Bill Etra, Godfather of Realtime Video Art Left The Planet

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As someone with a life long interest in the concept of an art instrument that simultaneously makes music and video, I have particular regard for Bill Etra and his work. “Pioneer”is tossed around a lot on LinkedIn– mostly undeserved. But Etra– Bill Etra was a pioneer.

Etra co-invented the Rutt/Entra Video Synthesizer– an analog raster instrument for real time jamming with image effects and animation. Genuinely unprecedented.

rutt etra synth

Doing some the things he describes in After Effects:

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I’ve collected Etra video art that particularly resonated with me in a playlist.

This piece particularly struck me:

Etra put a heart monitoring device om his wife; the device transmitted to his video rug. It visualizes her heart beat as a graphical overlay on the video. I regard this as a mixed reality instrument– probably the first. Mixed Reality instruments is A genre of art and technology I intend to advance.

Etra’s work continues to be of interest to digital video artists. I just read a thread on Reddit speculating on how to recreate the Rutt-Etra effect. If you’re wondering whether or not it could be done with After Effects, Trapcode Form,and displacement maps– YOU’RE CORRECT.

Someone did a Chrome experiment (a super cool one) that lets you manipulate an image in the style of the Rutt Etra video synthesizer.

Chrome Experiments – Rutt-Etra-Izer by Felix Turner

Rutt-Etra-Izer is a WebGL emulation of the classic Rutt-Etra video synthesizer. This demo replicates the Z-displacement, scanned-line look of the original, but does not attempt to replicate it’s full feature set. The demo allows you to drag and drop your own images, manipulate them and save the output.

Uses include Rutt-Etra-ifying my selfie.

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Extra cool is the video Aphex Twin made for Come to Daddy as a Rutt Etra video remix. It smells of After Effects Trapcode Form and displacement maps.


Teaser for a forthcoming documentary: