Video Phone Examples
March 21, 2008 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm compiling examples of video phone use from movies, tv shows and maybe science fiction stories. Deckard's call to Rachael in Blade Runner or AT&T's "You Will" campaign are examples of what I'm looking for. Video conferencing in a business setting is less helpful, but if you can think of a noteworthy example (CTU in 24?) then please list them. My goal is to actually find and watch/read these examples.
posted by Jeff Howard to Technology (31 answers total)
There was a great scene in the first austin powers movie, where he videoconferences with his boss in the nude; gratuitous objects in the scene obscure any actual skin.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2008

The Paleofuture blog has tons of examples of this. It's awesome. For some reason the one's from the 90s are the funniest.
posted by SassHat at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2008

I don't know if this is sci-fi or techy enough for you, but there was a video phone in an episode of Friends (where Monica is at her rich boyfriend Pete's house). There's even a joke about picture in picture when he's taking a second call.
posted by cabingirl at 2:28 PM on March 21, 2008

I believe there was one or more such scenes in 2001 Space Odyssey.
posted by forthright at 2:36 PM on March 21, 2008

The Friends example is great; I just assumed video calling was more of a sci-fi thing.
posted by Jeff Howard at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2008

Several of these in Demolition Man, including an interesting wrong number.
posted by sanka at 2:43 PM on March 21, 2008

Until the end of the world has several video phone calls. Well, at least the 280 minute long version does, which is what I saw...
posted by rpn at 2:57 PM on March 21, 2008

In Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace takes something like a dozen pages explaining the meteoric rise and horrifying fall of the (novel's) videophoning industry. He details the rise--hey, people can see me the whole time!--and the fall--oh, GOD, people can see me the whole time--pretty hilariously.
posted by Skot at 3:02 PM on March 21, 2008

I believe there was one or more such scenes in 2001 Space Odyssey.

Indeed, one was set just outside the "Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room" on the space station.
posted by gimonca at 3:06 PM on March 21, 2008

There's a hilarious 1914 young adult novel called Tom Swift and His Picture Telephone that's all about a Hardy boy's style inventor/crime-fighter who invents a video phone. Also, Fritz Lang's Metropolis has, I think, a few examples.
posted by pkuras at 3:10 PM on March 21, 2008

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion uses it.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 3:24 PM on March 21, 2008

I'm fairly certain that there have been some beyond-current-technology video calls made with iPhones in the now-hiatused new TV show Moonlight.
posted by Dreama at 3:55 PM on March 21, 2008

There's a scene near the beginning of Aliens, I'm sure.

Plus there's this from EM Forster's awesome The Machine Stopped (1909)

"Very well. Let us talk, I will isolate myself. I do not expect anything important will happen for the next five minutes-for I can give you fully five minutes, Kuno. Then I must deliver my lecture on “Music during the Australian Period”."

She touched the isolation knob, so that no one else could speak to her. Then she touched the lighting apparatus, and the little room was plunged into darkness.

"Be quick!" She called, her irritation returning. "Be quick, Kuno; here I am in the dark wasting my time."

But it was fully fifteen seconds before the round plate that she held in her hands began to glow. A faint blue light shot across it, darkening to purple, and presently she could see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the earth, and he could see her.

posted by Leon at 4:01 PM on March 21, 2008

If you are counting slightly-futuristic-but-almost-a-reality video phones, I'll do my usual mention of the (Earth: Final Conflict) "Global" communicator.

I thought they were the most amazing things ever, back then. :)
posted by Zarya at 5:24 PM on March 21, 2008

Just Imagine from 1930 has picture phones and some really awful vaudeville grade humor.
posted by octothorpe at 5:44 PM on March 21, 2008

A Fire Upon the Deep features video communication between space ships. In true "hard" sci-fi style, Vinge discusses the implications of reduced bandwith/processing power and how the medium adapts to handle it. The interesting part is about 400 pages into the novel, so it might be a bit too much for your project. But it won the Hugo and I enjoyed it immensely, so you might want to give it a try.
posted by Horselover Fat at 6:52 PM on March 21, 2008

> There's a scene near the beginning of Aliens, I'm sure.
Yeah, where Ripley calls Burke from her bedroom, just before they set out from the space station to return to the planet.

