This summer, she performed at several festivals including Lowlands, Dreamfields and Untold, a new major music festival in Romania. Now, she’s back on Dutch soil. Michelle van Mil (VJ VeeMee and Board Member of Veejays.com) previously worked events like 3FM Serious Request, Intents festival and Dutch Fashion Week. What’s it like to perform at a major festival like Untold?
What exactly is Untold festival?
“Untold festival is the biggest music festival in Europe and winner of the ‘Best Major Festival of Europe’ award. This year, its second edition was once again held in Romania. Untold is a four-day festival with 8 stages, over 150 performing artists, and over 300,000 visitors overall. My team and I were responsible for the main stage visuals: singer songwriters by day and famous EDM performers by night, like Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren and Tiësto.”
What was your role in all that?
“I was the main stage video operator. That means it was my job that all screens showed the right visuals, as well as make sure all guest operators were able to do their job without any issues. We also created thirty-two intros and the opening and closing shows.”
What does that involve?
“Well, first, you have to find out the stage design and get to know your pixelmap. This is what we use to create our own shows and intros, as well as edit videos sent to us by other crews. Then we go through the line up, so we know which artist performs when. The last thing you want is to have Hardwell’s name pop up when Tiësto’s performing! We also get a lot of material from guest operators, like promotional clips or music videos. It’s my job to make sure those images are converted to the right” video codec and resolution. If we don’t do that, we’re in big trouble. Nobody wants to see the screen go black during Nervo’s performance. We also make sure all visuals are neatly catalogued, so we can immediately find the visual we need.” Smiling: “Whenever there’s a song about love, I want those heart visuals at my fingertips.”
How do you cope with stress?
“During the festival, we work anywhere from 12 to 20 hours a day. Whenever I’m VJing myself, I’m in direct contact with the light operator at all times, so we can deliver the perfect overall experience together. And I’m always on stand-by to help out right away if a guest operator gets
into trouble. There’s always something that goes wrong, and Untold is no exception. For example,
upon arrival at the festival, the client changed their mind about the font they wanted. That meant we had to re-render everything
, which caneasily take an entire day. And while that was far from the only obstacle we faced, nothing beats the feeling of getting all that trouble thrown your way, being able to fix it all in time anyway, and seeing the audience go crazy as a result.”
Video edit: Ivo Mulder and Quincy Vogelsangs
What better praise for a performer or designer than an audience stopped in their tracks, forgetting about space and time and wanderering around in the dream you’ve created? Such a spell can in many forms: an eye-opening message, a performer’s charisma, a beautiful sound, a unique setting. Or … a stunning application of visual imagination.
Below, we share four exceptional cases we encountered recently of international artists who seem to have this mesmerising power. They all explore novel ways of visual perception by seducing the eye to accept and enter a bizar imagined reality.
Dancers from another planet
A great way to create life like 3D characters is to digitize the essence of real people, using camera’s and software to ‘capture’ their postures and motions. This digital model is then ‘dressed’ with computer generated flesh and skin. Method Studios took this to the max using absolutely incredible textures and physics simulations. This video is meant as a showcase of what they can do with advertisers logo’s and identities. So it just goes on and on…
Walking through a fairy tale
Tokyo-based teamLab uses a mix of mobile devices, sensors and computer renderings, to immerse visitors into four different mesmerising worlds. You really need to check out this great report on CNN . One room e.g. is like a pond, where projections of Koi fish move around you according to your movements.
The office building Terrell Place in Washington DC has 1,700 square feet of special motion-activated display space installed on its walls creating a quite psychedellic experience. The interactive installation envelops the entire room in spiraling lights or nature scenes depending on the mood. Created by ESI design the walls can be programed to show a constantly changing series of patterns that are activated when people move nearby.
Bodypaint like you’ve never seen it before
Alexa Meade paints portraits on the human body that turn real life people into seemingly 2D works of art. You have to check the video to understand the amazing effect. It works so well because of her expressionist brush strokes. It is as though beautifully painted figure steps right out of the oil painting into the real world. You may have never seen anything like it!
