MAKE Interview: DIY video mixers and more with Karl Klomp

Computers & Mobile Craft & Design Music Technology
MAKE Interview: DIY video mixers and more with Karl Klomp

“OSD-glitcher”, (Klomp, 2006, 2007)

Interview/Article by Jonah Brucker-Cohen

In the multifarious world of circuit bending outdated audio and video sampling devices, there is a strong community of artists and makers who are pushing the envelope on their designs with each new incarnation of their work. One of these impresarios is Dutch artist and maker, Karl Klomp. Klomp’s work includes modded video samplers and intricately bent video descramblers and sync generators that change their visual output based on audio feeds and are completely customizable through many switches, knobs, and other sensor inputs. Make recently caught up with Klomp to discuss his approach to building these devices and to discover exactly how many custom knobs are necessary to generate the optimal bent performance.

More images and full Interview at the link below.Name: Karl Klomp
Age: 29
Education: IME (interactive media and environments)
Affiliation: Independent Artist, Theater Technician

MAKE: With “OSD-Glitcher” you modded a Jx-sv77 character generator into an instrument that reacts to audio input and outputs glitchy video streams. Did this instrument turn out the way you wanted? What do you primarily use this for?

KK: It turned out to be more that I expected. I didn’t actually know what it could do and was overwhelmed with the amount of electronics inside. There was no clear start so I took the time to study the circuitry. I found the ODS chip and tried some bends. I quickly found the points that where generating the characters and I tried to put some audio on it. It was working and I started to build functions out of it. The most interesting part of these glitches is the reference to my own drawn animations. These are also black and white, very minimal and jumping around the screen. I actually found my style of animations in a device. I use this in my live performances together with a Toktek (musician), in combination with my animations. Together we have live cinema performance. The characters overlay the animations and together it melts into hyperactive audiovisual minimal disturbance. Or something like that, it’s hard to describe how it looks.


“Ed/Die 4” (Klomp, 2006)

MAKE: “Ed/Die 4” uses body contact on 25 input buttons to manipulate a live video image, while pushing harder on the contact changes the effect even more. The 5 knobs at the top control the edges of the transitions and change the gradient and colors as well. Why did you choose this combination of knobs and force-sensitive buttons? Was this instrument successful in producing what you had imagined it would in the end?

KK: The touch sensitive buttons are a found function. They are not buttons but body contacts, metal with a wire to the circuit. In fact you are touching the circuit [itself]. When I was working, I touched the circuit and noticed that the image changed. Just as in audio bending you have devices that can be controlled by body contact. But in video bending you are dealing with a complete different theory on electronics. I never hoped to find this because it’s a totally unstable signal that can be corrupted easily. But with the Sima Ed/it 4 (the original device) I found this after I connected the potentiometers (knobs). I released the knobs to check if it was working without it, but it wouldn’t. Because of the illogic connection it’s possible to manipulate the video by body contact. There are actually three knobs on there that I use when playing with it. The rest is for making the tool work this way. I really love [these] tools, it’s a small invention. I never saw a video synth that was controllable with your body. Plus the output is really aesthetically pleasing.


“Dirt & Cheap Non-Sync Video Mixer. ” (Klomp, 2007)

MAKE: The “Dirt & Cheap Non-Sync Video Mixer” requires no power and simply mixes two video signals into one using a 1K Ohm potentiometer knob, 3 RCA connectors, 2 switches, and a small enclosure. Why did you build this project and how well does it work in live performances?

KK: I still dream about having a mini video mixer that can slide in your pocket. But after researching and trying to build a video mixer the official way (minimal video mixer I realized that the theory for a video mixer is complex and needs a lot of hardcore electronics background [that] I don’t have. Just to render my ideas, I took two signals and hooked them up with a [potentiometer]. After trying different pots, the 1 kOhm was working best. You can also use it as an unofficial video fader if you connect only one video signal. Out of fun and frustration I built this app. I don’t use this live because the aesthetics are not my style. This was more a joke than a serious attempt to build a useful live video tool. Still it can be useful and it’s become a standard option in the recent tools.


“Footgritcher” – (Klomp, 2007)

MAKE: “Footgritcher” uses an obsolete video descrambler as a sync generator where you uses diodes and resistors to keep the signal clean. Why did you choose this device and was it as successful as you thought it would be in the end?

KK: Descramblers were used for viewing special TV channels. You had to pay for a box that transcoded the corrupted video signals. It’s one of the few commercial devices that scrambles or distorts a video signal on purpose.
The “Footgritcher” is a commissioned work for a artist group TIND from Montreal. Francis asked me if I could make a device with a foot controller. The result is a patch bay where you can select different sorts of effects, combine them and switch them by foot. A descrambler is a nice system for noise over video, but it’s hard to keep the original signal clean. When you make more than two connection its very sensitive to interference. So I used some diodes to direct the flow of the signal. With video bending in general it was hard to keep the signal clean when extent specific point from the original PCB. It reacts as an antenna adding interference to the signal (even if you don’t want that).


“Luxon Video Brutality 300 Plus” (Klomp, 2007, 2008)

MAKE: The “Luxon Video Brutality 300 Plus” is a bent video processor with a bypass switch that can kill all of the effects and directly route the input to the output. It also includes a photo-resistor that affects the potentiometers. What was the biggest challenge when building this and what would you do differently on the next design?

KK: The time to finish it was the biggest challenge. Again it was a commissioned work for an artist. The design of the enclosure, it looks a bit cheap. The effects on the other side are far from cheap. I can remember that it was a unstructured combination of wires and parts and that made some fireworks. The difference with the vb-302 is the design of the enclosure and there are less option. At the time I was building the vb300 I didn’t had proper material. The photo-resistor worked in this one. I always try a photo-resistor when exploring a device but often its not working.

MAKE:What projects are you currently working on? How are they similar or different than your past projects?

KK: Well, I recently starting to modify old time base correctors. They are huge and have a lot of possibilities. Very original video corruptions can be useful for extracting glitch imagery. Then there’s the list of pre order tools. Musicians, artist or animators ask me if I can build a tool for them, but I always depend on stuff I find second hand. It’s nice to work with secondhand material because you build something new out of and obsolete device. Circuit bending is a time related practice. There will be less and less devices to bend because we’re heading to the real digital age, everything becomes nanotech. It’s already hard to find cheap potentiometers or mechanical parts. Still, I think hardware interfacing is important to explore a tool. I’m building my own circuits nowadays and working to a standard print for video bending. Also I’m still working on this video mixer, and explore the possibilities of an FPGA chip. I would like to make a system for reprogrammable hardware video mixers. Till that time I’ll be busy soldering wires, finding knobs, and re-using obsolete video hardware to build unique video tools.

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