shop update restocked & back from hiatus !

heres some new updates about whats been happening / whats coming up at

after a summer hiatus spent working festivals / installations in new zealand (+ quality holiday time with friends and family) we moved to melbourne, australia in march 2024

current catalog restocked

since being unavailable in the shop since late last year we now have back in stock as pcbs, kits and assembled units for:

plus at least a few of everything else (theres only a couple _transcribe_ units left and these are unlikely to get a restock since i have plans for a newer version of this that will supersede it)

raspberry pi zero w’s in stock

also for the first time i am now stocking a limited number of raspberry pi zero w for recurBOY – if you order one along side an assembled recurBOY i will solder on the 2×20 and 1×2 headers and test the complete unit before sending out to you

a few foundations of analog video on breadboard

i am currently preparing for the second session of my interactive six part online coursea few foundations of analog video on breadboard – the last one we did was a lot of fun – you get a kit with this vga-breadboard module and all the parts to explore a number of circuit designs online with me and others.

the next one will be running this june/july, likely followed by another session in september/october if there is still enough interest. people on the waitlist (found at bottom of the link above) will get offered spots first before a general release of remaining tickets after that – so sign up now to be part of the first release (tickets on sale end of april)

WORKS IN PROGRESS – artist talks / behind the scenes at underscores

i have been doing monthly online talks showing various WIP projects – theres still a couple more of these upcoming – you can find the details here – also check out the recordings of the talks that have been to get an idea of whats coming up:

scanlines x polyphase community showcase

every year in april we celebrate the birthday of community space and forum with an open-call and livestream of recent works – its a fun time to come together and share what everyone is up to! for this one we are combining our screening with the seasonal showcase- check out the forum post / polyphase page for info on how to submit

upcoming releases

i have just built and tested the v1_0_0 release version of two_point_one_colorizer circuit – which i have written about already here – so this should be available in the shop within the next few months (just need to order parts, make kits, write documentation and film a demo video for this)

after this i hope next to release my installation-based software/hardware for tv wall and addressable led mappings followed by some new hardware designs tba

if you want to help support this research into developing open source video instruments please consider buying assembled units, spreading the word or donating directly

shop update updates & summer hiatus

heres a short update about whats been happening and whats coming up here at

summer hiatus

i have decided to effectively close the shop for 2-3 months over the summer here in new zealand starting from monday 27th november. i will be on and off the road for festival work and holidays plus moving out of my studio (and home) to relocate to melbourne.

there wont be any underscores releases or restocks during this time but for any remaining stock it will still be possible to place an order with the understanding that your items will ship by end of feburary 2024 at the latest – i will update here and on the mailing list when we get restocked and settled on the other side.

plans and projects for the new year

once we are settled and im back working in a studio space again i have a lot of projects i want to finish and share with you. heres a few of them:

works in progress

im also planning a monthly series of online talks hosted by where i share and discuss various works in progress from behind the scenes at

as you may have noticed by the sporadic updates, teasers and ideas thrown around here and elsewhere online, im much better at starting new projects than i am at following though, finishing and sharing current ones. im also not that comfortable with sharing too much about upcoming things publicly since it makes me feel bad when i cant meet the self-imposed deadlines or end up shelving them because i get overwhelmed. i want to get better at sharing the process and allowing room for feedback and discussions in these stages though. hopefully this informal format will help with this – would be nice to see you there!

design shop

designing and fabricating front panels for pcbs (using kicad and lightburn)

i’ve spend the last two weeks house-sitting at my parents place while they are on holiday. this has given me time to deep dive into some larger topics i have been meaning to get around to.

one of these topics was the design and fabrication of panels for underscores circuits (having unlimited access to a laser cutter over this time helped!). i made a half vlog / half tutorial style video to document this exploration – you can see on videos.scanlines or on youtube:

types of panels

sometimes i get asked if there are enclosures/front-panels available for the pcbs i sell (there actually have been a few community contributed designs for the recurboy and i_n_c_u_r circuits) but so far nothing from me. this will change soon with the addition of two enclosure options – stand-alone sandwich and eurorack front-panel for the following circuits:

