Felix Analogue VideoSyntheSizer

The FELIX may indeed be Canada's first analogue video synthesizer, completed by Al Razutis in association with Jim Armstrong in 1974. Al's description follows:
I'll try to summarize (off the top of my head) some aspects of the Visual Alchemy machine (which was a non-commercial creation towards the video art of the time that I was doing - 1972 to 77) The Felix synthesizer was constructed in 73-74 by myself and Jim Armstrong. It was housed in the Visual Alchemy studio (film - video - holography) until 1977 when I shut down the studio and went to Polynesia for a year.
Al hanging out.

It featured a 16 channel color 'quantizer' (from Colorado Video ideas), 8 channels of adder-multipliers (mixers), 8 channels of window comparators (keyers) and 8 channels of external input (modulators). All of these functions could be combined, recombined, etc. (looped). Composite video (in) was stripped of sync, then processed, then recombined in output. The device was featured in a number of experimental videos I did in the 70's, a live performance (on cable - prime-time in Vancouver, Canada) using bio-feedback (EEG, ECG, etc), named 'Synapse', a synthesizer piece using plant bio-potentials as modulator input ('Canadian Sunset'), and other works. (A lot of video and film-video works I did throughout the 70's). Examples (images) from these works would have to be collected (captured from source) and this would take some time.

The device was similar in some respects to the Sandin-Defanti box which Jodi Gillerman toured (with her snake - performance) in the 70's. It was an 'original' in the sense that the design was based on original concepts that I employed towards analog video synthesis (no digital then) based on my earlier works with film optical printing (which i designed and built). Hence, the aesthetic of manipulating the raster, color, inducing feedback loops, multiple keying, etc. was 'formalized' in the Felix synthesizer as a transformational device based on earlier experiments (including those done at Evergreen State College, where I taught in 1972).

It was the only one of its kind in Canada, was sold in 1977 to some people in Toronto, and eventually ended up (in part or in whole) in the posession of Jane Wright (wife of Walter Wright) when she was teaching in Canada. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

The concept of 'slicing' the analog signal was certainly not new, and some of the basic features of the quantizer component (TTL triggers) and keying in color into grey scale values had been done by others (especially in San Francisco) in the early 70's. However, the aesthetic (resultant works) which derived from this practice was most certainly informed by my previous experimental film works which date back to 1967.

There's a lot more about this synthesizer, the culture of the times, and works produced, but I'll stop here.

Al Razutis

The image is from the film VORTEX created by Al Razutis. This piece is a film-video hybrid, and features some of the earliest analogue video synthesizer processing techniques.

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