Electronic music has always had something of an image problem. Producers hovering over their laptops and knob-fiddling DJs get boring to look at pretty quickly, which is where visual production has arisen to fill the gap.
As budgets increase, musicians and DJs tend to incorporate some visual element to their shows. Things have come a long way since the 60s, when a washing up bowl, some pretty noxious (now illegal) liquids and an overhead projector could create a whirling miasma to accompany or simulate the effects of the psychedelic experience. These days the artistic and technological boundaries have been broadened immeasurably.
These days it’s amazing just how much can be done with a single laptop in terms of graphical processing power, and visual artists have been able to warp 3D projections onto screens limited only by imagination.
We are no longer restricted by the square form of the screen as video mapping has allowed us to wrap the image around objects with depth, imbuing old buildings with a living, breathing rhythm in time with the music. The audience can be transported by a visual show to incredible settings, both more real and more fantastic.
In such a wildly creative field many techniques exist, from old school lighting rigs and lasers, to 3D projection mapping, to newer advances in LED screen technology and pixel mapping. The methods may vary from show to show, but the resulting effect is to elevate the sensory experience of the audience.
We were asked to come up with a list of the best mapping shows here at Rebel Overlay HQ, but mapping is simply one of many production techniques that provide the visual backdrop to gigs these days. So what follows is our list of 10 of the best visual productions for live acts and DJs of recent time.
Eric Prydz – EPIC 3.0
Eric Prydz’ EPIC 3.0 was a one off show at Madison Square Gardens that really is the pinnacle of production as far as visual shows go. I’d love to have been in the production meeting when he requested a 60ft wide hologram of his head to loom over the stage.
This really was EDM at its most bombastic and lavish. More lasers than a Star Wars Trilogy marathon, multiple VJ’s pyro and lighting operators, and fair play to Prydz for refusing to use sync track medleys, everything is a collaborative performance. Whilst he almost certainly lost money on this one, hat’s off to the man for putting on an unforgettable party.
Amon Tobin – ISAM 2.0
Amon Tobin’s ISAM pretty much blew away the previous benchmark for projection mapping shows when it came out. It was the definitive live, immersive, audio-visual sensory experience. ISAM 2.0 was like the greatest of all sequels, bigger, louder and more spectacular than ever before. The perfect combination of sound and visuals into an artistic whole.
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead tour
Flying Lotus worked with two vj’s for his last couple tours, cleverly using transparent screens in front of the stage, as well as back projecting to a screen behind him The result effect is like 3d telly without the glasses. The rear screen conveys a sense of place, and the interaction with the front screen visuals give not only a sense of depth, but also of movement.
John Hopkins – Immunity Tour
John Hopkins music videos are spectacular pieces of film in their own right. His live tour visuals are fairly simplistic in presentation, just a large 16:9 display. However, the super crisp HD LED screens bring out the best of his cinematic videos alongside great colourful, psychedelic generative visuals. It’s clear that Hopkins spends the same amount of care and attention into the visual presentation of his music as the tunes themselves. Breathtaking stuff.
Max Cooper – Emergence
Max Cooper is no stranger to experimenting with technology, having already built a custom surround sound system for gigs that could place noises in 3d space. His ‘Emergence’ show debuted at Seattle’s Decibel Festival earlier this year, and didn’t fail to impress.
The audio visual show is controlled entirely by Max himself, and is a culmination of many months work with different visual artists, musicians and tech specialists to build a content and performance system that allows him to tell a live audio/visual story about the emergence of the reality we live in.
Nosaj Thing’s audio-visual spectacular, ‘Fair Enough’ was made in collaboration with LA based Immersive Design Studio, ‘Fair Enough’ is proof that more isn’t always better. Its just a man performing from a table in front of the wall and projections, but the high contrast black/white visuals and block colours show how simple can be strikingly effective. A brilliant, simple and creative use of space.
Sub Focus’s live show consists of a custom built LED stage designed by London based visual company Immersive. It’s something of a face-melter, especially for the wider-eyed members of the audience, but a brilliant use of LED screens.
Clark – Phosphor
Longtime Warp records alumni & techno beast Clark teamed up with visual artist Vincent Oliver, aka ADOXO to create the awesome visual show ‘Phosphor’, centered around a camera pointed at an old analogue oscilloscope that he’d recovered from a skip.
I love the fact that someone’s junk was turned into something so totally hypnotic and compelling. The technicals behind it are fairly complex, but also simplistic.
Essentially, looped square and sine wave audio tones are piped through the oscilloscope’s two inputs, whilst audio effects used to create the hypnotic multiplying green shapes, as seen in video’s for Superscope. A totally unique visual experience.
An in depth guide to the process is explained here…
Joris Delacroix – Live Tour 2014
JORIS DELACROIX / Live Tour 2014 from SUPERBIEN on Vimeo.
For the release of his new album “Air France” JORIS DELACROIX booted his tour with a show set in front of a jet aircraft engine made with LED strips aligned around a conic center made of mirrors, creating an immersive curved screen. Video content was specially created for this show, which is audio-reactive and triggered by Joris midi sequences.
Etienne De Crecy
One of the most impressive and forward thinking visual stage shows of it’s time, but sadly isn’t touring anymore. Etienne De Crecy utilized 1024 Architecture’s SQUARE Cube to devastating effect back in 2007. Basically a scaffolding rig, with netting that is projected onto, the real trick was the interface that allowed visuals to spin within this 3d space. A classic show and a wonderful 8-bit simplistic feel.