If you are into live visuals & motion graphics, KBK visuals is where it’s at.
Founded under the name of Kijkbuiskinderen in 2003, they’re super multidisciplinary with backgrounds in graphic design, animation, graffiti, photography, music et cetera. A collective of specialists, they expertly tie together the unending realm of visual art, installation, stage design, motion graphics and automation. It’s all about video and how video can relate to its surroundings. After having worked with the biggest artists at the coolest festivals, their work has already gone down in new-age history.
They changed their name to KBK Visuals in 2012. Today, KBK is comprised of 10 people and they have all of it covered- be it management, 2D or 3D animation, operating, programming or research. Most of them carry multiple responsibilities. They often seek collaborations with other, not necessarily VJ-related, artists as well.
This brings us to Dutch megaevent- Awakenings.
Since 1997, Awakenings has been dropping relentless one-night parties and festivals. This year they hit 20 & to celebrate, the Easter rampage from April 13th-16th at the Gashouder was, for lack of a better word, Lit.
This Awakenings gig had robotic arms with Led screens on them. Just so cool. And as all things cool, super complex.
We caught up with the guys from KBK visuals to talk to us about the gig.
Thanks for doing this, guys.
It is pretty evident how KBK and Awakenings have grown together to create concert history. Since when & how has KBK been associated with Awakenings?
KBK has been associated with Awakenings for almost 10 years now. The first shows from 2008 until 2010 were in collaboration with Eyesupply, with KBK taking the task over fully in 2010. Over the course of the years Awakenings shows have become bigger and more elaborate, and we have grown with them. At this point we have provided visuals for well over 100 Awakenings shows.
The Gashouder is as beautiful as it is legendary. What do you keep in mind while designing shows here?
The Gashouder is a beautiful venue in and of itself. With its origins as a gasworks it’s easily recognizable by its circular shape, tall ceiling and industrial appearance. The fact that it’s cylindrical allows for stage designers to go nuts, and especially during Awakenings a lot of thought is put into creating an experience that is as breathtaking and immersive as possible. They never shy away from complex and often massive LED setups. Whenever a new edition comes along we try to pay as much attention as we can to our relation to the lights and lasers, so we can create show that works aesthetically as well as melting faces.
Tell us about your rig at Awakenings.
For pretty much all editions of Awakenings we use one or more heavy duty laptops running Resolume Arena to act as servers. At the moment we are using custom built Clevo laptops. These laptops capture HD inputs from other laptops, mixers and SDI camera feeds via a capture device that is supported by Resolume, like the Blackmagic Ultrastudio 4K. The servers act as a kind of routing system and are used to distribute and chase the content across the various screens, as well as overlaying logos and additional graphics.
With this setup we can use the huge LED rig to its full potential, and it’s flexible enough that we can change things on the fly. This is incredibly valuable, as it’s not unusual for ideas to come up during the show, and Resolume allows us to quickly make changes and add things to the set. [/i]
When you do something groundbreaking, so are the challenges. Tell us about your biggest challenges on the Easter gig & how did you over- come them?
Every new edition of Awakenings provides new challenges, and we often get inspired by the technological curveballs that get thrown at us.
When Awakenings told us they were going to hire some industrial robotic arms and put LED screens on them, we knew we had to do something creative with them to take it to the next level.
The arms are basically repurposed factory tools, and their motion is pre-programmed and triggered live by a dedicated operator. We wanted to figure out a way to translate that motion to the visuals by using the rotation of the screens on the arms, and we did.
Merijn came up with the idea to stick iPhones to the back of the screens and use them to read out the phone’s accelerometer.
He approached our MaxMSP specialist Sem, who took the idea further and wrote a patch that translated the Phone’s tilt information to x/y/z rotation in 3d space and transmitted that to a laptop running Max in the front of house.
Sem created some custom visuals that made use of this data, which were then captured by our main Resolume server and sent to the screens on the robot arms.
The whole project was conceived and executed within a matter of days.[/i]
For those of you who want to dig a bit deeper into this, here is a bit of technical gebabble, as described by KBK, “The software that’s generating the live rendered physics was built with Max 7. Each of the three robo screens has its own compiled version of a patch that renders the physics in real time, based on the angle of the iPhones. Each patch now has 3 scenes and individual parameters like color selection of the lights and size of the objects. Every patch has a spout output and there is one patch combining all three Spout outputs to be sent to the main Resolume computer via TCPSpout. There it’s imported as a Spout input and scaled to fit the composition. All the apps are connected over a local network via UDP. This way it’s also possible to control all the individual apps with one controller on another computer. The laptop running the apps was tucked away so this came in very handy. There’s one central control app (called OSCBOT) not only controlling the physics renders but also controlling Resolume dashboard links with the angles from the iPhones. This way we can rotate visuals in the opposite direction to the rotation of the robot arms so it looks like the visuals are standing still while the robots are moving.”
Just amazing. You guys do make complicated rigs seem like child's play
We put a lot of effort into creating inputmaps that give us a comprehensive view of the available screens and allow us to effectively distribute footage across them. After we receive the stage designs and info on the LED setup, we think about where we want to place our footage during the show, if we want to see it full scale across multiple screens, duplicated or a bit of both. We build our inputmap with as much flexibility as possible in mind while trying to maintain a composition of manageable size.
Needless to say a powerful computer allows for larger scale compositions, which can in turn open up new possibilities as far as scaling your content goes. In the case of large setups the screens are often spread across multiple outputs. We often use Datapath X4 display wall controllers to split our signal across multiple outputs if we really need to cover a lot of pixels.[/i]
Are there any tips you would like to give budding visual artists out there? Hardware/ Software/ Life related?
We started small, doing all kinds of underground shows and developing our skills from the ground up. A lot of that DIY mentality hasn’t changed.
We still try out strange ideas (like sticking iPhones to the back of LED screens) and are people who generally enjoy solving the puzzles that a show can present us in a creative way. Quality comes with practice, and practice involves failure.
Also, make sure to drink a lot of water and bananas are a healthy source of potassium and vitamin c.[/i]
Yum. We're going to get cracking on those bananas right away, all sorts of pun intended.
Thanks for talking to us, guys!
KBK is: Freek Braspenning, Merijn Meijers, Luuk Meuffels, Tristan Gieler, Eva Imming, Marike Verbiest, Elisa Zaros, Chanon Satthum, Kees van Duyn and Sem Schreuder.
Check out more of their work on their website, vimeo and instagram.