  • sync_ope
  • recurboy
  • _rupture_
  • two_comparator_effect
  • i_n_c_u_r

originally i planned to prototype with laser-cut MDF (and share these files so others can laser-cut also) but only stock the FR-4 versions in the shop (since these would be cheaper and tend to look quite professional) – however after seeing the MDF i think i prefer them to FR-4.. i wonder if there would be any interest in stocking MDF (or even bamboo) lasercut panels too ?

euro-friendly designs

although definitely not eurorack modules themselves a number of these underscores circuits were designed to be euro-friendly, in the sense that you could mount them in eurorack case with the appropriate front-panel if you wanted to.

all the interfacing parts of these circuits are vertically mounted and the pcbs are at most 100mm tall. all circuits run on single-rail power (mostly 5v) but some have footprints for euro-power headers anyway and the others you could mount a vertical barrel-plug on the bottom of the pcb allowing a small eurorack-to-barrel-jack converter to sit inside your case and power from beneath:

as i mentioned in the video there are a few other things to consider when adapting to eurorack – the small slide switches i usually use sit a bit too low for comfortable switching (i would love to try 3d-print some switch-caps for these when i get a printer!) and i would recommend choosing longer shafts on the pots than the ones usually supplied with my kits…

its fun to see them mounted together in a rack like this however this conversion is not the same as an actual eurorack module version of these circuits – which i do plan to design one day (closer to that day now that i finally have a euro-case built) the true eurorack versions will:

  • use smd components and be designed to conserve hp
  • have interface parts chosen to fit panels better rather than prioritizing what is cheapest
  • layout of interface optimized for rack use
  • have proper eurorack power headers
  • hopefully expose some more of the controls with CV

my workflow for creating panels

this is shown with more detail in the video, but here is a written overview:

copy the pcb footprint into a new project and delete everthing except for the edgecuts, silkscreen and any footprints of interface parts

then replace each interface footprint with a edgecut hole to access it from the panel (based on a table of known hole sizes)

arrange the silkscreen however you want the panel to look – 3d viewer in kicad is useful!

when you are happy with how the panel looks you can export it – use the usual GERBER export if you want to get it fab’d in FR-4. my method for getting designs into lightburn was to first export from kicad as SVG and then open these SVGs with inkscape and save a copy as DXF (it seems like lightburn didnt like some of the SVG format that kicad creates)

once in lightburn put the edgecut and silkscreen imports on different layers – you can add thickness to the silkscreen using the offset tool

then set your laser speeds, check the material is lined up with the cutting area and make the cut!

design shop

introducing the two_point_one_colorizer

we have a number of new projects in the works – im hoping to release three more circuits before the end of this year – heres a preview and small overview of one of them!

underscores presents an adaption of Rob Schafer’s two_point_one_colorizer:

history of the project

the original circuit was designed by Rob Schafer on breadboard and shared on the facebook group Video Circuits :

since then Rob has moved on from working with composite video – (check out his youtube channel to follow his exploration of HD analog video) – but my interest in this circuit remains!

how it works

the way this circuit creates colour is both genius and extremely hacky!

the first stage is very similar to another underscores circuit adapted from Rob Schafer – the two_comparator_effect :

the signal passes through two comparator stages – reducing the signal down to this posterized effect with only white, grey and black visible – two_point_one_colorizer is similar but instead creates two colours plus black (hence the two point one)

colour on composite video is created with a sub-carrier signal – an extremely fast sine wave that runs over-top of the luminance signal:

the hue is selected by the phase difference between this sub-carrier signal and the colour burst reference.

