Recollections Six




Recollections Six 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 into new works.

To date there have been over eighty Recollections systems installed worldwide. Recollections is an Artwork 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.

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 with an Apple II computer. The resolution was 256×240 with 16 colors on-screen at a time. My color palette was 4096 colors. The work was an immediate hit, and many systems were installed in 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 and installed into PCs.  At best, the displayable resolution of Recollections II and III was 512×240 with 256 colors at a time.

A couple of years ago I started using progressive scan firewire cameras and standard video cards on PCs, which allowed me to create new effects at a resolution of 640×480 in Recollection IV. This also allowed the use of modern video projectors instead of the three gun monsters of the past. I progressed to XGA, then 720P, and now full high-definition video cameras are available with uncompressed input to computers, and computers are fast enough to process their data in real-time, so I’m proud to introduce the latest version: Recollections Six.   It has full HD resolution (1920×1080) from the camera through to the projector. The processed frame rate remains 30fps, so the movements are fluid. Setup is easier than ever with the new system, with special setup and diagnostic modes built into the software. The computer will boot up from a circuit breaker power-up and 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 flash memory stick or SSD so there is no hard disk or floppy to crash. 

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 to present to the public my latest and best work. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Space Requirements: Recollections Six is installed in two basic ways; utilizing either front projection or rear projection. Both need a darkened space, but with the front projection system, it is especially critical. The front projection system is 16 feet wide by 16 feet deep. Rear projection requires some space behind the projection screen for the throw, but with short-throw projectors that distance is down to just a few feet. Video walls with 4 or 9 screens also work, as well as one large LCD monitor.  Larger sizes and multi-screen, multi-effect versions are also available for large venues.


  • Proprietary hardware, software, camera, camera mount with light source, cables, consulting
  • LCD or DLP Video Projector
  • Projection Screen 6′ x 10′ 8″ (nominal) 16×9 format (can be painted with screen paint, and can be larger)
  • Optionally hard Rear-Projection Screen
  • Retro-Reflective Screen 8’x16′
  • Casing (front projection version)


Ed Tannenbaum


Recollections Six — 12 Comments

  1. “Recollections” is coming back to the new Exploratorium in San Framcisco when it moves to its new site next year. Stay tuned for more info.

  2. oh and the intensity of either light or black was depending on the speed of their movements. mh, hard to explain such things i notice. again kind regards and best wishes!

  3. hey,
    i saw something like this in a performance within the “impulstanz” festival in vienna. it was openair at night on a huge construction site with the dancers faced to the audience and the screen more or less behind them. they didnt use any colors but just really white light. sometimes they were black and the background enlighted, sometimes the screen was black an they were glooming. was exciting!
    kind regards!

  4. Hi Jackie,
    Well… I hope that the rest of your life has been good since “Recollections” 🙂 It was installed at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for about 25 years (as I first designed it there), but it has been down for a few years now to make space for other things. I’ve been promised that it will be put into the new, improved Exploratorium when it moves to its new home at the waterfront in a couple of years. Please pressure them to make it happen! Otherwise, the closest installation to the Bay Area is in Salem, Oregon at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village.


  5. Your Recollections has long been one of my peek experiences. I discovered it at Jim Bredouw’s children’s museum in the San Juan Islands. Can you tell me where I can experience it in our Bay Area?
    I still recall, after all the intensity, wondering what I would do with the rest of my life, once it was over. All this to say; your work is amazing, and I would LOVE to return to your Recollectons…RSVP

    With Awe & Gratitude…

  6. We aquired this exhibit a year or so ago, and have had it up and running here at A.C. Gilberts Discovery Village. It may be one of our best exhibits, because it caters to all ages.

  7. As a kid, it never really occurs to you that there are people behind everything that gets made in the world. When I first experienced Recollections at a children’s museum in Virginia (appropriate, as I was a child then) I just thought of it as this weird thing someone had discovered. I didn’t realize that someone had to actually spend time and effort developing the technology, and even if I had, I probably would have assumed it was just a group of nameless scientists who had stumbled on it by accident.

    The fact that there are people out there who purposely create things which have no practical application other than to be beautiful is always encouraging. So, thanks.

  8. My daughters and I have encountered your exhibit at several museums, spending a lot of time dancing and reveling in the creative expressiveness of it all. At the latest, NY Hall of Science, I inquired at the gift shop and was hopeful when they told me shadowplay for a reasonable price. That was obviously wrong…but I managed to track this down, and I just wanted to share my appreciation. I also encourage you to develop a home version–it would be ideal for the kinetic, creative types (child and adult)! As a homeschooler, I would love to utilize this as a creative, fun, outlet of energy during our day.


  9. Hi Mary Lou,
    Thanks. I’d love to put together a traveling school version. It did travel with the “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” exhibition put together by the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum for temporary museum installations. The big problem has always been having a retro-reflective wall that could travel. I could probably make a foldable, mountable screen. Schools have projectors and screens now, so that’s hardly an issue. Good idea.

    I’ve had inquiries for personal installations, but so far haven’t done any.

    I’m not a child either, and never really intended it as a children’s plaything. We are all kids at heart (I hope).


  10. I saw your installation at the Speed Museum again. I love it and I am not at child except at heart. Is there a version for individuals. Has anyone ever considered a traveling one that could go to schools?

  11. We love your Recollections installation at Dennos Museum in Traverse City MI! it is favorite place to visit and we never get tired of ‘creating’ in front of the screen. i just wanted to let you know the joy it brings.

  12. Ed,
    Just let you know I’m still kicking.
    Give me a call sometime.
    PS: Recollections still looks good.

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