Getting Started With Analog Glitch

Over on the Community Page, Dr Dipterroa asked: 

I know at some point you are going to go into your full rig but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving a starting point for doing some hot analogue glitch action...

I do indeed intend to do an analog glitch tutorial as soon as I can get it together (it's hard with my rig currently in storage, but I'm going to pull some parts of it out soon), but if you want to get started putting some materials together and start playing around on your own, here's a quick list of the basic pieces you can start assembling.

The good news about analog/CRT/VHS glitching is that it relies on old hardware that you can get very cheaply. If you're looking to capture video from the TV/VCR directly into your computer, then your setup will be pretty simple. The downside of this is you're only ever going to get 640x480 resolution out of the TV/VCR, by their nature. I needed hi-res images and I wanted the texture of the CRT screen itself, so my signature twist was photographing the TV screens at high speed to capture moments of glitching as still photographs. That's how I was able to take low-res output and turn it into album artwork and large prints. Even in video (like The Loop Closes for example), I film off the screen for that CRT look but also so I can have HD resolution. So as always, as I discussed here, you should think about what your intent is for the finished results. For example, if all you really want is video that looks like it was recorded on a bad VHS tape, I'd skip all the hardware and go straight to Red Giant's VHS plugin (mentioned here), which is fantastic. But if you want to create your own custom analog glitch imagery in the style of mine, you're going to need some old hardware and a lot of patience for experimentation.

Again, I'll dig into this in much more detail in a forthcoming tutorial, but if you want to start messing around or just start preparing a rig, here's what you need:

Old CRT TVS: Heavy, clunky, 80s/90s tube TVs. As you can see in the photo above, I have a few of them. They're not very hard to find and they're not very expensive if you keep an eye on your local Goodwill, Value Village, or other thrift stores. Find the thrift stores in your area that have electronics and stop by once a week or so, you'll figure out pretty quickly which ones still take the old TVs and which ones don't (for example, when I started all this in LA originally, there was one Goodwill that never had analog TVs and then another one that always had about 10). They usually go for around $15-20, don't overpay and don't think you need a fancy or "cool" retro TV. Any one will do, as long as it has RCA inputs (the red/yellow/white ports). That part is important. Don't get a TV so old that it only has coax inputs, it won't work for this. It's best to pick up a few old TVs because you'll find they're unpredictable when you get to the glitching. Some of them give great results, others give very bland results, and some of them can't handle the flickering signal changes and keep popping up display text (like "AV1"), ruining your shot. It's a crapshoot, which is why you want to buy them on the cheap.

RCA cables: Most thrift stores like Goodwill that have an electronic section will have a messy rack or bin of old cables, and RCA cables are the easiest to find. Just the standard red/yellow/white cables you've seen a million times. They're maybe 99 cents at the thrift store. Get a few sets so you have plenty to chain VCRs and TVs together. You should also pick up some RCA extender adapters (you probably won't find those at the thrift store, but they're cheap new - here's a 10 pack on Amazon for $5.69)

VCRs: Just like CRT TVs, you'll find tons of VCRs at your local thrift store for $10-20, and they're also a crapshoot in terms of results so you should get a few of these to experiment with as well (you might end up breaking some of them in the process, too). As with the TVs, just check the back of the VCRs to make sure they have RCA inputs and outputs.

VHS tapes: Another easy thrift store purchase. Grab a bunch, any tapes, they're usually only 50c each (including commercial movies, you just use the ol' scotch tape trick to record over them). What's on them doesn't matter, you'll just record over it. Sometimes though I try to find really old movies, especially early black-and-white horror or sci-fi movies, because many of them are public domain and you can get some imagery off them to play with, and also sometimes when you record over them in and out while glitching, you pick up bits of the underlying recording in the static, and it can lead to interesting results. In horrorglitch 11, for example, the word "obey" just happened to come in from a text card on an old silent film I was recording over, and it was the perfect happy accident.

HDMI-to-RCA converter: If you want to get your own custom images or video onto old VHS tapes and TVs, you need an HDMI-RCA converter box. It's only $11 and dead simple to use - just plug it in, no software required. Now images or video from your computer can be displayed on your old CRT TVs, and recorded onto VHS tapes. It's instant and easy. You will however immediately encounter some aspect ratio issues (you're going from a 1080p 16:9 signal to a 480i 4:3 display), so you'll want to stretch your source content by about 140% horizontally to compensate.

DSLR camera and/or analog video capture device: If you want to capture hi-res photo and video of your glitching directly off the CRT screens, which is how I do my analog glitch stuff, you'll need a decent DSLR camera with a lens that can shoot fast while still taking in a good amount of light. I used a Canon 5DM3 with a 24-70 F2.8 lens (my go-to), but any comparable camera setup (and a sturdy tripod) will do. 

If having hi-res content with the CRT screen texture isn't important to you and you just want to directly capture what's coming out of your TV/VCR directly, you can use this analog video capture device. It's a bit pricey at $80, but it's an easy way to capture the raw signal from your analog devices to your computer via USB, and save it as a movie file. Again though, it's only ever going to be at 640x480 resolution. Although it's useless to me for getting hi-res analog glitch imagery, this device is cool to have around if you want to do stuff like grab imagery off VHS tapes or old game systems. I once used it to figure out how to record digital video from a Game Boy Camera.

Alternately, if you have the ability to capture video in through HDMI, you could use this $15 RCA-to-HDMI converter, which I haven't personally tried but I imagine it works just as simply as the HDMI-to-RCA version.

Magnets (optional): Find some small powerful magnets. They're fun to rub on the VHS tape of something you've already recorded and see how it messes up the image.

And that's really all the hardware there is to it. Start playing around with it if you're so inclined, and soon I'll show you how I use it all. Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions about this list!

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