Analog "filter" app sends photos through real CRT

InstaCRT sends your iPhone photo to a tiny CRT in Sweden where the displayed image is photographed and sent back to you. The CRT is actually a scavenged viewfinder from a 1980s VHS camcorder. Gotta love that digital to analog to digital warmth, right? Er, right.
 Wp-Content Uploads 2012 05 7097 7269076202 F22Cb71C71 Z InstaCRT is the result of an unlikely collaboration between developer Martin Ström, filmmaker Ruben Broman and photographer Erik Wåhlström. It's our response to an ever increasingly digital world. It's our response to all the faux photoshoppn' filters out there. Let's long for something real, tangible - in short, something really real.

Image above by Doctor Popular who also created "an instaCRT gif"


  1. Looks cool. Comments on the app say that a Gizmodo review brought it to its knees, so it’ll probably be unusable for a day or two after this as well…

  2. Ha, very good.  And personally I hope we can see a gallery of images that have been submitted, maybe in real time…

    But yeah, issues of scale definitely come to mind, especially since the processing appears to happen in the main thread, tying up the phone.

    1. Yeah, some better scaling on the app-side would be helpful, but the CRT itself should be able to process about 30 pictures a second if the camera taking the pictures could be synced to it.  I’d love to watch the CRT flicker-through all the incoming pictures that fast.

      1. If they did it that rate, I’d submit fully-black pictures so that I read the phosphor still glowing from the previous picture.

  3. I imagine a future with server racks full of scavenged camcorders and digital cameras, slaving away 24 hours/day producing crappy B&W images for hipsters on fixies. 

  4. Me again.
    What would be really cool is an app that sends your photo to a newspaper printer, prints it in half-tones, then photographs it and send it back to you.
    Saves all that tedious mucking about in software.

  5. In the future, I will grin smugly whenever someone skips over the 2-3 pages of photos in their album that they took whilst filters were “in”.  IMHO, this is no different. If you can select from a list of filters to make your photo cooler, it aint that cool.

    1. In that future, I’ll show you all the original photos I took, before sending them through the filter grinder.

      1. Sweet, my main objection to these systems is that no care has been taken on the application of filters in the majority of the collective output.

        If the originals are available, you will have earned your “too hip to be hip” merit and I may even show you my photos of when I was a teenage goth, because even I find them hilarious :)

    2.  In the future, I will grin smugly whenever someone skips over the rest of the pages of photos in their album that they took while “film processing” was “in.” IMHO, this is no different. If you can processing your exposed film to make your raw film stock look cooler, it aint that cool.

      Real fotoniks keep their exposed film in cans, and just KNOW they shot great work. Why f**k it up with different admixtures of chemicals, paper, filters, and exposure time? you might as well be shooting digital and processing it through software, it’s the same d**n thing.

    1. They found that focus groups got impatient if they had to wait for the film to be developed.

  6. Now this would be really awesome if all the setup in the video was just a trojan horse, and in fact this is just an automated gimp filter.

  7. Long ago, there used to be a free Photoshop plugin that did this, with a good amount of adjustability. Sadly, it never made the leap when Adobe moved to their Creative Suite scheme. I really miss that plug.

  8. It could be even better if there was a magnet on a motorized stick that you could activate by some control in the app. The magnet would goose the CRT image as magnets do.

  9. This kind of thing is a commonplace in digital music production: deliberately taking the sounds out of the digital domain to something to them, then bringing them back in. It gets called processing ‘outside the box’, where the box is the PC. For example, running a sound through an amplifier, or a hardware effect unit as opposed to a digital copy of one.

    There’s nothing wrong with it. I don’t understand the angst some commenters display, as though it’s some kind of betrayal to leave the digital domain. Sure, digital processing offers us a lot. Sure, it’s become the de facto option for doing things to sounds and to images. But we don’t owe it any kind of allegiance or loyalty beyond its ability to produce the effects for us we want, do we?

    1. I don’t think it’s angst about betraying the digital domain, I think it’s just snark at the pretension of “something really real” being sending your digital image digitally to be mechanically translated into analogue then redigitised to sent back to you digitally because of the implication that a “faux photoshoppin’ filter” makes you more of an ‘analogue poser’.
      It’s actually more of a posture than “yeah, I can’t be fucked using an analogue camera but I like to replicate their effects with digital filters”. It’s hipster squared.

      1.  It’s actually more of a posture than “yeah, I can’t be fucked using canvas and oil paint but I like to replicate their effects with glass plates and light.”

        Of course, the fresco artists look down their noses at wimps who use canvas instead of wet plaster…..

        And then there’s Mr. Ugh, who looks down his big, home erectus nose at anybody who leaves the cave to make an image. F***g poseurs, it’s hipster squared.

      2. Well, you know. If you’re doing it to look like a cool person, I guess. But if you’re a creator doing it to produce a specific effect, what’s the problem? The effect is either good or it isn’t, in any given case.

        Or maybe photographers just have higher standards for each other’s processes than music producers do? Us, we just care if it makes something we like. We’ll use pretty much any technique to make that happen; realness is largely irrelevant.

        1. Oh I agree with you.

          I just mean that the creator of this is specifically talking this up on how it’s produced (the “realness” of it), not the actual effect achieved; and I think that’s what people are responding to with ‘angst’.

  10. I am still wondering if this is ‘real’ … or just some clever ‘yet another filter’ app, that comes with a clever backstory … just how I believed the whole Hipstamatic story first.  …   I cannot believe that one old VHS viewfinder and one cam can work off the load that is coming in now …     The results are quite nice … but I still do not believe the story 100% 

  11. I really don’t get excited by apps, but this blows me away.  Very good melding of technology & art.  And for the record, this technique is really a variation on the Kinescope technology used to film old TV shows in the days before magnetic media.

  12. “It’s our response to an ever increasingly digital world. It’s our response to all the faux photoshoppn’ filters out there. Let’s long for something real, tangible – in short, something really real.”

    Finally, online hipsters have learned how to do something truly ironic.

  13. I think I’m finally getting it — if you don’t like it, it’s made by “hipsters.”

    Hipsters, with their chunky black glasses, t-shirts, and unkempt hair. Those, dirty, filthy, hipsters.

  14. I think this is a logical idea– why create an app that approximates old CRT images, when you can just get an old CRT and photograph the image.  Making a program that does it with a false effect seems far sillier.

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