Fun With Video Manipulation

Back in the 90s I ran the camera for my school’s morning news production. It wasn’t exactly a well equipped production; we just used the video out from a crappy RCA VHS camcorder on a tripod and a plastic Radio Shack mic plugged into the thing’s audio input.

One day I aimed the camera at the monitor (which was just the usual television set on a rolling cart with a VCR on the shelf below it, standard 90s classroom fare…) and it created this fabulous “infinity mirror” kind of pattern. If I aimed it just right, it’d keep going, otherwise it’d repeatedly erase itself to white or black and just flash.

Apparently I’m far from the only one who appreciates this kind of silliness.

The original “Scanimate” systems used video feedback through analog circuitry to work their amazing magic.

Here’s a 1984 exploration of video feedback dynamics by Jim Crutchfield:

I only kinda recently discovered what hilarious things you can do on a video mixer/switcher, and it seems almost like the cheezier the device is, the better? The ones that are made for home video editing seem to be particularly great as they have built in frame sync. In fact, it sometimes amazes me that the big HD professional switchers for live production and editing DON’T handle unsynchronized sources elegantly. I could see it for oldschool analog ones.

The Snell & Wilcox Kahuna switcher at WSVN had me spoiled – as long as the video input format on any given port matched what you set it to expect in the engineering config page, it took it just fine, regardless of sync. You only needed it to be synchronized accurately if you wanted to avoid some otherwise unavoidable latency (up to a frame or two – hardly terrible, but SOMETIMES noticeable as a slight lip-sync issue).

The Sony switcher “tub” – usually this gets controlled by some remarkably boring automation.

The Sony switchers where I work now will exhibit vertical roll problems if you don’t have things in sync, which is, um, special. A fair number of Evertz converters and black burst timing distribution to everything keep it all happy for the most part.

Now, this is all basically fine if you are using professional grade equipment with a correctly operating master timing generator. Each video source (VTRs, cameras, etc) will use a phase locked loop to synchronize their video timing to the sync pulses and burst phase of the master generator. In the old days, it was necessary to use delay lines, either built into distribution amps, standalone, or implemented using long pieces of cable to match the delays throughout the facility to make sure everything reached the switcher in the same timing. Nowadays with HD video, SOME buffering is added to give you a few lines of leeway. I’m not sure exactly how much in any given case, but the Grass Valley Group CQX switches are advertised as buffering and time-shifting by up to three video lines in the event that the sources hit it a LITTLE out of sync, so they can provide perfectly timed output. They can also do some basic clean cut and crossfade transitions onboard.

Nowadays since there’s no analog color subcarrier to deal with phase synchronizing, and it’s basically just more important to have a robust sync pulse than a whole video waveform, trilevel sync is becoming more commonplace. That’s just basically a pulse that tells everything “please start your first video line here”.

The really cheezy wonderful switchers that are the most fun to play with were designed to work with consumer grade equipment that gave you none of these luxuries. They just had to deal with the video coming in at whatever timing it did, so they incorporate a frame sync buffer on at least one input. While this can lead to some delay, it offers a lot more flexibility as to sources.

It also allows you to create some amazing feedback loops with video coming back not quite in phase and essentially crapping rainbows.

I’ve already babbled about the underlying technology more than I intended to, here are some pretty pictures.

The Videonics unit used here is actually a rather powerful little device; it’s a microprocessor driven unit with onscreen display and menus brought out to your preview monitor. Downside to this is, you have to use a monitor just to see what you’re doing on it. Eh, ok.

Examples of raw video feedback:

In high def!

In many cases it is possible to use a video mixer looped back to itself with no external sources to synthesize some trippy shit. 😀
It tends to lend itself to a flashier dynamic, which I don’t like as much, but you can with careful manipulation of the controls get it to generate some more stable effects.
(Definite epilepsy warning on this video!!)

This video has more of the slow moving, blown out full saturation effects I prefer:

Dreamy little seascape….

So there were also some really bizarre devices made that didn’t bother with the whole sync thing and let you basically fade/wipe to a solid color, pause recording on your VCR, switch source, then fade/wipe back in. Here’s a video review of one of them I have. This thing… is…. HEAVY. It’s also fun to add into a feedback loop.

Raw video from a Sony XV-T33F which is a bizarre title generator with drawing tablet for input. It can also do the offline fades/wipes, but it can also do some peculiar color animations and stuff that are amazing in and of themselves.

