How Sony unintentionally defined the skate video

In 2022, Tony Hawk is a household name, skateboarding is an Olympic sport, and it’s possible to master digital laser flips in a variety of televised video games. However, it wasn’t always like this. Early skate screen media consisted mostly of skeptical documentaries or whimsical dream-style California chronicles. Things changed when, in 1983, Stacy Peralta—who led the ragtag team of skaters that included Tony Hawk—virtually invented the modern skate video. Thanks to its performative nature, skateboarding would soon form a symbiotic relationship with the technology it presented.

The VHS invasion

Peralta claims he was hoping a few hundred copies of his first video would find their way into the new VHS players taking the US by storm. “From the start, videos have been more lucrative than they thought: Stacy has that kind of fame [Peralta] says that with the first Bones Brigade video, they thought they would just write off the cost as a marketing expense, but they actually made a lot of money from it. Author, professor, and skateboarder Iain Borden told Engadget. The success of The Bone Brigade video showand the titles that followed, brought many more new eyes to skateboarding along with a whole new revenue stream for the struggling “sport”.

Documentary filmmaker Stacy Peralta at Skate One/Bones Brigade in Goleta, California November 7, 2012. Peralta is using a revolutionary grassroots marketing campaign to get fans to see his film

Al Seib via Getty Images

During the ’80s, Peralta and his Bones Brigade team dominated big screen skateboarding, typically on vert ramps, including several movie cameos. But Peralta’s polished style and squeaky-clean team weren’t for everyone. H-Street came out right at the end of the 80s – a more down-to-earth skateboard outfit don’t tie me and mumbo-jumbo with a focus on street skating. Not everyone had access to a ramp, but everyone lived on a street, which meant this new style was much more accessible as the videos were almost a guide.

According to Borden, H-Street put cameras in the hands of skaters to film each other, and the change in pacing and dynamics in videos shifted from Peralta’s more conventional approach. This new format – skaters shoot at skaters – complete with slams, skits, music and pissed off security guards was to become the template for the next decade. Not least thanks to another new technology that was about to land.

The VX1000

In 1995, Sony released a camera that has defined the look (and sound) of skate video to this day. At around $3,000; the DCR-VX1000, was the first digital camcorder in Sony’s consumer product line. The relatively affordable price coupled with its small form factor and new digital tapes – MiniDV – made it the perfect camera for gonzo filmmakers looking for professional results. The fact that footage could be easily transferred to a PC using a new technology called i.Link (which you may know as “FireWire”) meant that anyone with a computer could now make video at home.

The VX1000 only cemented its legendary status among skaters when paired with Century Optics’ fisheye lens. “The fish eye was amazing. The audio was incredible. The colors look great. It had a built in handle so you could follow someone while riding a skateboard,” videographer Chris Ray told Engadget. “There has never been another camera this impressive in skateboarding. I don’t think there will ever be.”

Sony's first consumer digital video camera, the VX1000, is featured in a marketing shot.

Sony

Ray says he still uses audio from the VX1000 for his modern productions. “I pull a library of VX audio and add that to the snaps, the lands, the grinds and things like that in my skate movies because nobody’s come up with a camera with anywhere near this good audio.” Obviously, Ray isn’t the only one who thinks so, as evidenced by this $300 skateboard-only replica VX1000 mic.

To complete the sound, the colors the VX1000 puts out would also become something of a hallmark of a good skate video. The bright, punchy hues the camera produced were a perfect match for the blue California sky contrasted with the beige and asphalt of mall parking lots and other urban, skate-friendly locations. After a short time, recordings made with something else felt passé. “People were still doing skateboard videos with other cameras,” Ray said, “but it was something like that that you took a lot more seriously.”

Ask any skater what the golden era of skate videos was and you’ll get a different answer, but objectively the year 2000 ushered in a time when some of the most impactful, high-budget skateboard movies of all time were being made, and most of them were it was recorded with the proven VX1000.

A man with a tattoo of the Sony VX1000 video camera on his head.

Chris Ray

Menikmatifrom the shoe company éS and modus operandi from Transworld set the tone. Both released in 2000 and heavily showcased the VX1000’s distinctive look and sound. Both are also very high profile releases in the skate scene, which only serves to cement the camera’s status as the de facto tool of choice. Not to mention a badge of coolness per se. “I mean, it’s on skateboards. I have skateboards on my wall with the camera on them. People make keychains, there are tattoos,” Ray said. “It’s still iconic to this day.”

Redefine the standard

Of course, there is a problem on the horizon. A 16:9 high definition problem to be precise.

Despite all the strengths of the VX, the entire TV industry experienced what was perhaps its biggest change in standards ever. Widescreen TVs replaced 4:3 CRTs, and the new “HD” resolutions made SD content look terribly outdated. Also, not everyone was a fan of the new aspect ratio. “I couldn’t bring myself to do HD because it was a lot more difficult. You’re talking about a 16:9 picture. You don’t want to cut off the wheels and you don’t want to cut off their heads when you’re filming skateboarding,” Ray said.

Worse, 1999 Sony did released a successor to the popular camera, the VX2000, but it was a flop with skateboarders. Not only was the new aspect ratio more difficult to manage, the VX2000 had an inferior microphone and, most importantly, was not compatible with the Century Optics Fisheye (or specifically the “Mk1” of that lens that everyone wanted). Skateboard filmmakers had to find a new treasure.

https://www.engadget.com/sony-vx1000-defined-the-skate-video-130032368.html?src=rss How Sony unintentionally defined the skate video

Russell Falcon

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