Archive for March, 2007

The Optigan Project

Last Friday I mentioned a new project requiring laser transparencies. Well here is the deal: I have this weird organ called an Optigan. I’ve probably talked about the Optigan before, but just to recap, the Optigan is an optical organ made by the Mattel Corporation for the home organ market, which was apparently quite big in the ‘70s. The Optigan was vastly different from all the other organs on the market in those days. Instead of generating sounds electronically, the Optigan would playback actual recordings of instruments via a transparent disc. Audio waveforms were printed on these discs much like an optical soundtrack found on projection prints of films. Each disc was based on some musical theme, like Bossa Nova or Big Band, with studio professional providing the raw material for the discs.

So I’m pretty sure I can make copies of these discs, which have been out of production for around 30 years. I’ve done some tests, and scanning these discs seems pretty doable. We have a large flatbed scanner here at work big enough to do a full scan, but I’m a little concerned the resolution might be insufficient (it tops out a 600dpi). Of course I won’t know if the resolution is adequate until I can actually print a test disc. Which brings me to the question I posed last week regarding tabloid plus transparencies. I’ve found two places online selling that size, but I’ll have to buy 50 sheets for around $60.00. I’m still kind of on the fence about dropping that much coin on something that may not even work, but I suppose if all else fails, I can use the sheets for printing super 8 utilizing the England Process.

Can you tell which one is the copy? Click here for a larger image.

Ultimately, I would like to create my own Optigan discs using completely original sounds. Maybe create some Brian Eno style soundscapes for the Optigan – it gives me butterflies just thinking about it. This would be a huge step beyond just copying discs, since I would have to create some kind of template in Illustrator to paste audio waveforms on. And I would need to find a way to export waveforms as scalable vector files. But it would be fantastic if I could get this to work. Maybe even sell discs online to pay for the project? Stay tuned for updates on the project.

3 comments March 19th, 2007


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