A event log for Visual Synthesis Hack Chat

Learn about analog visual synthesis with Jonas Bers on the Hack Chat!

Sophi KravitzSophi Kravitz 10/19/2018 at 19:340 Comments

Jasmine Brackett3:00 PM
Hello Everyone! I'm @jasmine, and I'm your Hackchat host for today.

Murilo Polese3:00 PM
heyo! :)

Jasmine Brackett3:01 PM
For those who don't know me (as I don't hackchat too often), I run but used to be the community manager for

Jasmine Brackett3:01 PM
Anyway, enough about me we're super pleased to have @Jonas Bers  with us on the hackchat today.

Jonas Bers3:01 PM
Thanks! Glad to be here.

Jasmine Brackett3:01 PM
Jonas is an audiovisual artist, performer and hardware hacker from Hudson Valley, NY.

Jasmine Brackett3:02 PM
And apparently has brought @phil baljeu along too

Jonas Bers3:02 PM
Sounds good! Happy to.

phil baljeu3:02 PM

hi Phil!

Jasmine Brackett3:02 PM
If you have any questions for either of them please add to the comments on

Jasmine Brackett3:03 PM
Or here if we've already covered the other list.

Jonas Bers3:03 PM
Phillip has taught me much of what I know about video synthesis and DIY video. He recently started working for LZX Industries and released a line of DIY video modules.

geli9612123:03 PM
o wow! sounds promising!

Jasmine Brackett3:03 PM
@Jonas Bers , how did you get into this? And who is Phil?

Jonas Bers3:04 PM
We just returned to the US after spending a few weeks in Croatia and Slovenia teaching workshops, doing lectures, and performing.

geli9612123:04 PM
beautiful places!

Jonas Bers3:04 PM
(Phil is based in Toronto)

Jasmine Brackett3:04 PM
That must have been pretty exciting.

Jonas Bers3:05 PM
If anyone is interested in learning more about our trip -- you can find the info by searching "vector hack festival"

Jonas Bers3:05 PM
it was amazing.

Jasmine Brackett3:05 PM
Are you planning on doing it again?

Jonas Bers3:05 PM
the balkans have a great DIY electronics scene.
eforzano joined the room.3:05 PM

Jonas Bers3:06 PM
hopefully, although I wasn't responsible for any of the organization or funding, so it's not up to me, lol.

Jonas Bers3:06 PM
there was a great response -- all the workshops were fully booked and the lectures and performances were well attended.

bobby.pharaoh6663:07 PM
did you see anything particularly surprising at vector hack? it looked amazing from the posts i saw

Jonas Bers3:07 PM
to answer your first q though -- i got into video synthesis by way of audio synthesis.

eforzano3:07 PM
Thanks for being here guys. Curious about places to read about hardware visualization stuff. Ready to learn. Documentation, companies, websites?

Jonas Bers3:07 PM
@bobby.pharaoh666 vector hack was unreal. the documentation is going to be trickled out slowly over the next few weeks.

Jonas Bers3:08 PM
@eforzano LZX is a great starting point.

Jonas Bers3:08 PM
my own tutorial for the CHA/V is another good starting point (although I may be biased)

geli9612123:09 PM

Jasmine Brackett3:09 PM
Does that answer your questions @geli961212 ?

Jonas Bers3:09 PM
my intention with the CHA/V tutorial was to create something educational and also functional. you can make a full-fledged instrument out of it, or just study it and learn how video works.

Jonas Bers3:09 PM
@geli961212 was asking about VJing --

geli9612123:10 PM
oh yeah, I still have a few questions at my post but some of them were answered yeah

Jonas Bers3:10 PM
I occasionally take VJ gigs, although that's not my passion. I really enjoy solo A/V performance because then the emphasis is on the signal.

Jasmine Brackett3:10 PM
Yeah, the questions from @geli961212 were "I love your approach with CHA/V as a great introduction to visual synthesis. Do you VJ? What equipment do you use the most often? As someone who's interested in VJing, where do you recommend to start after CHA/V? Is VVVV a program worth mastering? I have a sony xv t33f, I am planning to cirtcuit-bend, have you ever used such a device to manipulate image?"

geli9612123:11 PM
dumb question: what's the difference between them? I mena an A/V performance and a VJ one?

Jonas Bers3:12 PM
A/V artists tend not to think so much in terms of music + video, but signal. I like to focus on the range of frequencies that are both audible and visual, and find elements that are simultaneously interesting.

geli9612123:12 PM
oh like, analog synth players

geli9612123:12 PM
and it would make sense since you mentiones audio synthesis earlier

Jasmine Brackett3:13 PM
Yeah, that makes sense.

Jonas Bers3:13 PM
exactly -- my personal practice involves either amplifying audible portions of composite video, or playing oscillators and showing them on an oscilloscope at the same time.

geli9612123:14 PM
do you have a degree in electronics?

geli9612123:14 PM
I mean did it evolve ffrom there or as a hobby?

Murilo Polese3:14 PM
nice! never thought about filtering out just a slice of the composite video signal!

