Last night I went down to Horse Bazaar and did an hour set on the visuals. This was the first time I VJ’d in public. I wouldn’t call it a ‘gig’, more of a practice for the real thing, but i learnt more in that 1 hour than 10 hours practicing at home.

Here are some of the things i picked up which might interest any of you out there into live video performance.

1. Don’t expect anyone to give a shit about your work or what you are doing. Most people at bars and pubs(even art bars) are there to drink with their friends, try to get laid etc. and will not give a shit about the visuals. A small percentage might be interested, but these people will be in the vast minority if not at all, and often they are artists and visualists themselves. Normal people will not often share your passion for the moving image, but this is good.

You must always ask the question ‘who are you making this for?’  when creating something whether performance based or not. It’s a tricky question to answer. Obviously you’re doing for yourself and creating what you want to see, however you are also creating it for an audience. But who is YOUR audience? For me it’s definitely not the normal people, but the visualists, artists, creators and fanatics. If your art is for ‘normal’ people, then prepare for much disappointment.

 

2.If you are VJing in a bar or club, your visuals will be second to the music, unless you are creating both as a full piece. This is because it is still the standard for most bars, pubs and clubs to have a DJ but not often a VJ. VJing is a relatively new art form and has only been democratized by cheap technology fairly recently, whereas music being performed has been around for centuries. So VJing has moved into an ambiance role to support the music but not eclipse it. There are plenty of ‘superstar’ DJs but no ‘superstar’ VJs, this is really good. It seperates the wheat from the chaff, the posers who do it to get laid and get status from the dudes who do it for the love of the art form.

 

3. Repetition is important. Because VJing plays primarily an ambiance role, people will not be paying constant attention to the visuals, but may glance over now and again. Therefore repeating clips in varying loops is important and it also adds to the music beat. In saying that though, be cautious as to how much you repeat. Repetition is good but too much repetition is baaad. Leaving a clip looping for a few minutes straight is pretty lazy VJing, and your set will be boring. Remember you are there performing live so you can adapt to the mood/music, be creative and show interesting work. If you’re going to be lazy and loop one clip for ages they might as well put on a dvd.

 

4. Pay attention to the light levels in the room and don’t use too many whites. A couple of times last night i used clips that washed out the room, the clips that did this had a lot of white in them. This is probably bad technique depending on where you’re VJing.  Remember you’re there to create an ambiance, to make the space interesting or otherworldly for the people experiencing it. Washing out a room and making people squint will snap them out of this and break the feeling you’re weaving. I’m not sure if the same goes for large clubs as I haven’t VJ’d in one yet, but i get the feeling it might be.

 

5. If your video clips are too dark, you will not be able to see much detail on the screen. There is probably a bar or other lights around the room you are working in. Also the color on the projectors might be fucked depending on how good their system is. It’s not like a dark cinema where even dark shots are highly visible. So keep your blacks crunched but think about upping the contrast or light levels in the clip, more so than you would if you were making a video to be viewed in a normal space.

 

6. Want some color in your black and white clips to make them a little more palatable? Don’t put effects on them. Instead create separate animated clips with solid bars, blocks or shapes of different colors and black moving about. Then loop these color animations in another channel, and add it to your black and white clip at low opacity. So the black and white clip will be at 100% opacity and maybe the color animation will be at 20% opacity. It looks way better than some dodgy preset or effect, and it adds another layer of movement to your image.

 

7. If you’re creating a CGI clip to use VJing, render out the same clip in different passes so you can play about with. For example, i’m animating a ball rotating in space. Render out one pass with say, a red texture; a pass with a blue texture, a wireframe pass and another pass with the ball glowing. So then i would have 4 different clips of essentially the same thing but they all look different. Now when you’re VJing you can mix these different looks together on different channels. Your clip will be more versatile, more complex and it will be more interesting.

 

8. Always have more clips than you think you’ll need. When you’re actually performing you will have to adapt and change quicker than you will expect. SO keep plenty of clips handy, even if you never end up using half of them.

That’s all I’ve got right now for you all. I’m just beginning this VJ odyssey myself, so I’ll keep you updated with fresh techniques and tips as I learn them.

 

_PERM

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