Wolves are slightly eccentric, mega talented visual artists who are making their presence felt across the globe. With fabulous skills to boast of, Joshua Dmello & Jash Reen have been fast racing to the front of the (visual) pack.
They’ve worked with all sizes of setups- from tiny to large to omgsomassive and have delivered to the hilt, over & over again. Be it with projection, or LED.
From Sunburn to EDC to Beyond wonderland; Noisia to Nucleya to Flux Pavillion- Wolves have definitely carved a niche for themselves and are well on their way to achieve their dream of world domination.
When you look through their work, what is striking is their creativity in led mapping.
This blog post looks to cover some of their best art, understand their psyche & give you a grand display of some of their prized possessions.
Thanks for doing this, you guys!
Tell us a little something about where it all began for you. At what point did you realize visuals was your calling?
It pretty much started when we met in high school and played a whole lot of video games. We were so obsessed with films, comic books and games growing up that after trying to chase the proverbial ‘calling’ in the real world — Josh has a background in his Dad’s light and sound business and Jash an audio engineer and a journalist — we somehow snapped back to a way to playing video games again. Only we’ve got way bigger screens now and a lot more people are watching.
What do you prefer: Projection or LED? And why?
LED. We respect and admire a lot of projection mapping set ups in the art installation space. But we reached a point of exhaustion with upholding that medium in larger music arenas and festivals. It felt like we were alienating the larger elements of production like the lighting rigs, lasers, stage fx and of course, the performing artists themselves. You can’t having them performing at the same capacity if you have to worry about the lights overshadowing the projections.
So we took the fundamentals of projection mapping and chopped and screwed our input and output maps to fit to the most luminous and stubborn of LED surfaces. Every show’s a new challenge and we never repeat a set up twice.
Tell us the process you follow for pixel mapping.
It starts with us coming up with a stage design, which we conceptualize from scratch or is given to us by the client/ festival. Once we get the tile sizes and resolutions we figure out a way to create the most effective pixel map. One that can fit custom content and existing 1080p content that will look correct moving across the entire stage. Doing a 5-6 hour music festival is not feasible on custom content alone. If you have the accurate outmap map as well you can do most of your mapping from the hotel room itself. Aside from a few onsite tweaks.
Resolume offers mapping and playout of content in the same platform, very few other software offer the same with the ease of access and user-friendly interface. The snapping features, keyboard short cuts and the ability the set virtual displays makes mapping on Arena a breeze.
From the Imperial guard to Nucleya’s crazy stage to the current tour rig with Flux, how do you come up with different LED designs? Is there a brief you follow? Or do you adapt as per the content that you visualize?
There’s never a hardcore brief in play rather than an intense few weeks of conversation between us and the artists/clients we’re working with. Our inspirations personally come from larger than life cinematic universes — think Guillermo Del toro explaining Pacific Rim for the first time to a boardroom of studio execs and you know the kind of take we go in swinging with. Often we get so invested in bringing our content to life they become part of larger narratives we rarely get to talk about in a field like live visuals; but it definitely helps us tie it all together. We can give you 3 examples:
1) When Nucleya’s team approached us for his Bass Yatra Tour, we had around 600-700 sq ft of LED available and that many different versions of the LED layout to explore. We do a few days of pure illustration work along these layouts. Sometimes things just don't click and we break it up and start again. There’s a moment where the practicality of having this layout on stage meets this insane war demon sketch you’ve been rooting for in the start, and then we all sleep well at night.
2) Some of the bigger stages we’ve done like the ‘Outer Realm’ stage at Beyond Wonderland in Los Angeles throw a real curve ball at us. The stage had multiple narrow arches extending from the stage over the audience with very little room for seamless content.
We took it upon us to create two worlds loosely themed as — An Enchanted Forest and A Lost Ship — and somehow adapt it to the whole spread of LED. Keep in mind this was for a stage hosted by the incredible Bassrush crew and we knew things were about to get heavy. Those pleasant environments gave way to a forgotten labyrinth of cogs and pipes powered by a mechanical eye and a set of makeshift Icarus wings - and it all fit!
3) Fast forward to the Flux Pavilion tour and we’re working with a limited itinerary. The production company and label (Bigabox Productions and Circus Records) stock their LED in-house and had to scale it down to a realistic number of panels that would tour safely across all cities and fit in every venue. When they gave us the LED layout and pixel map, we were determined to follow through and not fallback on a 16:9 screen.
