It’s not the lumens that count; it’s how you use them. But it’s easy to forget that when your projections just got blown out by lights, which someone used because they can move and your projection can’t. And it’s easy to get frustrated with the limitations of projection when you’re again looking at a static 4:3 rectangle on another flat wall.

Unfortunately, the art of using mirrors and other techniques to make projection more dynamic aren’t nearly as well known as they could be. Alternative projection techniques have also tended not to be productized. One significant exception is VMS or VideoMovingSystem. It’s the rare case of a hardware product made specifically for creative, live, performative projection. VMS is similar to the iCue moving mirror and some other tools, but it takes the kind of tools previously customized for lighting and specially adapts them to projection. You can actually buy a VMS unit with a projector already attached, or buy a unit that will fit a standard projector, making these more effective and easier to mount and use than lighting-specific instruments. It’s not a cheap solution for an independent VJ, but it is cheaper than competing custom lighting solutions. And if you read this site, you should already know that digital, computer-powered projection can do all kinds of things boring motorized lights can’t.

artificialeyes’ Michael Parenti and Todd Thille have taken a unique role in both championing the VMS tool and developing custom applications for it, as well as rocking Istanbul with the results. Michael said repeatedly that it saved the whole act of VJing for him. We got to talk to Michael and Todd about VMS and why it’s important — and, better yet, we got to play with these units, remote-controlled by artificialeyes’ 3L software and Michael’s iPhone. Even if you don’t plan on picking up VMS yourself (or I should say, convincing a club to buy them for you), you can tell from the interview how much of a difference changing a projection technique can make — not lumens, and not content, the two things we often get hung up on.

Jaymis: I have plenty more video from the ae guys waiting to be edited, both long-form looks into Thrill, and quick tips as well. That said, video is a bit of a new step for CDMo. This past year we’ve been talking about being a visualist mostly through the written word, so it would be great to get some feedback. Do you find video reviews and articles useful? Like the editing style? Think Peter should do voiceovers for software training videos? Hit the comments.

  • grigori

    Wanted to be first to congratulate you guys on CDM video segment to be offered here. Excellent stuff.

    Video Moving Systems such as this have been floating in my head for a while, its brilliant to see the likes of Artificial Eyes jump and execute this in a way that they did. Brilliant!

    Look forward on seeing more video segments, and perhaps will contribute in the future myself 🙂

  • MoRpH

    The VMS units are great, defiantely added to the mix being able to throw the images around the buildings outside.

  • how much would the simplest one cost? i've been given a club residency this week and there are stupidly low ceilings, could be good for getting round some of that…

  • @ leon:

    the basic unit WITHOUT a projector, costs around 1.900 euro, plus VAT. Remember that you will need some sort of DMX controller to move the mirrors. These work really gret in low ceiling rooms

  • apalomba

    The interviewer asked Solu what her top three
    tools are. I could not understand 1 or 3, did any one get that?

  • ms

    Nice spatial extension. Though i can't follow, why this should be the future of VJing. Projecting on to people doesn't seem to be a big step for me. More likely it's another media shot on to their heads. More isn't simply better.

  • Hrm. VJing needed saving? Just saying 🙂

  • @vade: until we get paid as much of the DJ, yes.

    But the key point here actually is saved VJing for Artificial Eyes. (That didn't quite fit in a headline … you get my point.) And I appreciate that — they got this tool not just to have some new gimmick, but because it answered something that for them was limiting what they could do expressively.

    So as far as the future of VJing, I do think it's about more choices. That doesn't mean more is more — I absolutely agree ms. But it means more power to choose whatever additional tools or limitations works for what you're trying to express.

    Reading between the lines, there's also a technical need here, which is the ability to compete with lighting instruments. If you can replace what the lighting instrument is doing, you can get RID of the lighting — and stop blowing out the projections. It's primarily a club need, but then the technique is also getting used in theatrical applications, so it's not just clubs who want to do this. And it's not for everyone — there's plenty you can do with stationary projectors, and a good thing, too, because these are very pricey indeed.

