The future is here. Each day it advances and each day it trips us out more and more. Combine our ever-expanding and mind blowing technology with the weird new sounds that electronic music introduces and you are left with a whole new type of concert going experience. In the world of stage visuals, Projection Mapping is the future. It turns our dance music shows into visually stimulating journeys out of our own minds and into the minds of the artists we admire.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most epic projection mapped stages we’ve seen in the past few years, so when your dad tells you about how trippy those “LIQUID LIGHT SHOWS” were back when he was a deadhead, give him a taste of these and watch his head explode.
1. BEATS ANTIQUE – A THOUSAND FACES TOUR
BEATS ANTIQUE has always been known for their epic stage performances combining elements of dance, live music, digital music, and immersive storytelling. Their most recent tour “A Thousand Faces,” was based on Joseph Campbell’s idea of the “monomyth” and “THE HERO’S JOURNEY.” The production was a creative collaboration of the minds of OBSCURA DIGITAL, director Ivan Landau, and the members of Beats Antique themselves. Upon first look, the stage design enchants the audience with it’s multi dimensional architecture housing two DJ Booths on either side for Tommy Sidecar and David Satori. The hypnotizing power of Zoe Jakes presence is magnified as the projections move in line with her tantalizing body. The visuals projected are stunning, transforming the stage into a circus, a haunted house, outer space, and a chinese temple. Yet, all of these aspects only touch the surface of the true depth of this performance. Miniature sets, balinese puppets, clay animation, and live acting were all specially created and integrated into the videos that the audience sees projected onto the structure. And during the performance both Tommy Sidecar and David Satori have the capabilities of controlling the special effects and projections throughout the show resulting in a truly unique experience each and every time. As you watch this performance, ideas of dancing or even acknowledging where you are will slowly fade away as you are reeled into your own “hero’s journey,” No drugs required…this time.
2. SHPONGLE: SHPONGLETRON 3.0
SHPONGLE. Just hearing his name can induce intense acid flashbacks. And although the squeaky, wompy, and wonky music is largely responsible for these “mind opening” experiences, the visual performance also plays a large part. ZEBBLER who is the visual artist and video jockey for Shpongle (and EOTO) is a master of tripping people the fuck out. Shpongles music is on it’s whole own level, successfully transporting listeners into other dimensions. It’s not an easy task to create a matching visual experience that can be even crazier than what people see when they close their eyes. But Zebbler has got it down. He created the original Sphongltron for Sphongle’s 2011 US tour which included the infamous “Shpongle Mask” with it’s 6 laser eyes and rotating cubes. This stage was revolutionary for it’s time, but as the popularity with projection mapping has grown, Zebbler wanted to show people that he is still on top of the game. And so forth came the Shpongletron 3.0, just as epic as the first one, but this time with pixel mapped LEDs and infinity boxes embedded within the projection mapped tentacles and platform which engulf Shpongle’s booth.
3. EOTO – LOTUS
EOTO, AKA Michael Travis and Jason Hann of the STRING CHEESE INCIDENT are also masters of tripping the audience out, but instead of using dj equipment, they utilize guitars, keyboards, and drums. To fully serve their purpose, they need a proper visual artist. Once again, Zebbler steps up to the plate. For EOTO’s 2012/2013 tour, Zebbler created a giant projection mapped Lotus from which Michael Travis and Jason Hann rise up as they take the audience away on their musical journey. The visuals flow along smoothly with the band’s constant improvisation, resulting in a truly fluid experience. The Lotus has always been a powerful symbol of finding beauty in a troubled world. Being drawn into a meditative state as we watch the talented musicians within the projection mapped lotus flower helps us to remember us how important music and art is in our fast paced worlds.
