Thought I’d share this with you. I have a list of blogs related to live visuals and VJing that I follow. Here is a feed that collects the posts from all these blogs. Enjoy…
Here’s a short segment I did with a video projector and an orchid – not an image of an orchid but a real live house plant. I projected images made with eMotion and the Quartz Composer Soundflower patch onto the petals of the flower.
I had a hard time finding a headline for this post. The thing is that something is happening in the VJ/visuals world that is getting me very excited. That thing is a new technology on the Mac called Syphon. At this point I think only a small circle of programmers and techies are aware of Syphon as it hasn’t yet been released. I think it’s going to have a tremendous impact on the way realtime visual apps (think VDMX, Modul8, Resolume) and visual programming environments are going to work in the future. Let me try to explain.
Update: As of today November 3rd, there is a public beta for download for Quartz, FreeFrame, Unity 3D and Jitter.
Today each visual app or VJ app is like a closed cage. You create your graphics and it is then sent to your monitor, your video projector or whereever. The output of the app is locked. It cannot be altered after it leaves the app.
Imagine you had two apps each producing a live image. Up until now there has been no good way to combine the outputs of those two apps into one image in real time. Like if you created a background in Resolume and a nice particle effect in Modul8. You would have to save one of them as a file and then import the movie into the other app. Or you would have to use a screen grabber to catch the image from Resolume and put it into Modul8 in real time, but that uses a lot of the ressources of your computer and tends to slow down the other apps if you are not careful.
So in reality most people working with real time visuals just get used to preproducing clips and importing them into their favourite VJ app. And in general you just have one visual app open when you perform live. But why should it be like this? Why can’t you e.g. have one specialized app for producing a nice 3D background and bring that into your favourite VJ app to play with? Or why can’t you bring the output from your VJ app into another specialized app that puts some final touches onto the image before sending it to the screen?
Syphon seems to bring the answer for this. It is a sort of bridging technology – Mac only – that allows applications to ‘talk to each other’ and exchange graphics in real time without any delay or loss of image quality. It only works internally in one machine at this point (I think – Syphon people correct me if I’m wrong) but it still brings a lot of potential for those who perform with visuals live.
One example of this is the MadMapper software. This is currently also in development and has not been released yet. This software allows you to use the output of any Syphon capable app as material for a mapping installation. The MadMapper allows you to split up the image into areas that can be projected onto an object. In this way you can produce your images live in another app of your choice and then let MadMapper handle the final alignment of the image onto the object.
I hope you can share my excitement here. This is just one example of why we should ‘open up the cage’ and set the visuals free. If Syphon catches on I think everybody is gong to benefit from this ability to exchange visuals between applications. My bet is that we will see more specialized applications for live visuals instead of giant VJ apps that try to include every possible feature. This is a good thing in my opinion as I think the overall quality and the number of options available will benefit from this.
Thought I would briefly let you all know that I have now become a full time visualist. Until recently I had a part time job as a web developer to support my crazy addiction to visuals, but a happy turn of events have allowed me to dedicate myself fully to visual projects from now on.
This has become possible because I have joined the Copenhagen based group Obscura. Obscura now consists of 4 people Frederik Hilmer, Thea Collett, Kasper Rasmussen and myself. Obscura does large scale visual installations for events be it concerts, award shows, parties of different kinds and hopefully there will also in the future be room for a few self financed experimental projects.
Here’s two of our recent jobs
Actually although Obscura has lead a quiet existence when it comes to exposure on the web, Frederik has been working under this name solo for quite a few years dating right back to 1998 when he started out making installations using slide projectors. Today he’s still the anchor person of Obscura with his attention to detail and dedication to inventive solutions involving many pieces of specialized gear.
Obscura doesn’t have an active blog at the moment so until further notice I’ll continue to post here on Udart. Also there’s an Obscura Facebook page (in Danish).
The Danish act Nattefrost have asked me to create a music video for one of his latest tracks. Instead of just copying the visuals I use when performing with him live I decided to try and do something else. I came up with this idea of filming miniature projections. Have a look.
The track is taken from the album “Transformation”.
