Dance Practice. Sara getting ready to practice and me being silly in the projector at Pier 2/3.

Dance Practice. Sara getting ready to practice and me being silly in the projector at Pier 2/3.

A lot of people ask me “How do you do that?” and it is a pretty hard question to answer, because there is a lot of things going on at once! But here is the best explanation I can give.

From the start, this was a collaboration. Sara and I sat down over coffee and talked about what we wanted to do, and technically how we were going to do it. We were searching for music that was interesting to work with for both of us. After going through most of Amon Tobin’s catalogue we found some tracks that we both liked, but it still wasn't quite right, it wasn't live and it was already preset. So I asked my friend Anatole (Jono Baker) if he would be interested in making and performing some music for the project that was know as “VJ Dance” at that stage. He said yes and we met up in Sara’s garage and listened to his music and tried some stuff out. We settled on the music and I got to work on applying the visuals to it. 

Alright. Let's talk about how it was made!

VDMX is mission control for the Semaphor3 lights.

VDMX is mission control for the Semaphor3 lights.

The first section of the performance has ‘rainbow fragments’ that flick around causing quite a confusing pattern. This clip was created in VDMX using the line generator plug in, RGB trails (set as blocky rather than smooth trails - this creates the rainbow fragments) and the Cube iterator plugin. The cube and its many layers rotate making spirals and just a confusing pattern. This pattern was designed to be projected, rather than just on a screen, and it is also designed to be a bit confusing.

Rainbow Flecks and White Sticks. Notice the vignette applied to the rainbows.

After watching a doco I was inspired by the camouflage that zebra’s employ with their stripes. A whole flock of zebras has black and white stripes that make it confusing to tell where the edges of each individual zebra are. I really loved this idea, and wanted to incorporate the technique to remove the edges of physical objects that were being projected on (like a dancer). 

Screenshot of Lemur on my iPad. Made it really simple so I can use it live without looking at screens too much. The big pink box tracks an xy position to the Vignette effect to create a "spotlight".

Screenshot of Lemur on my iPad. Made it really simple so I can use it live without looking at screens too much. The big pink box tracks an xy position to the Vignette effect to create a "spotlight".

The flecks are 'mapped' to the dancer so that they appear on her and just slightly around her. How was this done? Kinect? Computer vision? Extreme choreography? No. Too hard! There is a vignette effect applied to the layer so only a small circle is shown. I then control the xy position of the circle using a control surface on my iPad using Lemur. All I have to do is watch and move my thumb to where the dancer is in the projector. As the first section unfolds and the movements become larger, the rainbows follow the dancer, and the radius becomes bigger until it takes over the screen. 

 As well as the rainbow flecks, you also have ‘The Universe’ which is the white sticks that are tied to a clicking sound in the audio track. This clip was created using a model of a geodesic dome rotating towards you, then flipped along the horizontal axis at 50% opacity so there are lines going in lots of different directions (but still with a similar motion). This layer is then used as a mask for footage I shot of oil and water in a colander with a moving light source. This makes the transition into the sticks a little smoother as the light source is constantly moving, revealing different parts of the ‘sticks’. It also gives the sticks an interesting texture that ties into the fluidity of the overall piece.

In the first section we also have large rainbow fragments which are floating in a large circle that is rotating through the x axis, meaning you are given an implied depth as the fragments move closer and further away from the “camera”. This is to add more light to the projection, to reveal the dancer more, while still providing movement and colour to the piece. 

The music continues and just before the next section the small rainbow flecks and the white sticks disappear so we are left with the large spinning fragments. We transition to the next section.

The new “universe” is made up of multiple layers of oil and water footage hue shifted to blue to give a floaty spacey feel. The different speeds, sizes and directions of the oil droplets give a sense of depth and constant fluid motion. This footage is also combined with a large rotating octagonal geodesic dome which has a constant motion and also implies depth. (That word depth is coming up a lot…) This layer is set to be audio reactive and the brightness will change between 50% - 100% depending how loud the bass is. Yeah! Thats pretty much it! If you have any more questions, get in contact with me! I'd love to know what you think! For now, here are some cool behind the scenes photos.

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Checking out the throw and brightness from the fat 4.5K Lumen projector I borrowed. So awesome! Thanks Dorian!

Checking out the throw and brightness from the fat 4.5K Lumen projector I borrowed. So awesome! Thanks Dorian!

Anatole being blasted with rainbow.

Anatole being blasted with rainbow.

I hope you liked this behind the scenes look, have a look at some of the other things I have worked on, see more of Semaphor3 here, or get in contact with me! I'd love to know what you think.