4. EXCISION – THE EXECUTIONER
Used as a three-dimensional screen for a high-tech video projection mapping production, the ‘Executioner’ stage first traveled with Excision for his 2013 tour across North America. This unique stage stands approximately 28 feet wide and is approximately 8 feet deep. Based on a three-dimensional surface model, HEAVY INDUSTRIES designed the framework for the stage to be built in 12 modular sections that could be assembled and disassembled with ease using a roto-lock system. The projection surface is made of rigid PVC plastic board, ideal for the angular surface and the projection needs of the project. The heavy robotic imagery designed by BEAMA VISUAL ENVIRONMENTS combined with Excisions tough-as-nails sound makes for a truly eye rattling, brain exploding experience!
5. JANELLE MONAE & M.I.A. – HOLOGRAPHIC DUET
Although the holographic resurrection of TUPAC brought the ideas of holograms back into the minds of many creators, this is anything but a new trick. Remember “Help me Obi Wan Kanobi, You’re my only hope?” But really, creating a hologram is simply done by using an old theatre trick called PEPPER’S GHOST which dates back to the 16th century and involves angled glass, mirrors, and projections. Of course, given our modern technology, we are now able to perfect this trick. And with JANELLE MONAE and M.I.A.’s recent performance, Design Studio VITA MOTUS combined the old simple trick with newer projection mapping technology to create a visually mind blowing experience. Last April 2014, M.I.A. and Janelle Monae performed live duets with each other despite being on the opposite end of the country. By adding a 3d projection mapped stage, a greater sense of depth was added to the illusory experience. The Stage design featured squares spiraling backwards with each and every layer mapped out, creating some sort of futuristic vortex. The idea of the vortex is perfectly fitting for an experience like this where two people can be performing thousands of miles away from each other, but also right next to eachother. Makes you wonder what the future will hold. Exciting? Yes. But scary? Yes, a little bit.
6. DILLON FRANCIS & “THE GARY”
Inspired by the architectural work of FRANK GEHRY (responsible for topsy turvy buildings like The Guggenheim Museum in Spain and The Walt Disney Concert Hall) DILLON FRANCIS teamed up with design group “V SQUARED LABS” to create a multi dimensional abstract DJ Booth. Perfectly fitting for Dillon Francis’s often funky and twisty tunes, the structure turned in and out resulting in a truly eye popping psychedelic experience. Mirrored vinyl lined the inside of the abstract voids to create a fluid performance as well. They teamed up with the “PIZZA SLIME CREW” for “SEAPUNK” type visuals complete with cats, talking hands, and of course pizza.
7. CHILDISH GAMBINO: DEEP WEB TOUR
CHILDISH GAMBINO teamed up with MOMENT FACTORY to create an ironically projection mapped performance about illusion and reality within the internet age. This was a fully scripted multidimensional show exemplifying Childish Gambino’s validated worry for our world’s addiction to technology and separation from nature. Thin screens dropped down throughout the performance onto the stage creating multiple dimensions for the projections. Rain would be projected onto the first screen in front of Childish Gambino and his band while the screen behind them would have a cityscape projected onto it. Through the projection mapping and Gambino’s lyrics, the performance turns more into a movie rather than a concert, and one that offers an important lesson to be taken home.
8. ARCADE FIRE: REFLECTOR TOUR
Moment Factory also teamed up with ARCADE FIRE to create a unique projection mapped stage which required the participation of the band members themselves to be completed. Moment factory created a surreal LED cube mask which was worn by different members of the band throughout the tour. Although the backdrop of the stage was beautifully mapped and coordinated well with the colors of the lights and the movements of the band. The true magic moments was when the projection mapped mask was placed on the head of a band member as they ran around stage thrashing on their instruments with images of different faces, static, and other stunning visuals projected onto their “heads.” A sense of anonymity is invoked as they wear these masks, reminding us that it’s not about who or what it is creating it, but instead purely about the music and how it makes us feel.
9. INFECTED MUSHROOM: FUNGUS AMONG US EXPERIENCE
This collaboration between V Squared Labs and Vita Motus built a perfect stage for two collaborating DJs. By creating two geometric DJ Pods for INFECTED MUSHROOM to play inside, equal attention was able to be given to both the psytrance/psychedelic princes Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani. The Pods were not only projection mapped on the inside and outside but also lined with color changing LEDs along side their borders both within and on the outside of the pods truly portraying the depth of this futuristic structures. A projection mapped screen hanging behind the pods set the scene for whatever the pods chose to transform into, whether it be jellyfish swimming through the sea, industrial steampunk gears turning through a factory, or meteors floating through space.
