Beck Direct Video Synthesizer

Beck Direct Video Synthesizer

The artist's lifelong quest to share his mind's-eye images of moving colors and shapes, coupled with his desire to expand the potential of television and to create beauty with this new medium, led the versatile artist to invent a series of Beck Direct Video Synthesizers, beginning in 1968 while he was still an undergraduate student in electronic engineering and electronic music at the University of Illinois, Urbana.

In this pre-digital analog era, there were no digital image systems that could electronically and instantly produce colors, shapes, textures, and motions in real time. Some artists such as John Whitney and Stan Vanderbeek were using IBM main frame computers to generate monochrome dot and vector images on a CRT, then exposing film frames in stop motion animation format. Colors were obtained by optical printing with color filters. The IBM computers could often require hours to compute a single frame of 10,000 dots and vectors.

The Beck Direct Video Synthesizer was designed to construct an image using the basic visual elementals of form, shape, color, texture, and motion. No video camera was involved, which differentiated Beck's totally constructivist approach considerably from his contemporaries, who employed monochrome video camera colorizers (such as Etra) or camera image distortions in their approaches to video synthesizers (such as Nam June Paik and Shue Abe.)

Shown here are some images of the Beck Direct Video Synthesizer #2, which the artist designed, built, and constructed in 1970 to 1971 under the aegis of an artist's grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, while he was an Electronic Artist in Residence at the National Center for Experiments in Television (NCET) in San Francisco. The close-up views depict some of the image-synthesizing modules comprising the video synthesizer.

Beck continues his research into internal, non-luminous, non-photonic imaging with his invention of the Phosphotron, as well as research into cameras that can record images seen within the mind's eye, such as hypnopompic and hypnogogic images, phosphenes, meditation images, and others.