CRT TV GLTCH: Behind the scenes of QuestionSomething.



Alrighty, kids! You want it, you got it.

Time to dispel some of the glitchy mystery. If you want to maintain the veil of not knowing how it’s done then don’t read this. But if you’re a brave glitch wizard in training who wants to learn from another acolyte of technomancy then follow me down the rabbit hole…
This is my workstation when producing a good number of my still-image CRT TV glitches.


Welcome to my bedroom. Don’t mind the mess.

My camera is a Canon EOS 550D/Rebel T2i sporting it’s basic 18-55mm lens. It’s sitting in it’s usual position; on a tripod pointed at the old TV/DVD combi that used to be in my sister’s room when I was a kid.

When I experiment with manipulating VHS tapes (something that I’ve still only just begun to experiment with) then this is how I capture the material. The camera captures something that our eyes just don’t regularly see. Ignore your parents and get real close to one of those big-butt TVs if you’ve still got one. That’s a cathode ray tube television (CRT TV). Get closer. Check out those pixels.


What we’ve got here is a beautiful arrangement of red, green, and blue. Each triplet makes up a single ‘pixel’ on this screen.
The changing intensity of each colour changes what colour we see while watching TV, but don’t be fooled. All you’re seeing is a collection of red, green, and blue lines (or other times spots) that our brain is interpreting as other colours.

I’ll let Vsauce field this one. He starts off talking about the yellow that we see from TV screens, then starts a new lemon-related subject at about 2:17.

If you’re not interested in this at all, then skip the video.
You monster.

So my camera sits in front of my TV screen and captures whatever I put on the screen. I’ll leave talking about VHS manipulation for another time, because that’s not what I’ve been doing lately. The key to my current technique is this little fellow.


This is a VHS to video converter, and I got him off for just over £10.

Now what this does is to make it possible for me to display content from my laptop or PC on my old CRT TV.
Originally I had tried a VGA to RCA cable. Just a cable. I figured that that was just too simple, and I was right. It doesn’t work that way.

The video signal going from my laptop is too different to the kind of signal that my television can interpret. When I used a cable alone, with no converter, I ended up with stuff like this.

P1040063 (2)

This was…well actually this was pretty damn cool as well and I still use this cable from time to time, but it wasn’t what I was aiming for!

In order to display the content from my laptop on my TV screen I would need a converter; and this one has not disappointed.
It’s very simple to set up. Powered by a USB cable (which can be plugged in to either your laptop/PC or in to a wall socket if you’ve got a USB plug…thing) all you do is plug the VGA cable in to your machine, then in to the converter. Then you take your RCA cable from your converter to your TV screen and set your TV to the right channel.

20-P1070020 21-P1070021 22-P1070022 23-P1070023

By default my TV showed a duplicate of my laptop screen, but I changed the settings to extend my display and use the CRT TV as a second monitor so that I can go full screen or manipulate things on my laptop without disturbing the display.

This VGA to RCA converter has a selection of really helpful settings that can be changed using the buttons on the side of the device. For this tutorial example I’m using an image that silicongene submitted.



The settings are pretty basic. Most people will be familiar with what they each do already. You press menu to bring up the settings, navigate through the up and down arrows, and change them with the left and right arrows.
The zoom button basically just zooms in by a little bit. Not a lot to be honest. Then when you press it again it returns to normal.

OSD Background refers to the black background to the menu text.
Flick refers to the ‘flicker’. If the image is ‘flickering’ slightly, or there is an offset like you can see in the image above, then this can be used to correct it… I usually do what I can to try to make it worse.


And we’re here. You’ve got your VGA to RCA converter all set up, the content from your laptop set up on your TV screen and your camera on a tripod pointed at the screen ready to capture. Once you turn out the light to reduce any glares and reflections what do we do next? How do we glitch?

Are you ready for this? It’s a real doozie. A very complex series of actions that requires a lot of concentration that most can’t wrap their heads around it.

