Vasulka Video: The Tools

Date: 5 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

5—7 March 2004
London Candid Arts Trust & University of Westminster

An overview of Steina & Woody Vasulka’s video processing tools. 

VCS3 (The Putney)
Designers: Peter Zinovieff, Tristram Cary and Dave Cockerell for Electronic Music Studios (EMS)
Year of conception: 1969
The VCS3, named for “voltage-controlled studio,” is best known by the name Putney in the United States. This analogue, duophonic synthesiser is equipped with a relatively small connection panel, compared to others of that time. It can control audio signals and their relationships to one another from the device itself. Integrated oscillators produce the repeated fluctuations of voltage that modulate the sounds. Conceived by atonal musical composers, the first version of the device did not have a keyboard.

Video Sequencer (Field Flip/Flop Switcher with Digital Control)
designer: George Brown
year of design: 1972
type of application: video
This sequencer allows the programmer to separate two video sources in a determined sequence. It controls, among other things, the alternation of the points of view of two cameras in real time on the same monitor. The sequence is controlled according to various parameters: the rhythm of the regular sweeping of the screen, sound pulsation, etc.

Horizontal Drift Variable Clock
Designer : George Brown and the Vasulkas
Year of conception: 1972
The Horizontal Drift Variable Clock is not in itself an instrument, but rather an external source of synchronisation that can control the horizontal displacement of a video image. By adding an oscillator with the capacity to go up to 15,000 cycles to the portable camera adapter (Sony Portapak), it is possible to control the voltage of the horizontal synchronisation signal. Typically, two cameras make up the system: one camera is hooked up to the normal vertical and horizontal synchronisation signal, while the other camera, whose image is being superimposed or keyed on the first, receives a different horizontal frequency. This will then result in the horizontal movement of the image towards the right or the left. The Vasulkas also used this technique to cause images to travel from one monitor to another in multi-monitor compositions.

Rutt/Etra Scan Processor
designers: Steve Rutt, Bill Etra, Louise Etra
year of design: 1973
marketed by: Rutt Electrophysics Corp. (New York, New York, United States)
type of application: video
This processor modulates the deflection line of the electromagnetic field of television images. On a normal screen, the synchronisation signals are controlled by electromagnets that guide the movement of an electromagnetic ray so as to scan the 525 screen lines. The Rutt-Etra monitor contains a system of electromagnets and a built-in synchronisation mechanism for processing the video signal. The modulations alter the field of raster lines, which are vertically deflected and appear to adopt the contours of objects.

Designer: George Brown
Year of conception: 1973
This digital sequencer is controlling an analogue video keyer in real time. By way of the keying process, a chromatic value is removed from an image on which a motif will be added. In conjunction with the keyer, the Multikeyer enables six video sources to be merged and placed on different planes according to a pre-programmed sequence.

Designer: George Brown
Year of conception: 1974
The only digital instrument in the Vasulka’s instrument collection before 1977, the Programmer can control the actions of a switcher or a keyer, both analog devices. It can store operation sequences in its memory and activate them at any chosen moment.

Digital Image Articulator
Designer: Jeffrey Schier and Woody Vasulka
Year of conception: 1978
This digitizer breaks the video image down pixel by pixel and reshapes the components in an environment governed by mathematical laws. The Digital Image Articulator generates effects of pixelation, manipulates the borders of an image, stretches the image vertically and horizontally, and duplicates it several times on the screen. It is also used to create sequences of complex geometric motifs based on algorithmic structures.