on the next stage of the two_point_one_colorizer a sub-carrier signal is approximated using high-speed monostables and overlaid over these ‘white’ and ‘grey’ portions of the comparator outputs:

monostables generate square waves with variable pulse widths -which at this speed can approximate the sub-carrier signal with variable offsets (hue) – inverters are also used to shift the offset by 180 degrees – since this approximation is not perfect some colours are easier to generate than others – and some displays are more or less picky than others.

what i love about this approach is that it is less precise and predictable than (for example) generating colours with an rgb encoder – you end up getting some really unexpected results – and also some great colour glitches as the tv decoders struggle to make sense of the out-of-spec signal:

the adaption

back in 2020 i made a start trying to adapt this design to pcb with help from Rob and others from the scanlines community – a few of the mods made to the original design include:

  • simplifying the sync and burst pulse portions by using lm1881 instead of doing this more ‘manually’
  • swapping out the monostables for another ic – similar in spec but around 1/10th of the price (can still swap out for robs original ic if you would like!)
  • adding video by-pass toggle – making the circuit more usable in larger signal chains
  • adding more control over colour selection – a master colour offset that changes both channels together and sub-carrier amplitude that changes colour saturation
  • (attempting to) adapt the circuit to also work on pal cvbs – adding a switch to select sub-carrier frequency and also logic to implement Phase-Alternating-Lines

PAL troubles

i got a bit stuck on the PAL compatible part of the mod and ended up shelving this project for a bit while i focused on working towards the shop launch and polishing other projects.. still not sure that the PAL version is perfect – the Phase-Alternating-Lines mod never quite worked how i expected and the range of colours seems a bit less (could be just due to PALs faster sub-carrier though since the monostables are already being pushed to limits with NTSC). im sure there will be some displays that wont show any colours for PAL but to my surprise the three monitors i tested it on in my studio all worked with NTSC and PAL (a crt tv, a small car-reversing lcd and a easycap capture card)

the nature of this project is hacky and experimental so it is already wishful thinking to have it running consistently on all displays – I think the current version would be a useful tool in the studio of many composite video artists and im excited to see it out in the world!


a few foundations of analog video on breadboard – an interactive six part online course

things have seemed a bit quiet over on the research side of underscores lately – and not for lack of a (growing) backlog of interesting diy projects that we want to release !

introducing Polyphase Portal

its partly because i’ve been putting more time recently into an exciting side-quest: polyphaseportal.xyzan educational focused online space and media-art collective

together with some friends, organizers and educators we are creating a new online space to host educational programmes such as talks, live-streams, workshops and multi-week courses. taking encouragement from the success of PHASE SPACE in NYC we are aiming to facilitate accessible non-hierarchical learning over open and ethical technology – find out more at & join the polyphase mailing list to stay in the loop!

a few foundations of analog video on breadboard

which brings me to the next announcement – im teaching an online course !

you can read more about it and join the class wait-list on the Polyphase Portal here

no prior experience or specialized equipment is needed – this course will focus on the practical side of building modules on breadboards – you will receive a course materials kit in the mail that includes all the parts and components we will use.

the course makes use of this custom vga_breadboard_module pcb to interface between vga signals and the breadboard.

one day i hope to make this circuit and the corresponding course material kits + module designs available in the shop as stand-alone products you can build and learn from independent of this online course – but for now if you are interested you should sign up – it will be fun!


recurBOY update

since the underscores soft-launch there has been a few updates to the recurBOY project:

hardware update

the recurBOY circuit depends on more harder-to-source components than others in the underscores catalog. This is because it was originally designed only to be built together in group soldering sessions – where we would source all the parts for the workshop beforehand.

Now that it is a fully open diy project (with some people sourcing the parts for themselves) I have updated the build guide with more information about selecting these parts

recurBOY uses a 1.8 inch tft display (ST7735S) in a form-factor commonly found on ebay/amazon/aliexpress – unfortunately this is not compatible with the waveshare version – who i have found to be a reliable supplier of display hardware in the past (perhaps a future hardware revision should somehow allow this version of the display to be used also ?)

a bunch of screens to test

based on some feedback from users + my own exploration of testing these displays, I found that some of them were not working on the recurBOY r0.6 pcb. However when i tested the same (faulty?) displays with pin-jumpers wired to the pi directly they would always work!?

