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Sandin Image Processor DIY resources?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Video Synthesis  
Author Sandin Image Processor DIY resources?
I'd like to preface this by saying I'm amazed by the LZX system. Ever since I heard about Lars' developments I have been ecstatic, unfortunately my financial situation is less than happy. Having uprooted my life to Chicago so my wife can pursue grad school, we cut our income in half and are just scraping by now. No LZX system in the near future cry

SO... I'm wondering what the feasibility would be to DIY a Sandin Image Processor synth. I'm desperately wanting to tackle video synthesis as well as teach myself new skills. I'm very dedicated and very much prepared to fail as many times as needed. That being said are there any resources available? Would finding parts be impossible? Obviously Dan would be the best resource for this, but I thought surely I'm not the only one on the forum that has thought about this. I know Lars is working with him on the LZX/Sandin modules, so I don't want to step on anyone's toes. I'm just trying to figure out what the most affordable option is to get my hands dirty...

So far I can only really find information about what the system entailed via Dan's website and audiovisualizers. I also have a copy of a PDF from EIGENWELT DER APPARATEWELT that's informative but nothing close to schematics or build info. Has anyone else attempted this?
The Sandin IP schematics/documentation are openly available in PDF format, here's a link:

But unfortunately it's not going to be simple to build a full system, especially not if saving money vs. an LZX system is your goal. My experiments in video synthesis started with trying to build an IP clone, but most of the parts (especially, the two ICs that are used everywhere throughout the IP) are no longer available, anywhere.

While adapting some of the simpler circuits may prove fairly straightfoward, two big functional blocks (the color encoder and video sync generator) are quite a lot to tackle in a DIY context. The IP used a proprietary color encoder board from a camera that was available back in that time. It is possible to make do with rackmount encoder and syncgens bought used (snufkin did this!) but there's still lots of circuitry you're missing out on, vs the LZX modules that perform these functions. See this thread for more details:

As for the LZX reissues/clones of the Sandin modules, that will all be open, with schematics posted and full notes. The Amplitude Classifier will be using SMT parts though, so it won't be offered as a kit like the other two (but schematics will be there, if you want to build it!)

If you're itching to get your feet wet and do DIY, my advice is to try to get the LZX Video Sync Generator and Color Video Encoder modules if you can. The rest, you can completely DIY, like the Sandin IP adaptations or possibly by careful modification of existing synthDIY boards for greater bandwidths (like the CGS boards.) If you really can't afford the core LZX modules, try something like snufkin pulled off above -- it won't be perfect or always stable, but you can at least start experimenting as long as you can find suitable gear. With some sort of good syncgen/encoder solution, the sky's the limit as far as tinkering with DIY circuits, and you've got a whole forum of people who love talking about this stuff when you need help! thumbs up

As an interesting exercise, Dan and I calculated up the costs, and we found out that an equivalent, brand new LZX system costs 1/5th of just the component costs to build a Sandin IP in the 70's!
As always thank you for providing your wealth of knowledge on these resources. Through my research I'm actually finding a lot of your old threads on electro-music. It seems like obsolescence is the downfall, as you said. I'm also realizing that the rarity of the Sandin IP's, and that they largely existed within the academic realm might mean that they were even more expensive back then. I definitely understand your price points and hold your system in high regard. I'm happy enough knowing that in 2012 this fundamental technology is more accessible than it has ever been! I was also worried about the color encoder and sync generator were being handled in the IP. That seems to be the one of the most complicated aspects of video synthesis.

