I was first introduced to Cornelius in Film School, where the buddy I often shared a dark editing room would play ‘Count Five or Six’ while I attempted to count and mark 16mm frames on the tiny strips running through our moviolas. This January, I jumped on the chance to see him at the awesome Walt Disney Concert Hall with Plaid.

Let’s start off with Plaid. I was very excited to see them, after catching their AV Set with Bob Jaroc at the Natural History Museum last year. The visuals, unfortunately, didn’t do much for me. There were a few sweet moments, but mostly I felt trapped in a semi-monotonous 3d visualizer. As we broke for intermission, I talked with a few other VJs and they agreed. I was skeptical about Cornelius, and figured I’d just have to settle for a rockin’ audio set and not expect much from the visuals.

I’m glad I was wrong.

Cornelius’ set started off with slow-mo footage of a giant bubble floating in a park. I couldn’t tell if it was CG or footage, and it didn’t matter. With the beautiful swells of the music and the rainbow-riffing undulating soap mass onscreen, I was lifted out of my funk and ready for an awesome show.

Each song had its own specific video – and each one looked and felt very different from the last, which does wonders to avoid visual burnout. Ironically, the first visuals set where I was amazed by the variety of visual atmospheres was that first Plaid/Bob Jaroc show.

His LED light rig was simple and spectacular. He had several lighting stands with rows of LEDs, and custom patterns that matched or contrasted the video for each song. There were also strobes mounted on top of each pole which were used sparingly and to great effect to punch up the impact of the hardest-rocking songs. You can see them in the following video:

Cornelius Live 01-17-08 from momo_the_monster on Vimeo.

Please note that this footage, taken in video mode with a still camera from the very last row in the hall, does not nearly do justice to the quality and variety of video. That said, it’ll give you a taste of the night, which is better than nothing.

One question that remains after the show – how did they keep it all synced up? I suppose Cornelius could be playing to a click-track, but it all felt very freeform, so I’m inclined to discount that idea. My only guess at this point is a DVJ or something similar that played back the pre-composed videos, with a VJ speeding up or slowing down the playback to stay in sync – like a DJ would do to keep two records from trainwrecking.

If you have any favorite moments from the show, or ideas on how they put together the video, leave your mark in the comments.

Read the full interview with Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) on Create Digital Music. He tells CDM:

For the live performance, it’s an important part as there’s not only the sound in live shows but the visual aspect. By creating visuals I think it helps to understand more about the music as my songs are in Japanese.

  • Even though the footage was taken with a camera on video setting, I think the back-drop video was low resolution. That's my only complaint. The lower portion of the screen was being blocked by lights, but they all meshed well together including synchronization which must of been controlled by a VJ.

  • Michael Una

    I caught these guys in Chicago, and from what I could tell, the drummer wears headphones which have a click track playing.

    I assume that click track is MIDI-synched to the video, but also there are two VJs working different controllers.

    One looked like a Roland video mixer, and the other was unfamiliar. Maybe it controls the lights and LEDs?

  • taperecorder

    I worked a cornelius concert last year.
    I believe the second controller you saw was the lighting console.
    They do play to a click.

  • mike

    I saw them play at glastonbury quite a few years ago. 02 or 03 maybe? – before the dvj's came out, anyway. they were just as brilliant then (most of the video was actually the same), and I was also wondering how they synched it up. at the end of the gig though whoever operating it let the default "dvd" player logo pop up after it finshed, so I guessed it was a click track from a dvd. still perfect though and miles ahead of most other people even back then.

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  • cat

    Yup they use a dvd and click track, there was certainly no vj any times I've seen him, 3 times in the uk, but that could be a touring expense thing…
    If you haven't got it he did a DVD called Point (of view) for the album before last, which is fantastic and well worth the import duty from Japan.

  • Ian Wright

    Nice video – but
    I would have to disagree with the visuals review.. I thought it was a primary palette of psuedo artsy "kawaii" corniness. Not my style at all. (Although the LED arrays were awesome!)

    I'm not really impressed by all these bands just playing back a DVD with a click track. whoop dee do. It creates a tight show, but its not really fair to compare it to live VJing.

    I talked to Plaid & their video guy after the show – great guys! They had never played together before that night.

    I found out the Plaid visuals were totally software generated in real time, and while lacking the narrative style of Cornelius, was a classic statement of Warp's complex dynamic style.

    Just my $.02! later!