The other half of the conversation was with Flux Pavilion himself who had a very distinct vision of these worlds he wanted us to create for different sections of his set. It really pushed us to get a collective vision across that would fit on four sections of LED (one being the fascia) and still be immersive enough to draw audiences in every night.
We ended up with one hell of a ride — a quirky intro feature that draws people from the a scenic British landscape to the strange worlds of Flux Pavilion. At one section of the we have a bionic ship carrier take over the LED and transport him between these worlds. At another, a mad-scientist rig of electricity Pylons take over the screens and charges up flags made of coloured electricity. It gets weirder as we go on, and we’re pretty much developing these worlds as we go along on tour. Every night’s had a great response and we cant wait to see what the show turns into. [/i]
Tell us about your content creation process. From scratch to the final render. What software you use, and how much time one clip takes, on an average.
We throw ideas back and forth to settle on a base LED design or projection surface. Once thats finalized, we start to sketch over it- not only does it help control our ideas, but it also assures we’re creating something that will no doubt function at every step.
The sketches are then scanned, digitized and modelled in a 3D realm. We then gather up as many parts as possible to see what we can play around with in terms of animation. We start of with Illustrator to vectorize the sketches and then move on the Cinema 4Dfor the 3D modeling and animation. Post that, its taken into After Effects for final compositing and animation.
We have a great team on board that makes doing all of this such a breeze. They work round the clock and deliver spot on content. Shout out to them!
It can take anywhere between one day to around three to four days based on how complex the clip is in terms of 3D animation and texturing and lighting.[/i]
Let's take a walk through your studio. What hardware do you use, what is your most prized possession and what would you like to change/ upgrade?
Like most VJ's out there, we've also realized that the macbook pros just don’t cut it anymore. The heating issues, performance related to the AMD cards and throw in the 'Donglepocalypse', its a no brainer. We've switched to windows laptops for our tour machines.
We're currently using the Octane II from PC Specialist.
Intel® CoreTMi7 Quad Core Processor i7-6700k
GeForce GTX 1070
1 TB Samsung SSD + 1 TB Seagate Hybrid.
For display outs they have 2 x mini DP, 1 x HDMI , 1 x USB C/Thunderbolt 3.
For our live feed needs we use the Magewell USB 3 to HDMI capture card.
We’re using multiple Windows servers for content generation with dual GTX 1080 GPU’s and the Intel i7 5960x CPU, 32 GB of RAM and 2TB SSD’s in each machine.
Our most prized possession would have to be the TMNT statues we have based on art by James Jean.[/i]
What process do you follow live? Do you prefer freestyling or is Midi/ SMPTE your friend?
We’re firm believers in doing everything live. We make our content in layers with alpha so we can explore different versions easily and no two sets end up being alike. It keeps the set interesting for us and helps us play it out with an instrument just like any performing artist would.
It also helps us build upon the content on the road and add more layers to it as our heads come up with something. If we go a bit too far we use Resolume’s crazed set of essential effects to roll out of a situation and come back with another banger. True story.
Is there anything more you would like to talk about?
We're playing around with expanding the Wolves brand because a lot of people seem to connect with it. It's all non profit and DIY at this stage. Our first step was starting a merch line that we want to promote within an immediate community of artists before they make their way out to a larger group of people. We started handing them ourselves at shows backstage, outside venues, on long tours and of course to all the wonderful crew we've had a chance to work with at front of house. It's like marking our path through the trenches of the creative industry with a sort-of-cult symbol rather than it become a household brand.
For people in India who'd like to represent, we've partnered with Redwolf to stock the latest 'MK-II' designs online: http://www.redwolf.in/wolves
We've also toying around with the tag 'New Wolf Order' to host a series of video content. At present, we're running with a VLog called transmissions.
It's really rough, surreal first person edits from what it's like to be at a Wolves show. Josh and I often argue that some of the videos lose the point entirely haha so hopefully we'll promote it better soon and start featuring more from a technical standpoint. If there's an audience for that, we're game. [/i]
Thanks guys for taking the time out to talk to us and giving us all these cool details.
Next up for Wolves: The Basspod Stage at EDC, Las Vegas.
Howl at ya’ll there.
Photo Credits: BRXVN. Follow him on Facebook & Instagram