I'm really excited about the opportunity to DIY the Sandin modules. Actually looking over your recent thread got me thinking about all of this. I really appreciate your advice and think that's the perfect route for me. Thanks for the links.
Hi guys

while the LZX system is super versatile and awesome and you can't really match it on a price to feature scale you can build a video synth for fairly cheap

my fellow Londoner Richard has built this synth and documented it on the blog I am going to build some of the components of his system and after all said and done excluding the case it will probably have cost me £300

the plans for a wobulator are on line, I suggest low voltage battery powerd tv's

and here is a cheap coloriser link to the pdf in the video description

and here is how to create video with just your audio modular
from a post I wrote on my blog about my experiments ar-synth.html

also this might be worth a look
All of snufkin's advice is spot on too, of course! Rich's blog and the Synkie site have schematics for several circuits which should be fairly straightforward to build. That coloriser example above can also be stripped down and expanded in a modular format, too, to make a simpler version of a Sandin Amplitude Classifier.

A checklist of a few things you need to learn/know/be aware of for this project: input/output impedance (LZX-standards, 75 ohm standards, etc.), signal levels, what DC restored video is, how to substitute video op-amps for audio ones and appropriate resistor changes to make -- and you will have most of the information you need in order to modify a lot of synthDIY circuits to be useful for video.

The first steps though, are some sort of solution for a Sync Generator & Color Encoder. The LZX modules cost $600, together. If you shop around on ebay, you could find vintage syncgen/encoder for possibly as low as $100-$200, but you are still missing the blanking/clipping features, and the sync distribution features, that the LZX modules have. The functions covered by a syncgen/encoder are the heart of any raster-based video synthesis system: getting video in, getting video out, mixing to color, having sync distribution in place, having a stable output, etc. Once you have that, then you can start making magic!

And no problems at all, stepping on any toes, here laserpalace -- I understand the money thing and I understand DIY for DIY's sake too! If I felt like I could offer a cost effective DIY kit version of the CVE/VSG combo, I'd do it. But the same features, moved to a thru-hole layout, in a DIY kit form, would easily cost the same as the assembled modules do now.
I think the majority of the Sandin IPs built in the 70s were built by students of Dan's. There were a few others that did it, but I suspect at least 80% were his students. They were not cheap and they were not small.

But no video was cheap back then. A Sony "porta-pack", portable camera and recorder that weighed about 40 pounds, cost somewhere around $2,000. And that was black & white on reel to reel tape. Now you can get a pocket color HD camera/recorder for $35
It's an exciting time!

About the IP, Dan said there were less than 20 ever built, and that the only one he knew of still in use was the one at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Well, the TV Center had one in use until last summer, when we closed the studio. It was donated about a decade ago by a guy named Dick Sippel who built it back in the 80s.

Alfred University also has one still in use that Harland Snodgrass built in the early 80s (I helped a little). Dan even came to Alfred back then for the official opening of the school studio. (we had a keg of Guinness) Somewhere I might still have photos of the event.
Thanks! I actually just downloaded the Visualist PDF a couple days ago. Also I've been following synthpunk's blog for a while. Another great resource!

It really liked the results you got from the encoder and generator. I think starting with the LZX encoder and sync generator sound ideal, especially regarding the features and being easily integrated into my current Euro setup. I am very interested in working that coloriser into a modular format, maybe that's a good place to start!

Overall I was very impressed by the effects that the Sandin was able to produce, especially demonstrated by Phil Morton's Colorful Colorado.

Hopefully I can arrange a visit to see the system that's at the institute while I'm out here. Thanks again Lars & Dave for your hard work on all of this!
We'll have the full schematics for our adaptation of the Amplitude Classifier up before too long. The actual PCB will use all SMT parts, but (as far as I know...) there are thru-hole variants for the parts we're using, and if not, I will put together a "DIY protobard" variant of the schematics that uses all thru-hole parts.
I spent a lot of time on the IP at SAIC back in 92 (or was it 93?) I'll have to digitize the old VHS recordings and post them sometime. I'm very excited to see this tech coming online outside of an academic environment.
RobotDad wrote:
I spent a lot of time on the IP at SAIC back in 92 (or was it 93?) I'll have to digitize the old VHS recordings and post them sometime. I'm very excited to see this tech coming online outside of an academic environment.

Please message me when you do I would love to post it on my blog meh
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