Proof of Concept: 8-Bit Video Synthesizer

Role

  • Concepting
  • Hardware Hacking
  • Programming

Timing

Spring 2014

Two-week intensive

School for Poetic Computation

I attended the School for Poetic Computation for two weeks in the Spring of 2014. It was an opportunity to step back and think both as a coder and an artist - to see art executed as code and to see code itself as art.

Our projects were more about concept than execution -- we weren't so much expected to finish a polished product as talk about what led us in our given direction and discuss the new skills we picked up along the way. In my case those skills were hardware computing, soldering, and a better understanding of electronic components.

SFPC Example

(An excerpt from the abstract I produced on the project:)

I came to SFPC with images of really digging in to the craft of creative coding - lots of shaders and OpenGL and visual polish.

What I wasn’t expecting was how seductive electronics and “physical computing” would be by comparsion. From wiring up a few small circuits on a breadboard to sitting down and soldering a pretty ambitious project (for someone who had never held a soldering iron before!) - it really drew me in.

I also began to pull from some of my influences, from classic 8-bit games to Videodrome, which led me to build a small standalone hardware video synth. I had big dreams of Scanimates and Fairlight CVI’s, but reality set in and I settled for a small, ultra low res display powered by an Arduino.

As an electronic music producer, I’m a big fan of standalone boxes. Analog or digital, part of what makes something like the TR-909 drum machine such a compelling instrument is its interface - it is not a computer, and there isn’t a mouse or keypad in sight. I wanted to channel some of that in this project.