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video design

08 Apr

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Through His Teeth – rehearsal images

April 8, 2014 | By | No Comments

The second of the show I’m currently working as video designer for is Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House in London. Again the story is loosely based on Faust – read about  ‘The Crackle’ here, and both shows use designer Becs Andrews’s amazing forced perspective set.

Through His Teeth is directed by Bijan Shebani and tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a conman, and is drawn into his fantasy world of secret service operatives and high living. As a cost she loses her money, her family and her mind, becoming increasingly paranoid that their every move is being watched by secret agents. Remarkably it is based on a true story.

For the show I have decided to use live cctv cameras rigged around the set, to create a constant feeling of being watched. I switch between the 8 separate feeds, whilst also mixing in some pre-prepared location footage (shot as if on cctv) and replaying moments captured onstage from previous scenes. This is done using a number of tools, including cctv camera sna cabling, a video multiplexer and a switcher, two digitisers and Isadora, The result is a very raw video collage of real live action, replayed memory and locative ‘other’ spaces that provide a really interesting background texture to the performers and the story.

read a review here

below are some images from the rehearsal process.

see the full set on Flickr

web_THT_02-32 web_THT_02-06 web_THT_02-60 web_THT_02-167 web_THT_01-94 web_THT_02-152 web_THT_02-141 web_THT_02-80

08 Apr

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The Crackle – rehearsal images

April 8, 2014 | By | No Comments


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web_crackle_02-08

I’m currently video designer on two shows at the Royal Opera House in London, both loosely based on Faust. One of those shows is ‘The Crackle‘, by Matthew Herbert, an artist renowned for his work with live and recorded sound, and exploratory technology in a performance setting. It’s a very brave piece, expanding the context of opera to include live foley artists, reactive video projection, spatial sound mixing, unrestrained audience participation via a sonic barcoding app (Chrip), and a huge mechanical instrument called ‘The Dervish’ by MIT genius Andy Cavatorta.  Oh, and 47 children. It’s no small feat. It’s all contained within an amazing forced perspective set by designer Becs Andrews.

The show twists the Faustian story to present a cautionary tale about the possibilities and traps of working with digital media. I’ve been basing my designs around an 8-bit inspired aesthetic – running bespoke animation modules and prepared video through simple effects to give the images a very glitchy playful bitmap feel to them. It’s actually not a million miles away from my knitting work. As always I’m using Isadora, allowing me to utilise live cameras to generate imagery from movement onstage, and also to create some interesting  and dynamic compositing and displacement effects. I’ve also managed to sneak a few punchcard designs in there.

below are some images from the rehearsal process.

see the full set on Flickr

27 Oct

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Virgin40 exhibition projections

October 27, 2013 | By | One Comment


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v40_tiles_slider_web

Recently I’ve been working with my good friend and fellow Film Soup-er Chris Paul Daniels on some new projection works for the Virgin Record 40 exhibition, using media from the Virgin archives. Chris developed a 45 minute film presented as a large triptych, juxtaposing different eras and styles from across the archives, along with a cut-up soundtrack by Kelvin Brown. I created three dynamic mapping installations within the tiled alcoves nearby, and a separate piece using lyrics from 10 diverse songs to form a generative cut-up poem. As usual, bth of my works were created in Isadora. The tile mapping piece being a development of the Interlace installation from last October, but extremely scaled up.

final note – always, always use a remote login service like logmein incase something needs tweaking post-install, which it invariably will.

A brief outline on my contributions below:

 

web_v40_tiles_c-94

Imitate /  interchange / interlace – 2013
database video mapping installation by Sam Meech
Video using Archive footage courtesy of Virgin Records and the British Broadcasting Corporation

Again, these pieces use a structure and a set of content and then allow chance to create the final evolving composition.  I really liked the tiled alcoves in the space and wanted to create a projection that felt like it was made for the space, so the 3 pieces are all carefully mapped to the tiles. The images change as individual tiles are masked, sometimes obscuring the videos, so you sometimes have to work to decipher what it is you’re looking at, but there are some nice clips in there, from live performances to some extremely expressive and colourful experimental music videos. The installations were created using an interactive video tool called Isadora which allows you to treat the media as a database rather than a timeline. It creates a dynamic visual collage – its great to see what it throws up.

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Don’t dictate, Dictate to me – 2013
I was interested in foregrounding lyrics and playing with the form of the song – text is something that might not come across so directly in a visual-heavy show, but contains much of the attitude behind the artists and the catalogue. This piece simply selects lines at random from 10 diverse songs / artists (from Janet Jackson and Phil Collins to Peter Tosh and Penetration), to create an evolving 8 line verse. Beyond the songs and the 8 line structure there is no authorship from me, with chance dictating the outcome, leaving room for repetition, nonsense and the occasional powerful (or surreal) image. The favourite couplet that I’ve seen is “Lots of naked germans / Temptation” (mixing Faust / Heaven 17).

 

The list of lyrics within the database:

 

Penetration – Dont Dictate
OMD – Enola Gay
Faust – Giggy Smile
Phil Collins  – In  the air tonight
Emily Sande – Read all about it
Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Heaven 17 – Temptation
Janet Jackson – That’s The Way Love Goes
Bastille – The things we left in the fire
Peter Tosh – Legalize It

29 Jul

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Wondrous Place images

July 29, 2013 | By | No Comments

A few images from the Wondrous Place show that toured the North in April / May.

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07 May

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Wondrous Place

May 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

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I’m currently designing projections for A Wondrous Place – a new touring theatre show by director Chris Meads (Northern Spirit). The show features four new pieces, each set in a different city in the North (Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield), and the creative team are also assembled from across the four cities. The stories all avoid the ‘grim up north’ cliches, instead portraying characters who creatively and imaginatively engage with their surroundings, which means there is some nice potential for clever uses of projection.