These projects show that novel (applications of) techniques keep taking us by surprise, and there is thankfully no end in sight. And such innovations can make a lasting impression in the context of a venue or exhibitions, beyond ‘oh that’s funny’. These cases also show that the human body as a source of inspiration never grows old, and that there seems to be a trend towards more and more immersive experiences.
- More work of body paint artist Alexa made
- A somewhat similar project we did for the van Gogh Museum, using not paint put light
- Like this effect? With an app like Artisto you can try to artistify your own videos
- Method Studios the guys who made the crazy dancers
- Esi design who turned Terrell Place into a mad house
Thanks Roy Herrebrugh, Ginna Mora for pointing out some of these cases
Our VJs are constantly looking for new sources of inspiration. So they are really keen on discovering exciting events on design, video and technology. Introducting in this blog post: VJ Frouke ten Velden, who recently visited LPM. This is globally one of the leading conferences for video performers. Frouke is an independent video artist and VJ. She exhibits in the Van Gogh Museum, tours with the succesful band My Baby and teaches at the Rijksmuseum and the VjAcademy in Amsterdam.
“I guess we, Mankind, are not Mother Earth’s favourite children presently. But still, we also do have our charm. Bless the day we decided an axe handle could be more than just a plain piece of wood. That carving nice patterns into it’s surface was even more intersting than just using it of smashing skulls. Even better: what a great attribute to wave around whilst dancing all night by the fire, singing repetitive songs and drinking shady liquids that give us of visions of hidden worlds, or even of worlds that don’t exist anywhere but in our exalted minds!
Things just got a bit out of hand from there on…
Ever since that eventful day at the camp fire, mankind has passionately loved to dance, sing and have beautiful objects around – none of these inventions having any real usefulness whatsover. Throwing all these activities together, we created something even better: it’s what today we call a club night. Where musicians, visual artists, light engineers, laser artists, dancers, MCs, theatrical performers or even the audience work together, improvising and creating a unique synesthetic experience. For me LPM, the Live Performers Meeting is such an occasion, where I quitely celebrate that we have made these crazy, inspired inventions. For its 2016 edition, LPM conveniently set foot in Amsterdam, just around the corner of VeeJays.com headquarters.
LPM is an annual international festival, a meet-up for all live visual performers. Some people hold on to the nostalgic image of the VJ (hidden somewhere in the back of the venue, working on an improvised table made of beer crates), but definitely times have changed. The wonderful thing about LPM is that the whole VJ spectrum is represented. Everything between “I just don’t care about my 480p quality” to “I find it liberating to have pixeladed footage and I’ll spend weeks to build a plugin for that”. At LPM you’ll find a colorful mix of nerds, artisies, creatives, networkers, squatters, art-directors-of-creative-agencies, pleasure seekers and adventurers.
From politically engaged to surface design, but all next to each other, informal and improvised. It’s not only a privilege to witness all this for three days straight, it is also a very easygoing and inspiring environment. It’s the great felling of being among peers: “Words cannot explain, it is just a feeling ” (Hans Teeuwen).
LPM is a true meetup for (AV) liveperformers, for some it’s a showcase, for others an exhibition, but most of all its about sharing knowledge, inspiring, and experimenting. Besides the many (157) performances and art installations, one could attend lectures and various workshops. I checked out the workshop Tangible Interfaces, held by panGenerator, an interdisciplinary new media design and art group based in Warsaw, Poland. We explored how to use the physical world as input to trigger visuals using of sensors and technology like Arduino and Processing .
As often, the more you know, the more you realize you actually know nothing at all. However, this shouldn’t discourage us! The teachers wrapped up three days of workshops by emphasising that we should keep trying, keep experimenting and exploring. We could always design our projects first, and then, if we have to built something really complicated, team up with a gifted pro nerds to make it actually happen.