    But, looking at the larger picture, I think a lot of what will happen with VJing involves thinking through the whole picture — not just content, but projector, projection surface, movement, lighting … it's all stuff people have done from the beginning, but it's not yet part of the standard skill set, and it really should be. (certainly where I'm trying to push my skill set, and I'm late to the party on everything because so much of my background's on the music side … and over there, *eventually* I think we'll figure out what we're doing with surround live!)

  • Peter got it exactly right… vms saved the "desire" to vj for us… after hundereds of gigs small and large from bedrooms to stadiums and corporate gigs, the "artform" wasnt going anywhere for us… so, yeah, its this music, this content..graphic, narrative, genre based, logos, or whatever, the software is there, the hardare is there to do all kinds of amzing stuff that we only dreamed of just 10 years ago. In the fight between dj/lightguy/public attention span, what having multiple vms units did for us was give us new terrain to explore, and a way to demand more of the mindshare of club owners, promoters, and venues, and hence, get our art not only in front of, but on to the public. Its not that vms changes the face of vj'ing, but that its just an additional tool which inspire's us to continue vji'ing. And its more in the sense that vj'ing for me was always about exploring the boundaries of the doable..its always been sort of a frontier act, and the things that most of us complain about with our art not being taken seriously has to do with the fact that we are dancing on the razor thin edge of the "doable" frontier. The vms system gives us a whole new set of parameters to play with, which CHALLENGES us. It was this new challenge, of having to reinvent what we do to fit the new possible parameters that "saved" vji'ing for us.

    in the end, its about thinking outside of the 3×4 or 16×9 "box" and when you start to d that, you see that not only is all the material that you have worked with in the past maybe not adequate, but it challenges you to explore what is possible with moving images when they jump into the realm of becoming part and pixel of the public. Its just a complete paradigm shift when your content is not "only" on the screens.

  • What about Focus? I don't remember any mentioning about what happens when the picture is viewed from wall to wall; what happens to the focus?

    I like this hardware, but still too expensive, but a cheaper that moving to HD mixing.

  • Well, said, Michael.

    @massta: Not *necessarily* cheaper than moving to HD mixing if you're doing it on computer. Just saying. 😉

    But focus — actually, that's what's nice. If you do stuff with lots of contrast, things with hard edges, that can actually look *better* when the image gets broken up on surfaces / people / etc. I had been experimenting with this stuff with the iCue and was excited by it, and then was really blown away once I saw that Artificial Eyes had built a whole show around it.

    Again, though, while I think VMS really is important, that's a principle that would apply to moving the image around by any means … or just projecting onto non-flat/focused surfaces in general. So that is exactly in tune with what Michael's saying — it's about getting outside the box. VMS is one way to do it, but it's not the only way.

  • You think that's cool… check these products out:

    Not cheap… but I use them on a day to day basis and they absolutely rock.

  • the way the focus works is that you choose one point in the room where your actual perfect point of focus is, and mve the picture around in that same plane. That is when you are remaining on a WALL. once you are projecting onto the audience, focus becomes less relevant, and its more about the SHAPE and multiplicity of the light coming off the mirror and how that looks in the room. Remember, we are working with a minimum of 6 projectors in a room with NO OTHER LIGHTING most of the time, and we have done shows up to 20 projectors. So imagine, that you have 2 or 4 projectors which move to different positions around the room (walls, cieling) which have the same point of focus, and simultaneously, the rest of the projectors in the room are playing the same picture, and acting like typical robots, but the color and quality of light is no longer clashing with your picture, as is normally the case with INCANDESCENT LIGHTING, such as pars, robots etx.. the quality of the light is different, and unliess you work out sets with the light dude, AND he has the same timing as you do, it never is really in your control. So when we are talking about "taking control of the environment" that means that we have complete control of not only the content, but the ambient light quality of the room. Even if we split our projectors up into 3 seperate chains or groups, we are doing essentially the same job as your typical dmx jockey, just that the light color is VIDEO and believe me, it beats ANY GLASS GOBOS from the point of a vj and allows you much more freedom to put patterned movement in the room. And ist a totally different experience for the audience, who is seeing not only your visuals up on the screen/wal/cieling, but also bits and pieces of the same output on themselves and the person they are standing across from. Its just a different approach to being a "VJ" that we are taking now, because we are moving into the area traditionally ruled by the dmx operator.

