What would I need to get started?

What gear would I need to buy to get started? I know there’s already a post similar to my question, but it’s from a couple of years ago. In the post, they recommend the visual cortex, but it’s discontinued. Is there a similar product from LZX that matches the performance? I appreciate any help

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Chromagnon is the new core module that replaces Cortex. You can pre order from LZX

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It depends what you want to do with the video synth and what your budget is.


What can I do with a video synth other than make interesting visuals? I’m asking that sincerely, not trying to sound like a d**k. My budget is whatever I need to just get started with making interesting visuals

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You could consider a DIY system if you’re into that. If not I’d hold off on ordering a Chromagnon for now. Second hand Visual Cortexes are known to pop up for sale if you liked the look of it.

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Thanks for the tips! Why hold off on a Chromagnon though?

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Some video synth possibilities:

  1. Pure synthesis, pattern-making, and so forth

  2. Vector synthesis, lissajous, Rutt-Etra, lasers

  3. Image processing/effects

Many workflows involve some combination of the above. Other possibilities are also, well, possible. But I’d say those are the main things.


The Memory Palace (often shortened to MP) has a HDMI output and is a stand alone instrument that might be a good option. Do you come from a music production background @thedurf18?
If so, the MP is like a Rompler. It plays back samples/video clips and processes them using video synth techniques. You get the best of both analogue processing and digital control.
The release date of Chromagnon has been recently pushed back to “early 2021”. Those who pre-ordered will get their units first, its unclear as to who long you’d have to wait if you ordered one now.

There’s a Visual Cortex (VC) for sale in Berlin, Germany. I’m sure the seller doesn’t want to post it, otherwise it would of long been sold.
Keep your eye open for a 2nd hand one, someone just sold a bunch of gear a couple of days ago & posted here as well as the LZX user Fakehook group page rather than using eBay or Reverb.

If you’re handy with a soldering iron, there’s the DIY Castle range and the more hard to source Cadet range, which is due for a major overhaul early next year.

Do you want to process video signals or create raw visuals via electrical waveforms? (Someone may have already asked).

An option is to advertise that you’re interested in buying a complete system ideal for a beginner that contains at least the core modules for creating visuals.

‘Interesting visuals’ is quite a vague description…
No worries. It can sound as one big thing, this video system.
But if you get going there are actually several directions you can go in.
You will have to take this into account when starting up a system.
And don’t forget about a good case suited for video power use, which is more than audio modules and more sensitive to noise. There is a thread about suitable PSU’s and cases on this forum.

Like @sean said, it is what you prefer to do with it:

  • If you want to do processing (input movie clips from another source, such as a laptop, camera or media player), you’d need some kind of video input module and effects, keying and color mixing.
  • for shapes and patterns / pure synthesis, you will need VCO’s, keyers and mixers. If you already have an audio modular, you can use those modules to control the movement, or make a simultaneous AV setup.
  • for Vector stuff, you need all kinds of scaling modules and a rescanning method such as a good camera + an oscilloscope
  • for glitch effects, there are several new modules that are super useful.
  • if you don’t mind digital, there are some modules that use shaders and smart processing.

About the budget:

  • if you have a big budget, there are some fantastic modules out there from LZX and other companies to try out.

  • if you have a smaller budget, there is the DIY option, maybe complimented with some more advanced modules by LZX or others. If you are not a DIYer, there are other people who can solder those modules for you.


At the bare minimum to create video in the LZX world, you need a sync gen, some sort of signal (ie, from camera or VCO) and an output decoder.
The Visual Cortex would be a great starting point since it has that plus more, so if you’re half-serious about video synthesis then I’d suggest trying to find one on the second hand market.
Otherwise there may be some built Cadet modules being sold, though these are very basic building blocks and you’d need quite a few to get close to what the Visual Cortex can do.

Everything else you need will be determined by what aesthetic and workflow you wish to pursue.

Sean’s breakdown above is like a set of signposts - which can guide you towards your destination…
It’s a bit of an odd time to be starting on a video modular, since LZX are transitioning to their 3rd Gen series there are a few gaps in the range/market.
But don’t let that hold you back, use the time to form an idea of what you want to achieve and then research what you might need to get there.
This could almost be seen as a positive, instead of throwing $20K of LZX on a mockup in ModularGrid then saying “is this what I need”, and maybe heading down the wrong path, you have time to consider exactly what you need then make the right purchases when those products are available again.

Thank you everybody for the help!

@sean post helped me conceptualize what video synths can do. I’m interested in pure synthesis, pattern-making, image processing/effects, and glitch-type stuff.

So given what @reverselandfill and Rik_bS posted, I would need to start with a VCO, so I have some kind of signal to send, keyers, and mixers. From what I understand, the Visual Cortex have these components. I suppose I’ll just wait till I see someone selling a second-hand Visual Cortex. I tried looking at all of the dealers that LZX lists, but none of them have a Visual Cortex. I hope they pop up more often than not.

