Special Stage Systems has introduced the Ming Micro – a portable 8-bit video synthesizer, with NTSC composite output, integrated chiptune synthesis, SD card slot, USB and MIDI control.
They call it “The ultimate pixel art instrument.”
Here’s the official video intro:
Ming Micro is a USB-equipped portable video synthesizer that generates retro computer graphics in realtime.
Drawing inspiration from the 8-bit era of personal computers and videogame consoles. Every engine parameter is controllable via standard MIDI CC and Pitch Bend messages, from large-scale object properties all they way down to individual pixel placements.
Four main elements make up Ming Micro’s graphics engine:
- Sprites — small moveable objects that can be freely positioned anywhere on the display
- Tiles — graphical blocks that are positioned on a 10 x 12 grid to compose scenes
- Tile Maps — diagrams that specify which Tiles get drawn in which grid locations
- Palettes — color definitions used to render the Tiles and Sprites
Each element contains parameters for shaping its presentation in the final scene. For instance, each Sprite contains an X and Y location, as well as a bitmap index to control its graphical content and animation. All four systems and their corresponding parameters combine to create the final video stream.
For maximum authenticity, Ming Micro outputs NTSC composite video at 240p / 60 fps, the same format and resolution used by classic videogame consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Master System (SMS). Compared to computer-emulated pixel art, Ming Micro’s output has a natural softness and a variety of subtle analog artifacts native to the format.
Integrated Audio Synthesis
In addition to its primary video capabilities, Ming Micro also contains a simple digital audio synthesizer, providing two square wave generators and a dual-mode noise generator. The audio synthesizer can be used in conjunction with the graphics engine to create audio-visual patches, or in isolation as a standalone sound generator.
In order to use Ming Micro, you need to have:
- A NTSC composite video display capable of displaying 240p signals (such as an old CRT television set, or most composite-equipped LCD monitors and projectors)
- And at least one of the following:
- A USB-enabled computer (for use with Ming Micro’s built-in USB MIDI interface)
- Physical MIDI hardware capable of transmitting CC messages (for use with Ming Micro’s MIDI DIN port)
The Ming Micro is being produced via a Kickstarter project. Pricing starts at US $175 for a DIY version and $200 for an assembled version.