A report from Pixelvärk 2010

February 13, 2010 | Posted by The MIDI Thief | Comments Off on A report from Pixelvärk 2010
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I’ve had a week to come down from all the stress of arranging a festival. Pixelvärk turned out really great due to a nice collaboration with Gorki Glaser-Müller, some contributing organizations and the power of our VJ community with the Startsladd boys in the front, doing a tremendous job. We also did a smart decision by working with the set designer Erika Weissenberg and two assistants Niklas Andersson and Jesper Nilsson all of them proving to be invaluable. I thought I’d break down the festival as brief as possible in this blog post. Ok, well you know me, it won’t be THAT brief…

The Gothenburg Film Festival’s opening party at Trädgårn’

We got off to a rough start by being two ours late to the venue due to some trouble checking out the rental car. We had rented one projector and brought two of our own but we had hired the rental company to hang all three of them. They only hung one (badly, attached with two loose screws) and refused to hang the two others since we were a bit late. Also, the film festival had made a late decision to wrap the room in white “photo paper” as they called when telling us on the phone two days ahead (destroying our original plans for the room). They made us believe that it was the kind of paper used as backdrops in photo studios which sounded ok at the moment. These proved to be A2 papers taped up on the wall by a very stressed producer. But we had two screens at our disposal so we ripped down half of the papers and got started hanging the projectors with the help of Gorki’s Magic Arms (both the product and Gorki’s own arms of flesh and bone). We were done about the time the doors opened but we weren’t supposed to get our VJs started until late, so we just got a logo running and went downstairs for drinks. Oh, and another drama that played out two days before the opening party was that the film festival totally misunderstood the need for music in the house-techno genres and had booked DJs playing everything from motion picture soundtracks to love ballades. We got that sorted out however and we’ve got Kid Sid and Jethro playing for us which was an excellent choice.

Daniel from Startsladd was so eager to get started that he opened 45 minutes early. Great to see that enthusiasm but I think he might have fired of a lot of his material those first 45 minutes. The last part of their set, the Startsladd boys had Kid Sid and Jethro and they fired of some new great material that they’ve had prepared for the Pixelvärk week.

When Bopa got in charge of the visuals she had to deal with Kid Sid who was really showing off behind the turntables and doing a lot of fast tempo changes. Bopa handled it very well even though her midi controller was broken. I guess that’s one of those moments when experience really comes in to play. Her visuals were really beautiful and together with her musicality really formed a great set. She was using a PC laptop running Resolume and Macbook Pro running Modul8, mixing the two in the Edirol V4.

Johan Holm from Vidiots finished of with their signature graphics based on glowing light effects but also surprising with some hand drawn content somewhere in the middle. Working the musical climaxes very well, Johan finished off strong. He had a little mishap touching our scaler/switcher unit causing the image to scale down a bit but that didn’t stop him at all. That unit came to cost us a bit more trouble later on and I think we should build a cage for next time or at least put it out of harms way.

In the large hall next to our room there were some VJing going on too. VJ Union member Hie from Visual Bandits were doing visuals for the controversial hip hop act Maskinen. I just got a short clip from it and my camera freaked out from VJ Hie’s frequent strobing during the chorus. I really liked the stalking rapist quality in the visuals for “Den som inte dansar” (chorus goes: “The one who doesn’t dance is a rapist!”).

The Bopa lecture

No sleep for Anna and the Pixelvärk crew. The lecture was held in the afternoon and we had a good turn out with people from different fields within art and design. Anna was showing her work and had a nice conversation going with the audience. One of the topics that came up was video loops for sale. Anna used to be involved with a project where they sold music with visuals. The discussion turned to video that is sold on sites like vjloops.com and whether that is good for the VJ community or not. Anna claimed that it’s good for all VJs since if more people (VJs and DJs) demands visuals, the clubs must invest in the proper equipment. This was talked about in the context of VJs creating their own content or buying video clips made by others.

A new week started and the Pixelvärk crew worked hard on promoting the rest of the Pixelvärk program and filling up the upcoming workshops.

The first Modul8 workshop

Andreas Apelqvist and Dan Nordgren from Startsladd held the first workshop in the basics of the VJ software Modul8. It was really fun to watch them going over the whole interface and what every little thing does. Even as an avid Modul8 user I picked up a few new things.

The Johan Södeberg lecture

The first and only lecture held on the Cinemix stage in the Gothenburg International Film Festival’s tent on Järntorget. The tent was actually a really good venue for lectures and you’re pretty much sure to have a big audience. Johan Söderberg, director, composer but maybe foremost known as one of Sweden’s best film editors. Johan was talking about the new education program in Audiovisual design that he is launching at the University of Dalarna as well as showing some of his work. The discussion really got going when people started asking him about where he got his video clips from and how the copyrights were handled. Söderberg pretty much divided it up in commercial work where big money is payed for all rights and non commercial projects where he simply “steals” as he puts it. As the the discussion got deeper the line between commercial and non commercial work got really fuzzy and Söderberg himself really couldn’t or wouldn’t draw a line. As some people in the audience seemed a bit skeptical one film maker thought that film makers should offer some of their archive material free of charge for people to experiment with.

Audiovisual Collaborations

In the afternoon Ilan Katin, our guest from Berlin, held a lecture in audiovisual collaborations. Showing some work from three very different artist collaborations he painted a picture of what could be done in this field. As a fourth example he showed Lance Blisters, one of his own collaborations and talked about how the project was structured and even opened up the project files. Ilan finished up by performing one piece live.
This was also the first lecture being offered as a live video cast. Unfortunately however, we didn’t get the sound working properly which was a real bummer.

The VJ jam

Trying to do three things on one day is very hard for a small team like ours so I’m very happy that we really pulled it off. The VJ jam took place at Nefertiti in collaboration with the club The Eye. A collaboration that we pulled out of the hat about a week before the festival since our other plans really didn’t work out. To add to the difficulties, all of the equipment could not be rigged at Nefertiti before the gig. It’s a jazz club and they have concerts earlier in the evening so they didn’t allow any equipment on stage. We hung the projectors the day before which was a pretty time consuming job due to a very low ceiling which complicated things. Once again Gorki’s Magic Arms saved the day (not his real arms though, since he had to leave town for a meeting this day). After the jazz club was done we only had about an hour to rig three screens, a video wall as well as the VJ table with mixer, splitter and all cables. This is when the greatness of the Swedish VJ Union came in to play. Everybody helped out causing us to magically finnish somewhat on time. Even our guest, Ilan Katin was dragged in to helping out. But I think he was kind of pleased doing it and experience the spirit of our little community.

Each VJ set was split up to about 30 minutes per VJ act. I had some technical difficulties with our equipment so the first 10-15 minutes were spent getting creative with the blue screen (a good point was made that we should have taken us the time to set the projector’s default screen to black). I was followed by Ilan, Lysbang, Fetish23, Morrsken and Startsladd who all had very nice and memorable sets. The decision to add the old school video wall was great. We got our name up there and everybody had a good time playing around with the computer dedicated to the video wall while not performing, dancing or having drinks.

I must also lift my hat to Sankt Göran and Cazuma, the club organizers and resident DJs as well as Trickski, the DJ act visiting from Berlin. They performed very well and the dance floor was packed 5 minutes after opening the doors. I wish that could happen in Stockholm…

The Morrsken lecture

Can’t say we had a massive turnout for this early saturday lecture. But Linnea really did a nice presentation (her first of her VJ work) and we had a good conversation going. This time we also got the live cast going so we had some additional viewers on-line and more people keeps on watching the saved video stream. Linnea was, among other things, talking about living in a small community with lack of good clubs and visuals as well as being a woman in the VJ-world, something she claimed didn’t really effect her that much.

The advanced Modul8 workshop

The last thing on the Pixelvärk program was the advanced Modul8 workshop held by Ilan Katin. Many of us were tired from the VJ jam the night before and only had a few hours sleep. This didn’t stop us from having a great workshop. Ilan’s methodical way of explaining and de-dramatize things made it really easy to understand. After showing how to make our VJing more effective and fun with midi controllers and giving more insight to the module system as well as creating your own modules, he got down to more advanced concepts such as multi screen projection with the TripleHead2Go device, video mapping and controlling lights with the DMX protocol. He really made it seem like piece of cake and it reminded me of when my design teacher once said “Aftereffects is nothing but Photoshop with a time line, nothing for you students to worry about”.

Pixelvärk will be back but I’m not sure where and when. The only thing I do know is that I need some time before I’m involved with a project like this again, so it won’t be next week. For those of you living in the Gothenburg area, keep on the lookout for Gorki’s project Pixel Lab. They will continue with lectures, workshops and lab sessions for people interested in all forms of VJing.

Here’s Ilan Katin’s view on the Pixelvärk festival.

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