StarCulture rooftop shoot, originally uploaded by VJ Culture.
I am most delighted to present a short interview with Grant Davis. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the most recent installment of the Cimatics VJ Festival in Brussels. It was casual in a highly chaotic environment of party people. Despite that we were able to chat, comparing our knowledge of people, ideas and as usual modul8. Some people fall into things such as marketing and real estate. There is no doubt that Grant did fell in love with VJ’ing. And it is obvious that VJ’ing has rewarded him with the hard work he does with this love. To get all the details straight I have asked Grant to introduce himself and his past/current projects to date. Lets begin then.
Grant Davis (VJ Culture) gave up his collegiate ideals of working with deaf children 12 years ago when he first experienced a live, immersive, VJ, environment in the Black Rock City desert.
As a Communications Disorder Specialist, he thought this was a great way to visually interpret music for the deaf. Since then, under the name VJ Culture, Grant has provided sight and sound for audiences around the world. Torino, Italy where he performed 19 shows with the Magnetic Poets during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
UK’s DJ Mag has voted VJ Culture among the top 10 VJs in the world for three consecutive years. He has also toured with Beck during the summer of 2006.
After returning from a tour in Japan, in the fall of 2007 Grant performed an audiovisual set at Forum Mexico as StarCulture, performing at the American Music Awards on US NBC TV for Mary J Blige.
Since the beginning of 2008, Grant has performed at NYE, ESPN/Red Bull Rio Hotel Las Vegas, Macworld SF, Austin TX, SXSW, Musikmessa Frankfurt Germany, and Winter Music Conference Miami and Glow, Santa Monica.
Grant with his partner Xarene Released, ‘vE-jA“, “Art and Technology of Live Audio Video”. A 196 page VJ book that covers the global VJ scene and includes a DVD.
Grant is also featured in two other books on VJ’s and has been in numerous magazines on the subject. Not only is he a visual artist, but he also organizes large-scale VJ related events across the US. Video Salon, Video Riot, VJ Battles and VJ Festivals. Co-producer in AVIT North America (Chicago and San Francisco). Recently, curating VJs for Beatport stage in Mami FL during Winter Music Conference.
VJ Culture rig macworld 08, originally uploaded by VJ Culture.
m8.us: Do you see a major difference between the newer vj’s and the more seasoned artists from 10 years ago.
VJ Culture: I’m envious of some of the new design talent in younger VJs. I think on average they are producing higher quality design than older VJs. In the early days it was more about the process than it was about the design. If today’s aging VJ’s don’t develop a good design sense they are going to be marked as technicians or has beens.
That said, some of the new VJs are simply cut and pasting code to create generative visuals. Although tightly synchronized it is algorithmic and can lack a human touch or narrative. My personal interests combine both approaches.
Sandisk vma afterparty, originally uploaded by VJ Culture.
On the technical side a lot of the newer generation of VJs don’t have the technical skills for installing a large video show. Muiti-projector installs over long runs of cable and appropriate lens configurations, seamless stitching. The earlier pioneers had to figure this out for themselves.
What I think is more interesting than age and experience is demographics of artists. We touch upon it in the vE-jA” Art and Technology of Live Audio Video. The difference in styles between artists is dramatic. Influence from other artists, venue challenges, policies in each region all contribute to the style developed.
The international festivals that focus on the visual are really important to developing a global scene. Everyone has something to gain when we experience art from outside our surroundings. The internet is helping us bridge that as we share demo reels and comment on forums. However, there is something to be said for being in the environment of a festival with like-minded visual enthusiasts. I would encourage everyone to make that investment, pilgrimage, whatever you want to call it and attend a festival.
The Riottt show, originally uploaded by VJ Culture.
m8.us: Does the term VJ sit well with you in regards to what you do?
VJ Culture: Not really, but its in my title. To make a living as a “VJ” you have to do a lot more than just VJ. I commend those that can live off of strictly VJing. I personally don’t know anyone doing that but I am sure they exist.
The term VJ is so general, it means different things to people. I think the one thing we have over come in the past 5 years is that a VJ isn’t just a MTV term anymore.
I had a show in Monterrey Mexico last year and when I went through Mexican customs I was ready to explain the whole VJ thing and why my equipment was racked in a pelican gun case. He opened my case and said, “Oh, you’re a VJ”. This was a 50 something year old man in a small Mexican town. I was blown away. I had two kaptivators and a v4 in the case and he knew exactly what they were for.
m8.us: How has modul8 served you in your work? What is it doing best for you and where would you like to see it go?
VJ Culture: I’m currently touring with Sharam from Deep Dish. We are using 4 bullet cams and a quad splitter. I take the 4 feeds as a single quad-view channel in as a live camera and then make a separate layer for each quadrant, colorize and effect each layer differently and then use the sequencer module to switch between camera angles to the beat.I love the stability I’m getting with the live camera feature and streaming it into Modul8 as uncompressed.
I also create a lot of my content as alpha PNG codec. It’s like photo jpeg but with alpha. It layers nicely in Modul8.
I would love to see more incorporation of generative elements in Modul8. Better integration of processing, Quartz, vvvv, etc. Oh, and apple + “Z.”
m8.us: What are your expectations from a vj software?
VJ Culture: Stability, flexibility and support. Rarely do my shows require the same configuration, so having a flexible design to the software is important to me.
For NYE, I did a show at City Hall in San Francisco. We used 4 DL1’s projecting on 4 massive columns in portrait mode. I used a desktop with dual graphics cards and a matrox triplehead2go card. I fed the V4 into a DFG box for converting the analog signal into a live camera feed for Modul8. Modul8 then spit out 4 portrait seamless images.
It ran perfectly all night long. Trying to pull that off with a hippo, spyder system or watchout would have cost thousands.