November 16th, 2010

The Wobbulator

I was finally able to cobble together a video for Nam June Paik’s Wobbulator. It was one of my favorite pieces of equipment during my residency at the Experimental Television Center, and I was confused about why there wasn’t a lot of information out there about it on the web. There are a few grainy youtube videos but they don’t show a lot of the exterior of the device or any of the real time manipulations, so I wanted to make a little educational video. Most of the Wobbulator’s source images in this video were either from a camera pointed out a window, or just from straight video feedback.

For a lot more information, check out the Experimental Television Center’s website in their Video History Project area. There are tons of great articles on early analog video tools and techniques, but in particular there is a very detailed article on the wobbulator. Just to give you some more info, here is the first paragraph of the article on the device:

A raster manipulation unit or ‘wobbulator’ is a prepared television which permits a wide variety of treatments to be performed on video images; this is accomplished by the addition of extra yokes to a conventional black and white receiver and by the application of signals derived from audio or function generators on the yokes. The unit is a receiver modified for monitor capability; all of the distortions can thus be performed either on broadcast signals or, when the unit is used as a monitor, on images from a live or prerecorded source. Although the image manipulations cannot be recorded directly, they can be recorded by using an optical interface. The patterns displayed on the unit are rescanned; a camera is pointed directly at the picture tube surface and scans the display. The video signal from this rescan camera is then input to a videotape recorder for immediate recording or to a processing system for further image treatment. The notion of prepared television has been investigated by a number of video artists and engineers; this particular set of modifications was popularized by Nam June Paik.

I also made a quick music video with the wobbulator as a key component…check it out here

For more on my experience at the experimental television center check out a few of these links
[1] [2] [3] [4]

This video is now featured on Rhizome, Create Digital Motion, Hack a day, Makezine, Wired and Notcot among others