A laborious process of trial and error discovered that in particular the SDA pin ie SPI data input between screen and rpi was the problem – soldering a floating wire to this was enough to consistently fix this issue across all the “faulty” screens i tested.

the DISPLAY_SDA trace between PIN38 on pi and PIN5 on display is the problem!

I couldnt really see any difference to the signal before and after this “fix” on the scope, but my best guess is that the trace on the pcb is a bit too weak for some screens to read it.

example of part of the SPI message on SDA pin

I updated the pcb to make this trace much bolder – bumping circuit from v0_6 to v0_7_1 (v0_7_0 fixed it also but accidentally broke a trace on the rca out – whoops) and now every screen that I have tested works

same schematic -> different pcb !

all of this could have been avoided if we had selected a more reliable part from a reputable supplier – however this could incur also a large increase in price for the project + ( potentially ) more difficulty for diy-er to source in small batches.

for as long as we design with hacky parts occasionally we will need to make hacky updates – and i stand by this decision !

open projects have the flexibility to adapt to their changing surroundings and this is a good example of that!

software update

recurBOY was designed to distill some of the best parts of a r_e_c_u_r video sampler while running on cheaper hardware (a rpi_zero) and keeping the interface simple.

one feature of r_e_c_u_r that i use often and miss with my recurBOY is processing live-video feed (eg from a camera or another video-synth)

processing live input

running input from a piCamera over csi into recurBOY proved to be too much for the pi_zero to handle. To my surprise however it could seem to handle input from a usb-video device like EasyCap capture cards

i cant guarantee it will work with any usb-video-input , but now if recurBOY detects a device on startup you will get access to a third source mode that allows you to preview that input and apply effects to it !

self-portraits w recurBOY digitial effects !

img file & other updates

you can download new image file and see the full list of changes on the v2.1.0 release page but in short, a few of the other ‘quick wins’ i also added in this release:

  • usb_midi support – including independent shaderParam and effectParam controls
  • sampler mode now plays images – jpeg/jpg, png & gif (single image only) supported
  • output sd over hdmi – defaults to 640×480 and seems to handle this without lag

please let me know if you have any issues or find bugs in this release – it has only been tested by me so far (i will keep old image up too if you need the stability)

when looking for things to update i rely on the issue tracker on github – no promises but putting your suggestions here is the best way to have them noticed!


sync_ope psu revised

tl;dr – i updated the sync_ope psu design to only require single supply 12v dc to run – this version ( v1_0_0 ) is available in store now

as discussed in this earlier post i decided it would be best to upgrade the sync_ope circuit to not require a difficult to source AC-AC adapter.

the schematic for new power stage

the new design uses two LM2575-5.0T step-down regulators, with one in inverting buck-boost configuration to generate the negative rail.

Part sourcing and testing

the rest of the newly required parts are easily and cheaply sourced from tayda – only the regulators themselves proved a bit more difficult:

I first tested the circuit using these Microchip LM2575-5.0WT s from mouser, which performed well while adding ~7euros to the BOM

next I explored a budget alternative – these (probably fake) National Semiconductors LM2575T-5.0 from aliexpress for about 1/10th of the price.

these two are not the same…

when powering the circuit from my 12v_1.5A supply both versions successfully generated +/-5v rails, however when i tried a cheaper 12v_0.5A supply only the more expensive regulators succeeded.

