Alternative to Color Chords

I’ve recently jumped into video synthesis with both feet and have put together a system composed of most of the Expedition series modules. I’ve been unable to find Color Chords for sale anywhere, and I’m wondering what alternatives exist today. I’m aware that the Automata RGB instrument and VBM mk2 is coming at some point, but I’d like to know what else is possible.

Aside from the hard to obtain Color Chords and VBM, what is out there for color mixing? I know there is the Afterlife Labs Video Calculator, which is similar to VBM. Perhaps something is also possible via Cadet and Castle modules? What functionality from Color Chords are lacking with these options?

Apologies if these seem like obvious questions, but I’m still learning how a lot of this works. I’m really impressed by the community around LZX! It reminds me of some of the better open-source software communities I’ve worked with.


reverselandfill’s DIY Matrix Mixer is a good alternative if you’re primarily after RGB color mixing. It doesn’t have the 4th RGB input or the ability to subtract one layer from another in a particular order like Color Chords. It does have an inverted input and with a simple mod, the ability to independently change between regular gain and a soft key mode for the 3 inputs and 1 inverted input by adding a few resistors on a switch. You can also add three potentiometers to have a level control over each column.

The Afterlife Labs Video Calculator looks solid for matrix mixing but I haven’t used one. This is probably the closest you’ll get to VBM right now.

It would take way more Cadet Processors to patch together a matrix mixer than it’s probably worth although they’re endlessly useful modules.

If you want to go down the reverselandfill Matrix Mixer route and don’t DIY, I’m sure Martijn or any builders on the forum would be willing to work something out.


A potential option would be to use three cascaded Passages. You end up with same features but with expanded input possibilities and control. What you give up in rack space you gain by having these for other purposes when not being used to emulate Color Chords. This could also be done with nine Cadet VII Processors and a lot more patch cables.


It would look like this or the OUT to THRU would also be another option.


I used to patch something like this up with Processors and summing mixers. One of the reasons to make a dedicated module!
->> Too many patchcables, multiples (or stackables) & knob settings <<-
(I don’t have the Passage module, so I don’t know if this was the same as the patch above)

note: the 3x MOD points on my Matrixmixer are for adding overall gain control of the outputs.

note2: A matrixmixer is not only for color mixing. You can add CV for movement, do feedback patches and combine shapes on different levels.


Keep looking for a Color Chords, one will come around. The opacity function is really cool and can’t be readily duplicated by gangs of Passages or Cadet VIIs.


I’m trying to wrap my head around how this would work like a matrix mixer but I’m just not getting it… Are the cables on the left the inputs and the cables on the right the outputs? And if so, how do you get a signal from input channel 1 to output channel 3? Isn’t the first channel only connected to the first channel in all three modules, since the cables in all those jacks break the normals to the lower jacks?

I don’t yet have a Passage, so maybe I’m misunderstanding how the Passage works?


Thanks for all of the suggestions! I ordered an Afterlife Labs Video Calculator, which conveniently just came back in stock. I’ll probably keep an eye out for a Color Chords (or two!) as well.

I don’t have a Passage yet, but I’ve been planning to pick up two when the next batch is available.

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Picture above is not how I would do it.
Output and thru input are RGB, input 1 mults to all 3 outputs with separate gains for setting color. Then you can cascade outs to thrus to get more inputs with more modules.
Even one Passage lets you mix RGB and one signal that you can set the color of.

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How are you liking the video calculator in place of color chords? Has it been a hit or a miss for you? The module looks interesting but there’s very little info on it available.

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Another RBG Matrix option to consider is this by Visible Signals @aladan

I’d guess to emulate the “Opacity” control you’d need a VCA per input :upside_down_face:


Color Chords doesn’t use VCAs for the opacity effect.

What’s going on is that as you turn up the fader for each layer, the increasing brightness per pixel is subtracted from the lower priority layer. So instead of having an image that easily blows out to white as you add more elements onto it, you can more feasibly composite multiple shapes/patterns at one time.


For video VCA there’s the Gainbrain (which as a bonus can also do crossfading and analogue multiplication!)

Other than that I believe the RGB Matrix has all of the rest of the Color Chords functionality, but also includes a two-bus three-channel two-bus crossfader which I really think is it’s number one killer feature.

If you’re not up for DIY then there are a few nice people who are building them up for sale now.

Full disclosure: Visible Signals is basically just me :slight_smile:

[edit: Ah, I always wondered how the Opacity feature worked (I’ve never owned a Color Chords). Very cool @rempesm. In that case a VCA on each channel won’t quite do the same thing.]


Check out its block diagram signal flow on this chart:

Say if you patch a centered, white diamond shape into Layer 3 (18) of Color Chords, i.e. you turn all of the RGB offsets (1,4,7) fully CW. Then you patch a centered circle into Layer 2 (13) and set it to be only red, i.e. 2 is fully CW and 5 & 8 are fully CCW. If Layer 2’s opacity fader (13) is all the way down, you likely will not see that circle appear until you adjust the fader. As you increase it all the way to its top position, the brightness from layer 2 will be subtracted from layer 3, allowing the red circle to be visible in the middle of the white diamond and not just go over 1V which the encoder will clip. There are many useful in between spots on the fader opacity positions but if you’re trying to stack a bunch of patterns, pushing them all the way up will remove any blowing out to white problems where all pixels are >1V.


+1 for RGB Matrix and another +1 for the built-in keyer! plus you can expand it to your heart’s content so that’s worth yet a third +1 in my book. and while building video modules for sale is something i’ll gladly do i highly recommend DIY if you can handle it. it’s not a terribly difficult build - just a lot of parts - but if you do it yourself you can build exactly the mixer you want with just the right combo of the various input modules and it’s a pretty dang satisfying feeling to know the heart of your video system is something you made with your own two hands. here’s a pic of mine; maybe this will encourage you to go for it:


Those Thonk micro T18 knobs look schmick! And the coloured Befaco sockets are a lovely touch. Definitely one of the best RGB Matrix photos I’ve seen!


Another color combination.


With all the new diy rgb mixers / faders arround, is there any who can Archive the opacity layering from color chords? Tried tonunderstand the schematics but still have no clue.

Fox shutter? Vanta rgb fader? Bso crossfader?

No, they all do different things. Color Chords is basically a matrix mixer and doesn’t do any crossfading. The sliders subtract that channel from the previous channel, which has the visual result of suppressing the lower layers and putting that layer on “top”.

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Shutter will get you really close to it.
It switches off one Signal to show the other, effectively doing like the subtraction in CC.
My faders (now called tesoro) have a 4quadrant mode, as visible signals grainbrain does, its a different taste of what additive mixing is. Not close to what color chords does, though.
I’m working on a mixer system with that feature of color chords and also faders instead of knobs.
Don’t expect it before summer though. :wink: