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Old August 17th, 2005, 04:12 PM   #1
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Pixelvision Open Source Project

Okay the Fisher Price Pixelvision camera I bought on a Frankfurter flea-market sometime around 1997 (give or take a year) for around 30 DM has started it's journey today to Sean McHenry in Hilliard, Ohio. I sent it to him via surface mail for 8 Euros, so I hope that it makes it to him sometime this year.

I think that the camera may have made its way to Frankfurt from Japan, because the only inscription on it is a small label in Japanese (I have no Idea what it says - probably "push here to start recording").

I modified the camera so that it has a RCA connector coming out the back which delivers an analog video signal (no audio) from the camera's circuit board. I retrofitted it using instructions I got from this web site or one like it: http://www.speakeasy.org/~joem/Pxl/

The camera no longer records a recognizable image onto an audio cassette tape (but ironically enough the audio sounds good on tape). The camera requires four AA batteries (not included).

The camera makes a terrible alarm sound, it seems when there is too little light (so don't get scared - it sounds more like an auto-destruct warning than a low light warning).

To start filming you either have to trick the camera into thinking that there is a tape in it (without it's record safe removed), by sticking your finger into the tape receptacle, and pushing the record safe sensor, while pushing the record (it might be the record/play buttons (like a tape recorder))... Or you can put a tape in it. The tape transport mechanism is kind of loud though (as I remember). Or maybe it's the tape mechanism that is loud and the low light indicator is something else.

Anyway, there is a switch just under the RCA retrofit which starts and stops the tape transport mechanism after the record / play buttons have been engaged. Which I think has no effect on the signal coming out of the RCA jack.

That is all I can remember off the top of my head. Sean, if you have any questions when it arrives, just ask.

I put a sticker with my name, logo, and address on the camera. I would suggest that when it passes through someone's hands, that they should do the same, as a physical documentation of its travels.

Cheers,
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Old August 17th, 2005, 04:18 PM   #2
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I'd like to have a few days with it, somehwere down the line, if possible.
Thanks
MG
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Old August 18th, 2005, 08:47 AM   #3
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Mike,
It's on the way to my place so after I get some time in with it, I'll make note of where it's going and pass it along.

Daniel, are you going to keep a log somewhere of where it is when? I'll send the destination address and date it leaves here for Mikes place. I'll try see if I can find some sort of light weight case for it, unless it is in one now. People slapping stickers on it will eventually ruin out of room or cause something to jam, but I love that idea. Sort of like those teddy bears kids send around the world.

I'll let you know when it arrives.

Thanks again.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 10:15 AM   #4
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I think that maybe Dylan is next in line (before me). As for a case, I work in a packaging lab, I can probably put something together from odds and ends- I made a really good hardcase for my pdx10 that way.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 10:24 AM   #5
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ALthough I'm next in line, if Micheal wants to build a case for it, it could go to him next for safety sake. For shipping costs, lets try and make it a superlight case.

I like the idea of everyone adding a tiny sticker. Full addresses might be too much.

We should turn it into some kinf of long term travel docu project. Like everyone shoots 3 minutes of their hometown, themselves, etc... into one final long miniDV tape that is a visual record of its travel around the world.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 10:30 AM   #6
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I'm easy about the shipping sequence. And a super light case is what I have in mind, although I will probably make some sort of hardcase. I also like Dyalns idea of making a video travel log with it.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 03:16 PM   #7
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I figured that this thread would serve as the travel log.

But I think everyone should feel free to add whatever they see fit to this rig. Including log book or case. It is in fact not in anything but a cardboard box at the moment. A custom case sounds great - although I don't think it really needs it. Remember it was originally designed as a toy for small children, and although it is not a Tonka Truck it is built like a Fischer Price. Unless it gets run over by a truck, I don't think much can break. The tape transport doesn't work real well as it is, and the important stuff in the camera is solid state (pretty much).

Having said that, I am looking forward to all (sensible) modifications (I hope no one gets the idea to glue an antenna onto it: example of nonsensical modification) that are done to it. It should be treated like an exotic tool, what ever anyone can do to make it work better is more than welcome. I hope people will find ways to use it, as well as look and awe at it's simplicity.

As far as stickers are concerned; I don't think that it will land in the hands of anyone that doesn't have a minimum of basic good judgment. Especially if it stays in the hands of only those who post here (is that a bad supposition?). Leave your mark on it as you see fit. If it gets a case then there will be plenty of room on that if, and when the camera is full.

I can't wait to hear your impression of it Sean.

I'm going to be off-line for the next 10 days, so don't wonder if I don't respond directly after you post that you have gotten it. Although, surface post can take longer than that sometimes.

Cheers,
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Old August 26th, 2005, 11:26 AM   #8
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Daniel and everyone else, it arrived yesterday and seems to be in good physical shape. On operating the poor thing...OK, I have 12vdc going in correctly, tape in and in record. That seems to be the only way to view the output from the RCA adapter.

First question is, was the record on cassette tape intentionally disabled or did it just die on it's own? I would like to get it going again if it failed.

Time passes -------

OK, tore it down to give it a good cleaning and while I was at it, I replaced the "pigtail" RCA with a chassis mounted RCA. Less chance of breaking off the cable that way. I also added, since it had already been modified, a mic input near the original mic. I haven't tried it yet as I can't record to cassette tape yet. It should use the onboard mic unless you plug in another mic. Then the onboard should be disabled. I'll put up a page with pics of the mods and the camera over the weekend.

On E-Bay, there is a dead one (no tape transport movement, like this one) for $20. There is also a new one in the original box for $77 last time I checked. Then there is a version that I would consider "professionally modified" although the mods are not something I would particularly use. It's almost $300 as I recall.

Interesting device. There are comments and suggestions about removing the blue filter over the imager for better low light performance. It is a bit of color correction and ND filter at the same time from the sound of it. I may pull it out and place it in a baggie to travel with the camera. We'll see how it looks first.

On to the cleaning and figuring out the transport issues. Man, that buzzer is annoying. Would have been better to flash the led in the viewfinder I think.

Oh, last tidbit. Found this out on one of the pxl2000 sites. It uses a 90 minute audio tape but only records for 10 minutes. That tape is really moving in there. 9X standard audio cassette speeds.

More later.

Thanks Daniel,

Sean McHenry
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Old August 26th, 2005, 12:11 PM   #9
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OK, here's what seems to be the issue with the transport. Capstans are free to turn and the motor seems pretty strong. The belt seems to have stretched and is no longer under tension. I can turn the whole mechanical system by hand with very little effort so that's good. I will begin the search for a belt later today. Have to find some old repair shops in town or start going through all the BIG catalogs to try to find one.

While cleaning the lens, the extremly tiny blue filter spoke about on various sites fell out. Luckily I found it but dang, it's tiny. I'll find a safe place to store it for now. The image is almost usable indoors now.

If I get the time and find the spare parts around the work place, I may build and install the video buffer. Basically a 1 transistor amp that keeps the signal at the standard 1vpp output level real video devices want. It should fit in the case in an empty spot just fine.

I haven't tried it but unless you are using the video output directly, the RF output is probably still there. The current mod only taps the video before the modulator. Better designs eliminate the RF module by cutting the trace allowing the signal to go only to the modified output.

Anyway, that's it for now.

Should get the chance to shoot with it this weekend one way or another. May use the Sony TRV22 as a deck for it. More later.

Sean McHenry
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Old August 26th, 2005, 02:13 PM   #10
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I am changing my sig file...

"Poor tools require better skills"
-Marcel Duchamp

Found it on this site.

http://www.indiespace.com/pxlthis/

Be sure to see this video too. Politics of the time aside, this is an amazing piece. http://www.indiespace.com/pxlthis/al...olf/home.phtml

Especially pertinent. A whole series of festivals relating to minimalism in video and arts and especially the PXL 2000 (aka, Pixelvision)
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Old September 1st, 2005, 10:38 AM   #11
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Hi Sean,

I'm glad to see that the camera made it.

It looks like you are the best next person to have it. I am glad to see that you have jumped into taking it apart and fixing it. Good idea for a external mic retro-fit.

To answer your question about the tape drive: it never worked while I had the unit.

I mentioned that I remember having been able to record audio to tape, so I assumed that the problem was not motor or drive-belt related. But it sounds like you have a good bead on the problem. I have the feeling that you will enjoy tinkering on the unit as much as I did.

$20 sounds like an excellent price for a Pixelvision, as long as it is in some functioning state. Did you go for it?

It sounds like you are getting really into the device, and at all levels - I like your new signature.

Keep us updated.

Cheers,
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Old September 1st, 2005, 11:30 AM   #12
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My time schedule keeps slipping but I hope to have a page with pics of the insides and mods up soon. I may work on the page tonight a little.

We had a media tour last week at the studio with Hilary Duff that took one full day, shot the Ohio Lottery show the last 3 days and I now have a little time before my short vacation to Niagra Falls this holiday weekend. Maybe I'll shoot some nice stock footage? Hmm.

Did you follow any Pixelvision links from the web or the one from the Pxl This site? Good stuff. More later.

Sean McHenry
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Old September 3rd, 2005, 02:34 PM   #13
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I got one of these:

http://www.reality.demon.co.uk/tyco.htm

People's eyes look like they glow in the dark. Really weird.
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Old September 5th, 2005, 10:30 PM   #14
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This thread deserves to be in the Alternative Imaging Dept...

There's room in the definition of "Alternative Imaging" to include stuff other than HD IMyO.

Anyways...what you fellas are doing interests me because I'm currently trying to do something like this, though not with the Fisher Price system, but it's still lo-fi, black and white, has no audio, required some wiring and soldering, making AA battery packs, etc...fun!

The thing is not ready to use yet but I am very excited because I know that when the final component is put in place it'll be a blast.
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Old September 8th, 2005, 04:18 PM   #15
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Wow. I'm extremely interested in all of this. Keep us posted!!
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