Company Post

VVOX' dubfire:live HYBRID, Fusing Science & Technology

We caught up with the Brooklyn-based VolvoxLabs team Kamil Nawratil and Pa Her to discus their latest and grandest project of 2014 - the visual design, AV system programming and stage design for DJ Ali Shirazinia aka Dubfire's Live HYBRID tour.

The remarkably rich production which premiered at the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) in October has the unmistakable dark, techno-organic Volvox signature style, both figuratively and also quite literally in this case as there's a narrative that explores the coming-into-being of a techno-organic entity as it evolves from the micro level. It's very fine work that skillfully combines and syncs 2D and 3D imagery as well as generative sound-reactive visuals.

The team used TouchDesigner to create a reliable playback system to drive the show (with no frame loss or delays) and the TouchDesigner Ableton Sync Live Environment to drive and generate visuals from the live music. Here's what Pa and Kamil had to say:

VolvoxLabs: Working with Grammy Awarding winning DJ, Ali Shirazinia, commonly known by his stage name Dubfire, we set out to create a cinematic, techno music concert experience for his Dubfire Live HYBRID tour. The show premiered worldwide on October 16 at the Roest Warehouse during the annual Amsterdam Dance Event 2014.

dubfire live HYBRID is a fusion of physical expression with the latest in dynamic, sound reactive a/v solutions. 2D and 3D animation is richly textured into a narrative and synced with live audio to explore the interaction of science and technology-of man and machine- and their resulting evolution.

The show begins at the micro level. Micro-organisms expand and form greater parts, pieces are drawn together and evolve into an autonomous entity. The entity is but a small mechanism within the greater “server.” The entity reacts.

Tension develops and the narrative unfolds.

The background animation was created using 3D and composting software, as well as TouchDesigner. Using TouchDesigner, VVOX created a reliable playback system that efficiently handled HYBRID's heavy load of video and geometry information while minimizing GPU memory. The result was a beautifully driven show with no frame loss or delay.

The team also used TouchDesigner to generate real-time sound reactive scenes in between the 3D pre-rendered scenes (see images below). To achieve these visuals, the Displace TOP was heavily used on top of the OSC-reactive geometries and movie ins. We're also using super cool GLSL setup developed by Vincent Houze that's breaking incoming complex FBX objects into tiny triangles, all also react to OSC. Overall we tried to achieve a noisy, rusty feel, something not so crisp like the rendered work.

The physical representation, a foreground multi-dimensional stage piece, was synced with content that was entirely reactive to OSC signals from Dubfire's Ableton session. Custom effects and on-the-go manipulation were used onsite to create a unique performance for each show.

Some notes on the making of...

The show cues and effects are entirely driven via the TouchDesigner Ableton Sync plugin. OSC information sent out from the master/backup HYBRID laptop is split up to our machines. This system works perfectly in case of any crash or cable problems.

We used the background screen to create a more cinematic experience for the viewers. 3D and 2D visuals on the screen guided the audience through the narrative of evolution and hybridization. The character, or what we refer to as the Entity becomes self-aware within his environment, the Server. It took a long time to perfect the connection between rendered and TouchDesigner-generated visuals but we're at a good point now.

The other critical element of the show is the foreground stage piece. Rather than a continuous cinematic progression, the content on the stage piece is constantly dynamic and reacts to every sound of each Dubfire song. We love how well the AbletonSync really comes in to play in making this a unique experience every time. The corresponding notes in Dubfire's set are constantly firing and driving the patterns, shapes and colors on the stage piece. On the FOH end, we're manipulating those on the fly so that no show is exactly the same. It's really cool to see the HYBRID show evolve in visual form itself.

The biggest hurdle for us was to keep the GPU memory low throughout the show. In part, because this is our first project that lengthy and and with such a massive amount of content, both rendered as well as created on the fly from within TouchDesigner. We used a variety of techniques and finally got it to sit at one level during the performance. If anyone is around NYC in January we'll be presenting on this at the first TouchIn meetup in 2015!

It's been a fantastic ride, and as always working with TouchDesigner for the HYBRID show was truly inspiring. Creating a reliable and robust system that will never let us down during the performance, is very comforting. Yes, it does take hundreds of hours to perfect every moment but the process always feels good when using TouchDesigner, and in the end, our understanding of how things should/shouldn't work dramatically improved.

See also: Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) exclusive live show world premier of Dubfire Live Hybrid feature on VICE and DJMag. On the Derivative blog, we wrote about VolvoxLabs' Dynamical Systems and the Perception of Consequence and Super-Connected Highly-Configurable dd OUTPOST last year.

Volvox Labs Team

[Kamil Nawratil - Art, Narrative, and Technical Director/TouchDesigner Programming]

[Alicia Martin - Concept Development]

[Josh Planz - Character and Environment Development]

[Maxime Causeret - Houdini Effects]

[Javier Cruz - TouchDesigner Development]

[Vincent Houze - TouchDesigner effects]

[Marvin Woodyat - Character animation]

[Daniel Sierra - TouchDesigner effects]

[Pa Her and Taylor Cole-Narrative Development]