To buy the NattefrostÂ releases please visit
For more info about Nattefrost please check the websites
Recently I have had the pleasure of working with Linda Edsjö a classically trained percussionist and composer Simon Christensen in developing visuals for a piece of modern compositional music. The project was unusual for me as we decided to try to connect the visuals computer with the computer that was running the musical backing track. That way it was possible to obtain a perfect sync Â between music and image.
The music was composed as a piece in the Max/MSP software and this was linked to Modul8 (the visuals) through midi. The music software was sending midi on every beat and another midi signal whenever the music entered a new section of the piece.
To achieve the result I wanted I had to program two small modules for Modul8. These modules were in charge of turning layers on and off, applying effects and switching between images.
At live concerts video projectors will typically point to the stage and video will light up behind the band. The challenge is to enhance the message or mood of the music without obstructing the listening experience. But at this installation I made for the local Stairway Festival the projectors pointed to the side walls of the room instead. Here the video images became part of the light design and the aim was to transform the rather dull and sterile looking room into something interesting and appealing.
As visualists have noticed already and known for some time now, projection mapping is cool. And now it seems that this technique is going mainstrem in a big way as it is beginning to be used more and more in commercial contexts. In my city I am noticing more and more outdoor video projections – some of them using mapping techniques.
For those who stumble upon this article and are not familiar with the term, projection mapping is the technique of beaming video (with a standard video projector) onto three dimensional objects and adjusting and masking the image so that it seems to follow the shape of the target object instead of spilling out onto walls etc. The result can be surprisingly effective and eye catching as the video is no longer a flat square on the wall but becomes an object in space – an animated sculpture if you will.
However besides this definition it might be difficult to explain to clients and others outside visualist circles exactly what is the big deal and what is the value of projection mapping and so we need to be able to point to good examples. I’ve tried to collect a few of my favourites.
The first one I have included because it clearly demonstrates the technique applied to a commercial context perfect for a store interior or a window display. This mapping display was developed for the MINI Cooper store in Paris:
The technique used is simple and affordable for a trained visualist. In the above example the software Modul8, three computers and three video projectors were used.
The technique of projection mapping can be taken much further and the above example does not really show the full potential. Giant outdoor video projections onto buildings using advanced 3d animations creates a stunning faux 3d effect. The example in the video below is not the first work of this kind, it has been technically possible for some years now to deliver projections on this scale, but this new years show is a humourous and well made example:
Finally another fun application of the technique onto a tennis court. Actually no advanced 3d here, just some simple 2d graphics. But I like the innovative idea of using the shape of the court. The creators also did use the opportunity to project the classic video game ‘Pong’ onto the playing field.
In Modul8 you’re able to play Quartz compositions (.qtz files) just by dragging them into your media bank like any other movie. However there are a number of problems with this approach:
No 1. Performance. I have done tests and often there is a severe drop in framerate for qtz files in Modul8 compared to the framerate in the Quartz Composer editor.
No 2. You cannot decide the rendering size of .qtz files in Modul8 (in version 2.5). They are always rendered as 640×480. In Modul8 v2.6 you can set the size in Preferences but there may be many situations where you’d like to set the size for the individual files.
No 3. You cannot set the duration of .qtz files in Modul8. Duration will always be 30 sec.
I find that these problems can be solved by following the steps below and converting the .qtz file to a .mov before importing it into Modul8.
If you have Quicktime Pro (as you should – it’s sort of a vj’s swiss army knife) just
1 – open your qtz file with Quicktime pro. Then
2 – resize the viewer window to your desired size. You can hit cmd+I to view the current size in the inspector.
3 – Save the file as a .mov using ‘Save as’ where you have the option to set another duration eg. 60 sec.
Now you can open the mov file in Modul8 and it will have the size and duration you want plus in many cases the framerate will improve. Note that even though the file is called .mov it is still a Quartz composition. It’s just been wrapped in a Quicktime packaging.
Also note that if the size is too big you won’t gain better performance even if you scale it down inside Modul8. You’ll have to scale down the mov file in Quicktime until you find a size that works.
Hope this works for you