VJ v2 (Vello Virkhaus)VJ Artist V2 (Vello Virkhaus) creates high powered visual performances using Roland Systems Group's Visual Performance tools, PR-80, CG-8, and V-4's. His performances can be seen with 50 Cent, JayZ, Coldplay, Sting, and Bon Jovi to name a few.
VJ v2 - Translating Sonic Experience into Visual Forms
Video art pioneer Vello Virkhaus.
Creating and performing inspirational live concert and commercial video art that literally moves an audience is all in a day's work for visual arts pioneer Vello Virkhaus.When Vello (aka VJ v2) and his V Squared Labs staff visually jam with Bon Jovi, Sting, Coldplay, Billy Idol or Sandra Collins, fans laud the multiple video screens as much as they do the music. And as cool as v2's surrealist-inspired motion imagery is for Korn, Armani Exchange, 50 Cent and Jay-Z fans and Winter Music Conference attendees, they haven't seen anything until they've experienced Vello's magic at Ultra Music Festival.
Of Mega Festivals & The Art of Synesthesia
Virkhaus has built three custom touring racks that he uses for his three-screen wide content. Each rack contains one PR-80 Presenter, one V-4 switcher, one DV-7C controller, a four-monitor LCD rack, an S-video to SDI transcoder, a UPS and a video patch panel for easy access. In addition to the racks Virkhaus adds in an CG-8 Visual Synthesizer, a DV-7 Video Editing System and another V-4 Video Mixer. All of this gear is driven with a single PCR-M50 MIDI keyboard controller multiplied through a UM-880. He justifies his creative abuse of the PCR-M50 with a modern VJ's need to improvise live with the diverse mix of pop, rock, rap, and electronic artists he performs with.
"Just like a musician, a VJ has to play their instruments hard in order to jam with the music," he says. "I use the PCR-M50 because Roland mapped it so well to the interface of the PR-80 and DV-7 for live performance. The notes are perfectly matched octave-for-octave to my video clips. The PCR-80 gives me an easy way to identify with my content because it's laid out so musically. I'm able to improvise with my content via MIDI. It's as if I'm playing an audio sampler but, of course, I'm triggering video clips. And, the PR-80 is one of the fastest MIDI-controlled video samplers I've ever used - those are my main sources of media. The PR-80 treats video in a very musical way that allows a lot of improvisational on-the-fly editing."
Long before his Chicago Art Institute days in the '90s and his founding of V Squared Labs in Hollywood in 2002, the young Virkhaus was inspired by his artistic mother and grandfather, Dord Fitz. Traces of those early influences are evident in v2's abstract non-linear visual narratives today. He also recalls and credits the nascent excitement he shared with fellow early VJs during the movement's early years.
"The school faculty just stared with blank expressions when I presented my earliest visual pieces,"" recalls Vello of his first works which featured combinations of 16mm projections merged with early analog video equipment. "When they told me, 'We don't see any direction in your art,' I knew at that moment exactly where my art was heading: far away from the institution and into an environment that allowed for total experimentation and improvisation - the Rave underground."
What sets this motion video arts pioneer apart from other VJs today?
"We're all esthetically unique," he says. "Stylistically we do different things, for sure, but I think how I present myself as an artist is very different. We're all a direct offshoot of the DJ culture coming down from early DJs and hip-hop musicians. That culture just blew up, and now the VJs are emerging from it."
A typical VJ v2 show streams through a staggering 5,000 motion and still images. These images explore a wide range of themes and construct a truly non-linear narrative. Some of the theme titles explored include Critical Mass, Urban Organic Spaces, Mandalas and Symmetrical Designs. One can assume amid all the music and visual content that experiences of synesthesia occur in every video artists' show, but in Vello's case it's an intentional end result. In fact, Virkhaus' latest collaborations with DJ Sandra Collins regularly trigger this fascinating experience in the audience.
"Synesthesia is a huge part of why the shows Sandra and I are doing are so successful. The concept is executed perfectly and people there feel it, that complete feeling when everything is reacting - music, visuals, lighting, and the venue - together in perfect sync to elevate us into that space. We're intentionally creating an experience where people hear colors and see sounds. We first went through a process of keying all the music, knowing what key each song is in, and then made our own key color chart. We found that the chart we liked the most is Sir Isaac Newton's color keys of music. We're following his lead by matching colors to each song's key and then spinning our sets based on that key. Synesthesia was very important to him, and Sandra and I use his chart as our jumping off point. It's a really interesting place to begin because you need some artistic point to jump off from."
For instance, Vello notes that green is a hard, technological driving sound; red is edgy; and yellow and orange are pretty and romantic. They're actually classifying their color performances by mood, key and tone based roughly on Newton's concepts of musical key and color, forging all that into a modern synesthetic experience.
"The VJ and the DJ are kindred souls, " adds Virkhaus. "VJ-ing has historically involved a bit more technology than the DJ employs, but it's all a very similar concept. Today our worlds are merging together."
VJ v2's creative collaboration with DJ Sandra Collins has culminated in their current collective live A/V DJ VJ tour sponsored by Roland Systems Group, and Pioneer. With the help of Vello's V Squared Labs staff this visual music duo rocked New York's Club Avalon last New Year's Eve, and they intend to do the same around the world.
Having A Nice Day
Vello also put the PR-80 to great use for a special live performance by Bon Jovi in New York City's Nokia Theater to kick off the band's current Have A Nice Day world tour. That show also celebrated the grand opening of the new Times Square theatre. After a night of "data harvesting" and intense programming with his RSG gear, Virkhaus simply showed up with his racks to jam with the band.
"We created graphical character animations of the Have a Nice Day smiley face icon over various colored backgrounds. These animations where first of an icon that represented Jon Bon Jovi, then we took some of his classic posses, winks, looks and fashioned those into this character."
Vello says the new animated content was then loaded via FTP file transfer into the PR-80 and programmed into several palettes. Having already developed a library of material for Bon Jovi, V Squared Labs easily integrated the new material with the old in the re-programming phase of the job.
"I did some programming the night before and, without any significant rehearsal time, jammed live while being filmed in HD the next day with the band."
Commenting on the CG-8 Visual Synthesizer, Vello says he likes the way it helps him respond live to a sound's frequency range. Depending on which CG-8 effects patch he calls up, he can make a particular frequency (bass, midrange, high) drive different visual patterns in 3D space that animate in tempo with the music.
"Each parameter behaves a little bit differently in dimensional space,"" he notes. "I love the concentric rings effect and another, for instance, that looks like a city skyline with all these bunches of blocks moving up and down individually to each audio frequency band in the song. It looks like a city built of equalizers. I love the pure synthesis elements of the CG-8."
Virkhaus offers this bit of gear buying advice for any first-time video jockey inspired by his work. "Yeah," laughs the affable Vello from his car en route to getting some dentistry done. "Once you have a laptop or desktop computer and a VJ program like motion dive.tokyo, you'll need your first video switcher. Most people starting out buying the V-4 Video Mixer. It's the most affordable 4-channel mixer on the market and has many cool effects it can do. That's how most video artists today get started. Maybe buy a camera and plug that into the V-4 and away you go. Plus, the fact it's MIDI controlled is great because they can interface it with all the music stuff they're doing, too. All these upcoming VJs just getting into video art are using the V-4 all over the world."
V Squared Labs' audio reactive visuals, thanks in part to Vello's reputation as a VJ, landed the studio an MTV Best Visual FX Award nomination for Coldplay's 2005 video Speed of Sound.
- The compact video mixer that's full of features.
- Produces moving 3D images from still images - all controllable in real-time.
- Innovative realtime DV quality video presenter and editor.