I should draw a bunch of shopping mall interiors on mine.
(Not really electronically manipulated, but this video is the inspiration for the thought above)

Lots of 1990s computer graphics set to the Macintosh Plus “Floral Shoppe” album (all we’re missing is a broken transmitter in the middle of the everglades)

Here comes the sun

So, what’s odd is, while I’ve seen a number of examples of the mixers (particularly the Panasonic WJ-MX12) being circuit bent, along with the Sony video sketch titler… really most of the bends I’ve seen just give them some extra glitchy “blinds” effects. All of my video toys are unmodified as I’ve never really seen the need to get in there and mess with them to get those. The WJ-MX50 has a nice blinds effect and other cheezy stuff baked in from the factory. It’s advisable to print out the pages from the manual that lists all the wipe patterns and hang it on the wall next to the switcher; it’s got like 64 of them or something sufficiently absurd. Conspicously missing is a star wipe. (The Sony switcher shown at the top here can star wipe. If it doesn’t have a wipe you want, you can also store custom patterns in it. It also has a smoke wipe. This… uh, may or may not get used by our directors when coming out of marijuana-related news stories.)

Star wipe, and where to use it:

The wipe being accompanied by a whooshing sound amuses me far too much. The switcher at WSVN was set up with pretty much EVERY one of the weird shiny-circle-7 wipes accompanied by a whoosh. Thankfully, it was only a whoosh, and even the “NEWS ALERT” used on that station was a whoosh or a little musical bit – it was not the abrasive terrible wshEEEWWWWWWWW-CLONG!!! used by Fox News Channel.

I’m fairly sure the cheezeball Datavideo titler/switcher unit I have can do the star wipe.
Most of the Datavideo stuff I’ve seen was from the mid to late 90s. I didn’t realize they actually go waaaaaaaaaaaay back:

Datavideo’s still around and they make some really fun looking switchers and streaming production systems.

Most of my stuff is still in boxes from moving, but I’m planning to set up a nice little rack with various cheezeball video boxes and matrix switches to route video between them. Expect to see a lot of silliness come from this soon.

Join Hands, Let Go

When browsing Facebook or other places you may have come across this GIF of a guy having a ketchup bottle go all Old Faithful on him and wondered just what’s going on here.

via GIPHY

Sorry (not sorry), but you’re about to take a trip down the rabbit hole here. Bear with me, this is a strange tale.

A few of you may also seen the most perplexing piece of film that this came from, most likely by way of RiffTrax. But what actually is this? Why was it made?

Amazingly, RiffTrax seems to be the only place I’ve found the video online. It’s worth paying them a dollar for what they do to gaze upon this… weirdness… and ponder along with all of us.

The reactions to most people after having seen it are similar to mine – see this Facebook thread for lots of mass confusion.

After being suitably confused by this and the fact that it was apparently produced and distributed (where?) by Encyclopedia Britannica, I reached out to them for the mysterious background behind this film.

Much to my surprise… I got an answer from them. Here’s the story:

Hi Tom,

 

Thanks for asking about the Britannica film “Join Hands, Let’s Go” (1969). This film was part of a series called Magic Moments, which was produced for elementary-school classrooms through the Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corporation.

 

More information about the concept behind the series can be found in this blog post, about a different film in the series: http://blogs.britannica.com/2013/09/britannica-classic-videos-magic-sneakers-1969. Essentially, Magic Moments films were “designed to be ambiguous in order to promote thinking and provoke discussion among elementary students.”

 

The following text, from a 1970s print ad, may give you an additional idea of what the series was aiming for:

 

“Today, we helped teachers hear from the silent minority. You’ll be delighted with the way even the ordinarily withdrawn child will respond to our imaginative Magic Moments film series. And your entire language arts class will react to these full-color 16 mm sound films with enthusiasm you never believed possible! Minds become unlocked. Verbal skills are encouraged that help develop reading and writing skills.  And children are eager to accept assignments. An ideal supplement to our Language Experiences in Reading program. Magic Moments should be seen to be fully appreciated. Twenty unique films in all—send for one film to examine at your leisure. You’ll see why Magic Moments makes the silent minority want to be heard.”

 

No doubt, these films are rather…odd. But hopefully, this context makes them a bit less baffling.

 

Best,

 

John M. Cunningham

Manager, Audience Engagement

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Well, if the goal was to be ambiguous and stimulate discussion, this worked— perhaps a little too well, along with a colossal air of mystery. I have to wonder how many language arts classes were filled with confusion and laughter by these film reels…

sharecropping in cyberspace

Too cheap to pay a graphic designer for what their talent’s actually worth to come up with your company’s branding? Two for one special on Fiverr!

…..fuck this noise, angry reacts only

Transmit THAT from your Cybiko

That moment you finish racking in a brand new Nautel VS2.5 and look in the back panel hexagon grill to see what looks like a hell of a happening Y2K futurism looking night club interior

After color filtering:

Before:

Oh and I was not kidding about the hexagons, this would work in a couple different eras of retrofuturism.

Department of Asshole Blockades (DAB) – the random border patrol check!

I’ve never really entirely been sure what dabbing is but here’s a rendition of it in front of a transmitter under repair. You’ll need that image to help convey just how surreal this tale is.

