Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

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Huba-Swift
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Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Sun Jul 18, 2021 3:36 pm

I'm a big arcade junkie and have got a tone of CRTs lying around, Everything from consumer 480i sets, 480p, trisync monitors, and pc monitor CRTs. I figure it's about time I do something cool with them and try out some video synthesis.

Here's what I'd like the system to do:
-be capable of generating interesting images and patterns on its own
-take various video inputs and mangle/mix them with the images I create within the video synthesizer
-output images in RGB 480i and composite
-Modulate various parameters via audio/cv from my modular synthesizer (MU format)
-As far as interface preferences go, I dislike menus. I don't care about the functionality they bring in almost all cases. An extremely minimal streamlined menu system might be okay if the functionality warrants it, but for the most-part I would like to avoid them (I went 5U/MU for this reason!).
-generate text, are there even any modules that do this? This would be one example where I'd understand the necessity of a menu system in a module and would be ok with it. Maybe this is best reserved to a PC video input though.
-generate feedback using a CRT and camera. Preferably able to display only certain elements of the patch on the feedback CRT, so that I am not only limited to feeding back the entire image.

Now for the Questions:
-LZX seems to be the main one, what are some other reputable modular video synthesis companies?
-What typical synthesis modules can integrate well into video synthesis? I take it mainly just CV generators such as LFOs and EGs?
-What does the DIY scene in video synthesis look like? If there are any Schematics, PCBs, or resources out there I would love to have a look at them. DIY would probably be my favorite way of going about this if possible.

Any other interesting resources to read through would be nice as well. Just trying to gather as much info as I can.

Edit: added a few things I'd like the system to do

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Sun Jul 18, 2021 8:38 pm

Looking more at LZX modules. Seems like now might not actually be a great time to get into modular video synthesizers. Most of their products are discontinued and the new ones in development aren't out yet.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Kent » Mon Jul 19, 2021 2:03 am


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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Agawell » Mon Jul 19, 2021 3:19 am

wavefolders/shapers/multipliers are really good - I use the doepfer ones a lot - a little smearing, but generally good results - mostly any analog utility will work - doepfer sequential switch etc - for processing video signals - lfos and envelope generators are great too for modulation - although you will probably want to scale down if you go with lzx (0-1v)

options regarding getting started:

structure looks good as does hypno - as standalone video modules - they can be used as front end/end of chain processors to lzx systems

for lzx you need a core module - of which none are currently available

there will be the chromagnon and new DIY modules to cover this, but they are not ready yet - and may be a while still... but Chromagnon might be a great starting point if you have the patience

it's also worth checking the lzx facebook - from time to time Visual Cortexes come up for sale - often with other expedition series modules...

one thing to note about DIY modules - especially the cadet series - you often need a lot of modules to do what a single 'bought' module can do (the cadets are basic building blocks and the expedition series were groups of these building blocks put together)
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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Marizu » Mon Jul 19, 2021 4:51 am

Like an audio modular, there isn't really anything that you just "leave alone" and something happens in video modular. They closest to this would probably be something like Structure or Hypno. In audio synth parlance, I'd probably describe them as semi-modular synths.

The issue of their being no "core modules" available is a significant one if you are interested in a true modular solution. A core module generates all of the timing signals that are needed within a video system and also generates the output in a form that can be displayed on a TV. It might also take video input for further processing. Structure and Hypno don't need a core module as they output a composite video signal.

There is a vibrant DIY scene for video modular, and the guys from LZX constantly feed back on people's designs. The modules are still expensive to build because they need high speed TL6172 op amps, which are many times the price of the audio equivalent TL072. Most of the video modules available are the equivalent of Doepfer modules. They are usually single function and you may need a lot of them to do anything particularly interesting, particularly as you will sometimes be processing red, green and blue streams to generate or process an image.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Mon Jul 19, 2021 6:38 am

Thanks for the input and resources! I was looking at the structure. Wasn't a big fan of the flow I'll admit. If I do need something like it I'll probably wait it out for the Chromagnon. The Hypno seems interesting, but I think I may have found a solution more up my alley.