+/-5v rails as expected

the cheaper ones sat around 1v on one rail, and the other jumped to ~2v before falling back down to zero – while also quickly overheating enough to burn my (foolishly unsuspecting) fingers

not at all as expected (also HOT!)

this behavior is addressed in the TI_datasheet:

the start-up input current of the buck-boost converter is higher than
the standard buck-mode regulator, and this may overload an input power source with a current limit less than
1.5A. Using a delayed turn-on or an undervoltage lockout circuit (described in the NEGATIVE BOOST
REGULATOR section) would allow the input voltage to rise to a high enough level before the switcher would be
allowed to turn on.

however my various attempts to use delayed turn-ons / larger input capacitors failed to correctly bootstrap the circuit with these regulators.

i found online a description of a problematic similar sounding method to generate +/-12v rails for eurorack that seems to use fake buck-boost regulators. Im not sure if this is in any way related, but still.

a nozoid eurorack supply using aliexpress regulators in inverting buck-boost configuration

im always game to try out cheaper parts from questionable sources – in many cases they can be just as good for a fraction of the price. but in this particular case, given:

  • that in general you shouldnt cut corners on power-supplies
  • it failed for me in a way that could hurt people
  • there is reports of related issues using similar parts online

Im happy to stick with the more expensive mouser sourced regulators !!

plus now i can run my sync_ope from a single 5v_usb with this cheap boost supply (i know – iv learnt nothing !)

version control

this is the first major revision I have done to an underscores circuit that is in production. it is a good opportunity to think about the process as I want all these projects to be living / always improving.

I created a branch in git for this release and committed all the changes over the last few months to this feature branch – this ensures the changes and revisions are available yet also preventing people downloading WIP gerbers from the main page.

when everything is tested and ready to go i can then merge this feature branch into main.

on release i also need to update the project in a few other places:

  • the shop description
  • the circuit booklet
  • the circuit images (in this case decided not to bother with these)
  • the video walkthroughs – videos.scanlines is fine but youtube will not allow for editing existing videos so i either need to re-upload a new one or find a way to amend the existing one


sync_ope psu reverie

tl;dr – im thinking of making a revision of sync_ope to replace the ac-ac psu input with a standard switching ac-dc one

UPDATE: this has been implemented in v1_0_0 – read more about it here

sync_ope is a project iv been collaborating with Gael Jaton on for a few years. initially a concept dreamed up and tested on bread-board, iv worked on a fair few design iterations based on feedback and support from the wider community – we presented a prototype of the concept at FUBAR_2020, and continued improving it via discussions on the scanlines forum.

a over-simplification of her beauty

its been quite slow progress – and like many diy / community driven initiatives (who get passed around and only prioritized in short bursts & on productive weekends) has some built-in identity insecurities:

  • sync_ope is designed to be diy & beginner friendly – spaced out across all of a 100x100mm pcb- with footprints for even the specific video-ic’s in DIP packaging
  • the use case however requires already owning analog-glitch devices, and having pre-established capture flows where sync dropouts are a problem
  • the circuit is strictly analog, and more complicated/advance than many of the other ‘entry level’ underscores projects iv been prioritizing – one LT1251 ic can cost more than a single-board-computer!

Many similar projects in this realm would have fully committed to serving (only) the eurorack video synthesis community – where there’s an active base of designers and users creating complex functions with analog circuitry:

the advantage of this is you don’t need to (re)design common function blocks like power supplies and enclosures – there is even many design best-practices to follow to ensure compatibility

an (ac-ac) eurorack power-supply and case

the problem i see with this approach is that it can be off-putting for some people who havnt fully invested in the modular setup – where certain design preferences and restrains do not apply to them. by only serving the established (and well-enough off) we risk alienating those on the fringe.

the beauty of the sync_ope circuit is it can be just as interesting and useful in a mess-of-circuit-bent-mixers&diy-guitar-pedals as in a large modular synth system

the muddle

technically, the circuit requires a dual power supply to operate (unlike some of my other projects which can be run from a single usb-supply)

this is common and expected in euro-rack-land where all systems carry +/-12v rails. however it is less common for the average ‘non-modular’ hardware setup…

sync_ope’s power supply schematic

the current design has both a eurorack header – that takes +-12v straight from the rails – and a 12-15 AC barrel-jack input – that uses a Rectifier Diode Bridge to convert alternating current to dual dc.

