Videobass v.3.0 Documentation

Version 2011-09-26

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Composants

About the author

Michael Egger (*1974) is a media artist, tinkerer, programmer, musician and pedagogue.

English is not his mother tongue, so if any parts of this documentation are incomprehensible, please send your suggestions, questions and remarks to:

Michael Egger [ a n y m a ] Route de la Fonderie 8c 1700 Fribourg Switzerland me (at) +41 79 278 31 39

For more about Michael, visit:


For up to date information, visit
The videobass SVN repository is at


The VideoBass is a visual instrument invented by Swiss media artist Michael Egger, member of [ a n y m a ] and the Swiss Mechatronic Art Society.
By its shape, the VideoBass ressembles an electric bass guitar, but it does not produce any sound. Instead, it lets you play video clips, trigger them in rhythm and mix up to four layers of images together in real time. These clips can be prepared before a concert, or can be recorded from a live feed from a camera.

The VideoBass is a combination of hardware and software, both are open source and published under GNU GPL v.3. The hardware is based around a gnusb and presents itself to the computer as a human interface device (HID). The software runs on a Mac Mini inside the Videobass “amplifier” and is written in MaxMSP/jitter.

By putting a real physical object into the hands of the visual artist, and by making the computer almost invisible, the videobass allows for a more intuitive and natural interaction with musicians on stage.
It invites the visual instrumentalist to take an upright and open posture, favors muscle- and spatial- memory and involves the whole body in the artistic performance


Hardware components


The main instrument: a guitar shaped body with four strings, four joysticks, some dials and buttons. It is connected by a long USB cable to the VideoBass amplifier and enumerates as a human interface device (HID)

Videobass Amplifier

A small flight case holding a computer screen, a Mac Mini and a front panel with connectors for usb, network, etc.

The “vamp” (also as a HID), a small electronic circuit underneath the front panel controls the power relays and interfaces some rotary controls, buttons and the foot pedals to the Mac Mini

A nice feature of the vamp is the power button: You can turn the computer on and off with a real interrupting button like a guitar amplifier. When you turn it on, an electric relay feeds power to the monitor and the computer, while another relay simulates a press on the computers power button, making it start up.
When you turn it off, the relay initially stays on, powered by the computers USB port. The vamp will close all running applications and initiate the shut down procedure. When the computer has finished shutting down safely, power on the USB port stops and the relay closes, galvanically cutting the mains to the whole equipment.


The computer monitor presents the videobass software interface to the user. It’s made to ressemble a music stand, is adjustable in height and inclination and uses the videobass amplifier case as its base. It is also stowed away in the flight case for transportation.


There are two pedals: The “volume” pedal is used for controlling the mixing level of the frame buffer / looper. Another pedal with three foot switches controls live recording and switching of scales

Software components

Videobass application

The videobass hardware is just a usb-controller for the Videobass Application. The heavy lifting happens here. Playing and mixing four video streams in real time, adding luma keys, and giving visual feedback to the instrumentalist. For a description of the software interface, see below.

Videobass Syphon Server

The Videobass amplifier can send a video stream of the final product over local area network to another computer. There, the “VideobassSyphonServer” can make the frames available to the syphon framework, and by these means to any quartz compatible application, like VDMX, Modul8 etc…


The final image produced by the VideoBass is made available on four outputs simultaneously

to be continued

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