Particle physicists would struggle to perform the actions that I’m about to reveal to you so sit up straight, grab a pen, and pay attention…

You grab your VGA to RCA converter…
And you wiggle the RCA cable around a bit.


Wait, did I say complicated?


But before you unfollow my blog, eat a whole tub of vegan ice cream, and cry profusely in the shower just give me a second and let me tell to you a thing.

This works really freaking well.

What I’m essentially doing is taking the RCA cable and only letting it partially connect to the device. This makes the picture go crazy wild a lot of the time, interspersed between areas of it not doing anything at all. When you’ve got a camera set recording the screen at full HD, 25 frames a second, you end up with a good number of wonderful frames to play with. The camera captures those wonderful fleeting moments.

I use Abobe Photoshop CS3 Extended for my work, but I’m pretty certain that GIMP also has this same feature.

“Import > Video Frames to Layers…”


From there you are presented with a window where you get to select your video file. I imagine that GIMP might handle video files better, since it’s not an Adobe product. But Photoshop tends to only like QuickTime Movie files (.MOV files). Fortunately that’s what my camera shoots in, but if you want to use Photoshop there are various media converting programs out there that can do the job for you.

Quick Media Converter is one that I can recommend, and is absolutely free.

Once you’ve selected the video file that you want to import in to Photoshop you’re given another dialog box with a few other settings.
You can select what area of the video to import, how many frames, and whether or not you want it created as an animation as soon as you import it.


From beginning to end any video file less than 15 seconds long imports in to Ps very quickly for me giving me all the frames I needed.
After that you’re left with the task of going through and looking for any frames that you like.

I generally get a good amount of footage each time that I do this, and I’ve never not ended up with a large selection of wonderful frames to choose from.

Like this.


Or this.


From there you can do what you like with them. Alter the brightness/contrast/saturation, use them in other designs, upload them as they are, turn them in to an animated gif; whatever takes your fancy.

Something that I would love to do is to develop something else that goes between my laptop and my TV either as well as or instead of the VGA to RCA converter. Something circuitbent. Maybe just a circuitbent version of the converter itself.

The only problem is that I don’t know enough yet to make such a device! But I’m working on that.

A project for the future!

I hope this little behind-the-scenes look has satisfied you all.
This process isn’t a terribly complex one. Anyone can do it if you’ve got the bits and pieces that you need!
If you’ve got any other questions, or if there’s anything else that you want to see a behind-the-scenes look at, then let me know!

Until then, happy glitchin’.


Leave a comment


  1. Jyoti

     /  November 11, 2014

    This is so fab! Thanks dude ^_^

  2. Patate Deluxe

     /  March 31, 2015

    I just discovered your blog, I’m also a student working on medias, glitch and all that destructive stuff. This is fucking amazing.
    I will follow your blog and cry of happiness under a cold shower, eating vegan ice cream anyway.

    • Swedish Glace, perhaps? :P

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving your kind words! I’ve not glitched in some time, life’s been pretty hectic. But I plan on getting back in to it asap.

      Probably just as soon as I’ve finished my current project: Making a set of 2.5D modular terrain tiles for a Dungeons and Dragons game I’m going to be running… >_<

      Love to see some of your work sometime!

      (posting without logging in because I've forgotten my username and I'm replying from not-my-laptop…whoops!)

  3. Christopher Lin

     /  March 22, 2016

    Hey I was wondering if you knew how artists display on CRT-TV’s without any vhs player or laptop connected? Some artists are able to just have the tv play a video without any vhs players or laptops in the installation?

    • Hey there!

      They probably do have something connected, but that it’s just not visible in the installation. Might be connected through a wall, or through the stand if it’s on one. Or it might be pre-recorded on the TV, or being generated before your very eyes!

      Some TVs have the VHS/DVD built in too, so it could be that!
      Or maybe there’s some kind of wireless transmission thing involved.

      Long story short is that I don’t know but I imagine there’s ways to do it :’)


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