10. HET CONCERTGEBOUW AMSTERDAM
One of the amazing things about Projection Mapping is the fact that it can be done on any surface possible. No screens are necessary, no flat surfaces are necessary, and any shape can be transformed into whatever your mind can create. Many of these stages that we have mentioned include a specially designed stage to project on. But, sometimes, this is not required in order to create a visually stunning experience. In 2013, KBK VISUALS was offered the chance to projection map for DJs in the of the most impressive theatre venues in the Netherlands, the HET CONCERTGEBOUW. Although this isn’t technically a “stage design” that was constructed physically, we can still consider it to be constructed visually, as the whole space was transformed through the use of projection mapping. Using the natural contours, curves, and columns of the theatre to create their show, a transformation of space occurred without any alteration to the original building. Lights shot up through the old organ and walls melted and shape shifted like they might be if you were on a vegas trip with Hunter S. Thompson.
11. SKRILLEX: THE CELL
The Skrillex Cell first debuted in 2011 during the first Mothership Tour and completely changed the game. Not only was it one of the greatest projection mapped stages of all-time, it was also the first time EDM fans had seen an giant, robotic projected Avatar of their favorite DJ that mimicked his every move. This multidisciplinary touring production mixed 3D projection mapping and real-time motion capture for live performance. Collaborating closely with Production Club, Phil Reyneri, Leviathan, and Blood Company the V SQUARED team helped bring the Skrillex Cell to life. V Squared Labs created custom animation for real-time projection mapping and generative, audio-reactive effects using elements of the proprietary V Squared Labs Epic 3D mapping video server. In plain english, Skrillex wore a custom suit that controlled a character being projected on stage, while simultaneously surrounded by brain hemoraeging projection mapped visuals. Pure insanity!
12. TIPPER & ANDROID JONES
Tipper & Android Jones live at Infrasound 2013 from Android Jones on Vimeo. What do you get when you combine three masters of their particular field into one performance? A one way ticket into space, that’s what. With TIPPER‘s infamously tripped out beats, ANDROID JONE‘s mind melting visionary digital artwork, and GALACTIVATION‘s ornately designed structures, the audience is offered an experience like no other with attention paid down to every last detail. Galactivation, who has built stage designs for BOOM FESTIVAL in Portugal and art installations that served as PORTALS into Center Camp at Burning Man teamed up with Lucas Schwartz, JP Chapman, Nico Ortiz y Pino to build and engineer a beautiful stage deserving of Tipper’s psychedelic presence and Android Jone’s DMT inspired digital art. Talk about synergy!! See you in the stars…
12. AMON TOBIN ISAM TOUR
We saved this one for the last, because it is the most well known, and arguably the most epic projection mapped stage design. The ISAM tour truly set the bar for projection mappers around the world. And, for that, we truly appreciate them for opening up a wormhole of creative possibilities for artists all over. This project was a deep collaboration by a few of the big design companies we mentioned before “V Squared Labs” and “Vita Motus” as well as Director Vello Virkhaus, technical producer Alex Lazarus, LEVIATHAN and of course AMON TOBIN himself. First premiering in 2011 and then subsequently tour around the world for multiple years, the ISAM truly awed audiences with their groundbreaking projection and stage design skills. A stage design of geometrical cubes stacking and stretching along the entire length of the stage also housed Amon Tobin in his own cube in the center. The entire performance utilizes the structure of the cubes, “rotating” them, “flipping” them, “illuminating” them to create a surrealy mesmerizing visual experience. The set transforms from a fire fueled mechanism to a tron like grid into a candle lit forest all so entirely fluid it almost makes you question if what you are seeing is real. As with most of these stage designs, words do no justice in describing the unbelievable performance.