For booking, or to commission a video feedback device, contact me at davEditor@gmail.com

 

You can help the project continue to evolve by donating here (thanks!): GoFundMe

New Monitor Structures for Phase III


HD Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture: The God Machine (May, 2021)


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(This video is in 4K (3840 x 2160) - the images the device creates are still HD (1920 x 1080) - but maybe one day they'll be in 4K...)

 

The HD Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture creates fractals and organic-looking images in real-time, without a computer: this is old-school video feedback. 

 

"It really is quite tangled...very impressive. Lots of wonderful fern-like stuff, also some jellyfish-like stuff, and the Sierpiński gasket now and then. Congratulations!" 

          - Douglas Hofstadter 

 

"I like what you are doing very much. It's fascinating. Reminds me of the days when I was playing - experimenting - discovering." 

          - Heinz-Otto Peitgen

 

This is part sculpture, part performance art, and may make the most complex video feedback ever created, using three cameras, two video switchers, a sheet of beam-splitter glass, and an HDMI input from a phone or live video feed.

Much like a musical instrument, the operator at the helm of this device plays it, but instead of making sounds, makes entire worlds, spirals within spirals, loops within loops, galaxies, classical fractal imagery and primordial organisms, leaves, trees, and insects. It really is the God machine.

When creating with it, hours can pass without noticing. It's deeply relaxing, and when you get into a groove, it's a kind of meditation.

I started this project a year ago, and did the first video shoot a month or so after (the video directly below this one). The device has evolved naturally since then, as have the images it can create. This is the most recent video, shot almost exactly one year to the day from the beginning.

I'd like to take this entire project even further though: redesign the structure, and create it entirely in metal. And, if possible, replace the high-definition monitors, cameras and switchers with 4K equipment. This would be very expensive to do, but the images would be even more amazing, and definitely never-before seen.

I would also like to put two Video Feedback Kinetic Sculptures side-by-side and have the output of each go to the input of each, so that two people can create together in concert, connected to each other, becoming one mind.

If you're interested in seeing this project taken to the next level, please contribute to the GoFundMe. If enough people put in just a little, this might just be possible...

Also - if you're interested in purchasing this entire art project, would like to commission something similar, or have a gallery or performance space you'd like to see it in, please let me know.


Read a review of the project by Rich Walkling

Watch an interpretation of the project by Rich Blundell

 

I'd like to thank David Kislin and Federico Baldeschi at JEL Developement ​for being nice enough to let me use one of their empty properties (free of charge, no less!) to make this video.

 Music: 

"3 Birds" by The Dead Weather

"Starless" by King Crimson 

"We Did it Again" by Bongwater 

Reverse Chronology

 

 


HD Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture Overview (Phase I, June 2020)

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This contraption uses two HD monitors, a Nikon DSLR camera and a sheet of beam splitter glass to produce video feedback and fractals in real-time. You'll see naturally occurring Sierpiński triangles, and patterns and shapes found in nature.

This is part performance art, part kinetic sculpture. In this video you see me operating the device, and the images that are created by it.

The unique thing about this is that it uses HD video, and not one, but two monitors, plus a sheet of beam splitter glass to create a reflection that gets folded back in to the image.

It’s a delicate art to operate the device, an interplay between the camera and monitors, the position of the monitors, and the monitor control dials (hue, saturation, brightness and contrast). Doing controlled feedback like this requires these control dials, but most HD TVs and monitors don’t have analog knobs like old CRT TVs did, making it difficult to create controlled feedback in HD.

Now, for the first time, I’ve been able to do this. I found used older HD field monitors at a relatively good price (they cost thousands of dollars new). These HD monitors have the analog control dials, plus the additional benefit of the dials being in a separate module. The cable to this module was very short, but I was able to lengthen the cable so the dials can be operated simultaneously as the position of the camera is changed relative to the monitors.

All the images in this video are created by video feedback only - no computers are involved. The upper and lower monitors both display the same thing - the image from the camera, which is looking at the upper monitor. This creates a video feedback loop (much like a microphone next to a speaker creates an audio feedback loop).

Although what's displayed on each monitor is the same, the lower monitor's image is mirrored when it gets mixed in with the upper monitor by the half-mirrored (aka beam splitter) sheet of glass that is at an angle between the two monitors. This mirroring depends on the rotation of the lower monitor (you can see me turning the lower monitor from 360° to 180° in the video). Some of the fractals created in this video are with the lower monitor at 90° - at a right angle to the upper monitor (a configuration not shown in this video).

The angle of the glass (which can be made askew), the height of the upper monitor and position and rotation of the lower monitor, plus the position of the control dials of both monitors, all affect the final image that's created. It looks like magic, but it's really mathematics (maybe magical mathematics).

The last few images were created with the two-input incarnation of the device. More of this can be seen here: Dual Integrated Feedback Loops

Credit goes to Peter King for his 1997 diagram of a sheet of glass used between two monitors to create fractals that inspired this configuration of the device.

Music by Nils Petter Molvær
 
 

REVIEW

Read Rich Walkling's full review HERE

Approaching the Infinite: Loops within Loops within Loops - February, 2021


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Loops within loops within loops: maybe the most complex video feedback ever made?

Music: John Lurie, Alone

Forward Chronology 

Reverse Chronology

 

Fractals Made of Fractals: 2nd Rotating Panasonic Monitor


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The Canon’s output now not only goes to the original Rotating Monitor through the Roland Switcher, but goes to the new Rotating Monitor through the Blackmagic Video Converter (to make a signal the Panasonic Monitor can see).

The Phone’s camera sees the 2nd Rotating Monitor and its output goes to Source 2 of the Switcher. When this image is luma keyed (bright areas are included but dark areas are not) over Source 1 (the Canon feedback), fractals are created because the two feedback loops influence each other. This keying of the feedback does electronically what the beam-splitter glass does on the Primary Loop.

The Phone can still be used to supply images to do what's done in the previous video.

Note: I say the output of the new monitor is from the Canon. Meant to say the input is from the Canon.

 

Dual Loop / Dual Switcher / Dual Rotating Monitor Schematic 

 


Forward Chronology 

Reverse Chronology

 

2nd Roland Switcher Added! February, 2021


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Some description of feedback, and what the switchers are for.

Music: Los Guitarlos Dangeroso by The Kingdom of Leisure, live in Sliver Lake, July 26, 2013

Reverse Chronology

 

Dual Loop / Dual Switcher Schematic

 

 

Dual Loop / Dual Switcher, February 2, 2021

With the addition of the second Roland Switcher (found a good price on a used one, coming soon), the Device should be complete.

The first layout switched between the main Nikon feedback loop (with the two monitors and the half-mirrored glass) and the second input (which started out as just the phone, then the phone’s output on the rotating monitor, then evolved to the Canon feedback loop).

Now, the layout itself is fractal in nature, and the main switcher switches between the Nikon feedback loop (with the two monitors and the half-mirrored glass) and the Canon loop, which itself has a switcher that goes between that loop and the phone (or the phone keyed over that loop). Or, the main switcher keys that second input Canon loop (with phone involvement) over the main Nikon loop. Yikes.

Once again I’m not sure what all this will look like, and once again I’m posting before it’s all setup and ready to go, because, ya never know.

Notes:

Preview Out of the Roland Switcher is just used to access the Switcher settings.

I’m using the Blackmagic Video Converter in place of a simple HDMI to SDI converter to see what effect a delay caused by converting from one video format to another will have on the feedback loop.

A 1 in 3 out HDMI splitter could replace the two HDMI splitters in the Secondary Loop, and an HDMI splitter could be used in the Main Loop.

This is an updated schematic that puts the Phone back on the Rotating Monitor (I had somehow forgotten about that aspect). Now, the Canon sees the Phone’s output on the rotating Panasonic Monitor when Switcher 2 is on Source 2, then when switched to Source 1, the Canon sees its own output on the Rotating Monitor. Switching quickly between Source 1 and 2 will have the effect of the Phone's image going into a feedback pattern.

On the Main Loop, when the Panasonic Monitors are on Input 2, they show the Nikon when Switcher 1 is on Source 1. When Switcher 1 is on Source 2, they show the Secondary Loop. Switching quickly between Source 1 and 2 will have the effect of the Secondary Loop going into a feedback pattern. 

Forward Chronology   

Reverse Chronology



Dual Feedback Loops Part III: The Nautilus


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In this video, there are two dots keyed over the Canon feedback as the seed for the 2nd loop - as opposed to the one dot in the previous video (below). This creates nautilus-like shapes, and 3D looking wave-like curves.

Music: Russill Paul

Forward Chronology 

Reverse Chronology

 

Dual Feedback Loops Part II: Spirals made of Spirals


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Last night I spent hours trying to get something good out of the Device. It was another time of complete frustration where I just wanted to give up. There have been many of these times.

I was trying to recreate what I had done the night before, with a spiral on the Canon loop, but I was only getting circle-type shapes.

After a few hours I finally looked at that video again, and realized the spiral was created from the reflection of the red record light on the front of the Canon - and, since I wasn’t getting anything good tonight, I hadn’t hit record (this, creating it’s own frustration feedback loop).

Tonight, with some rewiring, I keyed a small dot in the lower left corner of the Canon feedback as a seed for the spiral.

Watch galaxies being created, matter flowing between them.

Music: Pink Floyd

Forward Chronology 

Reverse Chronology

Phase 2.5: Dual Video Feedback Loops


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A brief explanation and a quick test. I knew this setup would create something interesting. I didn't know it would be so beautiful.

Inspired by the Phase III idea. Some description here.  

I've made a version of this video with the Canon loop in the corner (to better understand what's happening) here.

Music: Anandamayi Ma

Forward Chronology 

Reverse Chronology

 

Merry Christmas, 2020


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Real-time Christmas Fractals with the HD Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture.

Music: Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 with some Stylophone mixed in

Some Explaning before Phase 2.5


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If you're not quite sure what the half-reflective glass does, or what the rotating monitor is for, this might clear things up a bit

[There's a small inaccuracy at 3:02. Some of the words are rotating, and some are not.]

Music: Phish

Dance of the Wu Li: A plan for Phase III


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A second iteration of Chrystal's Tree Spirit

Painting by Josh Ford

Music: Ravi Shankar

Five Iterations: A plan for Phase III (Don't miss the 5th iteration)


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This is a simulation of a what it might look like if two people were using two Video Feedback Kinetic Sculptures in unison. 

Originally I  thought the next step for the device would be replicating it in 4K. I  have an idea for a step before that though - Phase III: Two Video Feedback Kinetic Sculptures next  to each other, two people working together to create the final image.
 

Setup 1: Person 2 operates Device 2, and just the upper monitor is used. The  feedback created by this device is displayed on the lower monitor of  Device 1 (by way of the rotating monitor). This image is mixed into the feedback created by Person 1. This is a pretty straightforward way of combining the two feedback loops.
 

Example: Person 2 has a lot of rotation on the camera and is making a circle.  Person 1 has very little rotation on the camera, and a “tail” is created  with the circle. As the circle changes, the shape of the creature with  the tail changes.
 

Setup 2: The same as Setup 1, except  now the output of Device 1 (the combination of images from Person 1 and  2) is displayed on the lower monitor of Device 2 (by way of the rotating monitor). This mixes the images from the two devices back into the image from Device 2. This is a much more complicated way of combining the two loops.
 

Example: This is kind of hard to wrap your mind around: Person 2 makes a circle, which is  displayed on the lower monitor of Device 1, which puts a tail on it, but  now this circle with a tail is on the lower monitor of Device 2, which  means Device 2 is no longer sending a circle to Device 1, it’s sending  the circle with a tail in a circle, which means Device 1 is putting a tail on the  circle with a tail in a circle, and so on...
 

I did an approximate recreation using just the one device, recording each step, and playing it back on the lower monitor as if it were from Device 2. It’s still a mystery what this would truly look like beyond just the five iterations.


I think this feedback of the feedback is somehow something important.

 
Music: Edgard Varèse

 

Phase II - Chrystal's Tree Spirit


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This is an example of how small, simple iterations can create complex emergent behavior.

Painting by Josh Ford

Music: Zappa, Watermelon in Easter Hay 

Some Practice with Phase II - Typography Test II - November, 2020


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Here, the top monitor is on input 1, and sees just the feedback loop. The bottom monitor is on input 2, and sees the Roland Switcher, which sees the feedback loop and the Canon (which sees the Rotating Monitor). 

The input to the Rotating Monitor is from the phone, which is displaying the word "Fractal," backwards. 

For an explanation of the monitor inputs, go here. 

To see the setup, go here and here.

PROCESS

I chronicled the building of the new Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture. You can check that out in REVERSE CHRONOLOGY or FORWARD CHRONOLOGY.

Phase II: Typography Test


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This is a quick test using the rotating monitor with text as the 2nd input. This is with just one word - a story, poem or maybe song lyrics is the logical next step. 

To see the setup, go HERE and to see a demonstration of what the rotating monitor actually does, go HERE, and the beginning of Phase II HERE.

Music: Maybe She’ll Fly by The Daily Evening

Phase II - Synchronized Rotating Blue Screen/Monitor Keyed 2nd Input Proof of Concept


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This is the first test using the keyed input from the synchronized rotating blue screen and monitor.  Here I have some leaves taped to the rotating blue screen.

The Roland switcher/keyer gets Input 2 from the Canon, which is looking at the rotating blue screen/Elecrow monitor. The Elecrow monitor gets its input from the phone. This image is keyed over the switcher’s Input 1. 

The switcher’s Input 1 is from the Nikon, which is looking at the upper Panasonic monitor, which gets its input from the switcher’s Program Out. The lower Panasonic monitor get its input from the Nikon.

This adds movement synchronized to the Nikon to an otherwise static keyed object.

Check out the video HERE to see this setup. 

Music by Rubba

Phase II - Flower Power



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Playing around with Phase II of the Device

Music by Greta Van Fleet

Phase II

The beginning of Phase II HERE

Perfecting the Image - August, 2020


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In this video I play around with variations on one camera / monitor setup.

This marks the end of Phase I

Stranger things to come in Phase II...


Music from Bach's Musical Offering as a tribute to Douglas Hofstadter and his book Gödel, Escher, Bach

A Creature Comes to Life - Audio Integration Weirdness


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The audio on this was made at the same time the feedback was - go  here to see how. 

Feedback Sculpture with Dual Integrated Feedback Loops


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In this video the upper and lower monitors have different input sources. Instead of both monitors displaying what the Nikon camera sees, now the lower monitor is getting its input from an iPhone camera. Check out https://walkswithdave.tumblr.com/post/623215435463180289 to get a better idea of what's going on.

A BIT ABOUT HOW THE PREVIOUS VIDEOS WERE MADE

Originally, both monitors were showing the same thing - the output of the Nikon camera on the rod (what I'll call the main camera). This created the feedback loop between that camera and the upper monitor. The glass between the two monitors is beam splitter glass with a rating of 50/50 - that is, 50% transmission, 50% reflection (this is the kind of glass used in teleprompters). This glass allows the camera to see through to the upper monitor, and also see a reflection of the lower monitor.


Depending on the rotation of the lower monitor you get different fractal patterns. The jellyfish-like images are created when the lower monitor is positioned so the upper and lower monitors' bottom Panasonic logos are next to each other. This makes the top right corner of the upper monitor reflected on the top left corner of the glass. The fern-like patterns are created when the lower monitor's bottom logo is facing out. This makes the top right corner of the upper monitor reflected on the bottom right corner of the glass. The Sierpiński triangles are created when the bottom monitor is perpendicular to the upper monitor. This might be a bit confusing when read, but if you look at the photo it becomes easier to understand.

HOW THIS VIDEO IS DIFFERENT

In this video, instead of the lower monitor having the same input as the upper monitor, it gets its image from an iPhone. Originally, I was going to put something on the lower monitor like a photo of a face, and have that, in effect, be half-dissolved with the feedback in the upper monitor. The way this works is the main camera would be looping with the upper monitor, but also see the face from the iPhone in the lower monitor in the reflection of the glass. This image of the face would influence the feedback. When I made the above-mentioned video on my tumblr site explaining the new second input setup, I realized that having two feedbacks loops would be more interesting than just having the image of a face on the lower monitor.
Phone camera looks through glass to lower monitor
The phone was looking down, through the beam splitter glass, to the lower monitor, and the phone was close to perpendicular to the lower monitor. I zoomed that camera in so it started making a feedback pattern. So, the thing being mixed in with the feedback loop of the main camera and the upper monitor is another feedback loop - the one between the phone's camera and the lower monitor.

Since the phone's camera is looking down through the beam splitter glass, it is not only feeding back with the lower monitor, it's influenced by what is on the upper monitor in the reflection of the glass. And, since the main camera is also looking through the glass, it is not only feeding back with the upper monitor, it's influenced by what is happening on the lower monitor in the reflection of the glass - which, of course, is influenced by what is happening on the upper monitor, and on and on...

This creates a feedback loop of a feedback loop. I'm not sure if this is the infinite squared or the infinite to the power of infinity, or what. I just discovered this setup a few days ago, and haven't really been able to wrap my mind around everything that's going on here. I'm not sure if anything like this has been tried before.

There are so many more things I'd like to do with this new two input setup. For instance, it might be interesting for the second camera to be looking at the entire structure while I'm using it, or just at the main camera as it moves around, or even at my hand on the rod as it moves, so the movement of the structure as it is being used influences the feedback made by the structure.

And it occurs to me that pointing the second camera at the device itself (either the full thing or a piece of it), is also a feedback loop of sorts - not a direct one like a camera looking at a monitor that is displaying what the camera sees - but one involving the operator as an intermediate step. So let's say the second camera is looking at my hand on the rod that moves the main camera. This image is mixed in, and influences the feedback created by the main camera, which I, as the operator then see, which influences how I move my hand (and on and on).

More to come.

Practice Four - June, 2020


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This is one of the first tests of the new HD device using both monitors.

Practice Three


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This is a test of the HD device using only one monitor. 

It's difficult to maintain feedback in an interesting way without the screen going all white or all back. Here's a pretty good 20 minute block.

Practice Two


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Testing the HD device with one monitor.

Practice One (2020 Incarnation) - May, 2020


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I've built a third incarnation of the Video Feedback Device. This one uses two High Definition monitors and a Nikon D810 for the camera. This video is practice using the device with just one monitor.

For a complete chronicling of this build, go HERE for reverse chronology and HERE for forward chronology.

Original Light Herder Header and Sculpture Concept (2010)



"
...This is like opening up the brain, poking around, and trying to find the mind or soul. These things grow through iterations, through cycles that start small and flourish, and can't be seen once they are gone (or the screen has gone blank). Imagine a dark room where the camera is looking at a dark screen. It will stay dark this way forever (no life, no soul) until a 'spark of life' (say the lighting of a match) brings forth an image, which will then perpetuate itself on and on. But, then imagine something blocking the camera's view of the screen, just for an instant. All of a sudden, the image goes out (death), never to return exactly as it was. To me, this is what the mind is, just a complex pattern."