Murilo Polese3:14 PM
seems obvious now! haha

Rebecca E. Skinner3:14 PM
So does your performance illustrate the science or does it present the aesthetic beauty of the oscilloscope display ?

Jonas Bers3:14 PM
with scan processing and vector synthesis, the visual aspect can be much more interesting than a typical waveform on the x axis of an oscilloscope -- it can even be full resolution video.

Jonas Bers3:14 PM
degree in electronics, lol, no.

Jonas Bers3:15 PM
hobby -- no, i was performing as a musician and wanted to add video. then it spiraled out of control.

geli9612123:15 PM
that's just awesome!

Jasmine Brackett3:15 PM
One thing leads to another. :)

Jonas Bers3:15 PM
@Rebecca E. Skinner great question!

geli9612123:15 PM
and about vectors: I find that one amazing, too, like, the Vectrex!

geli9612123:16 PM
I fint it mind-blowing

Rebecca E. Skinner3:16 PM
Spiraling out of control need not be a bad thing.

@Jonas Bers did you work with Deep Listening Space?

Jonas Bers3:16 PM
I strive to make my work intuitive. The aesthetic beauty of a scope, no. The aesthetic beauty of physics, yes.

pete willard3:16 PM
When I was in college... in the 1970's... I remember fondly seeing the NTSC signal on the SCOPE in the broadcast rack... (Which all good head-end racks had) and by just looking at the stair pattern... you could the signal was good.

Jonas Bers3:17 PM
totally, yeah. I like viewing color bars with scan processing so they make 3d stairs.

pete willard3:17 PM

Jonas Bers3:17 PM
add a bit of the luma to the x or y axis and they look 3d.

pete willard3:17 PM
our version of "the matrix"

geli9612123:18 PM
so cyberpunk haha

Jasmine Brackett3:18 PM
@Murilo Polese you had a couple of questions?

Jonas Bers3:18 PM
deep listening -- i only went once before Pauline passed away. I was lucky enough to attend her birthday event at EMPAC though. that was crazy.

Murilo Polese3:18 PM

Jonas Bers3:18 PM
Hi @Murilo!

Jonas Bers3:18 PM
shoot --

Murilo Polese3:18 PM
I'm curious about how was your first experiences with video synthesis

Murilo Polese3:19 PM
what kind of experiments or hardware did you use and what was the visual output you got?

Jonas Bers3:19 PM
i found a second hand JVC color corrector at a goodwill and started messing with it -- eventually modded it for CV control.

Jonas Bers3:19 PM
also -- early on just doing camera feedback.

Jonas Bers3:20 PM
you know -- the classic scenario -- connect a camera to a monitor and point the camera at the monitor.

Murilo Polese3:20 PM
nice! hahah

geli9612123:20 PM
secondhand goodies seemingly have a good force here haha

Murilo Polese3:20 PM
nice! I am asking this because it's very common nowdays to see a dvd player laying around and I was wondering if that was "hackable"

Murilo Polese3:20 PM
that leads to my second question

Jonas Bers3:21 PM
totally abstract. I also built a crazy circuit-bent goliath alligator clip thing that was almost impossible to control.

Jonas Bers3:21 PM
i've seen some DVD hacking, yeah. people writing on DVDs for instance.

Jonas Bers3:21 PM
@phil baljeu -- DVD hacking?

pete willard3:21 PM
Yea... what?

Jonas Bers3:22 PM
we're mainly focused on synthesis at this point, although I still mod panasonic mixers. that was my first love.

Murilo Polese3:22 PM
what would be in your opinion the quick and dirty way to get into video synthesis and what would be the difference between this "hacky" way and a more proper video synthesis (I guess you answered one difference: control)

Jonas Bers3:23 PM
easy. dirty: my cha/v tutorial.

Jonas Bers3:23 PM
good, better: LZX cadets.

phil baljeu3:23 PM
Not sure about DVDs. I remember people experimenting with CD corruption. putting them in the freezer, growing mold on the disc, etc. You might be able to corrupt the frame buffer in a dvd player, but results will vary based on architecture.

Jonas Bers3:23 PM
both DIY

Jonas Bers3:23 PM
see, this is why I brought @phil baljeu

Murilo Polese3:24 PM
data corruption <3

Jasmine Brackett3:24 PM
After the hackchat you can check it out here:

Jonas Bers3:24 PM

phil baljeu3:24 PM
like most circuit bending, you'll want to find a dvd player that is old enough that all the components aren't integrated in to a single IC, you

phil baljeu3:24 PM
'd want the RAM of the buffer to be accessible from the main controller

Jonas Bers3:24 PM
there's some great info on the page that isn't obvious -- it's under the "if you participated in a workshop" link. lots of vids and documentation

Murilo Polese3:25 PM
awesome! I will check it

Jonas Bers3:25 PM
somebody mentioned vectrex before..

Murilo Polese3:25 PM
and gotcha, @phil baljeu so the deal is the RAM

Jasmine Brackett3:26 PM
How many kits did you makes?

Jasmine Brackett3:26 PM

Jonas Bers3:26 PM
for the recent weeks?

Jasmine Brackett3:26 PM
Yeah, or how many participants at workshops?

