Meet The Synkie—An Open Source Video Synthesizer

Last December, Alan Palomo of synth-pop outfit Neon Indian made new “waves” with his video for “Mind, Drips”, which utilized video synthesizer technology from LZX Visionary to generate all the video’s visual effects in real-time using techniques such as abstract pattern synthesis, video feedback, and analog compositing.

Labeled as the first music video to utilize this type of technology, we knew it was only a matter of time before more prototypes started emerging. Enter, the Synkie, a modular, open-source analog video processor developed by Flo Kaufmann and Max and Michael Egger of non-profit art-tech development organization [a n y m a]. Like the esteemed Moog (audio) synthesizer, the Synkie lets one manipulate a video signal using patch cables, ultimately acting as an experimental platform.

The trio are focused on playability rather than image quality, as the Synkie uses 2mm laboratory cables for patching instead of the standard shielded 750hm BNC cables typically used for video. The laboratory plugs can be stacked to split the signal into multiple paths, feeding several modules at once and allowing for configuration tweaks on the fly.

The artists explain the challenges of developing synthesizer technology for video:

You cannot just fool around with [video] like with sound: Besides the much higher bandwidth (~5MHz), which makes designing video circuits much more demanding, the main problem is that video signal contains not only the actual picture, but also synchronization signals. You touch the picture and the sync goes away, the screen starts shaking… Try to fade a video signal to black like you would with audio—no way to do this with just a potentiometer. Instead of a nice appeasing black you’ll get a crazy light storm capable of generating epileptic seizures…

The Synkie addresses this problem by separating the picture portion of the signal from the sync to allow for blending and distortion, before merging it back to the sync at the end.

The designers performed live with the Synkie at the Electron Festival in Geneva last Sunday, and since no video of their performance has surfaced yet, check out Neon Indian’s “Mind, Drips” instead below.

[via MAKE Magazine]