When LZX first started, I was approaching video synthesis not as an electronics engineer, but as a would be filmmaker and game designer in the turn of the millennium: the era of web based interactive animation and MiniDV short films. It was an era before universities had “New Media” departments (in the modern sense.) The interactive fiction computer games of the 1980’s and 1990’s were waning in favor of larger budget titles and rendering-heavy 3D graphics, and YouTube / web video were still in their infancy.
I was attracted to video art tools, not just in an aesthetic sense but also in the potential of a modular instrument to produce emergent narratives.
Video is a medium which has been highly constrained to the concepts of linear vs nonlinear editing tools. Whether we’re talking about edit decision lists, splicing 16mm film, or dragging around ingested clips in Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro, these techniques are all based on assembling an intentional sequence of frames.
So while it may seem like a dichotomy such as non-linear editing vs linear editing covers all territory, I feel like it doesn’t – not even close, not even still. Any attempt at uncovering an emergent, live narrative in cinema usually ends up reduced to choose-your-own-adventure-like experiments such as Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch or with VJ tools focused on sequencing the playback of prepared clips.
If you wonder why we have iterated through so many generations of modules and products, it’s largely in pursuit of this concept, of a video machine capable of not just beautiful imagery, but also engaging narratives full of rising and falling tension and structured, event based acts. A machine the video synthesist uses in a manner more like navigating one’s own subconscious while dreaming – an environment full of the unexpected, yet personal and familiar. A place only the individual artist could have found, yet a place impossible to plan or curate in advance. I feel like, as human beings, the hardware control surface – the place you put your hands – the steering wheel – is essential for the cybernetic relationship required to accomplish this.
Approaching the designs of Chromagnon and Gen3 modular, I’m attempting to design a toolkit that encapsulates our work to date, and gets us closer to a holistic creative environment than ever before. But there are some missing pieces we haven’t touched yet – mostly related to motion, nested animations, and sequencing. I want to do that in a way more integrated and intuitive than just clip sequencing and interesting LFO waveshapes. I think there’s something more there; and that to find it we need to think outside the box of both the synthesizer world and the videography/editing world.
I miss making these discussions part of the community. It’s why, I hope, you’re here on this forum – to be a component of the process of exploration and development we’ve dedicated ourselves to.
So let’s get some talking done, let’s discuss. What are your thoughts on this topic? How are you already using your video art tools this way? What works? What reads for you, in the work of others? What experiences do you have personally that could provide further background for this discussion? What’s still out there? What should “narrative” modular tools look like, and how should we be interacting with them?
Some of you are highly proficient animators and video editors and digital designers – what is your relationship with a tool more immediate and instantaneous, even, than pen and paper or rapidly assembling ingested camera footage?
Some of you have decades of experience in live television, stage direction and improv – what is your relationship towards a more introspective tool like a video art machine, where you are both improvising director and conjurer of the world on screen?
Some of you are genius polyrhythm programming modular synth musicians that craft melodies from the intersection of maths and probability – how do you make videos the same way, but without just directly applying the same techniques used in composing songs or ambient soundscapes?
Maybe you have no experience at all with video, or even audio, beyond video art hardware? What do you see in this discussion?
Thanks for reading, I am excited to dig in.