This High Definition Video of New York in 1993 Is Surreal

If you're old enough to remember VHS tapes, you remember video quality that was abysmal by today's standards. However, even in the late 80s and early 90s, manufacturers were working to bring HD tech to consumers, and this demo reel is a surreal example of such tech.

I never realized how much my sense of time was tied to video quality until I watched this. It's a bizarre anachronism seeing New York in 1993 through a video that feels like 2017, but it's also supremely neat to look into the past with such clarity. The footage was shot by JVC likely for a LaserDisc demo in the Japanese market. The uploader, YouTube Pedant, notes it was likely shot with a HDVS camera, possibly a Sony HDC-500 attached to a HDV-10 portable recorder (which used video cassette tapes). You can tell the exact year both by the car models and by the advertisements in Times Square, in case the corny easy listening soundtrack wasn't a giveaway. Sony first developed the technology that could shoot 1,125 lines of resolution on analog media in the 80s, giving the first demonstration as early as 1981. The first films and television shows were shot on it in 1987. It's a very neat look at history. Be sure to select the 1080p option when you watch it! 

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Usman Dawood's picture

Wow, this is actually quite cool. It looks weird in a good way lol.

Dave McDermott's picture

I love the part at 1:00 into the video where the guy is checking out the hot chick. :)

Jonas Karlsson's picture

no smartphones, no earphones. looks really weird.

g coll's picture

It does yeah. No one looking down at their phone while walking.

Kyle Medina's picture

I spotted a couple earbuds.

Simon Patterson's picture

Interesting to see analog HD nowadays. I first saw this technology at Expo '88 in Brisbane, Australia and it sure looked super impressive back then!

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

I'm not sure which of the two tunes you felt was "corny", the first one is the old Stevie Wonder song, "Living for the City." I've never heard the other before.
Pretty cool video! Brings back good memories.

Simon Patterson's picture

Ha ha, I had similar thoughts! Admittedly, the Stevie Wonder cover was done in a very stereotypical 80's way, which is ok for those of us who like that but I'm sure can sound pretty corny otherwise. Like you, I hadn't heard the second tune before, either.

Also, I wouldn't be taking on the guy who's doing a doctoral thesis about music, about anything related to music!! 😁

Peter Brody's picture

I think the music was perfect for this video.

Alex Cooke's picture

Hahaha, don't get me wrong, I *love* the Stevie Wonder original. This cover just stripped all the groove out of the original and kind of killed the instrumentation in my opinion. That's just my taste, though. Can we at least agree that the cover needs to chill out on the cowbell? :P

Peter Brody's picture

We need more cowbell in music of today. 😁

Peter Brody's picture

"I never realized how much my sense of time was tied to video quality until I watched this. It's a bizarre anachronism seeing New York in 1993 through a video that feels like 2017, but it's also supremely neat to look into the past with such clarity."

Yep. Remember though that there is a lot of video footage of the past shot on film that people don't have easy access to that is of course inherently HD quality. Most old TV shows, for example, of the past that were shot on film have yet to be transferred to Blu-Ray. The same goes for documentaries and even many Hollywood films. It's possible to see some of these shows and films on broadcast or pay TV in HD but that is still, shamefully, the exception. And when you can, the video quality is never as good as it can be.

Your reaction to this video is why I encourage younger people to get into viewing and buying older films on Blu-Ray. In my experience the main reason why a lot of younger people are turned off by older films is because, well, they look old. But show some reference quality older films, and TV shows, on Blu-Ray to these same young people and the attitude is often very different.


Some fun observations of the change in times, some of which were already mentioned.

* No one looking into phones.
* Women much more natural looking, with normal color hair, no facial piercings, no painted on eyebrows and no tattoos. God I miss that!
* Women wearing shoulder padded clothing.
* No super bright and giant billboards yet at Times Square. It's out of control today.
* No one carrying Starbucks coffee cups.
* The 80-90s were bad decades for cars.
* Konica film being advertised.
* Big eyeglasses.
* Big earrings.
* Sharper and more attractive looking men's suits.
* Lady holding a yellow Sony Walkman or Discman like music player.
* No pictogram style crosswalk lights.
* Cigarette billboard
* Pants that fit properly


So how old was everyone here when that video was taken?

Kyle Medina's picture

"Sharper and more attractive looking men's suits" In regards to men clothing. To days suits are vastly better tailored than back in the day. (Does that apply to 1993, damn) They are over sized coats, over sized tie, over sized shirts, and pleated pants are just terrible. Everything was bulky. Thing that didn't change really is the designs on some. Which doesn't bother me.

"Pants that fit properly" Again would have to disagree. Everything in the 90s is over sized. Lots of pants are one size at the thigh to the ankles. Our bodies are not like that. Today's pants are more fitted and I'm not talking about skinny jeans. That needs to stop.

I was 6 at the time of the video., lol.

Here is a fun video about mens fashion for over the last 100 years.

Peter Brody's picture

Well, the matter of better suits and dress is purely subjective so I can't argue such a thing. Just sharing my opinion.

By pants fitting properly I was actually referring to pants that sit atop the hips, unlike the style of many pants of today where they sit low on the hip itself, especially for women.

6 years old, huh? I take it you don't remember too much about that time?

Kyle Medina's picture

I just remember running around town causing mayhem and a lot of Nintendo.

Mick Ryan's picture

Very interesting. And so much better than movie scenes set back in the 80s where they overdo the shoulder pads and hair and orange earbuds.

But there you go again Alex with a total misuse of the word surreal. Very interesting but nothing even remotely surreal about it.

Alex Cooke's picture

via "having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic:"

As I mentioned, the anachronism is disorienting, and I find it to be strange and dreamlike.

via Collins English Dictionary: "If you describe something as surreal, you mean that the elements in it are combined in a strange way that you would not normally expect."

Again, the quality of the footage combined with that which actually comprises the footage is unexpected and strange. I did indeed mean "surreal."

Peter Brody's picture

To be fair though, that Collins explanation wouldn't apply here because the elements in the video are not "combined in a strange way" at all, since that is simply the reality of life back then. I would've found it surreal to see that footage and then to all of a sudden see someone using a smartphone.

Anyway, thanks for posting the video. That was really nice to look at.

Mick Ryan's picture

Dreamlike in an unreal manner. Not dreamlike as in slomo. There are no dream elements here at all Alex. Please as a big fan or true surrealism please stop misusing the word.

Kyle Medina's picture

I don't think the title was an Original thought. When on YouTube the next recommended video had the same title and it was from the New York Post.

Alex Cooke's picture

It was indeed an original thought. That's a coincidence.

Tony Heimeier's picture

1993 .. it feels like just 10 years ago ... cool video!

Dallas Dahms's picture

So many suits and ties... When will that ridonkulous mode of attire die?

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Man, the squirrels haven't changed a bit since 1993...

joe o sullivan's picture

60fps makes everything look better, you can instantly tell the difference.

Spy Black's picture

Ah 1993, before Giuliani kicked out the working class, mom and pop businesses, and turned NYC into a giant corporate facade where only Starbucks, Chipotle, and the 1% can afford the rent...

Geoff Captain's picture

Everyone is looking up!

This is right about the first time I toured NYC, loved it. Just switch out the video soundtrack for Tribe or the Pharcyde and I'd be right back in '93.

Scott Miller's picture

Wow, similar feeling to discovering autochromes for the first time, surreal and trippy. This is gonna take some time for me to digest.