Earlier this year we posted a clip of DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist’s “The Hard Sell” performance. Soon afterwards, one of the architects of the visuals for this show – Josh Cardenas – got in touch, and I was able to meet up with him for an interview the morning after one of their performances in Brisbane, Australia.

Josh designed and built the robotic pan-and-tilt camera rigs (and wrist-mounted camera) responsible for The Hard Sell’s strikingly intimate look at the work of these two top turntablists, and he was very open in sharing his experiences and the technical details behind his part of the show.


Also along for the tour is a couple of V4s, DVJs, and a Pioneer SVM-1000. Josh gives us some background on the tour and insights into how the rig works.

Visualist Interview: Josh Cardenas – The Hard Sell tour with DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist from Create Digital Media on Vimeo.

Some of the most common post-gig remarks I heard from crowd members was that they wouldn’t have understood or appreciated the show nearly as much if they hadn’t been able to see so closely what the DJs were up to. Josh’s robotic cameras really brought the performance to the people, and in a form factor which was completely unobtrusive. A remarkable achievement, and still he was happy to share details on how this was achieved.

Visualist Interview: Josh Cardenas – Midi Controlled Robotic Cameras from Create Digital Media on Vimeo.

The technological hub for these camera mounts is the Yost Engineering ServoCenter MIDI, controlled with a Korg MicroKontrol and Ableton Live (if time permits).

Obviously this is a guy with plenty of ideas who’s not scared of sharing them, so if you have any questions for Josh please hit the comments, and if you’re a touring visualist with tips to share, get in touch with us so we can bring your art to CDM.

… and for a little more Josh, Jean Poole has a post on Skynoise with some more texty goodness from his subsequent visit to Melbourne.

  • >> >

    finally, someone with brains/balls using a pc and not dishing out thousands for a sub-par mac

    when will people get over the hype of mac

  • v–v–v–v

    really neat video showing a great alternative to the "i:cue" i believe it was called.

    but I would never be able to understand the programming side of it all since i lack alot of programming skills

  • just got my ServoCenters in the mail cant wait to get them up and running 🙂

  • endekks

    Ben Stokes was involved? Wicked.

    I hope he got paid at least $50 or more. (wink wink)

  • not only was Ben Stokes 'involved' he was pretty much the mastermind of the whole affair. He designed all of the visuals and graphics for the show (i contributed some 3D animation). and then he came to me and said "i like robots. i like cameras. i LOOOVE Robot Cameras!" and from there i went on to design and build the system.

    he ran the visuals on the Europe and American legs of the tour, then handed over the keys to the rig to me for the Aussie tour. i hope i kept up the standard!

    …and not only did get the $50 bucks, i think he scored some free food and a Bob Marley mix tape! = )

  • You definitely kept up the standard Josh. The show I saw was fantastic, and I've heard similar reports from around the country.

    To be perfectly honest, I didn't think the visuals for the Hard Sell were up to the standard of previous Shadow tours which Ben has done, but they didn't need to be, because your cameras stole the show 🙂

    There were sections of the show which were more heavily visuals-based rather than displaying live feeds, and in these parts I found myself drifting off and not really paying attention to the show as much, because I couldn't see what was happening and engage with what the DJs were doing.

    It really is amazing how much those tiny, cheap little cameras (and their operator, of course) brought to the show.

  • This stuff really gets my juices flowing! *furiously orders servos*

    I love Josh was like "you could probably use dampers to smooth" – there's a pretty great vvvv node called… Damper! 😀

  • visceralX

    Damper indeed! =)

    anyhoo…as along as you're ordering servos…i found some great servo related hardware and rigs at http://www.servocity.com

    (they really do have alot of servos! it's not just a clever name!)


  • thanks j!

    Any info on where the servos and esp. the bracket was sourced? It's a jungle out there.

  • visceralX

    servocity is in fact THE source! see how i anticpate your needs?? = )

    they have some preety cool and simple pant/tilt systems and servo mounting brackets. i used the cheapest ones, which are little ABS plastic affairs, but quite sturdy as they survived a worldwide tour. huzzah for plastics!

    also, they have some pretty heavy duty geared systems for moving heavier cams and whatnot. increases pan/tilt resolution too.

    and if you look on the site, it sez "pan/tilt/ROLL units…coming soon!" sweeet…that's like a whole 'nother DIMENSION of cam movement!

  • simonrose

    Hi guys, great stuff on the robotic cameras!!
    I have a question or two!
    1, how would i dampen the motion of the servo, so that when i change direction it slows down first then moves in the opposite direction based on its intial velocity of course, like a benzier curve i guess.
    2, what programme would be ideal to use with yostmidi to record motion and playback?

    Again well done for the great work, i hope my questions are not of the ludite variety.

  • visceralX

    hey simonrose!

    thanks for the props. as for which program to use – it's pretty flexible. the Yost board simply runs off straight MIDI – so any app that can record and playback MIDI Controller data should work great. I have used Ableton Live and VVVV myself.

    For dampening or smoothing out your servo motion, you would need some way to process the MIDI message. As 'Wetterberg' mentioned above, there is Damper node in VVVV that may help. sounds like you also want to sort of normalize or delay the timing, which could all be added in an app like VVVV – or PD, or MAX/MSP, etc. I haven't used much audio/MIDI software, but i would imagine there is some app that would let you apply some effect or processor to the MIDI CC data to make it all smooth and curvy. shoot, maybe even Ableton does this, though i haven't gotten in-depth with it enough to know. anyone else have an idea?


  • Pj &GiGi

    Josh, Great show. P.J.