93 

In 1990, Pixelvision enthusiast Gerry Fialka organized PXL THIS, the first film festival dedicated to projects shot exclusively on the PXL2000. The festival continues to occur annually in Los Angeles, California. Recalling the PXL2000's initial promise of accessibility, Fialka's vision includes accepting submissions indiscriminately, juxtaposing the works of established artists with those of amateurs and children.[1]: 71 

PXL2000 cameras have been used occasionally in the filmmaking scene, with modifications to output composite video, to interface to an external camcorder with a composite video input, or a VCR.[citation needed]

Productions[edit]

The PXL2000 was used by Richard Linklater in his 1991 debut film, Slacker. A roughly two-minute performance art sequence within the film is shot entirely in PixelVision.

Peggy Ahwesh's Strange Weather (1993), which follows several crack cocaine addicts in Florida, was shot entirely on a PXL2000. This video relies heavily on the camera's portability to maintain an intimate presence.

Video artist Sadie Benning is among the most critically acclaimed pioneers of the PXL2000, one of which was given to her by her father James Benning around the age of 15. Benning's early video diary works gained popularity in the artist market, earning her a lasting reputation as an innovator, with an important presence in video art.[8]

Michael Almereyda used the camera for several of his films. Another Girl Another Planet (1992) and his short Aliens (1993) were shot with it entirely, it was used for point of view shots of the title character in Nadja (1994), and it was used by the title character to make video diaries in Hamlet (2000).

The camera has been used for several music videos, including "Mote" by Sonic Youth and "Black Grease" by the Black Angels.

Artist John Humphrey's 2003 video, Pee Wee Goes to Prison was shot on a PXL2000, employing a cast of dolls and other toys to stage the imaginary trial, incarceration, and eventual pardoning (by newly-elected president Jesse Ventura) of Pee-wee Herman for the sale of Yohimbe.

The PXL2000 was used by the characters Maggie (Anne Hathaway) and Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the 2010 film, Love & Other Drugs, although the black and white footage from the camera is shown at full film resolution.[9]

In 2018, Toronto filmmaker Karma Todd Wiseman used a PXL2000 to shoot key scenes, processing the footage with enhanced monochrome. The custom PXL2000 camera was fitted with windshield mount suction cups and painted with the red and white paint scheme of the Canadian flag.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c McCarty, Andrea Nina (2005). Toying with Obsolescence: Pixelvision Filmmakers and the Fisher Price PXL 2000 Camera. Massachusetts: Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Comparative Media Studies.
  2. ^ Revkin, Andrew C. (January 22, 2000). "As Simple as Black and White; Children's Toy Is Reborn as an Avant-Garde Filmmaking Tool". New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  3. ^ US Patent 4875107.
  4. ^ "FS: Fisher-Price PXL-2000 Pixelvision Camcorder". groups.google.com.
  5. ^ "Technical Info on Fisher-Price Camcorder??". groups.google.com.
  6. ^ "PixelVision Camera". groups.google.com.
  7. ^ "Pixelvision Mystery - More PXL-2000's Than We Thought? - Sanpix 1000". Retro Thing.
  8. ^ Chris O'Falt (August 9, 2018). "Pixelvision: How a Failed '80s Fisher-Price Toy Camera Became One of Auteurs' Favorite '90s Tools". IndieWire.
  9. ^ Movie reviews: Love & Other Drugs

External links[edit]