To replace the core module for now I was thinking of picking one of these up https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/ ... 33cfLwbcPn

I could use it for it's VGA sync generator functionality, and disconnect its own RGB outs, and replace them with my own. As for getting a H sync out, since it defaults to a blank monocolor screen, I could take the voltage from that color, and turn it into a trigger that could then be used for H sync. I'll have to touch up my reading on vertical sync signals to figure out how I'd get a vertical sync out but I'm sure I could. Since I will also probably want proper porching for the RGB inputs, I could use that same color voltage it defaults to display, to open and close a 4066 switch for the RGB. For two bucks and a few extra parts I should be able to get a VGA output capable of multiple resolutions, with RGB in, and H and V sync outputs to sync my other modules to.

I take it wouldn't be too hard to build some basic stuff to coincide with it such as a couple video frequency VCOs, sum/diff signal mixer, clock divider (I'd make it have very high divisions, probably up to 1 in 1000), vc-switch (could be fun alongside the clock divider synced to the display), and modulation sources.

As for needing a lot of cadet (and other) modules to create the functionality of many single modules as mentioned by Agawell, I don't see this as an issue. It's modular after all. I'd rather have the functions separated to allow me to do more unique things between them, even if it's at the expense of convenience.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Agawell » Mon Jul 19, 2021 1:05 pm

Huba-Swift wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 6:38 am
Thanks for the input and resources! I was looking at the structure. Wasn't a big fan of the flow I'll admit. If I do need something like it I'll probably wait it out for the Chromagnon. The Hypno seems interesting, but I think I may have found a solution more up my alley.
If you definitely want a chromagnon I would consider getting in on the pre-order - prices are likely to go up a fair bit once it's released - I expect to about the same as Memory Palace - maybe somewhere in between
To replace the core module for now I was thinking of picking one of these up https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/ ... 33cfLwbcPn
I would take a look at this - CHA/V

a lot of the work will have been done for you...

also worth googling 'karl klomp dirty mixer' and dirty vga cable

NB these will not replace a core module and they will only be semi-compatible, requiring something to convert from vga to composite/component for input to an lzx modular system - tbc2 may have a vga, but it is a lot of money (and unobtainable) just to get a vga signal in
As for needing a lot of cadet (and other) modules to create the functionality of many single modules as mentioned by Agawell, I don't see this as an issue. It's modular after all. I'd rather have the functions separated to allow me to do more unique things between them, even if it's at the expense of convenience.
with the future modules - visionary 2, or whatever lzx are going to call them - the difference between the DIY range and the factory built range will be zero - pcbs will be available bare or with smd pre-populated - and apparently panels will be available as individual modules or as 48hp panels combining 3-6 modules (iirc not all the modules are going to be available for DIY, but it is only 3 or 4 out of a pretty large new line up
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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by nangu » Mon Jul 19, 2021 2:05 pm

Andrei Jay has done some excellent things with Raspberry Pi.

https://andreijaycreativecoding.com/Vid ... sphere-RPI

Works with standard USB webcams and cheap HDMI-to-USB capture dongles, and is optimized for USB MIDI input from Korg Nanokontrol2..

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Mon Jul 19, 2021 2:15 pm

Alrighty, I suppose I'll just have to put myself down on the pre-order for the Chromagnon then.
As for the cha/v, how convenient, the cha/v is pretty much exactly what I was thinking of putting together! Doesn't LZX also do RGB which would work fine with VGA signals?
Also it's cool that most of the upcoming LZX modules will also be DIY. I'll have to keep an eye out for those whenever they drop.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by joem » Mon Jul 19, 2021 4:43 pm

The component inputs and outputs on LZX modules like the Visual Cortex are not RGB but YPbPr instead (even though the jacks are colored RGB -- that's just convention). They use composite timing, I believe, so in addition to not being RGB, they don't have the right sync frequencies for VGA.

The RGB signals that LZX systems use between modules are basically the composite R, G, and B channels broken out separately, then scaled to be from 0-1V. It's a similar concept to the RGB signals in a VGA signal, but VGA signals usually have different sync frequencies than composite. (Also, I'm not sure what the voltage range of VGA's channels are -- might not be 0-1V.) That's why a VGA generator won't necessarily work as a core module for an LZX system -- the timing (and possibly the voltages?) differ.

The similarities between the signals (both analog, both broken down to R, G, B) are what make the CHA/V a pretty nice intro to analog video synthesis, though. It's so cheap it's hard not to recommend it!

