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VHS Camcorder app is a retro delight

shutterstock/globe staff illustration

The now-viral footage that emerged last week of rapper Wiz Khalifa getting arrested at Los Angeles International Aiport while riding a hoverboard raised many questions: Why did they arrest him? Why did they keep telling him to “stop resisting” while he lay on the ground not resisting? Where did he get that hoverboard? (Actually, the thing was more like a hybrid of a skateboard and a Segway.)

And especially perplexing: Why did the footage look like it was shot in 1987?

That one we can answer. Wiz was one of thousands to download VHS Camcorder, a $4 app that took less than two weeks to surge to No. 2 on Apple’s paid apps chart. Visual effects specialist Thomas Worth created the app, which uncannily mimics the look, feel, sound, and functionality of a clunky old VHS camera.

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Every aspect is pitch-imperfect, from the lazy zoom lens to the jaggy tracking lines that mar the shot (and intensify when you tilt your device), the wan color palette, and the slight white noise that mucks up the audio. There’s even an adjustable timestamp in that standard cheesy default camcorder font to boost the illusion (though you can’t set it back beyond 1984, for purposes of historical accuracy).

Given the popularity of Instagram’s array of nostalgic filters, and the many “vintage” camera apps currently available (like Spark and 8mm) it’s not surprising that there’s an audience hungry for tech that channels the past. But VHS Camcorder’s faux-lo-fi quirks scratch a very particular itch, somewhere between the seedy and the sentimental. When it comes to revisiting the snow of yesteryear, it doesn’t get much closer than this.


Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.