Note: The DIY Series shares tips, tricks & insights rather than step-by-step instructions. Think of it as less a tutorial & more a jumping-off point. BPMC takes no responsibility for yadda yadda yadda.
Obtaining a JVC-TX88: Obscure first device to launch the series with, I know, but they do come up. I’ve found them on craigslist a couple of times and they seem to appear in waves on ebay. There will be nothing for weeks and then BAM three of ’em. Keep your eyes peeled and expect to pay in between 30 – 60USD. I promise you a rewarding bend.
ORIGINAL MANUAL: PDF VIA BPMC.
Fragmented pulsating text can be a nice addition to any glitch video setup. Of all the character generators lying dormant in the linear editing graveyard (and there are quite a few) I find the JVC JX-T88 to be the most intriguing. The JX-T88, also known as the BPMC Dead Language, was actually the first piece of video gear I ever cracked open (in a friend’s basement on top of a broken washing machine). It was the machine that answered the age-old “can you bend video shit” question for me. The JX-T88 just whispered into my eyes, “yessssssssss my child.”
Years later, The JX-T88 is still a lot of fun to work with and I’m rarely surprised when I stumble upon a new effect. Back in the day I spent a lot of time in the video amp section which produces what you would expect, a variety of edge feedback and synch corruption fx. But you can easily nab that on something else. The chips are where it is at and the bulk of the effects occur when you either route points on the text IC (the big guy outlined below) into one another or in to the smaller ICs which handle things like background colors, font size & scroll settings.
It’s easy to get carried away and start routing the ICs into caps, bars & what-have-you but being that the traces are on the other side of the board it is not recommended. You are your own cowboy/girl however, just don’t say ol’ pauuper didn’t warn you. Working within the 3 ICs below should provide you with all the glitch visual stimulation you need. (But who knows, there could be more, MORE…looosingggg sleeeeeppp).
To get started unscrew the three screws on the back panel and you should be able to lightly slide the keyboard portion of the housing off of the base. It is connected only by a ground and a small ribbon cable. While experimenting you will want to prop the keyboard portion up so you can still access the controls and the guts at the same time. The JVC is not super intuitive and the manual is definitely helpful in navigating it’s many functions. The key to bending is having text on screen at all times. While you may want to wrap your head around all the different scroll options and background colors (yadda yadda yadda) all you really need to know in the beginning is how to get some text on the screen. Luckily the JVC comes stock with a demo screen. Turn the unit on, hold the 6/Magenta key down until it blinks. Now press “create.” Viola! Regardless of how many times you crash and reset this thing you will always have this screen to easily return to. Should you write the great American novel and follow it up with a wrong connection then you will lose all text saved in memory. Have a steady set of bends and want to save something in to memory? In “create” mode hold any number/color combination button and wait for it to blink at you.
Oh yes, before we get any further…..
Beware the power brick! This thing’s got teeth! Take your watch off, remove your Mr. T chains & put your beer on the other end of the room. Pabst & AC don’t mix. It can be awkward trying to avoid this thing while you are working so I usually put a little insulated bubble-mailer on top of it. I’ve yet to get bit!!! But yes, watch out for that thing.
How to best tackle the controls? To get the most out of this machine and not spatially limit yourself I would recommend routing everything to a control box. To me, that sounds like a root canal but I can respect that route. There is next to no space for extra controls so you have to work with what you get. I used to toss knobs on the back panel with the inputs/outputs, but this is not optimal. There is a little strip of space in between the keyboard and the enclosure where you can either utilize micro toggle SPDTs (wiring all the middle poles together and one of two ends to your fx point), 3.5mm/tip jacks or my personal favorite, magnetic contacts. Either of these three options are great although the switches are a tight fit. Using 3.5mm jacks are great because if you ground them you have CV control, although it should be mentioned that I have not extensively tested CV on this unit.
This NEC IC houses all the characters that you want to mangle. I’ve outlined the individual points that, when routed into one another, inject a beautiful disease in to the circuit. You can crawl a little further down (or up rather) on the IC but you run a pretty healthy risk of crashing the machine. If in your experimentation this occurs just turn the unit off, unplug it and then plug it back in to fully reset it. Otherwise, if you just on/off it real quick you may have what appears to be a broken circuit and you may appear to feel like a broken human. But hopefully it is an illusion and you just have to unplug the little fucker. This has faked me out a couple of times now.
Soldering directly to the IC takes a little practice. Too much heat and you run the risk of ruining it. It’s not hard to do. Use a fine tip, no more than 365 degrees and a little dab of flux paste on your pin. If soldering wire to a pin gives you guff or a solder bridge is created, slow your roll a little, exercise some patience, carefully fix that shit and don’t hold the heat for too long. This is an instance where a temperature controlled de-soldering gun comes in handy. Those hand pump jammies are more trouble than they are worth.
Like I was saying, when you route character points from the NEC IC to the other ICs you get on that next level sssht. Not only do these combinations offset and corrupt the text but they perform color character skews, static fills, global color skews, rainbow fills & all sorts of nice destabilized text effects. So many that I never come close to fitting it all into a single control design. Find a point or two that you really like on the NEC IC and hit some of these established FX. The static fill is choice!! The rainbow strobe effect is psycho-fucking-tropic. Trip-enducing! It always kind of blows me away that this shit is just sleeping inside the machine. No developer ever thought, “hey let’s make this a feature!” Well, good thing you are here to make the right connections.
One last thing! While it takes a cranked signal to inject audio in to the characters and thus make them dance, it can be done. Just pick an audio input on the back to use (make sure not to wire off of the ground… easy mistake) and wire it to the center pole if using micro toggles. I wire it out to a contact on my magnetic patchbay setup. While it takes a lot of voltage to drive the characters it takes next to no voltage to drive a lot of the points on the smaller ICs outlined. Just be sure to feed your audio through a diode/LED when you are searching for connections to prevent damage to your audio source.
There it is. I hope you enjoyed this first edition of the BPMC DIY series. Good luck getting your hands on a JVC. I will be retiring them from production so there should be less ebay competition from yours truly. On the next BPMC DIY series I will be keeping with the NEC IC momentum here and guide you through some most excellent NEC Turbografx 16 modifications. Until then.
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