Video synthesis hardware is suddenly on fire – and you don’t need a fortune to get into it. From two legendary makers of audio electronics, we have two fantastic new designs for video synths, available on the cheap for your psychedelic optic nerve-massaging fun.

Video Scope
Designed by: Critter and Guitari
Price: US$129
I/O: One audio input, one NTSC-only RCA output jack
Sold: Direct from the makers

The newly-improved Video Scope re-conceives the lowly oscilloscope as an electrically-colorful visual wonder. Plug in an audio signal, adjust knobs and choose from line, color shift, trapezoid, and random visualizations. (Random adjusts between the other three at an adjustable rate.) It’s all in a pocketable aluminum box with two knobs and a couple of jacks – nothing to clue in anyone that you can make visual marvels with the thing. It’s a magical mystery box. (And I do mean pocketable – the same creators make the wonderful Pocket Piano, but for that, you’d need some hefty overalls or lederhosen or something.)

Hard Soft Synth 3i (HSS3i)
Designed by: Gijs Gieskes
Price: US$95 for a basic audio-only kit, up to $160 for all the bells and whistles (damned steal, I say!)
Inputs: Audio, IR, CV trigger, MIDI input
Outputs: RCA, S-vid, VGA out, plus CV out
Sold: By Bleep Labs (appears to ship internationally)

Quite a lot more sophisticated – but each being equally fun visually and with a strong audiovisual bent – is the HSS3i.

It’s a glitchy audiovisual generator, but it’s also potentially possibly part of a modular analog or digital rig, thanks to CV in and out and MIDI control, atop audio input.

And there are 16 audio and video modes, plus 8 video-only modes.

And you get an analog low-pass filter that’s controlled by a photocell.

And you can then circuit bend it.

Gijs is a genius.

I’m just wrapping my head around the idea that you could easily make a pretty performance-worthy rig with these two gadgets together, all under $300.

Gijs has some other wonderful experiments that you can build yourself, though not buy directly; I’ll cover those separately. But it’s a good time for strange video hardware; I can’t wait to see this stuff in performance live.