LPM hang out
The workshop was fascinating on many levels, everyone contributed his or her own fascinations and ideas. There were genuine hardcore or creative coders, a VJ, an artdirector, an adventurer and well, me. I was slightly disappointed to find out I was the only woman in the workshop. Thankfully, I was thoroughly cheered up as soon as my VJ sisters got to shine on stage at the closing concert. Meanwhile back in the laid-back LPM hangout area the conversations and exchanges just kept going on. And the event just isn’t a big crown magnet, so at some point there were just a handful of us in the concert hal. We couldn’t care less: this was our party! As a wonderful finale VJ VISH put a big cherry on my LPM cake by asking me to join her for a B2B VJing session. It all ended in dancing, admiring, cheering and celebrating the fact that once upon a time someone had the brilliant idea to carve some lines into an axe handle…”
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:
The profession of Video Jockey is even younger than that of robot builder. That’s why the Amsterdam-based VjAcademy can take on no more than five or six students per year—all subjected to a strict selection process—and still be the largest VJ education program in the country. At the Academy, students are groomed to create and operate video backdrops for festivals, concerts, conventions, et cetera.
Last week, the current VjAcademy class presented their graduation projects. Their assignment: create an interesting and surprising public video experience. Below is a summary of their work.
Mapping on a vertical rock garden
Japanese garden designs often include rough natural stones laid out in geometric patterns. VJ Lise Custers built something similar for her graduation project… only this one was vertical. She named it Floating stone. She then brought those patterns life with 3D mapping, enabling her to create a separate miniature projection for every stone in her design. Interaction seems to be a buzzword among young makers: in this case, the audience can influence patterns through Kinect technology. She’s currently still researching the most intuitive way to translate movement into visual effects.
Mesh sculpture projections
VJ VISH performs with young band Dialoque. For that reason, she has created a concert in A-Lab for a graduation project: Sea Through. VISH loves the whimsical patterns that appear when projecting on and around whimsical materials. In this case, those materials are clouds made from steel mesh, floating in the space between the band and their audience. The audience sees the visuals projected onto the clouds, as well as the playful interaction between light and shadow on both the band members and the space behind them. VISH constantly changes the color schemes, letting her organic, abstract shapes and patches twist to the beat.
Magnetic paint vibrations
Speaking of beats: VJs strive to perfectly match their videos to music. For his graduation project, Ferrocious, VJ Eigengeis made the musical vibrations themselves visible. He mixed up bright magnetic fluids, and exposed them to musical vibrations coming from a speaker magnet. The resulting video footage looks like the psychedelic liquid projection slides of the future, and they make great samples. However, not all music fits the bill: “Dubstep works better than Bieber.”
What would it be like to have ready-made visuals for when you’re throwing a party at your house? VJ AV Maria created a DIY kit that allows people to do just that: the VJ IT KIT. The first step is creating something resembling a dream catcher on your ceiling or wall using a patterned piece of paper, some thread, and a few nails. The switch comes from connecting a piece of hobby electronics (Makey Makey) to everyday objects like a coin or a piece of fruit, using electronic wire. The objects are each matched to a single effect and thereby become the buttons, creating a number of alternating video loops that match the pattern. It does require a projector and laptop, though, so it’s still a work-in-progress.
A kaleidoscopic hall of mirrors
Epic Visuals loves designing tunnel animations in Cinema 4D. If you project them just right onto a screen set inside a mirror cube, the reflections will form a never-ending spatial system: ‘InfiniT’. This abstract spatial adventure requires audience members to stick their head into the cube and allow themselves to become immersed in the reflection. Epic’s dream is to create an entire room using this technique. Spacey!
Looking towards the future
The VjAcademy graduation project forces students to think of new ways to create surprising video designs. This year, every single one of them chose to add an extra dimension to moving images by using physical materials: rock, thread, fluids, mesh, and mirrors. To put it differently: using video to make stationary objects move. The resulting five experiments each deserve a sequel.
All graduation projects were evaluated by an examination board consisting of professional VJs. The above-mentioned five candidates have graduated and are currently building a VJ career of their own.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 😉
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, 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.
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.