i thought that this implementation struck a balance between serving those who may want to rack-mount it (atleast, all the interface controls are front facing!) and those who will just wanna plug it into a wall.

however as i prepare to distribute a small number of these circuits internationally im discovering that AC-AC wall-warts can be quite tricky to come by.

a search for ac-ac adapter returning a page of AMAZONS-CHOICE for dc ones doh

a different approach that i have been seeing recently is to start with a single dc supply and use a step-down regulator in inverting buck-boost configuration to generate the negative rail.

since composite video sits around the 1-2v range +-5v is plenty of headroom for this circuit to operate. we could start from any single dc 12v wallwart (or the positive side of a eurorack-powerrail) and create the dual 5v’s we need onboard.

lzx are powering their new 3rd gen modules with 12v single supplies and syntonie has optional dc_psu_boards for their cbv* line

syntonie’s stand-alone to euro-module adapter board

although the (ac-ac) current version of sync_ope is available in store now im already thinking about making another revision to the board to use single dc supply instead.

it could follow a similar configuration to Bastiens psu schematic below – instead using LM2575T-5.0 to create the +-5v rails we want. this change may increase the total BOM cost slightly – but since its already quite an expensive circuit i also think its worth ‘doing it right’

syntonie’s CBV002_PSU_Schematic.png

i can already imagine another future revision with smd parts and a more compact ‘rack first’ interface design that would better suit the modular crowd. but for now i will continue to try bridge the gap between this and a more hacky diy approach.

if you understand the ac-ac psu problem im describing and want a sync_ope now anyway then this version is for sale right now in the shop! but if you think you would rather wait some more months and hold out for an ac-dc supplied version then this is also an option for you too !

the beauty of open source is multiple forks of a project can co-exist. time will tell whether this revision will be a direct successor of what we have now or an alternative version


silent-launch set for oct_16_2022

its been a long time coming but finally this month a limited number of pcbs, kits & assembled units will be in stock for all 8 current projects in the underscores catalog

the best laid plans…

if you saw my introducing underscores vidicon talk from last year you might remember my rough roadmap:

  • first 3 projects in stock by end of feb 2022
  • next 3 projects in stock by end of june 2022
  • another 3 projects in stock by late 2022

the idea was to try focus on bringing batches of 3 projects to market – avoiding my usual mistake of taking on too many concurrent ideas, but still benefiting from batch efficiency / parallel processing

this would also open up feedback cycles for the general processes before getting too far along in any one direction

as it turned out a number of setbacks delayed the shop launch:

  • covid related shipping disruptions early this year made distribution from nz near impossible
  • recurring issues with the sync_ope circuit caused me many revisions and much confusion
  • i was away from my studio for 3 months over nz winter – traveling in australia and then visiting berlin

more the merrier

although distribution needed to be put on pause, this didnt stop my research and development ! as others projects approached a stable state i decided to add more and more to the launch line-up

the final result is an 8 product launch (although some of the more recent additions still needing proper photoshoots and demo videos)

one main advantage of this is the ability to combine shipping on mulit-orders. it works out to be a similar price to ship 3 products as it is for 1 (this calculation based on weight is built into the shopfront) so with more in stock at once you will have more options to combine and save money !

silent launch ?

im calling it a silent launch because at first there will be very little announcements regarding this. ultimately i plan to try keep everything more or less available (restocking projects in batches of 10) but currently i only have parts for between 3-8 of each project.

while managing such a large inventory i want to avoid being overwhelmed at first – i will stagger the announcements of the shop being open to allow time for feedback from early adopters and any adjustments needed to my workflow – also these initial orders can help fund the 8x10_bulk_part_order for a future full shop restock