Vanilla Riot > Merging music with multi-layered live visuals

The Steim week long residency was a great news for us, because it meant delving into the details of newly conceived improvised audiovisual show

In 2007 Bostjan Simon followed a week long LiSa workshop in Steim premises. It was organized in collaboration with the Conservatory of Amsterdam and hosted by Jos Zwaanenburg. Later that year we started Vanilla Riot (next to Bostjan there is Stephan Meidell and Onno Govaert). During the following years we did a few international tours and released an album.

One thing we always have been working on is merging our instruments with electronics. You can take a listen to an earlier attempt recorded in June 2009:

In april 2010 we added an extra element to our show: visuals, by Roel van Doorn. By using three beamers (being influenced by Roel and by sound input from the musicians) together with a transparent curtain in front of the musicians there is the possibility to have an interactive play with different layers in the space (front, musicians and background)

During the week at Steim we developed a lot of new musical material. We all have a background as improvising musicians and treat the material very flexible. Next to our regular instrumentation (baritone guitar, drums, clarinet/alto saxophone and electronics) we added a few cheap synthesizers, integrated live feedback and its processing, experimented with clipping; distorted processed live and sampled sound (LiSa). Also we managed to have Bostjan processing the drums while Onno has very accurate control over the output.

Stephan’s guitar and pedals:

For more detailed information about the visuals please read Roel’s description:

Research Vanilla Riot visuals

IR camera and light
In order to use live visual input from the overall dark stage, i experimented with an infrared camera
and an external infrared light. Using the input from the camera in Jitter, i created several
possibilities to control the visuals, using cv.jit objects to create outlines of the people on the stage
which are influenced by the overall volume of the guitar. The drum input switches the input from
complete red with high contrast to white outlines, using gate triggering.
Only problem with the IR light is that it beams a spotlight instead of an overall ambient light, this is
something which need further attention.
Also, the possibility to ‘stretch’ the input extremely can be used to create vertical and horizontal
stripes instead of the ‘normal’ input of the camera.
GL objects
Another part of the research is to have a more minimal approach with shapes created by several
different objects. Before the residency i used a lot of premade movies, but they seemed to limit
me. Using the GPU to create GL shapes greatly improves the fps, and gives a very versatile
backbone to the visual patch. I use a joystick to control the overal view of the rendered
environment, to zoom in and rotate the view of the gl objects. During the residency i programmed
the complete patch using gl rendering, also the live input is being rendered to a
object to have more control of zooming and gl effects.
Another new way of using the gl is to use the @matrixoutput option of, connecting
them to objects. The matrices that are sent out the gridshapes objects can be processed
and altered, which gives a very dynamic way of working with the material, creating even more
chaotic but controlled visual output.
Network input volumes
All instruments are plugged in the soundcard of Bostjan, who is on stage playing clarinet and
saxophone. We created the following parameters to be used as triggers for interactive visual output:
– saxophone level (dpa microphone input)
– guitar level (lineout input from the guitar)
– snaredrum level (contact mic input)
– basedrum level (contact mic input)
– electronic sound level left/right (direct output from laptop Bostjan)
These levels are scaled to 0-1000 and sent by a network connection to the laptop of Roel, who is
responsible for the visuals. All programmed patches have different ways to use these sound inputs
as controls for visual output, using them as continuous parameters or as gate triggers.
Strobe light
Another little thing we add in the setup is a little strobe light, which can be controlled by Onno
(drums) using a footswitch. This way the stage lights are getting more dynamic. There are already
two beamers that beam behind the curtain, on both Stephan (guitar) on the left and Bostjan (sax) on
the right. Since the two beamers are not able to beam anything in the middle (due to small distances
on the stage) where the drums are, we want to give Onno the possibility to play with the strobe so
the stage itself is divided in:
-beamer left on Stephan
-strobe controlled by Onno
-beamer right on Bostjan

Click HERE for some samples we recorded at Steim

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