Visuals are a big part of the Tycho live show and I’m often asked how they were created and presented in a live setting. The answer is VDMX, a modular video performance platform. For those of you familiar with video editing / effecting, you could think of it as a stripped down, real-time version of After Effects where every parameter is controllable via various protocols (MIDI, OSC) and even by other parameters. It can mix multiple sources using blending modes like multiply and color burn all while utilizing Quartz Composer effects.
I’ve been using VDMX for a few years now and it’s become one of those tools that I can’t live without. Because it’s modular, VDMX’s interface can be arranged in any way you prefer. I personally use three video decks with and effects bin on each and then a master effects bin. I trigger clips and modulate parameter via MIDI over IP from Reaper running on a Macbook Pro w/ a Vertex 3 MAX IOPS drive (VDMX eats data bandwidth alive!).
VDMX is an incredibly deep and flexible application which I have yet to see any real limitation to. The workflow and functionality is so abstract that there are myriad ways to accomplish pretty much anything you can think of. And therein lies the only real problem I can find with VDMX; the flexibility and modularity afforded by the abstract way in which the application functions comes at the expense of usability. The learning curve is very steep and many of the initial concepts are a little tough to wrap your head around. Vidvox (the developers of VDMX) have put together some great tutorial videos which can help move the learning process along.
Thankfully a new version is out, and with it come some very helpful additions and changes. VDMX 5 is an entirely new program, written from the ground up. For those coming from older versions a lot of the way VDMX works will feel familiar. But you’ll quickly notice that some subtle changes in workflow make a big difference. I just started learning the new version during this current tour and it was pretty straight forward.
VDMX, while certainly not geared toward the casual user, is one of those apps that will allow you to grow into it. The relatively steep learning curve will pay off pretty quickly when you realize just what it’s capable of.
Shooting at 2000fps never gets old. A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with the Olympus iSpeed 3 from Jordy Klein. The iSpeed 3 is a high speed camera that can shoot up to 2000fps at 1280 x 720. It will actually shoot 1280 x 1024 if you want it to but most of us are looking for 16:9, 2:1 or 2:35:1 ratios. I won’t go into too much technical detail, but I’ll respond to any questions about the camera in the comments. It has an on-board CDU (Controller Display Unit) which acts as a monitor and control. Phantom cameras have been using something similar as well, but it’s great to see the progress. This feature is big for high-speed cameras because it means you can be more mobile. It used to be, and still is, that you control these types of cameras via a laptop or desktop computer, the CDU changes that. One other feature of the iSpeed 3 is that it saves to compact flash cards, which we all have. It’ll save uncompressed and a fairly compressed AVI file, as options. The uncompressed file is really high quality for use in post, but takes about 30 minutes to save to the CF, not good for swift production. It was fun to have a camera like this to use on my own for a bit rather than a quick production. However, it was a little overwhelming with the time constraint I had it in to think of stuff to shoot. The most interesting thing, and I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets here was driving around downtown and shooting out the window. Since it’s such a high frame rate you get dolly type shot with people almost frozen in time. I’d like to try that down the road more. Mostly, the things that look the best are the most ridiculous things like breaking something or water.
Shoot anything with water and it’s instantly magical.
Big thanks to Jordy Klein Film and Video, if you need rental equipment definitely check out his site or give him a call. Also thanks to all my friends that subjected themselves to all the random stuff I was egging them on to do.
I’ve posted the few pieces I’ve shot with the camera. The first one up top is a reel of everything I shot in the short time. There’s a bunch more footage, but it’d be dreadfully long if I edited it all together. Hopefully next year I’ll get to test another one.
Be sure to check out Tycho’s tour in 2012, there will be a bunch of footage that I shot with this camera used in the visuals.
Turn down the lights, fire up the projector and light a candle if that’s your style…here’s my picks for the Top 15 Music Videos Of 2011. I tried to encompass a lot of image styles and music in this list. There’s all types of directors and production scales ranging from Canon 7D equipped bare bones budgets to freaking Michel Gondry shooting stop motion on a Bolex (or so I read). I think that’s what’s crazy and great about being a director and designer in this time. If you want to, you have access to pretty much everything (visually speaking) if you put time into it. Hopefully some directors, DPs and photographers are inspired by this, it was a good year for the moving image and I suspect it to only get better and more creative in 2012. Hope you all dig the list and if you make it through each video all the way through, no skipping…you can rule out any form of attention deficit disorder.
I haven’t listed any of these in a rank, only because they’re all good at specific things. However, if I had to pick one favorite, it’d be Eric Epstein’s magically haunting work for Memory Tapes.
Fellow San Francisco band Seventeen Evergreen have just been announced as the opener for the Tycho show this Saturday at The Independent. They recently released this Terri Timely directed video for Polarity Song. Incredible color and definition in this. Not sure how it was shot but I’m assuming some high end HD DSLR and a healthy amount of post. Beautiful stuff.
Been kind of obsessing over this video for White Denim’s Street Joy. Not sure how I missed this but apparently it’s been out for six months. Director Carlos LaRotta’s (Birds on Fire) treatment includes a healthy dose of Tim & Eric / Doug Lussenhop VHS style. It’s always nice to see a band not take themselves too seriously, even in the case of such a somber and reflective song. but in spite of the humor there seems to be a fittingly nostalgic undercurrent at work here that ties the whole thing together. Really beautiful stuff.
Here’s a beautiful 3 part vignette shot by director Riley Blakeway of Taj Burrow and friends in Fiji. Filming in a place like this, with surfers of this caliber, you’d expect it to look great and it does. Riley goes a little further to make it something else with the color and grain work, which I really appreciate. All three pieces have a great organic film-like grain and the color grading is spot. A feeling and look that you can’t just do with a plug-in.
When I first watched it, I was convinced this was 16mm and maybe super 8mm in spots. Here’s the kicker, “All of the surf vision was shot with the EX1.” says Blakeway. He also added that intros and outros were super 8mm. The camera is the Sony PMW-EX1, a type of camera that is similar to what a lot of us were used to shooting with before the Canon DSLR days. Not a 5D, 60D or even a RED Epic, which is great to see. I’ll try not to get into the technical too much on this, because it’s simply well shot, well edited and graded. His attention to detail is great on these, well done Riley.
I’ve been waiting for this Sepalcure song to drop since I heard Praveen play it on his PercussionLab radio show, sadly no vinyl or digital yet, only this video, I love these guys even if their video isn’t making much sense to me, HIGHLY RECOMMEND the song.
Digging for songs to play this Saturday at Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival, i’ve always checked out what Nick Chacona puts together, he definitely delivers deep tracks and tasty arpeggios.
On a similar tip to the Nick Chacona track but with a lot more punch is our first taste of new work from Fred Falke, people will never get sick of that filtered breakdown into a big drop style dance music, I don’t blame them as long as its coming from some quality like Fred Falke.
Droned and stretched out Clams Casino does his version of Washed Out’s single Amor Fati.
It’s funny when people call out certain music saying “oh this has potential”, I almost started to write that about A Gap Between then thought, no I just want more of this, its a satisfying listen because that seems to be my honest reaction after just 30 seconds in.
Walls are pushing forward, taking that Kompakt sound into this synthesized organic realm full of bells over swelling arpeggios, beautiful energy.
Dam-Funk is the master of what he does, he lives and breathes a sound that might get written off to the unexperienced ear or the sport watching happy hour goers but the people that understand him are highly rewarded.
Watch this AFX video, if you never were in the rave scene and just love AFX start from 5:05