Think vintage video hardware has nothing on classic analog music synths like the Moog and Buchla? Think again.

The Rutt-Etra video synthesizer, circa 1972, did sophisticated video raster manipulations. The invention of Steve Rutt and Bill Etra, the Rutt-Etra may not have had its Keith Emerson, but it did inspire Nam Jun Paik and Gary Hill. If the feedback effects look 70s, the more unusual raster effects put software to shame. And it was all done with hardware, producing creative effects, a certain purity of technique, and lovely soft edges — not to mention knobs and faders for the artist instead of the lines of code needed for software. Audiovisualizers.com has a history with some Real video clips, with assistance from the creators. Any other good resources, please leave in comments:

Rutt-etra Video SynthesizeR – ( 1972) [Source of image above, labeled Vasulka 1992]

Vade points to a 2004 video by the talented peoples of Ghost Robot. Check out Staring at the Sun by TV on the Radio. Director Elliot Jokelson is lucky enough to own the gear, and he puts one of these classic devices to great artistic use. Had the effects focused on the simple mono raster effects alone, you might have assumed this was some new digital technique.

Ghost Robot videos

Updated — vade explains who owned the gear in question in comments:

Elliot does not own the gear, and the Rutt Etra was Benton C Brainbridge’s. The processing was done in realtime and the output was re-scanned (or re-imaged if you prefer) into a digibeta deck for editing later on. This is because technically speaking, the Rutt Etra does not output anything *close* to a standards compliant NTSC video signal. The only possibe output device is a CRT, which you have to point a camera at. Really nice stuff. It should be noted that the Rutt Etra’s output is black and white. The color was added in post.

As in music synthesis, even if you can’t get your hands on the original gear, there’s a lot to learn just by trying to re-conceive these classic effects. This gets me thinking about 3D projects in Jitter and Processing. Anyone done something similar? And, forgiving my ignorance, I wonder what would it take to build hardware like this using 2007 tech?

Updated again! Answer: vade is already on it, with an in-progress Jitter patch. More good links in comments.

  • http://goddollars.com Â&Acir

    i did some stuff KINDA like him, i used the feedback from my television, and a bunch of leds to make a video flyer once, came out really good http://youtube.com/watch?v=rISbTT2f24U

    ive read about the visual synth before, but had never seen its output, just assumed on what it would look like. When i saw the tv on the radio video, i for sure thought it was used with some new technology

  • http://goddollars.com Â&Acir

    actually, i found something a LITTLE similar
    http://www.mediumrecords.com/vs0/vs001.html

  • http://goddollars.com Â&Acir
  • http://abstrakt.vade.info/ vade

    ¦¦¦ ¦¦¦ ¦¦¦, nice feedback. I like your idea of using the pulsing lights as a feedback source. It works very well for the track.

    Peter – Actually, Elliot does not own the gear, and the Rutt Etra was Benton C Brainbridges. The processing was done in realtime and the output was re-scanned (or re-imaged if you prefer) into a digibeta deck for editing later on. This is because technically speaking, the Rutt Etra does not output anything *close* to a standards compliant NTSC video signal. The only possibe output device is a CRT, which you have to point a camera at. Really nice stuff. It should be noted that the Rutt Etra's output is black and white. The color was added in post.

    As for (faux) Rutt Etra scanline processing, here you go, from Jitter. jit.gl.mesh being modulated in z axis by 2 function generators (jit.bfg). It should be noted that Cycling74 provides a rudimentary patch to do this in the Jitter examples, but I dont think its quite the same, mines a bit better, but still doesnt quite capture the analog awesomeness.

    Rutt Etra with Jitter

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  • http://www.quasecinema.org Alexandre Rangel

    Another link on Karl Klomp's work on video benders: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FIk4GwvG1w

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  • http://www.inklude.com Temple

    Hi! Nice and interesting content on your site! I first read about Rutt/Etra here…
    Now we are developing a tool in Processing for testing some projects and ideas based on this amazing machine…
    http://www.inklude.com/chac-scan-processor-basado
    We are now in the first steps!