It’s already been an interesting process, working closely with set designer Lois Maskell to establish areas and surfaces for projection, and discussing with Chris about when, of and how it should be used. As well as developing my own video content, I’ve also been receiving short pieces from animator Kate Jessop, which lends another aesthetic to the projections. Beyond that my role becomes very technical, using Isadora to map images and cue transitions. I always enjoy working on the new challenges that a theatre show brings up, and this one is no different. As well as creating new custom user actors in Isadora, I’ve also been getting to grips with projecting across two screens using the Matrox tripleHead2Go.

The show opens on Wed 15th May at the Unity theatre, before touring the other 3 cities.

Liverpool Unity Theatre
15th-18th May
Box office

Sheffield Crucible Studio Theatre
23rd May – 1st June
Box office

Newcastle Northern Stage 2
4th-6th June
Box office

Manchester Royal Exchange Studio
11th-22nd June
Box office

 

 

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31 Dec

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Wave Machines video codec wrecking

December 31, 2012 | By | No Comments

I recently helped director Jack Whiteley on his music video for electro-pop band Wave Machines, doing an interesting little job as part of the post-production process on new single ‘I Hold Loneliness’. The video explores the use of digital and analogue trickery (much of it provided by Venya Krutikov) to colour, distort and animate the band members faces. Jack asked me to create some codec glitch effects for one short section of song during the breakdown.

Although I’ve run a workshop exploring the principles of codec wrecking, I’ve only used it once before as part of my own work, in the final sequence to my Noah’s Ark film. It is an odd process for a video-maker to work with, as it is a precision operation that yields surprising results. The particular compression and keyframe surgery do not easily anticipate the final outcome. In addition, the effects are dramatic, and yet no filters or fx plugins are used – just a couple of compression tools. It’s nice to work away from the FCP timeline and play with the material itself. I used ffmpeg and avidemux to produce several different treatments of the original sequence of singer Tim for Jack to include before his final post. The video below shows the original rough edit sequence, followed by 3 treatments fro the codec wrecking process.

If you want to know how to play with codecs, then you can follow this cracking tutorial series (note – if you’re using OS Lion, then you will likely need updated versions of FFmpeg and avidemux).

 

31 Dec

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Interlace

December 31, 2012 | By | No Comments


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A collaboration with OWT Creative in October gave me a chance to further explore video mapping and distribution in Isadora.

OWT deviated from their usual print-based activities to create a video-fanzine, collecting 100s of 10 second submissions responding to the theme ‘interlace‘. The videos were presented as part of an event at the Vault, Manchester on October 3rd. Alongside presenting these videos on monitors in the space, my role was to explore more dynamic ways to project the works, and from the off I was keen to utilise the tiled walls as part of the display.

I spent a lot of time creating a flexible masking system using the shape tool, and multiple layers of user actors, to  control the width, height, pitch and spacing of masks to fit the tiles. The other key aspect of the patch was creating a way to turn the tile masks on / off, manually or through a series of automated compositions, allowing multiple videos to be played through different (dynamic) tile masks. The final patch worked really well with the tiled wall, randomly sourcing videos from a database to create new compositions.

As with the modular screen system I developed for the Universe & Me theatre show, breaking a single screen down into component parts isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Multiple outputs creates complexity, especially when you want to isolate parts of the screen, or combine video sources.

I wasn’t the only person trying some new isadora tricks – student Matt Lees also developed a patch that allowed isadora to display tweets sourced live via a processing sketch, based on a given search term. Hopefully we’ll see more of this in the future, perhaps combined with the Live Writing tools.



01 Dec

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Composite: Feedback

December 1, 2012 | By | No Comments


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In October, myself and poet Nathan Jones presented the latest instalment of our collaborative experiments with live text and analogue video titlers, this time at the Cornerhouse, Manchester. Building on the Composite Video Lectures format, 3 speakers (Nathan Jones, Hannah Silva, and Steven Fowler) presented papers outlining perspectives on poetry, violence, composition and performance. Each paper was accompanied by live annotation from the analogue video titlers, creating a secondary text projected live behind the speaker.

This time we attempted to develop the role of the live video documentation, projecting the feed across three screens, each feed mediated by a combination of layered analogue video titlers, and digital text interfaces (including Mathew Lee’s isadora twitter scraper). The feed was also recorded to a database created  in isadora. for re-incorporation later. Following the 3 papers, each speaker performed a semi-improvised work in response to the collected annotations. The recorded footage was represented for the second part of the session, interrupting the living performances of the speakers, encouraging to improvise with their own material as it was re-played in random bursts.

The performances were re-documented using the isadora database, and a final ‘composite document’ – a version generated through random selection – created to mark the event.

26 Aug

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The Universe and Me

August 26, 2012 | By | No Comments

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In June / July I became reacquainted with the world of theatre thanks to an opportunity to work on a show with Liverpool-based theatre company 20 Stories High. Director Keith Saha is a keen collaborator, often working with other artists and integrating different practices into his shows, whether it be rap, puppetry, or in this case, interactive video.

The show was called Universe and Me, and had been developed with the 20SH youth theatre group. It was a great experience for me to work again in this context, not having done so properly since doing video design for A Different Tune. Keith was really keen to push what we could do with isadora, and I felt technically stretched by some of the ideas we had. We used live camera recordings, mobile projections, used multiple webcams for simulating Skype conversations (and no, actually using Skype is never a reliable solution, not even for Skype!).

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