This morning I received a new Ikegami camera and lens, well, new to me– it’s fully digital, recording standard definition to a DV tape! I have one already but the tape transport started giving out, so I decided that one will continue on being used with 1394 capture.

Unfortunately the new one had an Anton Bauer battery plate on the back, and all my power stuff is the Sony style V mount, so I couldn’t power it up in the field just yet. I did test it using the power supply for the Tieline Via at work and it all worked fine. Coming soon: the rant on the bad cult of Anton Bauer power. It’ll likely be of reasonable levels of shitposting…

So I’m leaving the office and stopped for gas. Prices are almost $3.60 due to the holiday— eww.

Then as I’m getting back in the car after pumping gas, a border patrol vehicle comes screaming in and switches on its takedown lights and the officer jumps out and dashes to me. Double eww.

The camera is sitting on the passenger seat. As he was pulling in, I’d propped it up so the lens was aimed at the window. Of course it wasn’t running or even powered, but you wouldn’t just know this. The officer comes to the window and starts to ask to see my ID, then…..

* DAB OF CONCEALMENT *

Guess he noticed the camera. He now had his face in his elbow and hand over his badges. Before he’d quickly covered them I saw an ICE badge (without a number or name) and a G4S identification card. I guess that answers my question as to whether contractors are being used for this garbage.

“Is that camera on satellite?”, he asked…. His elbow. I could barely understand him. I replied “yes” and he suddenly lost all interest in my identification and turned his back to me.

Now, to the pillar holding up the gas station canopy, he said “you can go, good night!”. This revealed a case of male pattern baldness and a badly drawn cluster of stars tattooed on his scalp peeking through the greasy weeds.

I started to leave and noticed my phone was showing no service. It had been working fine while I was pumping gas. I looked back at the car and sure enough, there was one of those dodgy shitbox cellular jammers with like six antennas haphazardly growing out of it sitting on the dash. My phone came back on about a block from the station.

A similar looking device. I couldn’t just save that image due to clever stylesheet abuse.

I kept half expecting to be followed into an ambush, like a particularly awful one I experienced in the Shitty of Miami, but nothing ever happened. It was just a stupid spot check and I apparently inadvertently washed out the spot. Out, damn spot, out!

So I may have mentioned before that I’ve started to have issues over the last year or so really processing bullshit like this as reality, because well, what in the actual fuck?

This was like, if my grasp on reality is a slice of a pizza that someone’s trying to pick up and remove but it’s got a few strings of hot cheese connecting it to the pie… this just came along and sliced them right off. Oops.

So here I am driving home feeling like I’m actually in some kind of dystopian projection and not even questioning it anymore…. I was going down highway 99 west and seeing where normally empty little side roads now had police lights flashing in the distance and thinking of how Salvador Dali revisited his famous “The Persistence of Memory” in The Disintegrating of the Persistence of Memory, breaking up the landscape into atoms as understanding of particle physics advanced, but with a kind of unnerving feel to it as if this was bringing on complete destruction. Is this just “normal” or is this a slow disintegration? What the heck is this?

Pardon the mess, this is the camera I was talking about, it’s huge. It’s one of these things that sits on your shoulder and then you have to try not to walk into walls any more than usual.

Also it doesn’t have this extra connector on the right that my other one does, and weighs noticeably less. I wonder what the difference is. I found the test pattern generator set to “IDPTV CAM2”, Idaho Public Television? … and the VTR hour counter at an amazing… old… EIGHT. Yeah, this was a studio camera most likely before the studio upgraded to HD. The Canon lens has a slightly whiny zoom motor that appears not to be serviceable as it’s in a cemented plastic cylinder,, but it’s getting quieter as I work it.

Maybe now I’ll get some nice dabbing videos.

Categories: art

Pop Team Epic is amazing.

I’ve never seen anything so wonderfully deconstruct every possible trope in the world of anime, the very medium of anime itself, and even the nature of humor itself as what I’ve seen out of Pop Team Epic, but then this gem appeared in episode #8—

This is actually still animation, technically. In fact, they’ve also used puppetry which can be classified as animation. I’ve just never seen a performance anything like this before and it totally blew me away. I watched it twice and the second time I was looking for anywhere they could have cut it between takes— I only noticed one cut in the last few seconds when they cut to zoom in.

Some years ago I had a dream where I had found an episode of “Dave Barry TV” on the tube late at night. The sort of situations and pacing in Pop Team Epic reminds me of what I saw in that dream— except, in that dream, the episode of Dave Barry TV lasted about four minutes after which Dave didn’t know what to do past that point so he spent the rest of the episode massacring low-flow toilets.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLabhPVVG2I

Kinetic and Interactive Sculpture

This is one of the fields I’d really love to someday apply my skills with electronics and mechanical technology towards.

From the “excessively pleasing” department….

Flip dot love?

Flip dot love.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEEKBbKvuMQ

Categories: art