Synthesis: Processing and Collaboration

A look at the work of Chicago-based pioneers of image processing, Dan Sandin, Phil Morton, Tom DeFanti, and Jane Veeder, as well as sound processing by Mimi Shevitz and other works created by the Sandin Image Processor.

00:00Copy video clip URL Title card: Gallery@calit2, January 2011. Dan Sandin says he was asked by Electronic Arts Intermix to talk about his work and the environment in which he works. He shows his studio, the image processor (a series of patch panels), an analog computer, a video tape recorder and a view out the window of a Chicago snowfall.

01:03Copy video clip URL Sandin demonstrates the primitive workings of the image processor. He patches various signals from the camera input into the comparator and then to an output module. Switching to the processor, the image on screen turns contrast. He adjusts the gray level. He produces solarization effects. He demonstrates the differentiator to extract edge information which makes all the images in the screen appear of the same gray value.

02:14Copy video clip URL He demonstrates the value scrambler. This divides the value region into 8 value regions, each one adjustable.

02:49Copy video clip URL Title card: Video, Phil Morton; Audio, Stuart Pettigrew. A voice over indicates that Phil Morton, Assistant Professor at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago performs a piece entitled “Colorful Colorado.”

02:57Copy video clip URL The piece, created in 1974 or 1976, begins: an experimental, often mesmerizing intercutting of footage of someone driving down a dirt road with other video imagery manipulated in the image processor. The audio is CB conversation between various drivers moving through Colorado.

11:14Copy video clip URL The piece ends and Sandin, shot in video that is manipulated by the image processor, notes that the next piece is called Spiral 5, produced in 1979, and uses the analog processor system combined with a computer graphic system developed by Tom DeFanti.

11:29Copy video clip URL In Spiral Five, DeFanti gives a tour of his studio and shows the computer he uses, where the graphics computer is located, the PDP 1140 graphics computer, the disc drive used to hold pictures and macros running the system. The vector general puts images up real time. He points video cameras to the screen and runs a cable to Dan Sandin, “inventor of the image processor.”

12:43Copy video clip URL Video cuts back to Sandin who says Spiral 5 was created by Tom DeFanti, myself — Dan Sandin — Mimi Shevitz on sound.

12:50Copy video clip URL Footage of Mimi Shevitz experimenting with computer manipulated sound.

13:02Copy video clip URL Over a series of still photos and clips of various experimental video animation projects, Sandin explains that between 1975 and 1980 there were live video computer performance events at The University of Illinois at Chicago. The first was the Interactive Electronic Visualization Event in 1975 followed by EVE 2 in 76 and EVE 3 in 78. During this time there were also performances of Spiral.

13:46Copy video clip URL Footage of Phil Morton introducing Spiral One at the first EVE event, April 1975. Footage of the performance follows showing Dan Sandin and his colleagues creating a live performance of video art.

16:34Copy video clip URL Morton waves to camera and Sandin, in voice over, says “Goodbye, Phil.” Spiral 5 plays beginning with the TITLE CARD: Spiral 5, PTL, computer graphics: Tom DeFanti; Video Synthesis: Dan Sandin; Sound Synthesis: Mimi Shevitz; copyright 1981 Sandin, DeFanti, Shevitz.

23:17Copy video clip URL Sandin explains the digital image colorizer is a “simple device.” He shows an analog to digital converter which takes non-composite signal, a standard video signal, from the IP, image processor, and converts it to three parallel 8-bit digital word. That parallel word is sent off to three memories. In that memory you can form any in-to-out relationship with 256 steps of less which will make the image look continuous. The output of those memories is sent to digital-to-analog converters and get encoded into red, green and blue. The digital image colorizer makes a black and white to color conversion. This is controlled by a program he wrote. He demonstrates a transfer function. He makes a triangle wave perform two cycles. The green number is programmed to perform four cycles. And he encodes the blue memory to perform six cycles.

26:51Copy video clip URL Title Card: Wandawega Waters. B-roll of lake Wandawgea. Dan Sandin narrates saying this is where he grew up. Abstract reflections in the water. Some of the images are manipulated through his digital image colorizer.

