Why use a CRT? I don't get it

I don’t understand the obsession with CRTs at all. The last one I used was a Trinitron TV, which I got in the 90s and don’t miss at all. It was way too big and heavy, and I’ve not had space for anything like that for well over a decade.

So what’s the big deal? Is there a zero-frame-delay? Is that an advantage for feedback via a camera? I use mainly B/W cameras and an LCD for FB. I put filters on the signal path inside the synth, then mixing/blending the filters gives me exactly the results I love.

So what more could I get by using a massive CRT? It’s a serious question. Perhaps you all get something useful from a CRT that I don’t, maybe because you’re doing things that I’m not, and looking for results that I’m not. I don’t know, but I’m curious.

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BTW, I used CRTs for decades until I switched to LCD screens in the early 2000s. This was for TV and computers. I have no love for them at all. The only advantage I can see is that some, like the last two (yes, only two) TVs I used, have S-Video and SCART sockets. Some pro CRTs I see on ebay have component inputs, which is nice, but they’re all filthy.

It can handle any kind of signal, does not care about sync loss.
feedback with a camera is much faster and has good qualities in color, contrast and edges, and is more ‘smooth’. no delay because it is direct.

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Ok, thanks. That’s interesting. It doesn’t convince me that I need a CRT, but it sounds to me like something is different in your video rig. Perhaps if I describe my setup in a little more detail you can compare it with yours.

When I began building a video synth, I first used an upscaler that took component and s-video and converted it to DVI. The only problem I had with that was the image from the synth was a little poor, but it worked. A signal from any other source was perfect. Then I switched to a pro LCD monitor with composite and SDI inputs. After I purchased an SDI converter and SDI capture card, I began using that system for all monitoring and capture. My FB results improved, but noise remained. I eventually traced this to the PSU and began looking for a cleaner solution. That took a few years. Since then I’ve used several other LCD monitors and been happy with them all.

As I have no decent colour cameras, I use them exclusively as B/W signal sources, with sync. I’ve never noticed delay - could my converter/monitor combo be that efficient? I had to use a video mixer to introduce noticable frame delay.

Adding the triple multimode filter module to my synth gave even better results, but I was doing well before that. As I said, PSU noise was an issue. All my videos from that time show it to some degree, but I could use it FB as an effect. Today I use hard keying on my Diver for another noise source. Nevermind the actual noise module.

Sadly, I still don’t have space for a CRT in my video rig. Right now, I don’t even have space for the cameras, and I really miss using them! I’ll need to radically downsize my rig to do that. So I’d need a seriously compelling reason to consider a CRT, and I’ve yet to find one.

What Reverselandfill said.

But also it is mostly a matter of look & feel for me. CRTs simply have more character, like film photography vs. digital. Partially this is nostalgia, no doubt, but how a CRT is producing an image is more raw and rough and physical than an LCD/LED/etc. I mean, it is shooting a moving beam of electrons! It also seems appropriate to use an analog device to display analog video.

To some extent, I think one either sees it or one doesn’t.

Myself, I don’t really understand always and only seeking a perfect, fluid, noiseless signal. Why not just use software only then? I’m mostly being rhetorical here. I think each look/style has its place, and obviously the workflow is totally different with software. (And it can often be a big pain in the ass to get a rescanned CRT image to look how one wants.)

…But totally don’t understand one saying one doesn’t have the space for a CRT though. I live in a little one-bedroom apartment and have six CRTs at home. But I may be more comfortable with clutter than others.

Hi Friends!

I really really appreciate the aesthetic of my approximately 600lb. 20" Sony PVM. But would love to see some results from a more weight and size economical monitor. Dear @nerdware would you please share some more details of your setup and potentially some captures from the output?

Shoma lama bing bong,
And good day!

Hi Lilwilly

check out my instagram (jimhowell1970) almost all of it is lzx modules into a sony flat (lcd/led???) sceen tv (40" about 10 years old) shot on an iphone 7 from about a metre away

ignore the wonkiness of the camera!! my tripod is crap

As I hoped I’d made clear, I’m happy to use noise in video, but I don’t like having it inflicted upon me. I.e. when every video is noisey, when it should be totally clean. I should also make it clear that my entire video rig lives on a single table and it’s full. I have no space for another table at present and for the forseeable future. I’d very much like that to change, but I can’t make the room larger. Nor can I make the video gear smaller. The only way to make space for a CRT would be to remove half my video rig. So the biggest obstacle to me using a CRT is a lack of space. No space even for an 8" CRT.

That’s a typical feedback setup from a few years ago, before I added a Mantis case (I missed my chance to buy a Vessel) for the video modules that wouldn’t fit in my main cabinet. You can see how tight space is - my capture system is hidden away, almost out of reach, until the monitor cabinet. The camera stands had to fight for space with a P10 and a V4 (out of shot). Two cabinets occupy the rest of the table, one with Rowpower40 PSUs (very noisy) and the other with a pair of Malekko PSUs (very clean, but currently unavailable from shops). The monitor has SDI and composite inputs and is here fed from a BMD miniconverter that lives under the main cabinet. No space is wasted. The power bricks and other devices live out of sight behind or under the cabinets.

Before I had a table for everything, I had a temorary setup I’d use on my bed. Yet I was still able to produce results like this:

From 2018:


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i gots a vessel for buy/trade if u shneed it

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Was mostly joking about space for CRTs. Don’t really think my borderline Hoarders model of “organization” is something anyone should emulate.

But, yeah, if you’re happy with the results you’re getting, you’re not missing anything not having a CRT. The prices on them these days is getting to be ridiculous. Not that I’ve had a problem still finding people giving away consumer-grade ones (though finding ones smaller than 20" is getting harder and harder).

i guess my real question is what is the broadcast grade equivalent of the trinitron in the lcd context? like where does one start looking for high quality component/svideo compatible lcd solutions.

