Recollections image

by Ed Tannenbaum


Recollections 4.5 is an interactive video installation that invites the participant to move in front of a large video projection screen. As the person moves, his or her image is recorded by a video camera and passed on to a computer with special image processing capabilities. The person's silhouette or outline is extracted, assigned a color based on the instant that it was recorded, and projected onto the screen. Over time the images build up, creating a painting based on the movement. Simultaneously the colors are "rotated", creating an animation in "real time". Two hundred fifty six colors can be displayed on the screen at one time, from a palette of over 16 million. The palette and effects change in a pre-programmed sequence, repeating approximately every five minutes. Since people are always doing new things with the exhibit, the images never repeat. Each installation is unique. New software is constantly being developed and incorporated in new works. To date there have been over sixty Recollections systems installed worldwide. Recollections is an Artwork that is completed by the viewer; it is a collaboration. Even the most inhibited people seem to rise to the occasion and create beautiful images. Using it is an unforgettable experience for many, with educational benefits in the areas of color, form, movement, and computer graphics.

New high resolution version now available:

Incorporating the latest in available computer and video technologies, one of the most popular interactive museum exhibits in the world has just made a great leap in detail.

In the beginning, when Recollections was first developed under the Artist in Residence program at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, it was a breakthrough.  The year was 1981.  Computers were just becoming “personal”, and video was analog, not digital.  To realize my concept, I needed to design and build some unique hardware consisting of a 4 bit frame buffer interfaced to an Apple II computer.  The resolution was 256x240 with 16 colors on screen at a time.  My color palette was 4096 colors.  The work was an immediate hit, and I sold many systems to other museums.

Since then, I have continued to improve the Recollections system, in part due to the inevitable obsolescence of technologies.  The hardware migrated to special boards I designed that were installed into PCs.  At best, the displayable resolution of Recollections II and III was 512x240 with 256 colors at a time.  A couple of years ago I started using progressive scan firewire cameras and standard video cards in PCs, which allowed me to create new effects at a resolution of 640x480 in Recollection IV.  This also allowed the use of modern video projectors instead of the three gun monsters of the past.

Now high resolution (not to be confused with high definition) video cameras are available, and computers are fast enough to process their data in real time, so I’m proud to introduce the latest version: Recollections 4.5.  It has XGA resolution (1024x768) from the camera through to the projector.  The processed frame-rate continues to be at 30fps, so the movement remains fluid.

Setup is easier than ever with the new system, with special setup and diagnostic modes built into the software.  The computer can boot up from a circuit breaker power-up and can be turned off the same way. It is a Linux based system so it is robust and is completely turn-key.  The software is on a CompactFlash so there is no hard disk or floppy to crash.  I trust that my 25 year legacy of supplying reliable systems will continue with this upgrade.

Of course, as technologies improve, prices drop, and Recollections has never been as good or as affordable.  I continue to offer upgrades to my existing customers at low cost in order to present to the public my latest and best work.  Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Space Requirements:

Recollections 4.5 can be installed two basic ways; utilizing either front projection or rear projection. Both require a darkened space, but with the front projection system it is especially critical. The front projection system is 12 feet wide by 13.5 feet deep. Rear projection requires a total floor space of 26 feet by 12 feet. These measurements are based on a 12 foot square participation area and a 6 foot by 8 foot screen. Larger sizes are also possible.



More high resolution Recollections 4.5 images at

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