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

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