Special Stage Systems, a technology company based in Seattle, WA, is preparing to release their latest piece of hardware, The Ming Micro, later this spring.

The Ming Micro is an audio/video synthesiser featuring USB and MIDI control. Although this device can act solely as a video synthesiser, users can connect either their MIDI devices to play audio into the synthesiser or have their audio connect via USB.

The Ming Micro can change the way people experience live performances, allowing its user to create and manipulate video in real time. In other words, when an instrument such as a MIDI keyboard is played, it generates art based on the data from the audio. The Ming Micro, being portable, can bring a whole new type of visual experience to live entertainment. The visuals from this synthesiser, because it’s only 8-bit audio and visual, looks and sounds like something out of a videogame from the 80s.

Synthtopia.com defines the four main elements that the user can manipulate with the graphics engine on the Ming Micro:

  • Sprites — small moveable objects that can be freely positioned anywhere on the display
  • Tiles — graphical blocks that are positioned on a 10 x 12 grid to compose scenes
  • Tile Maps — diagrams that specify which tiles get drawn in which grid locations
  • Palettes — colour definitions used to render the tiles and sprites

In most cases, there are pre-made visuals that can be synchronised with a performer’s music. However, it would be a different experience to have visuals created in real-time as the artist performs, especially with the 80s style pixel art that the Ming Micro is capable of.

Oil color visuals, such as Drippy Eye Projections, have been gaining popularity in the past few years along with the psychedelic music scene surrounding it. Comparatively, the art of Drippy Eye Projections is made by hand, with someone mixing color and oil onto a projection screen that shines on performers. The drawback of techniques like this is that art such as oil color projections can’t be shared easily. The Ming Micro has an SD card slot to save the visual settings that the user programs, allowing it to be shared with other Ming Micro users.

The Special Stage Systems Kickstarter campaign set a goal of $10,000 to fund packaging and full-scale commercial production, and has surpassed that goal raising close to $24,000. With over 140 backers on Kickstarter, Special Stage Systems will be releasing the Ming Micro later in 2016.