Seeing Sound: VJs Create Music Videos in 3D

There are cosmic blue 3D stars that explode, neon-bright planets that implode, and pulsating patterns that can hypnotize you, and that’s just in the first minute of the new VJ Sound Brew video for “Squealorama,” a track from my SONIC TONIC album.

“Welcome to the world’s newest art form,” says John Brewington, who performs as VJ Sound Brew. “We have live integration of computer created designs and the audio from a song. It means spontaneous creativity,” he continued. “One of the newest examples is in the music video for ‘Squealorama’.”

Performed live, the video for ‘Squealorama’ is a high-tech blend of 3D laser and computer imagery that takes viewers on a visual journey to outer and inner space.

Using a software program, Zuma, from a company called 3DMaxMedia, Brewington creates 3D objects live as the song is played. “Today’s VJ can express himself like a painter and a sculptor, with the added excitement of real-time interaction. And when I perform this in a club, I can take in the crowd reaction and make an entirely new video to ‘Squealorama’ or any other song.” This flexibility means every performance by VJ Sound Brew is unique.

Other artists are turning to VJs to augment their live or recorded performances, including pop group *NSYNC, progressive rockers Yes, and trance artist John Laraio, known as Mobius 8.

The real-time graphics capability of Zuma enables Mobius 8 to render audio as visual motion, utilizing 3D imagery, video and lasers.

Up to now, VJs have stayed with very mainstream choices of music. “The ‘Squealorama’ song is controversial,” states Brian Forest, Vice President of G-Man Music & Radical Radio, “because of its 15 pauses during the last two minutes, during which dancers freeze in position up against their partners. Now, the song is finding an even bigger audience on the Internet because of the eye-popping visuals in the VJ Sound Brew music video,” Forest added.

“Music is actually made visual by VJ Sound Brew,” Forest says, “with magical shimmering patterns, hip hypnotic formations, stalactites and stalagmites that shoot out at you, quasars, comets, black holes, and a constantly moving matrix of incandescent anti-matter.”

The creation of a music video used to require days or weeks for preparation and a production schedule that utilized a crew of people, including producer, director, cinematographer, and a host of technical professionals. Now, one person can plan it in a matter of hours and make 3 or 4 real-time performances of the video, with a quick edit to use the best parts of each one.

“Visuals are stimulated and changed immediately and constantly by the audio mix,” Brewington points out, “because the software draws the scenes from audio and midi messages in real-time.”

The imagery produces a strikingly realistic appearance of three dimensions as the viewer seems to be moving over, under, around, and even through glowing, spinning objects. “The result is a harmonious visual confirmation for the mind’s eye, connecting what you see on the screen with the sounds you are hearing,” states Jimmy Hotz of 3dMaxMedia.

Gone are the days of the 12-person “light show” crew from the late sixties or early seventies. More than three decades have passed since the light show was taken to great heights by such legendary artists as Single Wing Turquoise Bird, Glenn McKay’s Head Lights, and Bill Ham’s Light Sound Dimension.

These creators, as well as New Glory Lights, Brotherhood of Light, Joshua Lights, and Diogenes Lantern Works, once formed the visual backdrop (or surround vision, in the case of Ronald Nameth’s work for John Cage’s HPSCHD) for major concerts. But instead of the big crews required for these events, the one-person VJ is now taking over. The speed of creativity is higher than ever, the costs are more reasonable, and the complexity of the animation is spectacular in the extreme.

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