Nowadays when you go to a show, it’s no longer just about the music. In order to diversify their live performance, modern day artists often seek the accompaniment of custom visual experiences. Whether it be in the form of a VJ (video jockey) touring with them, a custom produced stage, projection mapped/ LED graphics, or a combination of the three, musicians and visual artists join forces to give their audience an experience rather than just a performance.
Recently Electric Bare had the opportunity to interview one of the more exquisite visual powerhouses, Zebbler Studios. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Zebbler Studios produces visual experiences unlike any other in the industry. Having produced several full-scale Shpongle tours, EOTO lotus tours, as well as content for Verizon and Defcon, Zebbler Studios pumps life into some of the most beautiful visual experiences of the modern day. After attending a Shpongle concert in San Francisco recently, we got to talk with Zebbler Studios owner, Peter (Zebbler) Berdovsky, about their latest masterpiece, the Shpongletron 3.0:
I first started working with Shpongle in 2009. Their US management was looking for a VJ who could bring their own projection setup, and drive themselves to every tour show in the country.
I really liked Shpongle’s music, and I was also crazy enough to be able to drive 9 hours right after finishing a set to get to the next venue on time for setup. So this seemed like a good fit for me.
This is how it all really started.
I was given quite a bit of design freedom with Shpongletron 3.0 For several years by now, I’ve been itching to create a design that incorporates an LED show, synchronized with the projections. This was my chance! I also wanted to create something that merges the worlds of synthetic and organic in a seamless way, to illustrate the visions that come to my mind while listening to Shpongle. So we decided that creating a very abstract rendition of the Shpongle mask was the way to go. And for complete phantasmagory, and to keep pushing the art of video mapped stages forward, we embedded 17 infinity mirrors into the structure as well.
It’s a complicated design, and I think it will take several tours for us to fully understand the kind of synchronization that could occur between the music, visuals and lighting in the stage. Even though we are in the middle of our fist tour, I am already really excited and full of new ideas and treatments for the next run.
Things of this scale are impossible to do on your own. I would definitely recommend forming a collective or a team of talented fabricators, coders and animators. Find helpful people, and get them energized about your vision!
Our creative process brought us through the following software:
First, hand drawn illustration / sketches were created. Those were then converted into a 3d model in Rhino, out of which the model was exported into Cinema 4D for animation, and Solidworks to create components for machining / fabrication. Cinema 4D template also provided us with a good start for an After Effects template. The bulk of our animations was done in C4D and AE so that we could standardize the workflow between all of our animators.
I take risks. I want to constantly grow and challenge myself. I yearn to be excited about the projects that I take on and create, because if I am thrilled about creating something (and I am pretty jaded by now), that generally means the audiences will love it too.
I also try to make sure that with every big project, my team and I learn a range of new skills that we could then apply to every other new project. This constant growth of skills and strategies is a huge asset for us, every project becomes a chance to step up our game, to scrape the boundary of unprecedented.
I would love to work with Radiohead, Bjork, Massive Attack, NIN, and of course… Shpongle.
I also really enjoy crafting visuals for my own a/v bass heavy act Zebbler Encanti Experience. We are doing a rare US tour this summer so catch us while you can!
Electric Forest is probably my favorite festival in the US.
Burning Man is absolutely amazing, but kind of like doing DMT – only if you are truly ready.
I really like nerding out at DEF CON – Zebbler Studios has a yearly presence there with our video mapped sculptures and deco. And I love listening in on hacker conferences where they describe how to see what’s on your computer screen by listening to radio frequencies emitted by your laptop.