Seems like almost every 80s-90s sci-fi movie made copious use of video phones. Total Recall has a video phone about every ten minutes, but I don't think there were any really memorable scenes around them. Robocop has a slightly silly scene in a boardroom, where all of the meeting attendants are represented by swiveling head-and-torso-shaped video phone consoles facing each other across a table. Of course pretty much every entry in the Star Trek canon had the captain communicating through the main screen on the bridge.

Star Wars' little-blue-hologram-based communications might be considered an evolution of the video phone idea. Similarly, Screamers and many other movies use life-size holographic projections to represent the "caller".
posted by churl at 6:58 PM on March 21, 2008

The episode of Designing Women entitled "Big Haas and Little Falsies" features a scene near the end where Mary Jo buys video phones for her co-workers and their families. Mary Jo had received a surprise windfall in the mail and was originally going to spend it on breast augmentation surgery, but after experimenting with a prosthetic version, she decided to share her wealth with her friends and get the phones instead.
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:06 PM on March 21, 2008

Cold Comfort Farm (1932) has video phones, but no TV or movie treatment has yet included them.
posted by scruss at 7:49 PM on March 21, 2008

While I acknowledge the value of Oriole's answer (and clip), it's worth pointing out that the phones are never shown in action, only discussed.

Still, if it helps, the episode is on this DVD.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:00 PM on March 21, 2008

NOT HERM, they are, in fact, shown at the end. Mary Jo telephones JD on hers, and then poses provocatively for him (she's still wearing her fake chest).
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:27 PM on March 21, 2008

Home Improvement episode #145:
(Sorry, but I can't remember whether it actually shows video-phone usage.)
posted by blisterpack at 10:03 PM on March 21, 2008

Mother, by Albert Brooks, has a very funny scene involving a video phone.
posted by tittergrrl at 10:42 PM on March 21, 2008

The characters in the Space:1999 TV show carried hand held video communicators, they had little black and white CRT's in them. YouTube link, communicators at 1:50.
posted by Scoo at 10:45 PM on March 21, 2008

Oriole, you're right, I misremembered even though I've seen the episode numerous times. Hopefully it was still helpful that I knew where to find it!
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:48 PM on March 21, 2008

Wow, these are great examples everyone. Thanks so much!
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:59 PM on March 21, 2008

In theThunderbirds TV show they used to use video phones to talk to the Lady Penelope character. It's all a long time ago but I seem to think that Lady Penelope would have something like a 'powder compact' which would double as a video phone. I think she also had a video phone in her Rolls Royce.

Can't remember the details but one of the amusing things about this (to us kids) was that some of the vidcon equipment she used was embedded in old looking artefacts (eg silver cigar box).
posted by southof40 at 3:27 AM on March 22, 2008

Robert Heinlein often uses videophones in his novels. Off the top of my head I can tell you they're definitely used in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "Starship Troopers".
posted by Jahaza at 5:28 AM on March 22, 2008

Videophones appear in a few different forms in the Sci-Fi movie Demolition Man.

In television, Stargate and Eureka use them on numerous occasions.

While digging around for an old MIT Media Lab teleconferencing demo that was once used in a Talking Heads video (I failed to find it), I encountered Smart Rooms. Not fiction, but an interesting take on the problem.
posted by brokengoose at 5:42 AM on March 22, 2008

Sean Connery's character in 1981's Outland has video calls with his wife on Earth from a mining station on Io.
posted by nicwolff at 7:40 AM on March 22, 2008

If I remember correctly, the Home Improvement episode listed above contains footage of the phone in use, and some kind of glitch or misunderstanding of how to use it. "Hilarity" ensues.
posted by kyleg at 8:19 AM on March 22, 2008

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