Lutz Becker


About the early films of Lutz Becker:

Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, Dutton, New York 1970, pp. 334-6

The young German artist Lutz Becker began experimenting with video feed-back techniques in 1965 at the age of twenty-four. In the period of1967-68 he produced three films of these experiments as a student in the film department of the Slade School of Fine Art, London, in collaboration with the BBC. Palmer-Becker Test, Cosmos, Electric Sea, Experiment 5 and Horizon clearly demonstrate the degree of control and precision that is possible in this technique... 1)  

Becker: 'This purely electronic medium with its completely abstract rules does not have its own art form which should develop within the scope of new technologies and their almost chaotic wealth of possibilities. A new art form is not only the result of new technologies, but also the result of new thinking and the discovery of new orders and structural principles.'2)

In cooperation with the BBC electronics engineer A. B. Palmer, Becker began his experiments by focussing a TV camera on the blank white raster of its own monitor - the pictureless glowing rectangle produced by a constant stream of electrons.3) A point of light appearing momentarily on the monitor as a result of 'camera noise' will be picked up by the camera and reproduced again on the screen. If the monitor raster and camera raster are suitably registered , the reproduced point of light will coincide in position with the original  and will be sustained as a cycle  of repeats. Depending on the total gain around the feedback loop - that is, the video signal's tendency to exceed the electronic limits of the equipment - the point brightness will either increase until limited in some way, or decrease to extinction.

If the two rasters are deliberately out of register, the reproduced point then appeared alongside the original, the next alongside that, and so on. The visible effect is that the point of light moves across the picture as the positional errors are integrated. The direction and velocity of the movement depend on the direction and degree of misregistration. The point of light can be made to move in horizontal or vertical modes. Changes of raster amplitude (adjusting the strength of the picture signals) produce either a convergent or divergent motion in the picture. If one raster is tilted relative to the other, the movement becomes circular.

By combining these raster-misregistration feed-back with careful adjustment of camera controls Becker achieved a wide variety of concrete motion graphics, which he describes as 'sustained oscillations in two dimensions'. Further effects were realised by reversing the magnetic field of one raster scan. Original signals on the left are reproduced on the rights, then on the left, and so on. The pattern thus achieved is symmetrical around a vertical line. Further convolutions were obtained by combining scan reversals with raster misregistrations. These are some of the feedback possibilities employing only a blank scanned raster and attendant noise patterns. An entirely different range of effects can be obtained if a second and a third video source are introduced into the feed-back loop.

•     Palmer Becker Test (1966) and Electric Sea (1977) were originally omitted
•    quoted by Youngblood on p. 258
•    the following description of the process was based on a  paper by A.B. Palmer