New DIY Video Synthesizer, Video Equations


Developer Robert Jordan let us know about a new video synth that he’s developer that uses math to make evolving, ‘tripped out’ patterns.

“The Video Equations system uses the power of mathematics to yield rippling lo-fi seas of colour, acid trip roguelikes, glitching fractals, visions of an 80’s techno dream and worlds of crashing computer programs,” says Jordan. 

Here’s a video demo:


  • 16 colours, hundreds of characters and symbols
  • 20+ different equation archetypes each with two modifier sliders and a colour depth control for literally millions of unique stable or evolving visuals
  • colour and character offset knobs for even more control and variation of output
  • 4+ variable size masks, each with an invert function and mask fill options
  • 9v battery or wall wart operation (wall wart not included)
  • 7 X 0-5v CV inputs for modular control of all sliders and knobs
  • picture mute and equation hold functions for expanded live use
  • composite NTSC output (PAL users can buy a NTSC to PAL converter to integrate it into their PAL system. There is a cheap one for sale here.) The jack on the synth is BNC but comes with an RCA adapter.

The Video Equations is being produced via a Kickstarter project, and is available to backers as a DIY kit for AU $190. See the project site for details.

25 thoughts on “New DIY Video Synthesizer, Video Equations

  1. Digital television looks like that every time it rains, If you live in a low signal strength area of the UK.
    Bring back analogue!

  2. Now, if this thing used the manipulated video to feed back and manipulate sound, and then produced sound itself, I guess that would be interesting, but this just creates some rather pointless cheesy retro visuals.

    Is it just me or is this a super massive waste of time and money, or am I missing something as well as my manners?

    1. “Is it just me or is this a super massive waste of time and money, or am I missing something as well as my manners?”

      Looks like it’s just you.

      The specs note “7 X 0-5v CV inputs for modular control of all sliders and knobs”

      For people that understand analog and modular synths, that’s the key feature.

      What more would you want?

      1. People who understand analog might want an analog video synth. This video synth apparently comes with a bunch of pre-programmed equations. That’s not very modular, is it? Some people would argue that the beauty of the modular system is that you can do all sorts of analog computer stuff, i.e. build your own equations. That’s something that people who have at least a passing understanding of analog computing might do.

        1. I’d think of it more like an oscillator. You use your other equation laden modules to control it instead of relying on built in equations.

        2. Understand where you’re coming from, but that sort of thing is already readily available in Eurorack format. But building a Euro video synth costs about the same as building a Euro audio synth – you’re looking at a $2000 investment to build a patchable video synth.

          This is obviously a less capable option, also a tenth of the cost.

        3. Random Chance, You are right that people want analog video synths, that’s why brands like LZX are doing so well at the moment, but people are also interested in other aesthetics that those systems can capture as easily or at all.

          The idea of equations can seem a like a it limits the possibilities of this unit, and some people might see them like presents. but they are really just starting points and surprisingly flexible.
          For example here is one of the equations used:

          (character_y//(character_x + (mod1/10)) – (character_y + (cnt-mod2))) //modulo
          + (coloffset * offsetmute) + ((cnt // 3) * (offsetlfoMute * offsetmute))
          with so many user controlled variables an equation like this has quite a scope to produce a spectrum of unique visuals, and once combined with the mask function it only gets more varied.
          in the future id like to allow those who are so inclined to program their own equations.
          You raise some good questions that i failed to clearly explain in my short video.

    2. cheesey, “Now, if this thing used the manipulated video to feed back and manipulate sound, and then produced sound itself, I guess that would be interesting” you guess?! that would be an amazing product. something that is at the same time a video effect with feedback, and an audio effect and also some kind of synth driven by incoming audio, like you suggest. the Korg KPE1 Kaoss Pad Entrancer is the closest product i know of to what you are suggesting. they are a bit pricy/rare these days unfortunately.

      i think it’s actually a surprisingly small waste of time and money when compared to other video products on the market today.

  3. Useless 8-bit stupidity. Nobody from this era (post 1985) wants to see visuals like this.

    Years ago, I dreamed of creating an analog video synthesizer, but wanted to display images similar to G Force or Savant:

    Looks like I better get busy! I’m sure I could create a digital one with a Raz Pi. that would react to audio input.

