How hard is it to build a modular rig for video/vj'ing?

I am quite intrigued by the idea of building a modular system for video synthesizing. Very hard to find good resources, but maybe it’s just my poor eyesight.

I am a relative noob when it comes to modular and was wondering if it is very different from modular with audio (the principles not, I guess)

Looked for all in one solutions, but they are very hard to acquire. Chromagnon is maybe a good starting point (https://lzxindustries.net/products/chromagnon), but can’t find any video explaining what it does exactly.

Are there people here with knowledge (also of all the potential pitfalls - money :sunglasses: ) or maybe even with their own modular video rig?

Looking for audio responsive pattern generation first and maybe video feedback using camera’s.

Chromagnon isn’t released yet, but there are a few things about its predecessor Vidiot around

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Last i checked, there is only about a handful of companies in the modular field or even non-modular that even work on video synthesis. A majority if it is lo-res and still uses rca outputs. if you are reallly into video synthesis the modules may be interesting but ultimately i find them pricier than audio modules.

there is lzx, giekes, and erogenous tones make good video related synths/modules.

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it’s an expensive way to go. but really fun and rewarding. it’s a rabbit hole and there is a learning curve. I’ve spent some time w/a well stocked video system and really enjoyed it. LZX stuff is great. amazing stuff.

you can get more bang for your buck with a erogenous tones structure at the heart of your system. expensive but it’s an entire video synth in one module.

add some LZX stuff and you’re off to the races.

https://erogenous-tones.com/modules/structure/

for software there’s some great options too. Lumen is excellent and works in a very LZX type way. currently mac only but i htink he’s working on a windows version.

for LZX inspiration check out “dirty Bill” on instagram. amazing patches.

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One thing is, you’ll need a video specific output module/s (ex. LZX) and then you can use the numerous other euro modules (like maths for instance) to modulate parameters of the video module. So there’s an overlap between video/audio modules.

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true. wavefolders and some filters are really amazing with video signals. the video synthesis threads at muffwiggler have tons of info. worth checking them out. lot’s of advice there.

https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=48

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also worth mentioning that LZX stuff and most video synthesis modules are made in SMALL batches. if you can pre-order directly at LZX website you’ll get modules quicker. once they sell it out it’s usually ages before they get restocked. you snooze… you lose.

LZX are nice people who work really hard. they’re here in portland. if you have questions about when things are going to be back in stock send them an email.

Thanks for all the help, guys. A lot of watching/reading to do. I’v tried some stuff already, and I kind of liked Lumen, but the fact that it is not audio-reactive felt like bit of a disappointment.

Other stuff like EboSuite, Resolume and V-Synth are driving my MacBook into the ground. So the choice is: buy a new Mac for 2000/3000 euro’s or spent that money on knobs and patch cables. Because I don’t need an expensive Mac (or gaming pc) for anything else than generating video.

What I would like to do, is make generative music with my current setup (NDLR, 707, couple of small synth like Cycles) and create ambiences/atmospheres with video. I see a lot of guys dragging around old tv’s and so, but that’s not what I am after right now (maybe when I am deeper in that rabbit hole :smile:)

The only thing I really like till now (and what works well on my Mac), is Rokvid, a Max-device in Ableton Live. I do some takes in Live, record the screen and then edit in iMovie. Like this one:

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Can you put this in any standard eurorack case, or do big video modules like this draw more power or need other things? I saw LZX is selling a case for 1200 dollar, which struck me as a bit pricey.

al video module sneed really clean power. any noise becomes visible in the signal and it’s way more obvious than noise floor in an audio system.

at modular8 we had the Structure module in 4ms Pod w/o any issues.

it’s a spendy module but handles so much. it’s like an entire LZX system in one module. it’s the output/input etc. you can save presets and more. read up on it. it’s a great heart of a video system.

eurorack cases are always expensive. it’s the cost of entry. the power requirements for video are higher spec than for audio. also, those cases LZX sell are expensive small batch boutique things w/quality power, VESA mount ability etc. they’re custom design from not off the shelf parts. all the video stuff is expensive though… more so than audio usually. not that there aren’t expensive audio modules but video seems to cost a lot to get started.

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A good advice: Don’t use eurorack format video sythesis modules as long as you don’t really know VERY precisely what you want to achieve.

It might sound tempting and as easy as using modular systems for audio, but you should not forget all the peripherals that come with it: Analogue video signal chains are not really common and most of it really makes sense when you use them with analogue monitors etc.