    So i pose the question: what would vj's out there prefer: collaborating with (or fighting with) the dmx jockey who rules the patterns and tempos of the evening with exxentially 7 colors of light,

    or to be the one who controls the quality of light in the diverse way that is possible with video, and that ALWAYS being in synch with the mood, color, content, and timing of your visuals?

    Historically, in the 60's, and at earlier raves, environments were often lit by only the projections (slides, overhead oil projectors, etc). Its in the late 90's and early this century that vj'ing got "stuck into the 3×4 or 16×9 box" behind the dj or if you are lucky on a number of screens. Its about breaking this dichotomy of vj'ing only being about content in a box as an accessory, or at best, an enhancement of the rest of an event.

    We want visuals to be a major draw and Focus of an event, cause we're just so damn egocentric, and now we can afford to DEMAND that thats how events run that we are involved in. Either we design and are in control of the overall light quality at an event so that we can optimize it for a "Visuals experience" which leads people along the path of synaesthesia, or we just dont do the event anymore.

    And, we believe that there's a whole lot of visualists out there who would like to have the same empowerment to take their rightful place amongst the production team which makes for a succesful event – whether its in a small club, ar a massive hall. Power to the People VJ's!!

  • @Andrew: Michael did mention the DL2 in his talk (I don't think I edited that out, did I?).

    @exiledsurfer: Thanks for sharing those impressions. These are things we spoke about a lot in our time at Perth, but I don't think we got it on video to share with our readers.

  • Yes, thank you guys.
    You've cleared up my questioning and I firmly believe you are correct to say that creating an environment synced to mood, color, content, timing and visuals all at once it the goal here. Nice job creating such a system!
    Even those can't touch that, especially for the price.

  • The DL.1 / DL.2 thing is exactly the sort of thing I have to admit I don't find terribly interesting. Why not let that device be the motorized projector — which it is — but drop the computer? There's just a lot more flexibility with the computer as a separate item. I understand the turnkey appeal here, but still. At $25,000 per unit, let's see, that easily leaves room for at least five pretty high-end configurations of VMS + projector + computer, probably more.

  • Peter- The DL.1 is just the motorized projector without the computer. This allows you to use a media server of your choice. A couple of things it has going for itself is the encoders on the unit itself. In VJ world, getting a projection in a "relative" location is ok. For theatrical and concerts, position has to be dead on for cues (especially in theatre) and for edge blending. With the DL.2 having all the components inside of it, it makes a load-out and load-in fairly fast and simple, you aren't running cable and you reduce the truck/floor footprint of gear. With DMX control, an entertainment standard control protocol, you can use an automated lighting control console to provide reliable and repeatable playback of cues. It's different strokes for different folks. I come from the touring/theatrical background that has the budget to get the right gear for the job. Though the DL.2 might night be the best 'live performance' video server, you can get pretty close if you know how to set up your presets and cueing on the console which lighting programmers/designers have been doing for years to provide a 'live interaction' experience with the music.

  • so after saying you didn't think you would use the icue again, would you reconsider using something like this now?

  • Funnily enough, I've just had 2 iCues ordered for my band's next tour. The VMS are a little out of our budget for this run of shows.
    I've never had to use DMX before, so this should be a fun learning experience.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » Weekend Inspiration: Putting it Together with Artificial Eyes’ Live Visualism()

  • Interesting concept. the very first Catalyst mirror system used a similar moving mirror but had issues with keystone correction (fixed in software) The latest wave is the DL2 and DL3 fixtures from high end systems in the US ( who manufacture moving head projectors (DL1) and also with digital media servers built in (DL2 +DL3) these units are controllable through DMX and are designed for the lighting designer rather than the VJ.

    A cheaper alternative is the Beammover which is a moving yolk platform for mounting a projector. this is considerably cheaper and allows the user to select their own projector.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » DMX For Dummies: Controlling iCue Robotic Mirrors with uDMX and Ableton Live()

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » Free VJ Clips: MoRpH Releases First of Series on

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Apple Reality Check: iPhone 3G is Just the Tip of the Mobile and Rich Media Iceberg()