    1. Maybe someday people will be nostalgic for your 90’s music visualizer video like they are with 8-bit stuff. But for now, it looks cheesy!

      1. Thanks. I truly appreciate the candid input.

        Sure, I guess the visuals of G-Force, Aeon and Savant are rather 90’s and possibly cheesy to some. (so am I) *shrug

        Please (if you have the insight and capability) direct me to some more contemporary (2015ish) examples of stunning graphic visualizers, and I will use those as an objective template for programming.
        [not: Aeon [also soundspectrum])

        The drive for me is that I really want to create a standalone box that can be used by anyone (responding to live audio input, programmable, or controlled with MIDI and CV) and has HDMI / DVI / SVGA video out to freely use at home or public venues with a target of under $200.

        1. That would be great if you think you can do it.

          I was reacting more to your comment trashing Robert Jordan’s work – just because you don’t like the 8-bit style doesn’t mean it’s not valid. It just means it’s not to your taste.

          Here’s an example of recent generative visualization that’s pretty creative:

          I’d love to have a hardware box that could do interesting reactive visuals, with inputs from control voltage, MIDI or even just sound.

    2. Ash, you should make that synth, i’d buy it. The raspberry pi just keeps getting more and more powerful so it’s a great platform + hdmi out would be super handy for use with modern video mixers, video capture cards etc…
      I can definitely see how growing up in the 80’s, the aesthetic of this synth might not be to your taste.
      Also it is technically useless 16bit stupidity. 🙂

  4. I can imagine lots of people needing it. For instance if you’d work with video and would need such visuals, you could create such material with ease. It’s just a tool for what it does. There are more sounds around us than just sinewaves.

  5. I think the issue with these things is trying to make 8-bit video authentic, but in what why is it real or authentic? It was just a purposeless limitation in bit processing.

    Really any PC, with any OS, is the perfect 8-bit machine; you got to limit resolution, palette, bits, but you got more than enough free solutions to knock yourself out till the end of time. 64-bit computers are brilliant at producing 8-bit interactive sounds and visuals in perfect detail, with 99% or resources to spare. But maybe someone wants that from a limited purpose build box, but it then removes the one authentic aspect of doing this on your own machine, and not a purpose built box!!!

    It is like when someone makes an 80’s parody, they don’t go off and find an old computer to make it on, they make it with the best tech and downgrade to taste, because using real 8-bit tools to do that would be regarded as stupid.

    And above all else it is just lazy. I spent the last 5 years of intensive work to get my digital audio skills to on par with my visual skills, for my high-standards within that. I am a highly visual person, with degree in Film and Animation, so I needed to do that, becoming a highly musical person, so as single artist I can now produce interactive audio/visual experiments to a standard that is exceptable to myself – and that doesn’t involve 8-bit sounds or graphics, or other twee limits.

    We can get into this and we can limit ourselves, but we are human and we don’t have limits; I am limitless. So, I got a lot of professional standards to be addressing while someone else has a retro-wank; that doesn’t cut it, that is next to worthless. A pure waste of a limitless creative human ideal.

    The ideology here is simple. Why make your audio/visual work resemble a 1980’s 8-bit computer game? Why not a AAA cinematic modern game? I’ll tell you why, because one of those things is really easy, and the other is really hard. And anyone using 8-bit sounds or graphics took the easy option, cool, but don’t expect my respect, because that is weak and below common modern standards.

    1. Did you realize that some people just feel nostalgic about 80s because it recalls them their childhood or youth? Just because someone loves retro stuff it doesn´t mean he is not skilled enough to produce new things (videos, songs, etc). It´s a matter of taste.
      In my case (I am 33 y.o.), I feel nostalgic and happy when I get to my synths and start playing something that comes straight from the 80s. In the 80s I was too young to live this experience properly and I am doing it now. Is there a problem? Absolutely not.
      If you like AAA Cinematic modern games, modern music, you are probably in the wrong website. Sorry about that.

      1. I do realize that. But I am a little more mature, so I lived that. I lived with the daily frustrations that this horrid tech couldn’t do what the future tech could, and knowing that each day this wasn’t the solution but a problem. So once the real stuff arrived I dropped that lesser stuff, as you would. And view it with a huge distaste, I don’t see a problem with that? I think that is real expression?