"The Video Feedback Machine allows the Operator to create a small universe in a plexi-glass box. The plexi-glass box contains a small HD camera and HD monitor that displays what the camera sees. This creates a video feedback loop.

You may have seen video feedback as wild spinning colors in '70s Hendrix videos. But when the feedback is tightly controlled, as with the Feedback Machine, it can be quite sophisticated and intricate, creating beautiful morphing organic shapes found in nature.

This amount of control comes from the camera's ability to move smoothly in relation to the monitor. The Operator sits in the chair and uses something much like a yoke on an airplane to very smoothly move the camera forward, backwards, and 360 degrees around its axis. Small changes in degrees of rotation and distance create amazing changes in the feedback image.

On this yoke are four control dials: Brightness, Contrast, Color saturation and Tint. These affect the monitor in the plexi-glass box and allow even more control over the created image.

The image being created on the monitor in the plexi-glass box is mirrored on the large HD monitor, which is what the Operator (and others in the room) will be viewing. I say this creates a small "universe" because the world we live in is a complex feedback loop. All biological functions operate on a feedback loop and it is no wonder that the images created using video feedback are so organic looking.

Ecosystems, geological systems and social systems all operate on feedback loops, and they operate according to the inherent rules of that system. With the Feedback Machine, these rules, or laws of the universe, are the camera's angle, distance from the monitor and control dial positions.

But where does the image come from you might be thinking, and why does it actually exist? It comes from itself, and exists only because it exists. Something worth pondering.

To me this must be what the brain is like. What I mean is, if some scientists, say from another planet, came in to the room where the feedback was being created, and tried to derive where it came from, they'd be at a loss. If they dissected the apparatus, the monitor, the camera, the wires, they'd find no clue to the origin of the pattern they saw on the screen.

This is like opening up the brain, poking around, and trying to find the mind or soul. These things grow through iterations, through cycles that start small and flourish, and can't be seen once they are gone (or the screen has gone blank). Imagine a dark room where the camera is looking at a dark screen. It will stay dark this way forever (no life, no soul) until a "spark of life" (say the lighting of a match) brings forth an image, which will then perpetuate itself on and on. But, then imagine something blocking the camera's view of the screen, just for an instant. All of a sudden, the image goes out (death), never to return exactly as it was. To me, this is what the mind is, just a complex pattern.

So the question of "where do you go when you die" is as meaningless as the question "where does the snowflake pattern go when the snowflake melts?" To complete the analogy, the Universe is the monitor, matter and energy are the image, and God is the camera, the all seeing eye in the sky. Or something like that."

One (2007 Incarnation)


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This is old-school analog light herding using a standard definition prototype of the Feedback Machine. No computers were used (or injured) in the creation of these images. Music by Einstürzende Neubauten.

This was created with the second incarnation of the device in 2007 with an old standard definition CRT TV and a small standard definition security camera. 

Two (2007 Incarnation)


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Music by Jerry Sneede & Harmon Leste (yes, lots of feedback in the music, too).

This was also made with the second (2007) device.

Three (2003 Incarnation)


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This one starts with a "spark of life." Music by Russill Paul.

This was made with the first feedback device in 2003 with a standard definition CRT TV and a Sony Mavica MVC-CD500.

First Prototype

This is the first incarnation (2003). The second (2007) had the television's brightness/contrast/saturation/tint knobs de-soldered, rewired, and on the yoke.

This one is in the back house of the Watership Inn, Provincetown, Massacusettes in 2003. This photo is slightly faked. Since I had only one camera, this picture was taken with the camera that would normally be sitting in the wooden box (with the output wire going to the TV), and the image on the TV is playback from VHS of a previous recording session.

The camera in this first prototype was a Sony Mavica MVC-CD500, and the camera in the second prototype was a small mid-90s era security camera.