A projection as main dish

Shakespeare once said, “All the world is a stage.” We couldn’t agree more! Recently, our friends at Vision Impossible created a full-length projection show that incorporated not just the stage, but also involved the audience members’ smartphones and even their dinner tables. VJ Berry van Dijk told us all about what it took to make that happen.

For those who don’t know you, Berry; what is Vision Impossible and what is your part in it?
We’re a 3D video content company specializing in event visuals and stage designs. Some of the things we did in the past include club Mazzo and Sensation. More recently, we’ve worked events like Vrienden van Amstel and Masters of Hardcore. I am one of three co-owners; my partners are Martijn Adema and Ruben Langedijk. As such, I’m responsible for art direction, creative direction, and computer graphics like 3D modelling and compositing. We always come up with pretty crazy stuff, and I love making the impossible possible—even when working with a limited budget. It’s all about using the right techniques!

Would you consider this show ‘crazy’ as well? How did you come up with it?
This was a project we did for an international footwear retailer. Once a year, they have a staff week that includes an award dinner for their entire team. It’s a real feel good event, with lots of winners in different categories: best salesperson, best team, et cetera. Every year, the CEO challenges us to come up with a spectacular show. This year, they had decided to host both the dinner and the award show in the same space. That’s how producer Erik Arens (Mindsetting) came up with the idea to somehow involve the dinner tables, kind of like what SkullMapping did with Le Petit Chef. Only this time, it would be 40 tables of 12 people each. And then of course there was the actual ceremony itself, and all the on-stage visual stunts that involved… Erik is one of our regular partners, and he asked us to help him flesh it out some more.

Can you tell us what kind of visuals the guests experienced at the event?

The silverware and plates at each table were meticulously outlined in a festive halo, kind of like using ambilight. Then, as dinner was being served, the guests all got a private show right on their plate. For each course, the wait staff knew exactly where to place everything. As a result, the soup plate became an island, the soup turned into lava as it was being poured… Perfectly timed—and extensively choreographed—for every plate.

How did you manage to keep things from becoming predictable as the evening wore on?
Met René te Riele and I created a truly over-the-top opening act that had people oohing and aahing. And of course, everyone there was hoping to receive an award. We used projections to turn the dinner tables into “Wheel of Fortune”-like quiz stages, and people could use a custom-made app on their phones to answer multiple choice questions. Meanwhile, the management was up on stage in front of a full-on prize display projection, whipping the room into a frenzy. We’d also used their image in the table animations, turning the entire room into a very lively augmented reality space. Top it off with some branding and good food, and the whole room came together as one.

What were the technical ramifications of the project?
The technique we used is called “projection mapping”. It means creating an optical illusion through meticulously calculating the shape and size of the table and other objects involved. In order to do that, we had 40 projectors suspended from ceiling trusses (metal frameworks used in stage design). And that wasn’t even including the projectors we needed for the stage! We’d never used that many projectors at the same time before. The projectors were connected to several media servers; basically, heavy-duty computers. Each table was color-coded so we could tell them apart, control them separately, and ensure proper timing. And then, of course, every table was itself split up into 12 different segments. All in all, we couldn’t exactly sit back and relax… Projects like these hinge on technology, and getting it just right is a tall order. But I love it when the audience has absolutely no idea of what’s going on behind the scenes, and people can just drink in the magic of the moment.

Thanks for giving us a taste of what it’s like at Vision Impossible!
Please tell me you’ll edit out the bad puns, though!


This production involved the following parties:

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A young artist is given a screen. What happens next?

If cinema is a moving novel, then video art is a moving painting. Or is there more to it than that? What is the difference between artistic cinema and narrative video art? The EYE museum has been on a roll lately, and is showing an increasing amount of this intriguing art form-to-be next to its regular cinema content.

It’s quite a tricky subject. While video art has been around for a while, it’s still very much a young and developing discipline. And just like cinema has developed a method of storytelling that is completely different from a book, video art creates an authentic experience of its own. For their Close-up exhibition, EYE has chosen to feature the youngest artists in the business. What are the results? Is it appealing? Exciting? And is it any good?

