Beeple’s Audiovisual exploits have been featured twice on Create Digital Motion, and raised a variety of questions. Momo the Monster cornered Mike Winkelmann in a dark alley and forced him to give us the information you crave.
What can you tell us about your method?
Well, usually I write the basis for a song using loop-based software like FL Studio, then i take and export all of those loops and make video that syncs precisely to each note in the loop. If it’s a melody line, then I will try to make it so that you can discern the different notes that are being played. If it is a more rhythmic or atonal sound,I will try to make some piece of video that “looks” like that sound. Then I render the loops of music and video together into one video file. Next, I take those video files into a NLE (I use Vegas 4, mostly) and attempt to write a large piece using my audio/video loops. I layer all of the pieces of audio/video, and because they are all individually synced, bits of my piece, the end product kind of makes itself in terms of video.
Recently, I’ve started using After Effects more to make more intricate scenes around the audio / video (which I like to call “instrumental video” as each instrument is represented in the video). I realized that this was a much easier way of making very synced pieces almost by accident.
I was trying to animate individual instruments in a “finished” piece of music, and when viewing the music at the waveform level it was extremely hard to see what was there, as there were obviously many sounds happening at once. I finally realized that if i looked at the wave form of just ONE instrument at time, i could see where it started and stopped much, much easier.
Is this what informed your newer videos, which have more of a layered feel, with a constant background?
Well, iv.7 (instrumental video 7) was the first video where there was kind of some ambient drone type thing going on in the background at all times. This was made possible because i finally figured out how to make pseudo-alpha channels in all of the video instruments. Before then, i was just using multuiply / or screen on all instruments so they’d kinda blend together. This was mostly due to the fact that i have no funking clue what i’m doing in terms of video/design sh*t. Took me waaaaay too long to learn the whole alpha channel thing.
I’ve read that you’re doing some live performances now – how do you prep your works for realtime use?
Well, for live pieces i do a number of different things. The way I retain the live audio video sync is by actually using a NLE editor as a live performance tool. Using Vegas you can make the timeline show up as measures and beats. For example, I take one measure in 4/4 time at 150 bpm and set the editor to continuously loop through that piece of the timeline. This is being output to a camcorder, which goes to a projector. Whatever clips I drag into that timeline become part of the mix, so I can kind of create beats and live music using all of these audio / video instruments that i’ve made, and the audio is still always synced to the video.
The only problem is that this is extremely processor-intensive, so I have to bring a tower to live shows to get a steady frame rate, and it still gets bogged down if I add too much sh*t.
Have you tried using more ‘traditional’ VJ Software that is specifically geared towards live use?
I’ve seen some of it, and it’s definitely much faster, but from what I’ve seen that comes at a price of only being able to mix a few channels at once and not being able to do quite a few other things that are inherently simple in a regular NLE. Most also seems to be geared more towards just outputting video instead of audio/video at the same time.
Are there artist/people/things/movements that have inspired your AV work?
I used to listen to music a lot while playing video games and loved when things happening in the game synced up to what i was listening to. I’ve been inspired a lot by electronic music too. A lot of the people on Warp Records, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Plaid, etc. have been very infliential on my music.
Is there any particular artist you’d love to work with as a visualist?
I’d obviously be very flattered to work with pretty much anyone whose music i listen to and enjoy, but right now I’m more interested in doing both the audio and video myself. I think one of the things that attracted me to artists like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher was that they were one-man operations. At the time i first was introduced their music it was like “Holy crap, this was made entirely by one person in their basement, that’s funking awesome.” I like that mentality and now I think technology is at a point where one person can do both audio and video, so I’d like to see more singular visions like that being realized.
Is there much of a scene in Wisconsin for AV Shows? Have you found other people doing similar work?
If there is a scene, I definitely haven’t found it. i’m not really great at meeting people so i have very few friends who are even interested in electronic music, much less sh*t like this.
Are there any acts who you’ve seen and been blown away by?
In terms of audio / video – not really… everything I’ve seen has too much reliance on “found” footage and “kooky” videos from the 50’s and 60’s, not really my thing. In terms of audio acts, the last thing I saw was Autechre which was really funking sweet because you could see that they were programming the beats right there. It wasn’t just some premade sh*t they were triggering – it was electronic improv, which to me is much more interesting and much more “live”.
Even if there’s not a local scene you’re involved in – you’re certainly inspiring a wave of AV artists with your online works. The flipside of this, of course, is other artists whose work may feel quite a bit like yours. how do you feel about that?
I wrote a paper in 2003 that kind of details the tenets of what my style is – “Instrumental Video for Instrumental Music” – which kind of goes over the idea of animating EVERY note/instrument for a piece of music to create a video that is totally synced. To be honest I would be very, very happy to see people make similiar works and to see instrumental video take off as a style.
I had these internal questions for a while-should the video by synced to the kick drum, or the snare, or the melody? When I finally realized that it would be much easier and cooler if EVERYTHING was synced, it was kind of a revelation to me and I wrote that paper. I have been making video that adheres to it ever since, and probably will be for quite some time.
What have you got lined up in your future plans for world AV domination?
In the immediate future, i need to finish IV.8. Long term…who the funk knows. I’d like to play more live shows, maybe find some more fests to screen my sh*t. It’d be really cool to put out a DVD with some small label.
How I’m gonna achieve any of those goals – funk if I know.
You’ve shed some seriously light on your processes for us – thanks for taking the time to explain things.
Thanks again for the opportunity.