I was studying at a media arts school and work as audiovisual artist and performer, and there is many artists out there, especially from the 90’s onwards, who do really great stuff in this field, but most of them come from circuit bending old video desks / controllers or using feedback techniques etc.

When it comes down to quality (in the sense of “cleanness”) I would always recommend to start with Touchdesigner, vvvv, maybe Max/MSP, to experiment and figure out what you exactly like about video arts. If something specific pops out there is always enough time to figure out what the benefit of the analogue processes of the equivalent techniques would be.

Another advice that I want to give: Try some more “low level” video synthesizers / environments like Resolume or Lumen before you dive deep into the node-based programming languages or modular video.

/edit:

Most of the software that I have mentioned accepts MIDI and OSC for signal processing. You could even use your eurorack system to control stuff via modules like Expert Sleepers FH2, which has has two CV to MIDI Converters, or an audio-interface with DC-coupled inputs, or use AR Modulation with filters etc.

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i agree w/that. the software options should be explored. there’s so much that can be done but it really depends on goals and what you want the output to look like.

lumen is a no brainer really and it’s constantly being developed. the developer had a talk at modular8 and we saved it on youtube. it’s intro type workshop.

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It is very different to modular audio even in principle. With modular audio there is no hard separation between audio signals and control signals. You are quite free to use audio signals as control signals and the other way around.

With video it’s completely different. Video signals are strictly separated from control signals (different encodings, connectors, voltages, shielding requirements etc.pp.). Video signals can also not be easily combined in a cheap and very modular way.

Your best bet is software. When you want knobs, add an external “knobby” sequencer to it (or just a controller).

With the right software you won’t even need a new Mac. Man, there is software out which runs video synthesis even on a Raspberry Pi. But of course, this all comes down to what you expect/want. A Raspberry Pi will surely do no (HiRes) realtime raytracing, but an effortable hardware video synthesis unit won’t do it either.

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This is a good read / starting point:

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I find Lumen to be extremely buggy. When I try to automate only a couple of parameters with Live, it already starts to give some lag and it freezes up my Mac regularly. Sounds familiar to some people?

Regarding not going down a modular path: it’s these things, as described above, that really frustrate me when using video software. 9 out of 10 times my MacBook Pro (2,7 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM) just doesn’t cope.

So I thought: lets buy something like Structure or Chromagnon and go from there. Structure particularly appeals to me because it uses GLSL, which I really liked using (but again, the Mac is struggling when doing a bit more than the absolute basic stuff. It becomes jumpy and unresponsive and the fan’s behaving like a nutter).

Do you have some good examples you maybe have tried yourself?

For example: Critter & Guitari have released an Raspberry Pi based hardware video synthesis box named Eyesy. I’m not sure if the software is available by its own (haven’t checked).

Personally I haven’t done video synthesis since a long time ago, but when you google it you should find quite a lot.

IMHO it all depends on your own capabilities. I’m a seasoned software developer, so when I’m using tools they are quite lowlevel (require programming) but perform extremely well.

Well, running multiple programs with realtime requirements may be little bit too much for older hardware or a single computer in general.

You can also try to use something more lightweight for modulation than Live. For example VCV Rack with just one or two modules configured or (even better) an external modulation source.

Update:

Eyesy uses its own software which is based on Pygame, a video game toolbox using Python.

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Thanks again, the eyesy reminded me a bit of the video on the OPZ, which I didn’t particularly like. Looking more for a Lumen/Structure-like vibe.

I have a day off, so directly followed your advice concerning modulation. Hooked up the 8 lfo’s of the NDLR, that setup is working much better with Lumen

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What about Quartz Composer? Never tried it myself but seem to remember some cool stuff was possible with it.

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i think that’s not lumen being buggy but your computer being underpowered for the task. i5 dual core and 8gb ram is not much to work with by modern standards. i ran it on a macbook pro 2011 i7, 16gb ram w/o any issues. it was always quite smooth.

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Yeah, I think you’re right. Also fairer to Lumen.

That was also one of the reasons why I thought: instead of buying a new Mac, could I better invest in video hardware? Since I do not need a powerful Mac for other reasons.

Very tempted by the Structure module, because of that. Even if I need peripherals, I probably spend way less than when buying a new high spec MacBook.

For audio the old one is still up to all tasks.