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:

808 on 8/08

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Genre defining instrument making.
Foundational 808 rhythms and music.

TR-808 Drum Machine Flashback – Roland U.S. Blog

Author: Oz Owen and Roland UK Features Team Let’s kick this off with a little bit of trivia: the TR- 808 has been used on more hit records than any other drum machine. Read that again. This simple fact is made all the more improbable when you look back at the inauspicious launch of the TR-808.

808: The Movie

808 | The heart of the beat that changed music

Wintergatan Makes Music Using 2,000 Marbles

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This ballsy, marbleous machine was built by Martin Molin, who also composed the music, for the band  Wintergatan.

The Marble Machine


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Multi-Person Mixed Reality

I want to push this in the direction of shared mixed reality visual music jams and shows.

Instead of these guys playing with fire, imagine them musically jamming, and simultaneous synthesizing 3D mixed reality video.

Instead of these guys playing with fire, imagine them musically jamming, and simultaneous synthesizing 3D mixed reality video.

Microsoft Researchers Test Multi-Person Mixed Reality

Augmented or mixed reality, which renders virtual images in a view of the real world, can be spectacular to experience. But it may be even more fun when you bring a friend. Researchers in the Microsoft lab of Jaron Lanier are experimenting with multi-person augmented reality, and the results of their work could help shape the way the technology is commercialized and used.

Hey look it’s Jaron. Met him in CoSA days. That hair.

The inimitable Jaron Lanier.

The inimitable Jaron Lanier.