No one has really laid out all the options. I’ve started and abandoned it several times now because it quickly gets complicated. But to try to be as concise as possible with full range of options and strengths/weaknesses:

1. Used Vidiot. Don’t think anyone has mentioned this little guy. To me, still the best bang for the buck. Totally capable as a standalone, with video processing and oscillators. If you do end up building a bigger system, though, there are some serious drawbacks, and you will likely end up with another “core” module in addition to this (but it will still be useful in many ways — or probably pretty easy to resell).

2. Used Visual Cortex. Amazing start to a system. Having multi-channel mixing right before output is ace. But sort of frustratingly limited on its own. Video input, some minimal processing, ramps, that’s it. You will need this plus at least one other thing to do much.

3. Pre-Order Chromagnon. Geared towards vector synthesis. But also capable of a lot more. Biggest drawbacks I see are as yet unclear release date and lack of knob/input per function (it does many things but not all at once; there are “modes”).

4. Memory Palace. Cool video processing and delay/feedback effects. But no video-rate oscillators; no external video input. Again, you’re going to want something else to go with this thing, 100%. To my eye, much more capable as a processor than as the core of a system. (This + Cortex is a great combo though.)

5. DIY / obsolete modules. Unless you are really into DIY (it does not sound like it), I don’t recommend bothering with starting here. Same with stuff that uses the deprecated sync standard.


Thanks a bunch @sean, this is really helpful!

I’m not interested in DIY stuff. I’ll look into the Vidiot, but it seems like getting a Visual Cortex with a Memory Palace is my best option. I’m not really into Vector Synthesis, so I guess the Chromagnon is out for me.

The one thing to note about Cortex is that the oscillators are only ramps — which are basically locked to the frame rate. Very useful, but also limited.

Moving forward, I think (?) the plan is that Diver’s firmware will be updated with an oscillator mode, and that there will be another analog oscillator module as well. Right now, the main options are a used Prismatic Ray, used Vidiot, or a DIY Castle oscillator (or inputting an oscillator from a computer as video, though there are obvious drawbacks there).

If you haven’t gone through and watched basically all the videos on the LZX YouTube channel, I think that’ll be very helpful. Johnny Woods’ 3 patches video are especially enlightening. But the basic patches for Cortex video also explains a lot.


I’ll definitely check out more of the videos on LZX YouTube channel.

Do you have any thoughts on the 3trinsrgb+1c standalone video synthesizer?

Also, what kind of TV would I need to buy so I can send the video synths to an output?

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With the LZX adapter, the 3trins is a pretty good source of 3 (very) basic oscillators for an LZX system. As a standalone device — I had one long before I bought any LZX — I think it’s underwhelming. Just very limited.


Not to complicate things, but I should probably add that, since it has not been released and no demo videos have been made yet either, I don’t in any way have a full sense of all Chromagnon can do. With many LZX products — and it seems to indeed be part of the Chromagnon design concept — there is typically sort of a main intended function/workflow and then all sorts of additional things one can do with them (the Johnny Woods videos often illustrate this well). So, yeah, Chromagnon really does seem to be able to do a lot. I wouldn’t necessarily count it out.


Totally watch the videos on the YouTube Channel. Many of the modules have multiple uses and the videos can help you figure out what you are looking to do. Also, a video for one module might highlight a use case for another within the context of that particular patch.

As far as availability is concerned, some of the Cadet modules replicate the functions of the expedition series. The Passage is three Cadet VII Processors that are normaled. The Doorway is an expanded Cadet VIII. Bridge can also be configured as a keyer. Just keep in mind with cadet modules, your case should be 8cm deep.

One route would be to get an Edirol V-4 off eBay. While it does not have direct synthesis capabilities, it does share a few key functions with the Visual Cortex such as wipe and colorizer. There are both luma and chroma keys, and you can feedback with it. There is even a midi sync as well.

You could add a Syntonie CVB001 glitch unit which operates in both composite and 0-1v. This will allow you to at least process video. If you purchase, an And/Or 1 media player, you can load video or stills onto that and then run the composite out into that system. On top of that, because some LZX modules have composite outputs, you can integrate those into the V-4’s four input channels as you build your system.

Of course the Vidiot is also a nice entry point if you can find one. It also operates in composite and 0-1v. Fortress is awesome, though it would need an RGB encoder of some sort (cadet II) for composite output. Definitely save up for a Chromagnon though. Once it is released, it will be the primary starting point around which to build a system.

Good luck and, to reiterate, definitely watch the YouTube Videos. They have a Bob Ross quality to them that is similarly relaxing, and there are a lot of tips and tricks that you will be able to glean with repeated viewings.


Another consideration: TBC2 + Memory Palace + Fortress + Diver + Escher Sketch. This is essentially a digital video synthesizer, but capable of wild pattern making and deep processing. There are some Fortresses and Escher Sketches available online now. Memory Palace and TBC2 will be in stock and ship this year, and Diver isn’t to far behind. In addition to this setup, you could add Sensory Translator for audio reactivity, then Bridge, Passage, Staircase, and Pendulum for essential analog utilities.