VISUALIST – a hardware visual effects synthesizer

[Berto] wrote in to tell us about the visual effects synthesizer he built. It works as a pass-through for a video signal, rendering crisp clean images into a more psychedelic flavor like the one seen above. On the one hand this does a dishonor to the high-quality video devices we carry around in our pockets these days. On the other hand it will make some really interesting background video at a party or at your local dance club.

This is not a filter for a PC, or an FPGA-based processing system. A set of analog parts alter the incoming composite video (NTSC or PAL formats) and pipes the result to a television or projector. [Berto] included controls to alter the effects. They’re mounted on a panel and everything is given a home inside of a handy carrying case. Check out the video clip after the break to get a better idea of the video manipulations this things can pull off.

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Full-color video on a spinning POV display

Watching Big Buck Bunny on a spinning POV display is pretty impressive. Sure, the circular display area cuts off some of the picture, but otherwise it looks fantastic. This POV display is based on a Gumstix board. It runs embedded Linux which makes video playback rather easy. But translating each frame to the round display is another story.

The device is the result of a course project at Telecom ParisTech. [Félix], [Sylvain], and [Jérémy] used an FPGA to do the pixel mapping. This uses an encoder wheel (rather than a traditional hall effect sensor) to ascertain the blade’s position. The sensor that monitors the disc sends quadrature encoded pulses which result in 10-bit position data. The FPGA uses that data to calculate where each LED falls in its arc, then looks up the pixel color for that position. It’s not the largest POV display we’ve seen, but it certainly has the very best RGB resolution by far.

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Robot bar tender records wedding guests getting drunk

Having an open bar usually means hiring at least one bar tender. But this hack does away with those labor costs (and someone to make sure your teenage cousins aren’t drinking) by putting a robot in charge of things. But the fun doesn’t stop there. One of the features of this bartender is that it records a 30 second video every time it dispenses a beverage. We’d image these get a bit funny as the night wears on before taking a dramatic turn into sadness.

The link above shares a ton of details on the device so make sure that you click-through the different pages in the navigation bar. The mechanical page shows off all of the effort that went into designing the machine in Solidworks. The ingredients start on the top layer in inverted bottles. Each feeds to a valve which has its own nozzle. Like a round version of the Inebriator, a glass is placed in a trolley at the bottom that pivots around the center of the machine. Once it gets back to the opening in the acrylic case you can grab your drink, give it a quick stir, and off you go.

Check out the video after the break to get a look at the user interface which includes that recorded video greeting for the happy couple.

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Mixing video for old school effects

For all the high production values Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier have released upon the world, there’s still a cinematographic aesthetic only possible with analog video, linear editing, and video feedback. [gijs] just sent in a video mixer he’s been working on to allow crossfading between two video signals and introducing some very cool analog video distortion effects.

[gijs]‘ mixer uses the LM1881 video sync separator also found in the Arduino video experimenter shield. Because two different video feeds are unlikely to send their sync signal at exactly the same time, the selected video will stay still on the screen while the second video feed will slowly scroll horizontally across the screen.

This isn’t the first analog video hack [gijs] has come up with; last year he released an Arduino video sampler capable of recording about a second of video and playing it back forward, reverse, looped, or inverted.

We’re sure combing both the video mixer and sampler would produce an aesthetic similar to the experimentation seen on 80s-era public access or our time in AV club. Either way, a very cool build that just can’t be done digitally.

Video of the mixer after the break.

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Making images and videos using a diy fluoroscopic x-ray

[Jozef] has been playing around with X-rays. Specifically, he’s been using his own setup to make fluoroscopic images, a type of x-ray photography that allows for video images to be made. If you’ve ever seen those x-ray movies of someone swallowing, that’s fluoroscopy (we’re fans of the other oddities like this video of a skeleton playing the trumpet).

The image above is [Jozef's] own hand. He exposed it for about one second, filming the event from the opposite side of a Curix Ortho Regular Screen. The screen fluoresces when hit by the particles from an x-ray tube he picked up on eBay. This particular event dosed his hand with about 10 rads. We have no clue as to what levels are safe (and a quick search didn’t enlighten us) so talk amongst yourselves in the comments section.

Of course [Jozef] didn’t stop with still images, he put a turntable between the tube and the screen and took a bunch of x-ray videos of revolving electronics. You’ll find the video embedded after the break.

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Playing video on an 8-bit microcontroller

The LCD displays for Nokia phones have seen a ton of use as easily interfaced displays for Arduino or other microcontroller projects. Usually, these LCDs are only used for displaying a few lines of text, or if someone is feeling really fancy, a small graph. Shame, then that we don’t see more complicated and computationally difficult tasks like playing video very often. [Vinod] sent us his way of playing video on these small color screens, surprisingly using only an ATMega32 microprocessor.

The build started off by saving uncompressed image data on an SD card using code from a previous project. [Vinod] was able to write a slideshow program to go through the SD card one file at a time and displaying each image. From there, it was simply a matter of using a Python script to convert frames of an .AVI video file to an uncompressed image and display them at 15 frames/second.

Turning these videos into talkies was a bit of a problem, but after taking an uncompressed .WAV file and sending that to a PWM pin on the ATMega, [Vinod] managed to play sound alongside his video.

The result is the ability to play a video with sound at 15 frames a second and a 132 x 65 resolution. You can check out the demo video after the break.

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Pimp my scooter

[Glen] built this shiny party machine out of a pretty sad-looking scooter. We’d bet you’re wondering why we think it’s a party machine when it looks so common? The only real giveaway in this photo is the custom exhaust, but hidden in the body of the beast is 720 Watts of party power plus a whole bunch of extras.

When he gets where he’s going, [Glen] parks his ride and lifts up the seat to unfold the entertainment. Attached to the underside of the saddle is a 720 Watt audio amplifier. It drives one big speaker under the seat, as well as two tweeters and two mid-range speakers that were fitted into the front console. But these days a party isn’t a party without some video, and that’s why you’ll also find a 7-inch LCD screen suspended from the upright seat. Tunes and videos are supplied by an iPod touch up front, or the PC he built into the ride. All it’s missing is a gaming console!

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