Visualists are no longer safe from the addiction of modular racks. LZX Industries is bringing the Eurorack modular system, popular with a new generation of modular synthesists, to video. And in abstract, acidic washes of color and light, the results are mesmerizing.

Modular systems remain a significant investment. LZX’s “minimal” systems run over a grand, with a properly balanced rack of modular units running you some US$2675. That’s not to say that’s not a value, if you can afford it: in contrast to the tricky-to-repair, largely disposable high-end laptops a lot of digital visualists buy, this is a set of units you can repair yourself, that produces a workflow and output that’s truly unique, which you could cherish for some time to come.

Happily, though, if your budget isn’t in the four digits at the moment and you want to play around, LZX has a fantastic little synthesis kit – the output of which is featured in the video at top – for just US$80. (I like cheap. There’s something psychological about cheap, too, that gives you permission to experiment, I find.)

The $80 device isn’t just affordable; it’s ingeniously-conceived in its simplicity and efficiency. From the creators’ description:

  • A frame buffer which can display internal shapes and images in many colorization modes.
  • 8-bit color palette, although thousands more can be revealed from the analog color phase shifter.
  • An analog envelope follower/generator that responds to an external audio or clock signal, with gain and decay controls to modulate video.
  • A frequency counter also derived from the audio input, which can modulate video based on the frequency of the input signal.
  • Program and mode selection pushbuttons, as well as two arbitrary knobs and one pushbutton to control parameters dependent on the currently selected display program and mode.
  • Integrating programming header allows savvy users to upload their own images and animation routines.
  • 1/8″ jack audio input.
  • Composite video RCA output.

If you’re in the Austin, Texas area, you can catch the kit in a workshop at the Austin edition of Handmade Music and leave with one of your very own. If you go, do take some photos and video!
Austin #13 – BitVision video synthesizer [] (Handmade Motion, anyone?)

It is worth having a look at the output of the modulars, too; this kind of video loses something in the conversion to online digital, but you can still get an idea. See also the photos of a recent workshop. Modular samples below:

Lots, lots more details, and links to their Vimeo and Flikcr and YouTube and whatnot: