Sometimes, paradoxically, doing more prep and adding more structure is what allows you to really let loose when you improvise. That’s true of music, and it’s just as true of visuals.
You’ve no doubt seen “button-mashing”, chaotic VJ sets – and maybe, in weaker moments, done that a bit yourself. And I’m sure there’s a place for that. But our friend Momo the Monster wonders in a new video how he might make the most of live improv by structuring his clips a bit in advance. Using vdmx – ideally suited to the purpose with its customizable, semi-modular nature – he sets up four layers. As he describes it:
- 1. Background – Scene-setting clips.
- 2. Playground – Video Instruments (Quartz Composer)
- 3. Foreground – Elements on black, textures.
- 4. Overlay – Logos, text.
Making this a bit more interesting, he also takes advantage of VDMX’s Quartz Composer integration to make some of those elements more interactive. (The free Apple tool easily creates simple visual elements with controllable inputs using a patching interface.)
The final rig:
- VDMX 5 for Mac
- Evolution UC-33 for some quick faders and knobs
- monome 128 open-source light-up botton interface
- Logitech gamepad
Of course, you could certainly adapt this sort of approach to your own favored hardware/software configuration – and those layers might well look very different. To me, what’s important here is that he did do the planning, providing a structure in which more freedom is possible. If you have to find clips and set up layers onstage, you don’t have the flexibility to actually play with those elements. But with pre-planning, the boring setup is done, and the play begins.
(If you do use VDMX, there’s a free download.)
A New Kung Fu
The tutorial is available via the newly-updated VJ Kung Fu site. If you like this tutorial, there’s a lot more there – now easier to explore thanks to a video browser and Vimeo videos.