VJMC

VJMC // Video Jockey Master Controller

Project VJMC is the most ambitious project I’ve undertaken to date. The idea started back in 2012 when my fellow Crested Butte Film Tribe members Jon Meckes and Brady Snow inherited an old digital projector from a photographer in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Jon Meckes posing in front of our paper mache volcano, constructed for use in our experiments.

Jon Meckes posing in front of our paper mache volcano, constructed for use in our projection experiments.

We began experimenting with projecting imagery onto physical objects, adding bits of digital magic into some of our early projects. At the time, I was focused on filmmaking and the idea of “everything through the lens” really struck a chord with my perspective on cinema. To me, most cgi instantly breaks the sense of wonder that films like the original Star Wars trilogy inspired in me. At the same time, digital effects greatly increased my capacity as a poor artist to visualize realities far outside of my budget. With projection I imagined a way to bridge that gap.

Fast forward to 2013 and I was on my way back to Minnesota to spend my off season working IT jobs in Minneapolis. On a random impulse, I contacted my old friend Davey Steinman. Davey had been working with experimental theatre projects and a group of projection artists at the UofM known as MAW (Minneapolis Art on Wheels). I told him about my experiments and asked if he knew of any projects I might be able to plug in to. As fate would have it, he was 3 weeks out from his own original theatre piece behind performed at the Pillsbury House and needed a projectionist.

A scene from Davey T Steinman's original production of "Bagman" at the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, MN

A scene from Davey T Steinman’s original production of “Bagman” at the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, MN

I spent my first 3 weeks back burried in Davey’s basement turning imaginative dreams into an experiential reality. During this project Davey introduced me to the amazing projection software I use today, Isadora, and gave me the latitude to explore the potential that combining video, animation, and interactivity can unlock. This single show opened up a variety of other live projects in both theatre and music where I’ve been able to further my understanding of both the technology and theory behind projection as a performance tool.

This all leads up to where I’m at today. VJMC. Projection and interactive technology is making such bold and rapid leaps that it becomes difficult to even explain to directors and musicians what is possible. This project is all about channelling my frustration with having to keep my imagination bottled up. I’ve latched on to a vision of a new type of performance altogether, one that allows the audience to participate in brand new ways and unites sound, sight, and human motion into one fluid experience.

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Dan at WorkUp capturing body motion through the Xbox Kinect and using it to control digital puppets.

I’m working on a show, of sorts, to be both an incredibly fun, mind bending audio/visual experience and serve as a working example of what all of these new tools can create. The video below was created in realtime by combining a live video stream with skeletal tracking data from the Xbox Kinect. As my hands move up and down, it raises and lowers the central arms; as they move forward and back they control the outer arms. Pretty cool stuff…

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