Review: Hands On with the Spark D-Fuser

By now we all have figured out that analog video connections are not the way forward. Being limited to SD resolutions is just one thing. Those of you that ever tried to do a pixel mapping on a LED wall via a scan converter and an Edirol V8, you will know that pixel perfect digital connections can be better than free beer and pizza under a hot shower.

Trouble was that up until last year, there was no hardware mixer available that could mix between two digital sources. None that a normal person could afford anyway.

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Coming Back From the Dead - Night of the Living HD Mixers

Just when you thought it was safe to drag out your old analog MX50s again...



A little while back (okay, a big while back), we posted about the current state of affordable HD mixing using the TVOne box. At the time of writing, only one of those projects was in an actual released state. The iMixHD is a great piece of software, not in the least because it's free and open source. But deep inside, the idea of a physical standalone mixer with a T-Bar was still nagging.

Flash forward to a year later, all of a sudden there's not one but two such projects that are both finished and actually in production!

First off, there is of course Toby's Spark d-Fuser. The d-Fuser is an elegant piece of kit, both the functionality as well as the box itself are amazing. It is a clutter free interface that does what it needs to do: mix between two sources. Being fans of intuitive design that doesn't get in the way of your creativity ourselves, we have to tip our hats to Toby on this one. Currently the first run is sold out, and the latest news is that the casings have arrived and look beautiful.

Then, out of the blue, the boys from CarrotVideo come with their own take on the TV-One, the tentatively titled 'HD Rabbit'. Focussing more on giving you access to everything the TV-One has to offer (it actually does a lot more than fade or key between two sources), they've made what Edirol should have done a long time ago: an HD V4.

In their own words:
The HD Rabbit is a HD mixer and controller based on the TV-One 750.

We know what you're thinking now: 'Really? Another TV-One based mixer project? Really?'.

And we feel you on that one. There have been some awesome projects based on that little gadget, some of which turned into very well designed, thought out, and most importantly, very real products. So who are we to come up with yet another one?

Truth be told, we feel that you can do a lot with the TV-One. The AB mixer and keyer are its primary functions, but it has some very powerful scaler and image adjustment functions as well. It's just that its interface is so ridiculously clunky.

So we designed a more user friendly interface. All the useful functions of the TV-One are accessible in a more human way. Having grown up bashing our V4s to bits back in the 90s, all we really wanted was a similar experience, but not limited to crappy PAL resolutions. Let's face it, there was something innately satisfying about spamming those cut buttons, or strobing the output until the light engineer gave you the evil eye.

So we were dragging this piece of kit with us to shows, where it took up valuable space on our already crammed table. It did the job, but it was lacking something. Then it hit us. Why not make it a software controller at the same time? Besides OSC input for the main TV-One functions, we added fully customizable OSC and DMX output from the buttons and rotaries. Basically we made one big box with the flexibility to mix and control our favorite applications.

No more eighties looking hardware effects, instead we're controlling realtime effects in glorious HD at 60fps. No more overtaxed CPUs, instead we're cutting back and forth between two HD sources like it's going out of fashion. What more could you ask for?

We don't know either.

That's why the HD Rabbit is currently being produced in its 0-series run, contact us at http://www.carrotvideo.com for more info.




Especially interesting for Resolume users is the customizable OSC output. As you can see in the video, the HD Rabbit is preconfigured to send BPM info to Resolume already, but all its other knobs and buttons can be assigned OSC commands as well. This could very well be the next step in hardware controllerism.

We've actually been lucky enough to see this gizmo in action, and have pounded those cut buttons to see if it they held up. We were pleasantly surprised so rest assured that we'll be following this one with great interest.

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Mixing two HighDef sources?

Welcome to VJ'ing the year 2011. Composite outputs are disappearing, computers are becoming faster and faster, HD projectors are becoming more common. Some of these developments can be considered good, others less so, but whatever your thoughts are on it, your trusty old V4 is just not cutting it anymore.

These days everyone is looking for that holy grail: affordable HD mixing. The V8, boasting two VGA inputs, but no mixing between them, and no VGA out, is not really a contender. Sure, if you got the €9200 to dish out on an Edirol 440HD -interestingly advertised as 'affordable HD mixing'- that's just peachy for you.

The rest of us would like something cheaper. Luckily the worldwide VJ community is not afraid of a little DIY, and it has come up with a few alternatives.


It's all about this little gizmo, the TV One 1T-C2-750 Dual DVI mixer. It's quite a handy little device, that straight out of the box allows you to switch or fade between two DVI sources, and can output up to 2048x2048 in resolution. With some tweaking/tinkering it can also be pushed to TripleHead2Go rez. Aside from that, it also supports luma/chroma keying, and picture in picture. And all this for a list price of around $900.

Now of course we don't want to just cut or autofade between our sources, we want full crossfader control like on our V4s. Enter VJ community!

First off the bat was Toby Harris, who first started mentioning an out of the box, all hardware mixing solution based on the device. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, the product is still in the prototype stage. The glimpse some of us were fortunate enough to catch at the Visual Berlin Festival in 2010 was great, and we can only hope it goes into production soon.

Image by Andreas Apelqvist

So then, just when you thought it was time to drag out your Korg KrossFour again, VJ Leo and VJ Fader appear on the horizon. Running a simple but effective Midi to RS232 conversion with the help of a Processing sketch, all you need for full on crossfading mayhem is a simple USB-RS232 cable and your midi controller of choice. More info at neuromixer.com/imixhd/ and direct download here. The code is left open source, so other artists can add their own functionality if desired.



Although an all hardware solution has plenty of appeal, a lot can be said for running the conversion in software as well. Since the overhead of the conversion is pretty low, and a computer very likely to be present anyway, a few other people have gone in this direction as well.

Tom Bassford, aka SleepyTom has made working versions of the conversion for Quartz Composer and VVVV. Also Anton Marini, aka Vade has gone the QC route, with source code available here.

With all the accessible coding platforms covered, there's no reason we shouldn't see the venue screens covered in glorious HD pixels this year! If you have any experience with the device and/or the software to control it, please feel free to share via the comments!

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*Spark D-Fuser DVI Mixer Official Announcement Video



Checkout this video where Toby presents the DIY DVI Mixer he is working on. He tells the tale of it's creation and then spills all the details: Two channel DVI mixing up to 1080p including "odd" TrippleHead resolutions like 1920x480. We can't wait to get our hands on this, it looks like a perfect mixer for VJ's. As more and more laptops are not equipped with analog TV-out anymore, DVI mixing becomes more and more a necessity.

Checkout all the details on tobyz.net.

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