by Tim Frick
The experience was a well-received sensory overload of music, performance and synced video clips that captured audience attention and got the crowd moving. The show gave us an opportunity to experiment with triggering visuals and creating real-time motion graphics on-the-fly using an M-Audio Trigger Finger and new software from Arkaos called Grand VJ.
Tools of the Trade
In addition to the Grand VJ software, we also used our usual media creation tools like After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, and so on. To complement the album’s War of the Worlds theme, we first built a library of old retro space footage and edited clips down to a manageable length. We then created custom animations for specific portions of each song to fill gaps as needed. Once all the production work was complete, we had 146 clips total, ranging in subject matter from old propaganda films, sci-fi movie clips, TV footage, educational films, and the aforementioned custom animations. At that point we started building the Grand VJ project file.
Considering its 1.0 release status, Grand VJ is excellent software, though I certainly have my fair share of feature requests for the next version. The Terrible Spaceship set consisted of fifteen songs, and Grand VJ gives you sixteen banks that will hold sixteen clips each, so we comprised a bank of clips that would be triggered randomly during each song. Grand VJ supports numerous real-time animation effects as well as live camera inputs, both of which we took advantage of for the show. One of the biggest challenges was choosing real-time effects that fit with our retro sci-fi theme. Many of the animation presets call attention to themselves with a specific look and feel and thus weren’t appropriate for use within this particular project. Some worked perfectly, however. The binary effect, for instance, seemed a perfect fit for the song Binary has got me Down.
Grand VJ runs in two modes: synth mode, where you can trigger clips individually, or mixer mode, where you can composite up to eight layers of video on top of one another. I experimented with both modes and found the synth mode to better fit my needs for the spontaneity of a live show. Once everything was configured within the Grand VJ project file and we rehearsed the show at Bumpus’ practice space, we were good to go. The result was a fun and spontaneous live exploration of video synced to music. You can see the results in these two clips for Stardust and Elizabeth:
Terrible Spaceship is comprised of the following fine folks:
Travis Chandler: Bass
James Johston: Guitar
Andy Rosenstein: Keyboards
Zack Marks: Drums
Tim Frick: Live Visuals
Whit Nelson: Camera
Buy the full album on iTunes.