Video Feedback Effects Make A Glorious Spectacle In HD

Video feedback is perhaps best known for its appearance in the film clip to Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s not a particularly popular effect that you see too often, as it’s rather messy to set up what with cameras filming screens and what not. Regardless, the effects possible are glorious, as demonstrated by [Dave Blair] and his amazing video feedback kinetic sculpture.

No computer is involved at all in the process – it’s just classic, old school video feedback. It’s produced by pointing a camera at a screen and feeding the image back to that same screen. Three cameras are combined with twin video switchers and a beam-splitting pane of glass, along with a source image via an HDMI input.

By turning and spinning the various cameras, [Dave] is able to generate beautiful curving fractal-like effects using the source imagery, with a rainbow of color melting and warping together as he interacts with the sculpture. It’s a beautiful effect and something we’re surprised we don’t see more of in the video industry.

Hopefully [Dave] is enlisted to put his machine to work on the next [Doja Cat] film clip so we can get more of this goodness. Video after the break.

27 thoughts on “Video Feedback Effects Make A Glorious Spectacle In HD

  1. way cool!

    the best I’ve gotten video feedback to work was with a high persistence amber monitor and a staticon tube

    self starting and would go for hours!

    side note, we destroyed a fairly high end single gun colour tube with feedback and a laser

    there was a “bit” of beer” involved…

  2. Cool setup, but something seems off. The music, the brands, the production quality makes me think that this is a commercial for something. The visuals are also rather, how to put it, straight forward, clean, no life in them. It seems the actual visuals produced are not the point of this vid. Not to get nostalgic but hanging a crt, handycam and some vhs landscape/waterfall footage in there as source there wouldbe been alot more depth to the image, or what about those slides with liquids in them ;)

    1. I’m glad you think the production quality is good enough for this to be a commercial for something. And, I think the music choices are very noncommercial (I mean, come on, The Dead Weather transitioning into King Crimson, then ending with the great Ann Magnuson’s Bong Water?). But, as the creator of this video and all the others here, and as the person who has spent countless hours (and way too much money) creating this contraption, I can assure you none of what you have said is true.

          1. I had to look up Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, but yes! it definitely looks like that. And the Sierpinski triangle for sure.

            Since he was the person I learned about video feedback from in High School when I read Gödel, Escher, Bach, I was happy to get this response from Douglas Hofstadter when he looked at the videos: “Lots of wonderful fern-like stuff, also some jellyfish-like stuff, and the Sierpinski gasket now and then. Congratulations!”

  3. That was a common video effect in German television in the early 1980s, basically every single program produced by ARD or
    ZDF had feedback effects in it. Mike Leckebusch – the famous music video producer – loved it, too.
    We used this at school to “pep up” our documentary videos. Contrary to what the article says, the effect was about as popular as drone flights are today.

    If people nowadays consider a film about a rock band the best known use case … people nowadays need cultural education.

    That said, I *love* how it turns out in its modern installation. It doesn’t have the “analogue” feel to it that you got from a tube filming a tube, but it comes with some nice new features.

  4. In the 1960’s in the US PBS stations played endless hours of spiraling video scan feedback to music. It was all “produced” by the vocational school students in a TV production program.

    1. PBS started in November of 69. First half of the 60’s were quite straight, the other half was underground not on TV. You must mean the 70’s. I never saw what you describe.

      1. Black and white camera and transmission with autdated donated equipment. They were “public” stations related to trade schools or colleges that became PBS stations. Here is one of them I saw “KCTS first went on the air on December 7, 1954, broadcasting from the campus of the University of Washington”, mainly because we could receive it well.

  5. The fine detail is good, but the animation is like plants growing. When I do this I am in with a live music performance in realtime with analogue delay of just 1/30th of a second. Digital video has so many delays even monitors have processing delays. A projector has even more delay. Changing luminance hue etc. isn’t like turning knobs unless more digital conversion is done to make a hands on change to the video stream. It’s knobs vs. menus and up-down buttons. I use the ” electronic zoom” on the camera to make even less resolution for bold visual strokes instead of fine detail.

    1. Not sure what you mean by “Changing luminance hue etc. isn’t like turning knobs”

      I had been doing feedback for years, and started wanting to do feedback in HD about a decade ago, but knew I needed the knobs, which are hard to find on HD monitors.

      A bit over a year ago I searched again and found LCD field monitors that did have these knobs (and the great thing is they are on separate modules, so I didn’t have to desolder them to bring them up front, I just had to lengthen the 12 wire cable). This allowed me to do the finely controlled HD feedback I’d been wanting to do.

      The delay comes from the various converter boxes – there are several HDMI to SDI, SDI to HDMI, plus a frame rate converter box that adds even more delay.

      You can see an explanation of the setup, the delay, and the switching between sources here:

      – D

  6. As a kid, I often ran a composite cable from our handheld camcorder to the tv, pointed it at the screen and spent hours looking at the interesting fractal-like shapes.

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