Beautiful emptiness

At the literal center of Michael and Florian Quistrebert’s work is a grouping of three projection screens showing flickering flames in ever-changing colors. I like it, because it shows how to skillfully design and project abstract images. They don’t pretend there is any more to it than that; there’s a reason they named their work Void Fires. Is it simply a great example of decorative moving art. Perfect to display at the airport or in the office lobby!


Supernova gone wrong

Two other designers who understand how to create truly new experiences with video art are Joris Stijbos and Matthijs Munnik (U-AV). After entering a darkened room, visitors get brainwashed by bright and feverishly pulsating color fields. The sensation is quite unlike any other. If I had to compare it to something, I would say it’s like watching a supernova derail.

Artistic fiddling

I like this approach, because it differs from the traditional way to use film footage; the makers are well-versed in the new technologies this medium offers. They’re obviously familiar with video creation, and go beyond mere “artistic fiddling” with film footage found footage. The same thing can’t be said for many others. Unfortunately, there is plenty of “random stains on ruined celluloid”, holiday video footage using cheap color effects, boring footage of construction sites or dead pigs to be found. And of course, there’s the inevitable “artistic” nudity. It’s not exciting, and I think it doesn’t do the medium justice.

David Verbeek, Full Contact

Drone pilot with a guilty conscience

However, it is definitely possible to use engaging and meaningful video footage to create an autonomous work of art. See for example Full Contact by David Verbeek, which doubles as a motion picture. It features well-chosen and perfectly edited widescreen images of deadly drone attacks, displayed directly next to and in sync with a masterfully filmed, full contact fistfight where the drone pilot tries to shut up his guilty conscience by taking part in a fair fight.


Christobal León en Joaquin Cociñ. Los Andes


And then there is Los Andes, a gritty installation by Christobal León and Joaquin Cociñ. This horror-esque stop motion features an office building being taken over by ugly materials brought to life, like black paint and tape. The whole thing is narrated by a native speaker in an ominous voiceover. The experience is heightened by the presence of monstrous sculptures in the room, made from the same materials and reminiscent of Inca culture. These guys really get it.

In conclusion

The work on display in Close-up greatly varies in quality, which is probably a good representation of the different approaches of and skill levels in video art nowadays. It’s not always world-class, but that’s not possible or necessary yet. There are plenty of obvious talents to make it a promising discipline.
I really only have one thing to add. Close-up also features a Research Lab showing work by students from several Dutch academies, but a href=”http://www.vjacademy.nl” target=”_blank”>oneof them is missing… EYE: feel free to give us a call! 😉

  • Close-up is open to the public until May 22, 2016, at the Eye Museum in Amsterdam. Open daily from 10 am – 7 pm.
  • For more information, visit www.eyefilm.nl/close-up
  • Special thanks to We Are Public
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In memoriam: Peter Rubin

Last autumn Peter Rubin, the grandfather of VJ’s, has passed away in Berlin, Germany. As we are working with cultural institutes to preserve his legacy, we thought it fit to write a brief in memoriam for him.

Peter Rubin
Peter, originally a New Yorker, was the absolute pioneer in live video art as early as the nineteen-seventies. He received wide acclaim as a performer and artist because of his work at many major film festivals. With ‘Maxavision’ he became a landmark of the early heydays of house music, e.g. at Chromapark, Berlin, Mayday, and legendary Love Parades. In Amsterdam, where he lived a large part of his live, he was one of the artists that made Mazzo such a legendary place.

Peter was also an intense observer of society and politics, and a livelong untamed critic of the 1%. However fierce, he stayed optimistic, challenging artists to use their medium to express meaningful ideas, not to just entertain. In his work and private live, nature was extremely dear to him.

Over the last six years, Peter has graced our own VjAcademy as a guest lecturer a few times, teaching our students about the origins and history of video art, the principles of visual rithm, and much more. It is thus that we had the privilage to share unforgettable conversations (yes, debate he could!), and carry with us a lasting call to make our work matter.

Peter, thank you for bringing moving colors to our world.

See also:
* A rare online glimpse of Peter at work, at Chemistry back in 1999
* A key thesis by Peter on VJ culture

Note: there is much we could’t fit into this brief post, and much more we just don’t know about his live and work. Feel free to respectfully add any memories or insights in your comments below.

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