VIK: A Video Keyboard for Time Colour Structures


Session Title:

  • Science and Abstraction

Presentation Title:

  • VIK: A Video Keyboard for Time Colour Structures



  • In this paper a set of basic elements and colour, structure and time operators is proposed. The elements and operators define a 2-D abstract digital video world. A prototype implementation of a program ‘VIK’ is described: VIK is a simple video-sequencer that can be used as a video-score interpreter or as an interactive video keyboard. The current version of the program was used to make some short abstract videos (‘keyboard exercises’): the same result (given some manual ability) could be obtained with a real time performance of the same score. The idea of visual music is quite old — starting with Aristoteles (Whitney 1980). Colour structures changing in time produced by a ‘visual organ’ were used by Skrjabin in the music work Prometheus, the Poem of Fire at the beginning of this century (1911) (Storia, 1970).

    Abstract animation was explored in the movies too — Fantasia by Walt Disney, 1938 (Finch 1988). Computers made the exploring of the abstract 2-D movie or video and/or interactive visual systems feasible: Whitney’s works, Cohen’s Aaron, Zajec’s NC just to mention a few (Whitney 1971, Cohen 1986, Zajec 1973). The idea of a ‘general purpose visual keyboard’ or a ‘universal visual organ’ is probably a myth, as was the idea of ‘THE Universal Programming Language’ for artists in the sixties. In fact even for a still image, possibly produced by an aesthetic automaton or program (Cohen, Zajec 1971) the basic colour and structure elements and the possible compositional rules (that have to be defined as a basis for any possible ‘gen-eral purpose’ tool for visual experiments) give so many degrees of freedom that any choice will set up some limits that will prove not satisfactory for other authors. The addition of the time factor adds new choice problems. (Evans 1990, Kawaguchi 1986, Zajec 1983).

    This paper presents some work in progress “with a simple interactive abstract digital video keyboard, IVIK’, based on a limited set of operators or keys that act on the definition and the changes in time of simple matrix colour structures. The system gives some possibilities to explore the 2-D world defined by these structures. The choices of the basic elements and the operators are partially determined by the interaction goal: all operator and element specification can be given with a single key stroke. In the prototype version the keys are given by the computer keyboard. A personal choice give one of the infinite possible integration schemes of the image structures, colour coding structures and the time variation scheme of the two structures. The element and operator set is an attempt to solve the problem of abstract video work that can convey some meaning with only colour structure changes, without ‘actors’ or foreground / background figures. The prototype VIK system is implemented in Think Pascal on a Macintosh II with standard video card (640 x 480 x 8).