Miami Music Week is inundated by an overabundance of things to do. Sunset cruises, pool parties, marathon warehouse raves – the options are endless but not particularly interesting. Amidst all the high energy partying, BT has taken a different approach to Miami, shirking the status quo to unveil his most ambitious project to date — the Electronic Opus. With the help of visionary producers TanZ Group, what started as a crowd-funded album recorded with a live orchestra has since grown into a full live experience that hopes to set a new benchmark for electronic music as a performance art. A far cry from the label showcases strewn about South Beach and Downtown, BT’s Electronic Opus will be held off the beaten path at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts. It is the first time an electronic act will be performing at the space during Miami Music Week. The show will include a full orchestra and a six-figure visual budget, all designed by interactive and multimedia installation designers VVOX Labs. We had the chance to hang out with the VVOX team as they put the finishing touches on the Opus, giving us a behind the scenes look at the most ambitious Miami Music Week event of 2015.
Can you give us a little bit of insight into VVOX labs, its history, and what you do? How large is the team?
I’m currently Creative and Technical Director at Volvox Labs [VVOX]. We typically work with brands or artists on interactive/multimedia art installations that feature technology element at an event, interactive LED mapping, projection mapping environments, a full design/build environment, among other things. Usually it’s a mix of our skills in visual design, new media and fabrication.
We started off more as an interdisciplinary VFX design studio with two Partners conceived from the love of visuals, music and art. At first, our installations were commissioned from electronic music festivals like Electric Forest and Digital Dreams where we created a variety of content which was projected onto more organic and natural settings. We really enjoyed those project because we’re allowed complete creative freedom. Though it’s always hard to find those kinds of projects, when we do, that’s when we are really able to manifest and push forward our skills.
As we continued to work with more global brands and high-end projects, there was an increasing desire to bridge our digital work with a more physical element in each of our installations. My Partner and I looked to collaborating with my brother forming a branch of Volvox Labs –FORM with Miron Nawratil (Graduate of Yale Masters in Architecture) as an extension of our shared interests in design, digital fabrication, and goal to create more responsive architectural design. So now we have everything in house which streamlines both the design and production processes.
We’re based in Brooklyn, with two offices—one for VFX, the other for FORM. It’s been fun and quite an adventure pairing high-end technology with the more organic systems and designs to illustrate how the two relate and push-pull from each other.
How were you approached to create the show? Has VVOX ever worked on a project like this before?
We were approached by Alex Harrow, BT’s manager about the possibility of working on EO. We were ecstatic to hear about collaborating with another renowned artist. Just recently we wrapped up the Dubfire Live Hybrid performance which gave us a solid base for setting up our systems and creative thinking for EO.
VVOX Director Kamil Nawratil shows off some of his coding techniques to our team.
What about this project excited you?
Electronic Opus is quite different from what we’ve done in the past. BT takes his performance into a philharmonic setting with a live orchestra accompanying his music. Creating a visual performance for a debut event which is essentially re-inventing sound, electronic music and orchestral performance is extremely exciting! We’re trying to carve out a unique feel with our visuals as well as the physical architectural element to add to this never-seen-before kind of experience.
Can you take us through your process. From conception to initial sketches to fabricating the final product?
Since we’re working directly with BT, we were given more creative freedom. Much of our inspiration for this project is of course BT’s music, and our overall inspirations from science, nature (the geometry of it) and the cosmos. We worked around a loose narrative showing the creation and progression of an abstract universe, a planet-like travel through different landscapes and how all these micro-macro-scales are essentially the same and interlinked processes.
For projecting the visuals, we were asked to provide a rear wall on the stage. However, using a flat surface just didn’t seem right for this kind of performance. We talked about doing projection mapping but didn’t want to be stuck with geometrical shapes since our visuals were more focused on taking the audience on a journey through space and time, from smallest molecule to galaxies in outer space and such. Based on these ideas we came up with a projection mapping surface representing landscape topography, a physical manifestation of the animated worlds. The topography also serves as a wormhole to different dimensions.
A close up snap shot of a portion of the “Apollo” wall. Highlighting the depth and attention to detail that is going into this one of a kind project.
Is there anything like this that has been done before? What are some of the 1sts for both VVOX and the live production/performance industry?
It’s hard to answer whether anything like this has been done before since I can’t speak to all the amazing artists out there. Of course, there are shows and performances using some of the elements of the Electronic Opus show. As far as projection mapping, we’ve seen mapping on buildings, mapping on actual organic elements like trees and forest, mapping geometrical shapes, but I haven’t seen mapping onto CNC-milled topography element to this size. Perhaps it’s been done, but what we’re bringing is all of it in a massive scale which will be travelling around the world. We learned a quite a bit in developing the system and stress testing, as well as figuring out the best ways to fabricate a lightweight, albeit huge 50′ wall that can be mapped quickly and fold into one crate.
A rendering of one of the deep space scenes for Electronic Opus’ visual display. Projected onto a small scale mock up of the 55′ “Apollo” wall that will host the shows 3D mapping projections.
The Kinect functionality is pretty interesting as we’re enabling the conductor to ‘paint’ her movements onto the topography walls. The effect is also amplified by the transparent projection film behind her where viewers can see more real-time animations and conductor herself.
What are the technical specifications of the project?
For the show we’ve been lucky enough to have BARCO provide us a 3-projector system for the mapping of the walls and one more projector for the transparent, acrylic setup in front of the orchestra.
The features include:
High six-figure production budget featuring volumetric 52’ Wide x 13’ Tall 3D mapping.
Live Feed GoPro integration with mapping.
Presence sensing via Microsoft Kinect for Audio and Human Gesture reactive visuals.
16-ft wall of acrylic panels used for holographic projections to turn clear panels into instant mega HD TV walls.
Custom sound-driven visuals takes the audience on an epic journey through space and time. The dynamic symphonic/electronic concert performance is integrated effortlessly to create this massive immersive spectacle of sound, light and form.