Company Post

With Studio SETUP it's Not Just About the Light

Moscow-based Studio SETUP design and build stages, installations and multimedia works of massive architectural proportions that seem to exist in some futuristic time/space. What drives these pursuits they say is "to shape the physical perception of the environment and help explore possibilities of image manipulation". Founding team members Znamensky Dmitry, Novikov Stepan, Zmunchila Pavel and Anton Kochnev individually have extensive industry work experience and together combine their skills and ideas to explore expressive opportunities provided by the newest technological advancements. SETUP uses TouchDesigner to realize their high-aim goals and to create multimedia content and lighting designs for various events such as raves and concerts. Their work has led to successful collaborations with major music venues and festivals in Russia as well as the Ukraine, Germany, Romania, Vietnam and Albania. We spoke to the team about some of these projects and experiences >

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Derivative: Can you tell us how you encountered TouchDesigner and how it fits in your toolkit?

SETUP: It all started from the time when we worked exclusively with light and our main control system was the GrandMA2, but we quickly grew out of it. At that time, our friends and community were engaged using TouchDesigner. This is how we got acquainted with the software and after a while became interested in this programming language — we began to create tools for ourselves which were not enough for working with light in GrandMA. Then we continued to work with the TouchDesigner to control lasers, video content and other tools. 

Derivative: What are some of your influences and are there other artists or studios in the TouchDesigner community whose work you admire?

SETUP: There are quite a few artists whom we could call our like-minded people and even more artists who once influenced us and continue to influence us. We really love and respect the work of artists such as Josef Luis Pelz, Alex Guevara, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Keith Lostracco and many others. If we talk about Russian colleagues, then this is undoubtedly TUNDRA and

Dixon Transmoderrna, Printworks London, October 2021

Derivative: What challenges did you encounter in such a unique venue that is long and narrow and with a very high ceiling?

SETUP: The biggest challenge on this project was timing. We had exactly 10 hours to assemble, set up and launch our event. This is an incredibly short time for a venue of this size. During these 10 hours it was necessary to mount the side screens, install the lasers, assemble the control system and set everything up.

It should be noted that for this project we participated in collaboration with Transmoderna artists and most of the content was provided by them. We used some of our generative content from TouchDesigner, content from a neural network from a separate machine, rendered content from Transmoderna artists, and generative content from Unity from a separate machine. All video sources were connected using TouchDesigner for processing and output to the on-screen setup.

Derivative: How was TouchDesigner used other than for visual effects?

S E T U P: The lights and lasers were also controlled by TouchDesigner and it was all brought together in the MA, where the MA was the big controller. This gives you a lot of flexibility and speed in customization. Also the frontal laser was synchronized with the video content on the screens. The lasers were controlled by TouchDesigner via Pangolin.

Derivative: Was there any unique discovery or achievement from this project that you were extremely happy with?

SETUP: The biggest achievement was the opportunity to work with this cult venue and manage to make a massive setup in such a tight timeframe. Thanks to the Printworks team and Transmoderna.

Signal, Nikola Lenivets, August 2021

SETUP: For the Signal 2021 festival, the team prepared a special lighting solution based on a transparent frame as part of the stage structure. This effectively created a stereo effect and three-dimensional visual imagery that could be seen from any point and perspective. The installation seems to work in all directions at the same time.

Derivative: Could you talk a bit more about how the content was produced and what are some interesting tricks you used to make it look volumetric?

SETUP: Some of the content was generated in TouchDesigner and some of it was done in Notch. The content was mixed in TD before being displayed. There are 7 layers of grid screens in this setup and so any content becomes “stereo”. We used different techniques — changing the delay times for each layer of the screen, turning on the whole geometry and “cutting” it using 7 cameras with short clipping, and also simply controlling each screen as a separate lighting device.


Anaconda, Nizhny Novgorod, November 2020

SETUP: The installation opened a new art space in Nizhny Novgorod. This is our 40-meter diode Anaconda made up of eight lasers, sixteen sound channels and thousands of diode sticks. Different sound parts went along the channels forcing the visitor to rediscover the feeling of space.

Derivative: What was your inspiration for this piece and can you explain a bit about how Anaconda is produced and controlled?

SETUP: We are very much inspired by massive architectural forms, often by light appearing in darkness and various digital images. Here you can especially feel some kind of sci-fi aesthetics, which are also close to us - all our works seem to be from the future. Perhaps the future is very strange.This installation consists of 1000 diode sticks of 64 RGB pixels each, they are controlled by Art-Net. Once upon a time such a volume of data seemed impossible to us. Everything is controlled from TouchDesigner - sound, sound channel masters, diode sticks, lasers and smoke.

best by Nechto, Kyiv,  April 2021

SETUP: The main features of this stage setup are focused on the way the screen content is handled. The bottom line of the design is that the image which is broadcast on the LED screen wall can be deformed at any given time in such a way that it looks three-dimensional. This is achieved by reprojecting a rendered image from a camera with the same parameters onto the screen plane. In addition to simulated 3D content: 80 Acme Dotline 360s were placed along the edges of the LED wall, each with 12 diode light sources so they completely frame the screen.

Derivative: What’s coming up next in terms of projects and what is exciting you right now in where all this - technology, potential for AV etc. is going?

SETUP: We hope to continue our tour with Transmoderna, to develop our collaboration with NECHTO, and to bring big festivals back to the world. What inspires us the most is that different authors and teams come up with so many unexpected and interesting things around the world. Despite the fact that the visual toolkit itself is objectively quite small, many people find very interesting and unique methods of working with visual content.


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