Slow-Scan TV


"Equipment: SSTV Transceiver (ROBOT etc.).
Transmission Medium: Direct Telephone or Radio link.
Signals from video camera converted into audio signals and transmitted via telephone or radio...received image displayed on video monitor. Each image takes 8.5 seconds for completion. Some amateur radio operators have built their own SSTV equipment...the ROBOT is a commercial product."
Source: Robert Adrian, invitation for "The World in 24 Hours", Winter 1981. link)

SSTV imagery from "The World in 24 Hours"

Projects using SSTV:
1979: Pacific Rim, by Bill Bartlett
1980: Artists' Use of Telecommunications Conference. The "Conference" was also the first global use of Slow-Scan TV (video images transmitted over the telephone) by artists. Slow-Scan equipment (Robot Research 530 transceivers) was in use in many, but not all, locations.
1980 - 1983: Wiencouver collaborations
1982: The World in 24 Hours, Linz.
1986: Planetary Network, Venice.

"Slow-Scan video is a two-way video-telephone communication process in which images taken from a live video camera are converted by a transceiver into audio tones and transmitted over telephone lines to another transceiver and then reconstructed into a video image on a TV screen. The resulting program is a series of still pictures produced at 8.5 second intervals, creating an effect like animation, with frames developing from top to bottom on the screen."
Source: Peggy Cady, Talk-Back, 1979 link)

Jeremy Turner: Did you find the Slow-Scan process frustrating or did it give you more time to contemplate your scanned image?

Peggy Cady: One would find Slow-Scan frustrating today - after video imaging, computer graphics, the net, video games - it all has come so far since then. There was no web then. It wasn't something that happened every day. It was live transmission of images over the telephone. The scanning movement, slowly revealing the black and white image, was very graphic and suspenseful.

Source: Interview with Peggy Cady about early telematic art, by Jeremy Turner, 2003 link)

Jeremy Turner: How exactly did you acquire the ROBOT VideoPhone for Bill Bartlett? How hard would it be for a Canadian Artist Run Centre to acquire the most cutting edge technology today for artistic use? What is your secret?

Norman White: I never owned a ROBOT VideoPhone, nor do I remember getting one for Bill. Slow Scan TV was never really my thing, although I can remember witnessing some brilliant uses of the medium while attending Worldpool events, where they used a borrowed VideoPhone (someone simply called up the distributor).

Incidentally, the event I remember best put the slowness of the technology (it took a number of seconds to build the image from top to bottom) to conceptual use: Sequential pictures of an apple being sliced, face-on, caused the lower edge of each new scan to mimic the edge of the slicing knife. I can't remember the artist, but it could well have been Bill Bartlett.

The problem with today's technology is that it runs too fast... and because most artists are brainwashed into thinking faster is better, "broadband" has infected the world's art fantasies. I've always said that if a telecommunication concept isn't eloquent at 1200 baud, it's probably not worth doing.

Source: Interview with Norman White, by Jeremy Turner, 2003 link)


"Since May, 1978, Open Space Gallery in Victoria, B.C, in co-operation with Estron Industries of Edmonton, Alberta, has conducted several live Slow-Scan video transmissions with other groups of artists in New York City, Memphis, Toronto, Oakland, Vancouver, San Diego and San Francisco.

Using a Robot Research Model 530 PhoneLine Transceiver, on loan from Estron Industries, Open Space Artists and Direct Media Association artists transmitted and received live video time-lapse images over telephone lines.

This video telephone set-up takes an image generated by a standard video camera and, with an 8.5 second digital scan converts the frozen image into coordinate audio-FM tones. This "audio image" is then transmitted over the telephone network to a similar receiver. The receiving video monitor reconstructs the audio information into a visual display. The resulting program is an 8.5 second time-lapse series, a montage of frozen images produced at 8.5 second intervals, creating an effect like animation or pixillation.

The digital scan moves from top to bottom of the video screen, and one can see the frame "develop." When the total image is "developed" it is held until it is dissolved by the following scan. No additional sound is transmitted, only "video images". What developed was a script of visual events, including some written signs for formal identification, but mainly artists communicated by changes in expression, movement, props or skits, similar to mime techniques. Sign language for the deaf was also used. Some transmissions included question and response sections between centres. There was also a relay among six centres during a teleconference link-up, each centre responding to the previous transmission.

Negotiations are currently being made to circulate the Robot equipment to other centres in Canada to continue experimental communications links with other artist centres and educational centres."

Source: Peggy Cady, Talk-Back, 1979 link)

Slow Scan Video Edit, Works in Progress, Bill Bartlett (1978-19) link)

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Page last modified on Tuesday 25 of September, 2007 11:28:10 CEST by 1.0.