36:16Copy video clip URL Title Card: Real Time Design, Inc. 16 screen animation in real time July 1982. Tom DeFanti speaks from the porch of a cabin in the woods. He notes that Datamax UV 1 gives artist access to the sophisticated technology used in video games. He adds that it is produced in Chicago but that much of the software was written and designed here, in rural Wisconsin, in this cabin. He shows the compatibility of this technology with standard video equipment, demonstrating how to create computer graphics in real time. He notes it is early spring in Wisconsin and not much green on the trees. “We’re going to add some with a digital air brush.” It is demonstrated.

37:28Copy video clip URL DeFanti shows and explains a block diagram of the system: the UV1 with the software and memory, data tablet to input drawings, video display terminal to type in letters for character generation, and a TV monitor.

38:08Copy video clip URL Manipulated video and audio of a woman saying, “Zeegrass.” Title Card: Warpitout, created by Jane Veeder. Hardware: Datamax UV-1 microcomputer and digitizer, Hitachi CCTV video camera. Software: ZGRASS graphics language. Contact Jane Veeder, 600 S. Dearborn, #509, Chicago, IL 60605. Copyright 1982 Jane Veeder.

38:23Copy video clip URL Dissolve to Jane Veeder who explains “what we have here is Warpitout, my installation for the ’82 SIGGRAPH art show. She describes it as a kind of video game that allows a person to get his or her face digitized and use real time computer graphic processing to modify the image.

38:45Copy video clip URL Screen shot of Warpitout. Veeder explains the system while demonstrating it. The user can select color from a color palette, then use a menu to construct the pattern. The ripple module, for example, redraws a swath between two inputted points and is modulated by a sound wave. She says the UV-1 is derived from video game technology research and is supported by ZGRASS, a global language for real time animation. She demonstrates filling in patterns and then exits the game. A series of past images she’s created from the game follows.

42:57Copy video clip URL Title Card: Warpitout, copyright 1982 Jane Veeder. System: Datamax UV-1, Zgrass Computer. Hardware support: Real Time Design, Inc. and Dave Nutting Associates … an installation presented at the SIGGRAPH ’82 Art Show, SIGGRAPH ’82, The Ninth Annual Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, Boston, July 26-30, 1982.

43:20Copy video clip URL Title Cards: Floater Final Sequence, copyright 1983, Jane Veeder. Credits: Jane Veeder. Produced at: Personal studio/personal system. Hardware: Datamax UV-1/ZGRASS graphics computer, Sony 5850 3/4” video tape editor. Software: ZGRASS graphics language. Technical notes: Videogame derived hardware – 280 micro w/custom graphics & I/O chip, APU, sound synthesis chip; 256K screen RAM (16 2-bit buffers), 32K user RAM, and 32K ROM for resident, Chicago-developed ZGRASS language.

43:30Copy video clip URL Veeder’s “Floater” begins, a series of graphic lines and waves and other shapes with computer generated buffalo running.

47:16Copy video clip URL New title card: Wag the Flag, contact Charles Kesler, Southern Software, 2407 East Third Street., Greenville, North Carolina 27834, 919 757-2477 / 2471. Credits: Created by: Charles Kesler, David Balch. Music composed by: Robert Watson. Music recorded by: Richard Royall. Produced at East Carolina University School of Medicine, Center for Medical Communication, Greenville, North Carolina. 1984. Hardware: Sandin Image Processor, Datamax UV-1, Video Media Z600 C editor, Sony 5850 video tape recorders, Grass Valley 1600-1L SEG. Software: Southern Software’s paint tools and interpolation program written in ZGRASS. Technical notes: Video source material has been edited and color processed through a Sandin Analog Image Processor. Computer graphics were generated on a Datamax UV-1 and keyed over video using a standard TV special effects generator. Compressed frame inserts were actually kinescopes: TV monitor wiped into the video using a border wipe effect.

47:36Copy video clip URL Wag the Flag plays. It shows an animated American flag with a dollar sign on it waving. This cuts to a series of video and animation images showing various global crisis and various military activity juxtaposed with anti-war statements. It ends with a parody of Smokey the Bear. Nukey the Bear says, “Remember, only you can prevent Holocaust.”