“i gots a vessel for buy/trade if u shneed it”

Thanks for the offer, LILWILLY, but that ship has sailed (no pun intended). Now I’m more interested in downsizing my rig right now, restructuring it and focusing on feedback again. So I’m more interested in selling gear than buying.

Anyway, good luck selling your Vessel and thanks again for the offer.

The monitor pictured above is another company and that model is ancient. I must’ve bought one of the last available on ebay. Also, it’s a 4Kg tank. I’m not kidding. So I can’t recommend that, even if its great for FB.

I currently use a set of BMD monitors, one 17" (now discontinued, bought cheap off ebay) and a dual 8" job that gives incredible images (also bought cheap). The latter displays proper black and proper white, which the 17" doesn’t.

So I use the 17" set to 16:9, one 8" monitor for colour reference, also set to 16:9, and the other 8" is set to 4:3 and is fed via a BMD Multiview 4 (which lives inside the monitor cabinet) set to display audio meters. The 8" pair are fed via the Hyperdeck Shuttle (discontinued but available cheaply on ebay), so I can also use them for playback. I rarely bother doing that, however.

I have no experience with the BMD 4K monitor, and don’t expect I ever will. I’m strictly SD here. I only upscale to 1080 in post, so while I have monitors that can display up to 2160, I’ve only ever used HD to test things like the Andor video player (via an HDMI to SDI microconverter, also BMD) and a couple of HD-SDI cameras (mainly as an experiment). HD doesn’t tempt me, but I can see why other video synth users use it.

What could be more magical than a glowing, moving picture inside a box?

(I use flatscreens as well, but it’s expensive to get quality LED/OLED/QLED screens - more so than you can get the highest quality CRTs for)

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I’ve looked at the prices for good LCDs and CRTs. They’re not so different. E.g. prices for refurbished medical grade CRTs compare well with the prices for a used pro video LCD. This is in the UK, of course. I can’t comment on prices anywhere else.

I’ve seen “glowing, moving picture inside a box” and compared them with the same images on a good LCD. E.g. 8" CRT compared directly with an 8" LCD. One of them was heavy, massive and very filthy. The other was light, small and very clean. The LCD was also silent, unlike the CRT. No contest, other than price. The CRT was as dirt cheap as it was covered in dirt. I examined every feature on the CRT and couldn’t get it to do anything that the LCD couldn’t.

I grew up using CRTs, so there’s absolutely nothing romantic or magical about them for me. Instead I have decades of familiarity and a deep appreciation of the space all hardware occupies. It’s a matter of trade-offs. I’m not trying to pursuade anyone to give up their CRTs. Nor am I likely to be swayed by descriptions of charms other people see in them. I have a better understanding for retrogamers who want a CRT. If you have an original working C64 and you want to get that 80s experience as it would’ve been available in the 80s, then a CRT is the only way to do it. Back then, that’s all there was. Find an 80s TV set, plug in your machine and pretend you’re in the 80s. Add some 80s style wallpaper. Recreate that living room or bedroom you remember or you’ve seen in some movie. Get the complete 80s gamer experience.

Is that all we’re doing here? It doesn’t look like it to me. We’d be very poor retro purists, if we were. I have no problem with that, of course. I just don’t believe that’s what we’re doing. It’s definitely not what I’m doing.

So I still don’t get it. Nobody has so far successfully addressed this question. What are the real advantages to using a CRT, assuming there are any? For years I’ve read about the things people do with CRTs, like capturing from a screen using an HD camera. Some of that makes some sense to me, if you can find a decent 20" CRT, if you can afford it, if you can move it, and most critically, if you have the space for it. Some of us have stacks of CRTs, or even a wall of them. I love that. Please don’t stop doing that. It’s extreme art. That’s reason enough!

However, there are many other art extremes that we can explore using video. I think there’s room for all it. My little niche is video feedback. I’ve seen arguments for CRTs and CCTV cameras based on the availablity and low cost. I agree on the availablity, but there are other factors to consider and I don’t see any discussions of those.

Anyway, thanks everyone. This is helping. I appreciate everything everyone is saying.

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if you work with glitch, a CRT will show all your weird experiments.
A digital monitor will lose sync, give ‘no signal’ or make weird glitches (which can be cool)

It depends on how much cash you can throw at your digital monitor. It can be fast, give good contrast and be noise free. But with low budget options it will give you (unwanted) trails, bad contrast, grey-ish black, noise, flat colors, pixels, scaling etc.
CRT monitors used to be cheap. Now they are expensive.

I guess you can look at a video monitor as you listen to a audio reference speaker.
It’s very personal and can have large or small differences in quality and ‘perfection’.

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I don’t work with glitch. If anything of mine looks glitchy, its never caused a problem here. I’m more likely to have difficulties in HD on my computer, but I really hate watching anything glitchy fullscreen.

You can see here how far I went to reduce any flicker in this video. See if you can spot which of my FB videos were mashed together to make this post-production HD monstrosity:

Well, I’m just trying to point out why -anyone- would use CRT, not just you .

If you really want to know the exact difference, you should do a side by side test.
Make a simple camera - > monitor feedback setup , I think you can see different behavior with each camera and monitor type.
Then conclude what you like best?

ps: my FB setup is all analog:
camera -> CRT monitor -> LZX video input -> [processing] -> LZX RGB Encoder -> CRT monitor.
I have a PAL capture card to get it into my PC

I used to have an old tube camera, which gave extreme feedback results (good fade outs, perfect detail on edges and patterns (which causes perfect ‘brain’ patterns) such like this
(found on the web, not mine. although I got similar results)


but it is gone now. lost it in a move I think. Good memories though.

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