Our quest for excellence in the visual space has now brought us to Rick Jacobs of RJB visuals.Touring currently with Nicky Romero, and the man behind the operation and visual design of his entire show, the stuff that Rick does is epic of massive proportions.
What do we love about him?
He makes some great, heavily detailed content which is then displayed perfectly in sync with what Nicky is doing on stage. I, personally, love the magnitude & depth with which he portrays infinity, space and the inexplicable wonders of it.
We reached out to Rick to talk to us, and throw some light on the great work he is doing.
What is touring with Nicky like? When did this great journey begin & how would you say you have grown with it?
It started 4 years ago, my first show with Nicky was Ultra 2013, the Main Stage. I was so nervous, everybody at home watching, my friends, family. Before that I had vj’d at clubs with just 1 output always. So, for Ultra, I brought 2 laptops to handle multiple outputs - being the newby I were back then
Nicky and the team were impressed with that first show and offered me to tour with them. I chose to finish school first, because it was just 3 months left. I graduated as a game design and developer and missed my graduation ceremony as I went straight to Vegas to tour with Nicky.
When I finished the tour I started RJB Visuals and teamed up with my brother Bob who was studying game art. Our teamwork was put to the test, immediately. We needed to conceptualize and create a 5min intro visual in 3 days!
Nowadays, we plan 1 month for an intro- This has become kind of our signature.
Here are links to some intros: Novell & Omnia
It’s been a really awesome journey so far, Nicky and the team trust Bob and I with the whole visualization of the show. When I started, they more or less had just the guy fawkes mask, so I had the freedom to design and develop a whole new visual style for his shows, which was really great!
Here is a sneakpeak into the latest intro for Nicky:
You and the LD do a great job live. How much of a role does SMPTE play in this & how much is freestyle?
The first 2 years that I toured with Nicky, we didn’t have a LD. After that, Koen van Elderen joined the team and I couldn’t have been happier! The guy is great, he programs really fast and we come up with new things while we are doing the show. We just understand each other immediately.
The whole show is freestyle, we never use SMPTE.It keeps us focused. Also, I don’t link all visuals to songs. One day this song has these visuals the next day you’ll see something different, it depends on what colors Koen and I yell at each other.
For all lyrics I use cue points so as soon as I hear Nicky mixing in a track with vocals I’ll ready up the visual and start cueing it.
From on point strobes, to perfect transitions, to super color changes- there’s gotta be a lot of concentration, communication & practice involved between you and Koen.
Like I said, Koen and I are just really on the same page. We make up new stuff during the show and remember it for the next show.We normally don’t receive a playlist or a lot of info on his set so we often get some nice surprises and have to come up with something, along the way.
It usually goes something like this:If you take the TISKS I’ll take the BOEMS.. Sure thing..Or whenever there are really powerful accents in a song we look at each other and ask “do you want to take these or shall I take them?” Haha!
It’s fun to change stuff around now and then.
Also at each outro of a song we turn to each other and one of us will say the next color and we change it at the same time, when the song changes over. Or, if it’s a familiar song with its own visuals we both already know what to do or I make hand gestures of the visual that is coming up next so he will know the color. Sometimes, I will be stone faced visualizing a sea with my hands and he will know which visual is coming up.
What are your favorite effects & features on Resolume, that you would encourage VJs to incorporate into their show?
Mostly my effects are small flashy clips linked to buttons on my MIDI panel, but my knobs are linked to various screenshake/twitch/strobe effects. Mainly all sorts of small effects to highlight certain melodies or accentuate the bass.
What brief/ thought process do you follow while designing content for the show. We see a whole range from nature to space to waterfalls to abstract.
We try to create contrast between drops and breaks by changing the color scheme, style and pace while at the same time try to have the transitions be as fluid as possible. Break visuals for Nicky Romero's show are often desaturated/black-and-white realistic looking visuals while the drop visuals are full of flashing neon colors and abstract shapes loosely based on the realistic styled visual. Putting these completely different styles together in one song works as a great crowd booster.
The risk of mixing these completely different styles after each other is that it could lead to too harsh of a transition. We're not a big fan of fade ins so several visuals have an actual intro clip that will autopilot to the next clip which is a loop. They're sort of a 'special fade in' to a loop starting of black and having the visual's scene unfold in a smooth transition.
Here are some Intro Clips:
Talk to us about your go to software & hardware (both for content creation & operation).
Most of our content is created in Cinema4D with the Octane renderer. For all the intros we use Autodesk Maya, since we have a history in game design and development we were pretty used to working in Maya or 3ds Max at school. It just has a little bit more extra options to get that exact look you want for the intro.
When we started creating short visual loops we soon realized Cinema4D is much more straight forward for creating visuals.For post we are using After Effects. And, of course, for vjing Resolume!
As for hardware, I’m using an MSI GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro and the Akai APC40MK2.
Tell us about your studio. What gear is an absolute must have, and what would you like to change/ upgrade?
My studio isn’t that great actually, haha, we have a small office in Limburg at my parents place. One of our employees is also from Limburg so half of the week we’re working in Limburg and the other in Utrecht.
We have a small setup in my apartment in Utrecht, my brother lives with me so it’s easy to work from home. In the near future we’re planning to get an office as we’re expanding and looking for new people to work with.
As for an upgrade, I really need more render power, haha, with these 4k visual content rendering is a nightmare.
Any words of advice for budding visual artists out there?
Less is more! Don’t layer 6 completely different visuals on top of each other and mix them every beat. It can become chaos really easily. Also black is your friend, leave enough black space to make your visual really pop out.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about? We would love to hear it.
Our most recent development is that we’re starting a co-operation called Visual Lab with Hatim. Hatim was the reason I started vj’ing for Nicky and over the years we built a great bond as he is Nicky Romero’s tour/production manager.
As probably all of us here know, talking and arranging gigs/assignments is the least fun part of our job so it seems like a great idea to have someone do that for us. It also seems like the next big step for our company and will lead to us hiring more talented vj’s and content creators.
Also, recently we’ve been working on creating a more generic visualpack we would like to sell on Resolume.
It’s interesting creating visuals that are not for your own use because normally we create pretty specific visuals for certain parts of the show. Now we need to forget about that and create visuals that can be used by anyone in any situation. It’s a good practice. I think we have come up with a pretty cool style of modern styled visuals and classic kaleidoscopic visuals for your enjoyment.
And, on a last note ,we are working on a VR horror escape room game in between all the visual work related stuff. Got to keep those university-skills going!
If you’re interested we’ll post something about it on our social media in the future.
*Shudders* Oooh this gave us chills.
Thanks for doing this interview Rick. We all look forward to those visual packs from you, and wish you so much success with Visual Lab.
With skills like that, you’re miles ahead already
Check out some more of Rick’s work here
Rick and Bob, RJB Visuals + Visual Lab
Follow them on: Instagram & their website