Jonas Bers3:26 PM
I did a CHA/V workshop at Coaxial in LA recently that was intended to be 12 people, but ended up with 25.

Jasmine Brackett3:27 PM

Jonas Bers3:27 PM
Then for Zagreb, Croatia, I did one at Radiona (awesome) for 15.

Jonas Bers3:28 PM
Then in Ljubljana, Slovenia at Ljudmila for another 10.

Jonas Bers3:28 PM
Those haker spaces were so cool. Great people and amazing energy.

Jonas Bers3:29 PM
@phil baljeu did workshops as well with an old circuit he revived from an electronics magazine.

Jonas Bers3:29 PM
you want to talk about that?

phil baljeu3:30 PM

Jasmine Brackett3:30 PM
Workshops can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.

Jonas Bers3:30 PM
we had a great time -- phil's thing was amazing because he also lectured about it.

geli9612123:31 PM
can you link us the cicuit?

phil baljeu3:31 PM
I did a couple of workshops using a circuit from a popular electronics magazine article called the Oscilloscope Graphic Artist. the pcb gerber files are up at
it's a very simple synth voice for oscillographics. the workshops were great, i think out of 20 only 2 or 3 didn't work first attempt, and the errors were easy to spot.

Jonas Bers3:31 PM
he's been reviving all sorts of old circuits and modernizing them.

geli9612123:31 PM
ohh nice

geli9612123:31 PM
I, myself started making an old-school pong out of that chip that's based on

Jasmine Brackett3:32 PM
(Retrocomputing is really popular on Tindie, epseically for AV stuff)

Jonas Bers3:32 PM
we both really like the sharing aspect of the video synthesis community. it's very well established -- going back to Dan Sandin.

geli9612123:32 PM
@phil baljeu will give this a shot!

Jonas Bers3:32 PM
whoa, really? I don't know about that. @phil baljeu has been messing with those color palettes lately though.

phil baljeu3:32 PM
a pong circuit from a magazine was how i got started in to video synthesis. i needed a sync generator so i copied one from a 'build your own pong' article.

Jonas Bers3:33 PM

Jasmine Brackett3:33 PM

geli9612123:33 PM
yes, I am doing that one rn!

Jasmine Brackett3:33 PM
Ok, @MagicWolfi who made the  #NTSC/PAL Video Display Shield  asks "have you ever thought about using dedicated digital circuits for generating the SYNC signals?"

Jonas Bers3:34 PM
yeah, absolutely. there are some examples of that in the field already.
ladyonkineticpills joined the room.3:34 PM

Jonas Bers3:34 PM
the LZX cadet sync generator is a good one -- and also DIY/open source.

Jonas Bers3:35 PM
i chose the VGA testers for my project out of pure simplicity/ease of use/low cost.

Jonas Bers3:36 PM
really, the aim of my tutorial was to make an entry point that was a simple as inexpensive as possible. something like the atari punk console, but for video.

Jonas Bers3:36 PM
but the tester boards are not the most efficient way, and ali express is infuriating.

Jonas Bers3:37 PM
i've considered reverse engineering them and making my own, lol. YOU HEAR THAT ALI EXPRESS?!!

geli9612123:37 PM
I use aliexpress pretty often, it's not that bad

Jonas Bers3:37 PM
its rough when you need things on time and people are relying on you.

geli9612123:37 PM
ohh that's a different thing

Jonas Bers3:37 PM
they're gonna give me high blood pressure.

geli9612123:37 PM
for your workshops, o it makes sense

Jasmine Brackett3:38 PM
It's the variability of supplies on aliexpress that I find infuriating

Jonas Bers3:38 PM
hey -- you were asking about the sony device --

geli9612123:38 PM
not when I jsut order 1-1 or some caps and things and it arrives when it arrives

Jonas Bers3:38 PM
have you seen this:

geli9612123:38 PM
yesyes, it's on my list

geli9612123:38 PM
to do

Jonas Bers3:39 PM
this is Roland Lioni's page, he was at vector hack with Phil and I -- very nice guy and super knowledgeable.

geli9612123:39 PM
oooo nice

Jonas Bers3:39 PM
BTW -- we're active on the video circuits facebook page. it's a great community dedicated to sharing these ideas.

Jonas Bers3:40 PM
I should mention that the CHA/V project was a community effort -- the initial tutorial was pretty basic and many people contributed ideas.

Jasmine Brackett3:40 PM
Hey Everyone, there's a small chance that I'm about to get cut off. Obviously, feel free to carry on asking questions. And in case I don't make it to the end, thanks for coming!

geli9612123:40 PM
thank you Jasmine for organising and being our host!

pete willard3:41 PM
Isn't digital video cutting into the ability to be creative?

Jonas Bers3:41 PM
the boards I use for workshops were made by Luis Gonzalez and are hosted on his GitHub.

geli9612123:41 PM
can you link it? would love to check out

Thanks for coming @Jonas Bers !

Jonas Bers3:41 PM
@pete willard -- maybe? we'll see when we run out of CRT monitors and composite video won't work on anything anymore.