Mapping Festival 2014 report
It took 10 years for me to get to the Mapping Festival in Geneva. I wish I would have gone sooner but being there for the 10th anniversary was great. People who has been coming for years said that this year was one of the best in the festival history. I missed the beginning of the festival due to work and arrived by the end of the week, right in time for the wrap up of the LED fashion workshop. I met up with my Swedish buddy Patrik Johansson (Current Current) who was attending the workshop and he introduced me to people. The class had spent four days learning how to solder and control wearable LEDs.
The final fashion show was really something special. A few professional models mixed with people from the workshop walking their own creations. All the lights were in synch with the music and were being controlled by one central computer.
While picking up my badge at the festival head quarters I took a look at four really neat video installations in the gallery space. My favorite was Benjamin Muzzin’s “Full Turn”. It’s really cool “what the fuck moment “ to enter the room while the piece is running. You see holographic looking 3D shapes floating mid air. You walk around it and slowly start to get an idea of how it’s made. You still want to stick a finger in there to make it stop to examine it closer.
After a few minutes it stops and you get some piece of mind (and you’re pretty glad you didn’t stick the finger in there).
The VJ contest
The Mapping Festival’s VJ contest is world famous. For those of you who have never experienced the contest in any form – here is a short break down on how it works:
In the first round the VJs bring their own soundtracks and showcase their own style of VJing. For the second round there are eight contestants left and each one gets to pick a random music style. After each round the jury comments on the performance, giving good advice as staying away from mirrors, tunnels and warn about heavy use of stock effects. The final four gets graphic elements from the jury that they have to use in the next round. The contest continues the following day with the semifinals.
Finally there are two VJs left that gets to battle it out back to back starting with 6 minutes each then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Then the winner is announced and gets spoiled with hardware and software prices.
VJ Eletroiman (Ricardo Calado, BR) and Chindogu (Marcelo Vidal, UY) made it to the final round this year. Eletroiman kept on a theme that he has been following for years. It consists of a dreamy world containing his own made up brazilian tribal characters which are represented and animated in a few different styles.
Chindogu sported a graphic style with a variety of patterns but had some technical problems in the first round. Both contestants interpreted the music into graphics very well, almost uncanny at times. After the final minute, VJ Eletroiman came out as the winner and received so much gear that he must have had trouble checking in at the airport.
Worth mentioning is also that the VJ contest at the Live Performers Meeting (LPM) in Eindhoven just went down and guess who the finalists were? Eletroiman and Chindogu – but this time the table had turned and Chindogu came out as the winner.
I watched a few of the A/V performances at the Galpon Theatre. The one that stood out to me the most was the French duo Nonotak (Takami Nakamoto, sound & Noemi Shipfer, visuals).
The performances were all great but I think 40 minutes is too long for a sitting audience. I think all performances could have been 20-30 minutes. It’s not enough variation in music and visuals to be that long. Or let people dance and enjoy it their own way. And I don’t mean this as disrespect to the artists, I’m purely seeing it out of an audience perspective. It felt long even for someone like me who understand and enjoys this art form.
The New York Mappathon show
The NY Mappathon was a three day workshop curated by New York artist CHiKA in collaboration with Anton Marini (Vade), Tom Butterworth (Bangnoise) and Dave Lublin (Vidvox/VDMX). The workshop ended with a show at the Galpon theatre. The students had decorated the exhibition space with boxes, spheres, pyramids, mannequins and skeletons. Some were also using the the fixed interiors. A couple of pieces were interactive; one had a face turning towards the viewer using blob tracking. In another piece the students let the viewer control the mapping with an iPad.
There were so much to see at the festival but I also made sure to take my time chatting with artists and developers. One of the big trends in mapping software right now is automatic edge blending. We will see it in the next version of MadMapper that will come out in a few months. By the end of the year we will also expect to see this in Blendy Dome.
I’ve been speculating for a while that Garagecube is working on a new piece of video performance software. There has been little pieces of evidence here and there over the last two years. I got this confirmed now but it will take a while for it to see the light of day. It’s supposed to be built on same framework as MadMapper. The software does not have a graphic user interface yet. Rumors has that the software ran one of the installations at the LED fashion show.
I assume this is why there hasn’t been much progress with Modul8. But there will be one surprising feature coming up in Modul8 later this year. I won’t reveal what but it’s something the users has been asking for a lot.
I had a really good conversation with Lise Couchet. She was telling me about shutters for projectors for going complete dark when not projecting any content to get rid of the “almost black” projector frame. These techniques are often used in theaters but not used enough for video performances. Tom Butterworth later told me a story about how one theater used the tray of an old DVD player to cover the lens. The improvised shutter was conveniently controlled with the DVD remote.
Two of my favorite characters at the festival were the Modul8 module expert Andrew Teasdale (the Gener8 module suite) and the Wavesum founder Teemu Karjalainen (Waveclock and Wavetick). I think we might see some collaborations from these two geniuses in the near future.
I had a good talk over dinner with the Blendy Dome guys, Pedro Zaz and Roger Sondré. They are working the dome scene from and underdog perspective with a very good result. Roger showed me a couple of side projects. One is an audio reactive mesh software for OSX and iOS called Pul.se and the other one an addictive mobile game called Bananas that will be released soon.
Club Le Zoo
I finished my weekend in Geneva with a big night at Le Zoo. They set designers had gone all out with screens. The big room was covered with numerous scrims and a video mapped festival logo behind the DJ.
When I entered the venue, Vade and Dave Lublin (as “White Morpheus”) were performing together. Good to see two of my favorite developers knocking out a VJ set. Vade was sporting a good mix of geometric and glitchy clips while David got stuck with an animated graph for a while also taking care of some crash reports mid set. Heleen Blanken (NL) followed with some nice video shots but wasn’t that in touch with the music. The big VJ act of the evening was the classic German act Pfadfanderei.
The guys performed a terrific set. They were not using a lot of media, they pretty much kept with one scene per song but doing cuts and effects within the scene. I kind of like this approach myself, maybe it’s something that comes with age?
I left Le Zoo shortly after 5 in the morning to catch 3 hours sleep before heading to the airport. I might as well have stayed out longer, those tree hours did’t help much. The flight home will not go down as the most pleasant in history. Cold sweating while trying to process all the impressions from my four days at the festival. I will be back, that’s for sure.
Next up: An interview with Anton Marini (Vade), Tom Butterworth (Bangnoise) and Dave Lublin (Vidvox/VDMX) – the brilliant people behind the things we take for granted these days; Syphon and the HAP codec.