        I am more about placing complex emotive audio and video into a immersive space, within the context of augmented virtuality, which is the opposite of augmented reality; placing real physical things and experience into a virtual space, rather than augmenting a real space. So yes, this site isn’t ideal for me, but they have yet to invent that site. So I can take a little bit here and there, and fuse my own content. I will respect or disrespect much content within that, and I won’t be shy about expressing my own true ideals.

        8-bit is a concept. Maybe in the context of my own work it would be good for a concept. Worth going back and exploring for a finite time. I don’t see an issue in anyone exploring anything. But if it is to be ones raison d’etre than no, it isn’t that meaningful or purposeful, the word flaccid springs to mind.

        I think as artists it is deeply important to have standards and to debate those standards, I don’t think anyone gets diminished by that.

    2. it is just a medium you are choosing not to use who says that this would be the only tool in a video artists belt?
      perhaps if you are just starting out

      but you are limiting yourself by not thinking about how to incorporate other mediums of video art into your own which is wholly your choice as an artist

      when you say something like don’t expect my respect because you choose to you crayons and I just really like gel pens it sounds, well, excruciatingly silly

      I have no 8 bit video stuff but I might incorporate it with my medium size LZX video synth at some point

      what are you making?

  6. I address a lot of this in my about comments to Fred, so sorry if I repeat.

    I don’t see much dividend in starting out in 80’s tech, maybe within teaching and experimenting with it for passing glance. But here in the UK they just gave away 1m computers to kids at school to get into coding, those computers were 32-bit. It would be retro-grade cruelty to suggest giving them 8-bit machines.

    I don’t think within dedicating myself to higher standards than 8-bit I am limiting myself. Like I have stated above, 8-bit may be a good art concept for a project, especially considering my distaste for it. But that is different than praising its virtues, of becoming Mr 8-bit.

    “when you say something like don’t expect my respect because you choose to you crayons and I just really like gel pens it sounds, well, excruciatingly silly”

    This statement is gapping. I am a professional artist, l use professional tools. An artist can choose any media they like and feel comfortable with, and the world can judge them accordingly. So what you are saying here? That I should give the same amount of respect to someone that has dedicated a life to mastering oil paints as I should to someone that has just picked up a crayon? And disregarding crayon as conceptional art, then that is excruciatingly silly. Look, go and become Mr 8-bit, and go and try and blow the world away, because millions of people are failing at that every single day. I am not saying it isn’t possible to be a successful Mr 8-bit. It could happen, but you would have to be brilliant, that content would need to be the best 8-bit A/V experience the world had never seen, changing the world and its thinking in the process. Possible, but the worlds biggest Mr 8-bit is always going to be hyper-niche in reality.

    And for me, it isn’t about mish-mashing, and mixing content or rendition; all my A/V content, all sound, all vision, all technical aspects come from a single true emotive expression. So I am never going to mix some random 8-bit stuff into a video synth. I know people work like that, but I don’t. But, like I said, I may do a wee 8-bit project, but if I am going to do that, then every pixel and every waveform will be placed there purposefully by me – art has meaning and purpose.

    I don’t currently have any A/V stuff online, taken down during funding process. But I keep a small soundcloud of current sound experiments, I don’t promote it, I just use it to gain a few random plays and gauge ratio of plays to likes/downloads/comments:

    1. Kuwa Mashine, You have a very clear idea of what it is you want from the tools you use, but It seems there is some confusion going on about the different uses of the term 8bit.
      When referring to digital electronics n-bit (8bit, 16bit, 32bit or 64bit) number refers to the width of the maximum register that chip can use. Practically that means the maximum size a variable can be. The Parallax Propellor used in this design is a 32bit microcontroller like the BBC Micro you mention.
      When referring to graphics n-bit (8bit, 16bit, 32bit or 64bit) refers to colour depth. That is the size of a variable containing color information. An 8-bit colour depth is capable of 256 individual colours. Working on a computer unless you specifically set the bit depth to 8bit you are not working in 8-bit.

      Addressing your statement: “It would be retro-grade cruelty to suggest giving them 8-bit machines”
      working with smaller variable sizes can be more efficient and definitely easier for kids to understand operations that involve bit manipulation like masking and bit-shifting. There are lots of 8bit microcontrollers used in professional products everyday for their low price, low power consumption and high efficiency.

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