All that said, a bunch of LZX modules don't depend on sync at all, and theoretically could be used to process the R,G,B signals from a CHA/V (assuming voltage compatibilities). I might be a little wary about doing that, since the CHA/V doesn't have much in the way of circuit protection. The CHA/V takes a lower input voltage to power it than the LZX modules, so you almost certainly won't damage any (relatively expensive) LZX modules since the CHA/V can't really produce a voltage the LZX gear can't safely handle. But there's a chance you could damage the CHA/V with eurorack modules (since they can produce voltages outside the CHA/V's range). Most LZX modules won't produce those maybe-dangerous-to-the-CHA/V voltages themselves, but some may allow them to pass through from other modules (maybe like an envelope generator that does 8V or 10V peaks).

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:58 pm

It looks to me like the Visual Cortex for example has both RGB in and Component in. As far as RGB sync differing from composite sync, I have used simple circuits to combine the horizontal and vertical sync signals from VGA into a composite signal in the past with success. It has worked on all my consumer CRT sets so I imagine doing so should work with LZX too. The actual RGB labelled connections on LZX modules are RGB though, not component right? Component would seem silly there as it would be more limiting when it comes to modifying the video signals, and it's already all synced together through composite anyways.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Marizu » Tue Jul 20, 2021 4:27 am

Huba-Swift wrote:
Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:58 pm
It looks to me like the Visual Cortex for example has both RGB in and Component in. As far as RGB sync differing from composite sync, I have used simple circuits to combine the horizontal and vertical sync signals from VGA into a composite signal in the past with success. It has worked on all my consumer CRT sets so I imagine doing so should work with LZX too. The actual RGB labelled connections on LZX modules are RGB though, not component right? Component would seem silly there as it would be more limiting when it comes to modifying the video signals, and it's already all synced together through composite anyways.
Apologies if I am misunderstanding the terminology that you are using.

The Visual Cortex can take SD interlaced component video input in full colour and it can also take composite video input but that only encodes as b&w.
In the section of the VC that is labelled, Input Decoder, the R, G, B and Luma are the OUTPUTS of the Input Decoder. These would typically be patched in to channel A or channel B of the Cortex's Colorizer and Compositor.
Composite video would be input to the Green of the Input Decoder.

The R, G and B signals that are passed through an LZX system are split out from the input signals and scaled between 0 and 1v (VGA, by contrast uses 0-0.7v). This does mean that you can mangle these signals in any way that you like, because they get sorted out (clamped) at the output decoder.

When you look at the Cortex, jacks that have a fat line around them are outputs. jacks that have a thin line/ring around them are inputs.

It's also probably worth bearing in mind that LZX systems are also patched with sync information under the panels (this was not obvious to me when I started). Oscillators are generally synced to the horizontal or vertical blanking signals. This means that they need to know when these signals occur. There have been a few different types of sync, but new stuff uses an RCA sync. An oscillator like Prismatic Ray, or a ramp generator like Diver has RCA on the bottom, and signals are daisy chained out from the Cortex to them.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Marizu » Tue Jul 20, 2021 4:38 am

I got started with a CH/AV type system and some homebrew oscillators. It got a bit tricky, pretty quickly, though.
I had a composite to VGA box which I used to inject video into the system.
When I added my oscillators to the mix, because they were constantly oscillating, my monitors seemed to think that the screen was wider than it actually was, so the video switched from being full screen to being letterboxed and over to the right (if I remember rightly).
I decided that I would need to mask the output of the oscillator to be within the expected duty cycle of the screen. I also realised that I would need to buffer signals because they were sagging and not quite behaving as I wanted.
At this point, I realised why the LZX stuff cost what it does, so I jumped in.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Tue Jul 20, 2021 8:30 pm

Thanks Marizu, that clears up my misunderstanding

I also came across this: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000539 ... 99f5c664-0

Looks like it would just need a sync input and probably a range selector for ease of use. It already has adjustable output and offset. As for a sync in, the datasheet states in can be synced to an external clock through the PDI pin, so that wouldn't be too hard to implement I imagine.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by studio460 » Fri Jul 23, 2021 5:25 pm

Sorry, didn't read the entire thread, but I'm also new to video-synthesis and began my journey down this path a just a couple months ago. Here's my take on things so far:

• Erogenous Tones' Structure ($899): Pricey, but worth it. A complete array of video-synthesis tools built into one box.
• Lumen for macOS ($129): Excellent software video-synth. Video-input not built-in; requires third-party app plus some coding.
• BPMC Fluxus Duo ($360): One of the few boutique video modules in-stock and currently available for sale.
• Tymkrs: Excellent freshman line-up of CVBS/HDMI converter modules and a cool dirty-mixer, GlitchCRT. Very reasonably priced.
• Magix' Vegas NLE software: Audio-reactive plug-ins turns this non-linear video editor a powerhouse of effects possibilities.

