Experimental 1080p video footage offers an uncannily sharp snapshot of 1992 in Japan

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/04/26/experimental-1080p-video-foota.html


It is very strange to see a world in 1080p without anyone looking at a smartphone.


1992? That’s likely D-VHS. It has that D-VHS feel. You can find other HD D-VHS samples from around 92 but the format wasn’t public until 1998 which was 3 years after DVD. Since consumers didn’t have displays capable of 1080 much less 720 the tech was just too ahead of the times and undercut by DVD.


Very cool, similar to DVHS footage of New York City circa 1993.

To me that era is so intimately tied up with shitty VHS scanning technology that seeing clear footage looks fake. Like it was carefully recreated with actors wearing vintage clothing.


This is so much sharper than the 2-kilopixel blur of, say, a Dynasty catfight from the eighties, and yet, I don’t remember the transition to HD ever seeming that remarkable as it happened. I wonder if that’s because most shows were (are?) still designed to be watchable on a 12-inch NTSC screen, so they just don’t use shots with a lot of fine detail or dynamic range.

( –_– ) ?

anyway the thing production designers always get wrong is old stuff that looks old back when it was new – Victorian books are faded and yellowed, medieval things are worn smooth and dark with age, classical buildings are ruins and/or completely white, etc.


The first thing that came to my mind watching this video is – dang, look how smooth and well maintained the streets are!

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This was exactly my first thought.

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I wonder if the shot from this NYC video (0:52 sec in) was the inspiration for the scene in the original Matrix movie when they run the test program of the woman in the red dress. They have an oddly similar feel.

Also, both this and the video of Tokyo were fun to watch muted while listening to the ambient music posted in another article today.

The inverse is also true with some late 20th century period pieces- My folks had noticed in some recent period pieces set in the US in the '70s/'80s (Fargo S2, Mindhunter, Stranger Things, Halt and Catch Fire, etc.) that since the common sorts of cars people drove didn’t really get preserved there tends an overabundance of models that didn’t yet exist or are collector cars, with maybe a Gremlin or station wagon tossed in and are almost always shiny and perfectly maintained. I remember watching something supposedly set in the Midwest in the early '80s but most of the cars were '60s/'70s musclecars. I get car casting is difficult and expensive, but that was sort of jarring. It was a recession, where are the miserable shitboxes?


Too bad they weren’t able to match the quality of the music to the video. And I’m not talking about fidelity here!


D-VHS was definitely not around in '92 or '93 - though the footage may have been transferred to it later on, but wouldn’t have been 1080P. D-VHS was based on MPEG-2 compressed 1080i or 720P, and the MPEG-2 standard (ISO/IEC 13818) didn’t have its first approvals until 1994 - with first products using the standard in SD the following year (DVD press launch in 1995). Not aware of any hardware that would have done HD MPEG-2 back then.

I worked at Sony’s UK broadcast research group from 1990 onwards, and the systems there were all 1035i (HiVision) - a 3D DVE production switcher took up 3 full height 19" racks… So for this to be 1080P60 just 2 years later must have been a very early experimental system - can’t find any reference to what it was. But of course NHK’s labs (who collaborated with Sony and others) have already been way ahead - few weeks back at the NAB show I saw their 8k HDR theatre presentation with 22.2 sound - Mind. Blown.

Picture quality of the 1035i stuff was amazing, then of course everyone started heavily compressing signals to fit more channels per bandwidth and it all went to shit. That’s why I get to watch badly compressed SD channels on my UHD screen, grumble, moan, not as good as it used to be…


So how do you explain the HD D-VHS video from 1993?

This may surprise you to learn, but many people use technologies before approval of a standard. Certainly it would be rare to find in a television production studio but the camera developers aren’t working in that market. To suggest the video is not D-VHS or 1080p because the standard was not approved until a year later begs the question - when people create new technology, does it not exist until a standard is published?

From the YouTube clip:

"In 2002 D-Theater launched in the US - the dealers needed a demo tape of HD footage. JVC reused some HD video that had been shot as a demo for the Japanese HD market back in 1993.
This footage would have most likely been originally used for a HiVision MUSE demo (an HD Broadcast, Tape & Laserdisc format). "

There’s a lot of experimental HD footage that was repurposed later in the '90s and early '00s for this kind of thing, most of it shot on HiVision.

No surprise at all - as someone who worked alongside colleagues contributing to those early standards, my use of the term ‘approval’ here was first ISO/IEC approval for the publication of the standard. The bibliography for the standard is full of research papers from '91 to '93, so this is a case of it really not being possible to have built MPEG-2 enabled equipment any earlier - plus the processing power requirements were quite significant at the time.

I know that people create new stuff ad hoc before standards ratification, it’s a lot easier to do nowadays - which is a great thing. But it can sometimes lead to abominations like QuickTime… and then some idiot goes and chooses that as a basis for MPEG-4… don’t get me started! :grinning:

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As I remember the original hidef formats were analog. Like laserdiscs. I remember all the videophiles worrying that dvd would never look as good as ld because they associated digital with highly (and badly) compressed internet video. I wonder how long it will be before there is an analog video resurgence. If we have the tech to put 50gb on a cd sized disc, surely we could put a hidef film in analog on an LP sized laserdisc. But alas in this age of multi billion r&d/tooling costs for $10 products it will never be feasible economically to do this even with the margins of high end sucker luxury electronics.

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Most of Stranger Things’ cars look period-correct or close enough. The only thing that sticks out is that unless they’re supposed to be a car that’s never experienced a midwest winter yet, all the cars are way too clean and rust-free.

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I kind of miss the big, black handheld phone that you could punch through a wall with. A nice heft with solid construction, you could really slam that thing down when you wanted to hang up on someone with emphasis.


Apparently all that’s left of Salute Your Shorts is crappy pirated copies because it never got a full DVD release and the originals were destroyed


I was still a relative newbie to Tokyo in 1992. I was hoping for some nostalgia in this clip.
The main things I noticed were: people smoking while walking down the street (and even coming out of a phone booth) and an absolute absence of visible foreigners.
Other than that, it looks much like today.


I’m sad there wasn’t more Tokyo at night. I spent a solid 5 hours just walking around Shibuya one night there and it was great.