52:51Copy video clip URL Black.

52:53Copy video clip URL Tom DeFanti and Dan Sandin address the camera. DeFanti is introduced as being the Director of Electronic Visualization Lab, “from the engineer side of the house.” Sandin is introduced as the Director of Electronic Visualization Lab, “from the arts side of the house.” Sandin says they’ve been collaborating with engineers and artists for longer than 15 years. “Our idea has never been to bump engineers and artist, but for the artist to learn from the engineers and the engineers to learn from the artist so they can work together.

54:07Copy video clip URL Cut to a CNN news report filed at a science museum in Chicago. An exhibit on computer graphics. Interviews with Dan Sandin. The report notes that artist-scientists at the Electronic Visualization Lab at University of Illinois at Chicago have put together an interactive image exhibit that allows museum-goers the chance to create their own computer image. B-roll of kids and adults creating images.

56:33Copy video clip URL Title card: Beauty and the Beast, an interactive computer game. As we see b-roll of the event, a voice over notes that in 1989 Mary Rasmussen put on an interactive computer art exhibition at Maxine’s, a high-end salon in Chicago. As patrons entered their image was captured for processing. They worked with a facial stylist to select the image. At the end of the session they received a print of the manipulated image of their face which had morphed their human face to that of an animal. The program came from work Rasmussen helped developed that would allow facial growth to be predicted in children.

58:34Copy video clip URL Title card: A Volume of Two Dimensional Julia Sets. A computer generated animation piece of Kaleidoscope style imagery begins.

01:00:01Copy video clip URL Animation ends. Title card: computer animation and RT/1 programming by Dan Sandin. Original music and audio effects by Laurie Spiegel. Algorithms & ray-tracer, John Hart. mathematical research, Lou Kauffman. Visual leadership, Tom Defanti. Programmed in RT/1 and C, rendered on the AT&T Pixel Machine 964 dx. Copyright Dan Sandin 1990.

01:00:26Copy video clip URL Title card: Air on the Dirac Strings. In Memoriam Wilhelm Magnus 1907-1990. The narration notes that the great physicist Paul Dirac devised a topological trick with strings to illustrate the spin of the electron. B-roll using computer generated animation illustrates this trick. The illustration is expressed by a woman performing a Filipino wine dance.

01:02:42Copy video clip URL End animation.

01:02:45Copy video clip URL Video of Dan Sandin demonstrating virtual reality goggles, CAVE, using video footage he shot while kayaking on Lake Michigan. He explains CAVE is a 10x10x10 foot room. Images on the three walls. The ceiling is open. The glasses allow the viewer to see in stereo. He explains that the walls are projected from the rear, plus one projector on the ceiling projecting onto the floor. Speakers are positioned all around to produce directional sound. Sandin notes that traditional two-dimensional art in a frame reminds one that he’s looking at art. Virtual realities immerse the viewer completely and gives the viewer the sensation of being part of a scene. Sandin demonstrates a simulated waterfall that he can actually get inside of. The water simulates bouncing off of the person once the person enters. The sound also changes appropriately.

01:06:18Copy video clip URL Newer video footage of Dan Sandin introducing short selections from a piece called Looking for Water. The pieces illustrate tele-emersion. Avatars representing people share the same environment as real people.

01:08:27Copy video clip URL Title card: 21st Century CAVE ART. Victoria Lautman files a report from the Electronic Visualization Lab at UIC. She explores a virtual reality trip to Renaissance Florence. Drew Browning takes Lautman through a virtual house. Todd Margolis shows a program that allows a user to draw in 3-D.

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01:11:19Copy video clip URL Title card: Particle Dreams in Spherical Harmonics. Using a hand held remote, a man demonstrates the manipulation the patterns of computer generated light particles. Light particles spiral and dance in the air. He sprays particles and draws with them creating abstract patterns. He describes it as making his own Northern Lights.

01:19:10Copy video clip URL End credits.

01:19:31Copy video clip URL END

 

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