Since the LZX core modules are difficult to find and Chromagnon has an as yet undefined delivery date, I think Erogenous Tones' Structure is an excellent all-in-one module alternative. It's a complete video-synthesis box with composite-video (CVBS) inputs and outputs and a huge array of built-in pattern-generators—all very modulatable. Its built-in color display ups its usability/eye-candy quotient considerably.

Lumen for macOS is incredibly good and to me, worth every penny of its $129 license-fee. The only issue is that sending external video into Lumen isn't plug-and-play: Outdated third-party workarounds no longer work in the current macOS. Some coding is required using helper-apps to send video into Lumen; though, I've yet to figure out how to do this myself.

Fluxus Duo, a self-described, "analog glitch video effects processor," is a Eurorack video-synthesis module I felt lucky to be able to still order. A "boutique" video module from the creative genius, Big Pauper (BPMC), the Fluxus Duo is cool synthesis-module with an interesting array of features. I only just received mine and haven't gotten it into the rack yet.

Honestly, between Structure and Lumen, I personally don't have much need for much else (the Fluxus Duo is the icing on the cake!). Of course, if and when LZX' Chromagnon ships (which may prove to be a huge "if"), I'll probably opt for one of those as well, since it's LZX' premiere-entry in its new line of second-gen video modules (third-gen?). LZX' TBC2 dual-input synchronizer is another long-anticipated module in this yet-to-be-shipped series.

Video editors aren't often considered for video-synthesis, but there's a huge amount of creative power in this affordable NLE: Magix' Vegas (formally, Sony Vegas) is a capable, if not very commonly known NLE, which runs on PCs exclusively. A very brief learning-curve is one of its key strengths. It's an OpenFX-compliant host which can run video effects plug-ins from a number of third-party developers: BorisFX, NewBlue Post, FXhome, HitFilm, Vegasaur, etc.

Many of these OFX plug-ins offer a huge amount of potential for abstract video applications; e.g., BorisFX' Particle Illusion particle-generator. Also, standalone sister-apps, HitFilm/Vegas Effects provide After Effects-like capabilities for 2D/3D-compositing, animation, and effects work. Certain Vegas effects plug-ins from FXhome (e.g., RGB-offset) are also capable of audio-reactivity and offer a huge array of adjustable parameters.
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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Huba-Swift » Fri Jul 23, 2021 9:07 pm

Thanks for the input Studio460. I'm staying away from modules like the structure because I'm not looking for a menu driven do everything module. I like having things broken up into different core functions with a billion knobs and jacks (also why I won't be getting into software for now).

It looks like I might be getting a LZX Sync Generator and Color Video Encoder from a fellow Wiggler, so that should allow me to at least get started, err, at least have everything I need to get started, once I get a eurorack cabinet to put them in anyways... It will be a process! Once those are in order I'll put together a module for converting 1/4" to 3.5mm attenuated outputs for using my 5U modular with them in the meantime.

If I can't get my hands on any Prismatic Rays or something similar, I may look into building something from a MAX038 as it seems like it may be up to the task.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by pekbro » Sat Jul 24, 2021 1:49 am

Not to offend anyone, but the structure isn't video synthesis at all, it's an opengl renderer. E.g. computer graphics or visualization.
There may be some functions that mimic some aspects of analog video synthesis but that's not really the same thing.
The Hypno is also digital, but it is designed specifically to emulates analog video synthesis.

If you want actual video synthesis, which is not the same as image synthesis, you need LZX or some of the other's mentioned.

Structure is super cool of course, but technically it's not the same thing. Just sayin. *shrug

*To put it another way, image synthesis as is present in the Structure module, uses vector algebra to replicate
the way the human visual system works. It calculates the color of a pixel by shooting a virtual ray of light at a
surface returning the color that is reflected into your eye based on surface properties of the object and properties
of the volume the ray passes through. None of that is happening in analog video synthesis, which is analogous
to the way your television worked when you were a kid, where radio signals containing audio and image information
are transmitted through the air and broken down into separate color components and sent to a receiver in which
electron guns, CRTs and electromagnets are used to paint the image line by line on a chemically coated tv screen.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Agawell » Sat Jul 24, 2021 3:56 am

that all sounds incredibly pedantic and plain wrong - it's like saying that mutable rings, for example, is not an audio synthesizer module because it is digital...

opengl rendering is a form of digital video synthesis

and the use of a crt is no where near mandatory in video synthesis - many people use lcd screens or projectors to display their (analog) video synthesis
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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by pekbro » Sat Jul 24, 2021 4:07 am

Well not really, but whatever. The LZX modules synthesize the signals. OpenGl does not. But yeah the CRT is not really required.
I was just noting the entire process. Unnecessarily no doubt. In the end, one system is mechanical, one system is calculatory,
like it or not they are not the same.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by bentoncbainbridge » Sat Jul 24, 2021 11:32 am

Also available is the 2nd edition of the standalone MVIP module: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/dave-jone ... -mvip-mk-2

Mac OSX users can download VDMX for free: vidvox.net
The paid version adds saving of custom patches.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by pat » Sat Jul 24, 2021 11:58 am

Huba-Swift wrote:
Fri Jul 23, 2021 9:07 pm
If I can't get my hands on any Prismatic Rays or something similar, I may look into building something from a MAX038 as it seems like it may be up to the task.
You could use oscillators from your 5U system for horizontal lines. I use a couple of Doepfer standard vcos that are very stable, have hard sync, and the range switches are handy. I just attenuate them down to 0-1v. But yeah, to get into vertical lines you would want some video oscillators.

Since you mentioned camera feedback in your original post, I thought I’d also add that doing video feedback patching within your modular is really fun as well.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by studio460 » Sat Jul 24, 2021 4:24 pm

bentoncbainbridge wrote:
Sat Jul 24, 2021 11:32 am
Also available is the 2nd edition of the standalone MVIP module: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/dave-jone ... -mvip-mk-2
As far as I know, this is not available. I have not received a single reply from Dave after several emails sent since May of 2021.
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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Marizu » Sat Jul 24, 2021 4:45 pm

pekbro wrote:
Sat Jul 24, 2021 4:07 am
Well not really, but whatever. The LZX modules synthesize the signals. OpenGl does not. But yeah the CRT is not really required.
I was just noting the entire process. Unnecessarily no doubt. In the end, one system is mechanical, one system is calculatory,
like it or not they are not the same.
You know that LZX have modules like Diver and Memory Palace that are digital, right?
TBC2 and the video input section to Chromagnon will be digital, too.
The analogue input section of the Cortex has been massively limiting for many of us (endless converter boxes etc).
This is the first time that I've really come across anybody saying that digital isn't video synthesis. Sure, it isn't analog video synthesis. You tend to need a few analog oscillators to generate interesting patterns (unless you are processing external video). I think that this is why LZX appear to be moving away from an oscillator based model to a ramp based model. Structure can be a source of external video.
How's your video rig laid out?

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by Marizu » Sat Jul 24, 2021 4:56 pm

pekbro wrote:
Sat Jul 24, 2021 1:49 am
It calculates the color of a pixel by shooting a virtual ray of light at a
surface returning the color that is reflected into your eye based on surface properties of the object and properties
of the volume the ray passes through. None of that is happening in analog video synthesis, which is analogous
to the way your television worked when you were a kid,
I think that you are confusing GLSL with ray tracing and ray marching.
Ray tracing and ray marching techniques can be implemented using GLSL, but Structure doesn't have anywhere near the power to do this.
GLSL is just a programming language that is geared towards massively parallel GPU programming. It doesn't dictate any particular rendering approach.

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Re: Considering getting into Video Synthesis - A few questions

Post by joem » Sat Jul 24, 2021 5:33 pm

pekbro wrote:
Sat Jul 24, 2021 1:49 am
Not to offend anyone, but [...]
It sounds very clear that you're confusing the term "video synthesis" with the term "analog video synthesis". The term "video synthesis" encompasses both "analog video synthesis" and "digital video synthesis" (and any other possible form of video synthesis). Nothing about the word "synthesis" on its own implies that it must be analog.

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