Make Some Noisia

Dutch electronic megahouse Noisia has been rocking the planet with their latest album ‘Outer Edges’.

Photo by Diana Gheorghiu

It was a wait. But one that was truly worth it. Essentially a concept album, they pushed the boundaries on this one by backing it up with a ‘concept tour’.

An audio-visual phenomenon with rivetting content, perfect sync & melt-yo-face energy, the Outer Edges show is one that could not pass our dissection.

We visited Rampage, one of the biggest Drum & Bass gigs around the world & caught up with Roy Gerritsen (Boompje Studio) & Manuel Rodrigues (, on video and lighting duty respectively, to talk to us about the levels of excellence the Noisia crew has achieved, with this concept show.

Here is a look at Diplodocus, a favorite amongst bass heads:
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Video by Diana Gheorghiu

Thanks for doing this guys! Much appreciated.

What exactly is a concept show and how is preparation for it different from other shows?

When Noisia approached us they explained they wanted to combine the release of their next album “Outer Edges” with a synchronized audio visual performance. It had been 6 years since Noisia released a full album so you can imagine it was a big thing.

Together, we came up with a plan to lay the foundation for upcoming shows. We wanted to focus on developing a workflow and pipeline to create one balanced and synchronized experience.
Normally, all the different elements within a show (audio, light, visual, performance) focus on their own area. There is one general theme or concept and everything then comes together in the end - during rehearsals.

We really wanted to create a show where we could focus on the total picture. Develop a workflow where we could keep refining the show and push the concept in all different elements in a quick and effective way, without overlooking the details.

What was the main goal you set out to achieve as you planned the Outer Edges show?
How long did it take to come together, from start to end?

We wanted to create a show where everything is 100% synchronized and highly adaptable. Having one main control computer which connects to all elements within the show in a perfect synchronized way.This setup gave us the ability to find a perfect balance and narrative between sound, performance, lights and visuals. Besides that we wanted to have a modular and highly flexible show. Making it easy and quick to adapt or add new content.

We started with the project in March 2016 and our premiere was at the Let It Roll festival in Prague (July 2016).
The show is designed in such a way that it has an “open-end”. We record every show and because of the open infrastructure we are constantly refining it on all fronts.

Noisia Super Crew!
Noisia Super Crew!

What are the different gadgets and software you use to achieve that perfect sync between audio/video & lighting?

Roy:Back in the day, my graduation project at the HKU was a vj mix tool where I used the concept of “cue based” triggering. Instead of the widely used timecode synchronization where you premix all the content (the lights and the video tracks), we send a MIDI trigger of every beat and sound effect.This saves a lot of time in the content creation production process.

The edit and mix down of the visuals are basically done live on stage instead of on After effects. This means we don't have to render out 8 minute video clips and can focus on only a couple of key visual loops per track. (Every track consists of about 5 clips which get triggered directly from Ableton Live using a custom midi track).Inside Ableton we group a couple of extra designated clips so they all get triggered at the same time.

For every audio clip we sequence separate midi clips for the video and lighting, which get played perfectly in sync with the audio. These midi tracks then get sent to the VJ laptop and Manuel's lighting desk.

We understand you trigger clips off Resolume from Abelton Live using the extremely handy Max for Live patches?

Yes, we sequence a separate midi track for each audio track. We divided up the audio track in 5 different elements (beats, snares, melody , fx etc.), which corresponds with 5 video layers in Resolume.

When a note gets triggered, a Max for Live patch translates it to an OSC message and sends if off to the VJ laptop. The OSC messages get caught by a small tool we built in Derivative’s TouchDesigner. In its essence this tool translates the incoming messages into OSC messages which Resolume understands. Basically, operating Resolume automatically with the triggers received from Ableton.

This way of triggering videoclips was a result of an experiment from Martin Boverhof and Sander Haakman during a performance at an art festival in Germany, a couple of years ago. Only two variables are being used- triggering video files and adjusting the opacity of a clip. We were amazed how powerful these two variables are.

Resolume Set
Resolume Set
Sync Tool
Sync Tool
Regarding lighting, we understand the newer Chamsys boards have inbuilt support for MIDI/ timecode. What desk do you use?

Manuel:To drive the lighting in the Noisia - Outer Edges show I use a Chamsys Lighting desk. It is a very open environment. You can send Midi, Midi showcontrol, OSC, Timecode LTC & MTC, UDP, Serial Data and off course DMX & Artnet to the desk.

The support of Chamsys is extremely good and the software version is 100% free. Compared to other lighting desk manufacturers, the hardware is much cheaper.

A lighting desk is still much more expensive than a midi controller.
It might look similar as both have faders and buttons but the difference is that a lighting desk has a brain.
You can store, recall and sequence states, something which is invaluable for a lighting designer and now is happening is videoland more and more.

I have been researching on bridging the gap between Ableton Live and ChamSys for 8 years.
This research has led me to M2Q, acronym of Music-to-Cue which acts as a bridge between Ableton live and ChamSys. M2Q is a hardware solution designed together with Lorenzo Fattori, an Italian lighting designer and engineer. M2Q listens to midi messages sent from Ableton Live and converts them to Chamsys Remote Control messages, providing cue triggering and playback intensity control.
M2Q is reliable, easy and fast lighting sync solution. It enables non linear lighting sync.

When using Timecode it is impossible to loop within a song, do the chorus one more time or alter the playback speed on the fly. One is basically limited to pressing play.
Because our lighting sync system is midi based the artist on stage has exactly the same freedom Ableton audio playback offers.

Do you link it to Resolume?

Chamsys has a personality file (head file) for Resolume and this enables driving Resolume as a media server from the lighting desk. I must confess that I’m am considering switching to Resolume now for some time as it is very cost effective and stable solution compared to other mediaserver platforms.

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Video by Diana Gheorghiu

Tell us about the trio’s super cool headgear. They change color, strobe, are dimmable. How?!

The led suits are custom designed and built by Élodie Laurent and are basically 3 generic led parcans and have similar functionality.
They are connected to the lighting desk just as the rest of the lighting rig and are driven using the same system.
Fun fact: These are the only three lights we bring with us so the Outer Edges show is extremely tour-able.

The Noisia content is great in it’s quirkyness. Sometimes we see regular video clips, sometimes distorted human faces, sometimes exploding planets, mechanical animals- what’s the thought process behind the content you create? Is it track specific?

The main concept behind this show is that every track has his own little world in this Outer Edges universe. Every track stands on its own and has a different focus on style and narrative.
Nik (one third of Noisia & Art director) compiled a team of 10 international motion graphic artists and together we took on the visualization of the initial 34 audio tracks. Cover artwork, videoclips and general themes from the audio tracks formed the base for most of the tracks.

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Photo by Diana Gheorghiu
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Photo by Diana Gheorghiu

The lighting & video sync is so on point, we can’t stop talking about it. It must have taken hours of studio time & programming?

That was the whole idea behind the setup.
Instead of synchronizing everything in the light and video tracks, we separated the synchronizing process from the design process. Meaning that we sequence everything in Ableton and on the content side Resolume takes care of the rest. Updating a vj clip is just a matter of dragging a new clip into Resolume.

This also resulted in Resolume being a big part in the design process (instead of normally only serving as a media server).

During the design process we run the Ableton set and see how clips get triggered, if we don't like something we can easily replace the video clip with a new one or adjust for instance the scaling size inside Resolume.

Some tracks which included 3D rendered images took a bit longer, but there is one track “Diplodocus” which took 30 minutes to make from start to finish. Originally, meant as a placeholder but after seeing it being synchronized we liked the simplicity and boldness of it and decided to keep it in the show.

Here is some more madness that went down:
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Video by Diana Gheorghiu

Is it challenging to adapt your concept show into different, extremely diverse festival setups? How do you output the video to LED setups that are not standard?

We mostly work with our rider setup consisting of a big LED screen in the back and LED banner in front of the booth, but in case of bigger festivals we can easily adjust the mapping setup inside Resolume.
In the case of Rampage we had another challenge to come up with a solution to operate with 7 full HD outputs.

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Photo by Diana Gheorghiu

Normally Nik is controlling everything from stage and we have a direct video line to the LED processor. Since all the connections to the LED screens were located in the front of house we used 2 laptops positioned there.

It was easy to adjust the Ableton Max for Live patch to send the triggers to two computers instead of one, and we wrote a small extra tool that sends all the midi-controller data from the stage to the FOH (to make sure Nik was still able to operate everything from the stage).[/i]

Talk to us about some features of Resolume that you think are handy, and would advice people out there to explore.

Resolume was a big part of the design process in this show. Using it almost as a small little After Effects, we stacked up effects until we reached our preferred end result. We triggered scalings, rotations, effects and opacity using the full OSC control option Resolume offers. This makes it super easy to create spot on synchronized shows. With a minimal amount of pre - production.
This in combination with the really powerful mapping options makes it an ideal tool to build our shows on!

What a great interview, Roy & Manuel.
Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes understanding of what it takes to run this epic show, day after day.

Noisia has been ruling the Drum & Bass circuit, for a reason. Thumping, fresh & original music along with a remarkable show- what else do we want?

Here is one last video for a group rage :

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Video by Diana Gheorghiu


Photo credits Noisa setup: Roy Gerritsen
Adhiraj, Refractor for the on point video edits.

Posted by shipra on Thursday April 6, 2017 at 18:37 Tags: ableton live * av * behind the scenes * boompje * manuel rodrigues * max for live * noisia * roy gerritsen * sync * touring
Comment from Arvol:

Briefly skimmed over this before I'm going to bed. Can't wait to read this whole thing tomorrow. Thank you for sharing. I absolutely love inspirational shows and ideas like this. Thank you for sharing this.

Comment from shipra:

Thanks dinga. Our pleasure :)

Comment from Arvol:

Wow! This is incredible! It's funny how you can think you're starting to get a grasp of how to use something, then something like this comes out and knocks you back on your ass haha.

Such an incredible design, and I LOVE reading all the technical work done behind the scenes (as a LED systems tech I LOVE reading about the build, mapping, and routing).

Looks like I need to dig into the OSC side of things. I've played with TD breifly, and had a fellow VJ show off his MAX skills.
Since I don't work directly for artist per say, learning this setup wouldn't benefit my daily needs. But I want to keep growing and be able to offer this service to people if asked. If you get some time in the next couple of months, would you be willing to walk me through some of the OSC-MIDI and TD/MAX serup you worked with via PM/DM?

Thanks again for sharing this. VERY inspirational! :o

Comment from Joris:

If you get some time in the next couple of months, would you be willing to walk me through some of the OSC-MIDI and TD/MAX serup you worked with via PM/DM?
I don't think Roy frequents these forums that much, so you might want to hit him up via his website or on Facebook

Comment from Arvol:

Thank you Joris. I will do that :)

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