The Electric Zoo Festival, designed by Jonathan Goldstein and his team at StarLight Visual, featured loads of video content across four stages, most created by Most content creation was done by Skitch TV, including stereoscopic packages for the Riverside stage, with some additional content done in-house by technical director Cameron Yeary. Check out the video.
Creating and animating visuals for live shows and music videos is nothing new for Skitch TV, but DJ shows are a whole different animal. "You can’t handcuff a DJ; what they’re doing is live, and you don’t get timecodes and a set list," says William Heins. In order to come up with overall themes for each tent, Heins and Goldstein talked about the subgenres of electronic music and their corresponding tones. Together, they defined the aesthetic and color palette for each of the three nights of the festival.
Heins thinks the growing appreciation for electronic dance music in the US has helped boost demand for designers and animators who can work with DJs on visuals for their shows. To ensure a smooth creative process for this project, Skitch TV explored several different options for animations, particularly stereoscopic work for the Riverside tent. "[Maxon] Cinema 4D was the best choice for seamlessly integrating stereoscopic 3D content into the program," says Heins. "Rendering couldn’t have been more streamlined, and it allowed us to wear anaglyph glasses and actually work in stereoscopic 3D space so we could get a much better sense of what the audience would be seeing." Final content was delivered as polarized 3D.
For the Sunday School tent where the design incorporates two school buses basically smashed together, Heins and his team worked with a 3D model of the structure, animating textures in C4D that were then mapped onto the surface of the buses. They started by importing an FBX file of the bus model into Cinema 4D, cut the model into strips, and added bones to each one, allowing them to curl the individual pieces of the bus as if it were metal skin. "When the animation was projected onto the bus, it looked like the outside of the bus was peeled away to reveal what was inside," says Heins.
About 120 stereoscopic looks were created for the festival’s headliners A-Trak, Steve Aoki, and Diplo. Two of the animation sequences, dubbed "Neon Cave" and "Brick Chaos," were made using MoGraph and began with a hollow box structure. Elements inside the box were animated to look like they were flying through the space. As an experiment, the box structure elements were placed inside a HyperNURBS object.
The aptly named "Slinky" animation resembled a modern art piece in motion. It began with a simple, animated helix that was placed in a SweepNURBS object. "I also added a radial cloner, which gave me a look like something you’d make with a toy Spirograph," says Heins. "Again, just by adding one other component in Cinema, I was able to get a whole new design and effect."
The "Neon Life" animation straddled the line between unreal and organic, resembling something perhaps part electric and part sea creature. It was a simple sphere with an extruded object on it, and a path linked to a helix. "This allowed the sphere’s polygons to extrude along the helix’s path but oriented to the individual polygon’s Z-axis," Heins explains. "I had a fluid, moving, organic object, and I wanted it to seem like it was emitting light and vitality, so we used a Fresnel texture to give it the right feel."
While a spider was one of Electric Zoo’s featured animals, an elaborate spider web was also featured on one of the festival’s stages. Alexander Cama, Skitch TV’s lead animator drew a spline to create the shape of the spider’s web and animated a very thin SweepNURB to "draw" on it. "We used XPresso to keep the spider positioned ahead of the spline," Cama explains, adding that an FFD deformer was used to make the web sag more realistically. Adding displacement to the web texture gave it some naturally uneven qualities when rendered.
Goldstein calls his team at StarLight Visual "the best," noting it comprised "some of the most technically advanced folks in the business," he says. "Cameron has been with me since the beginning of this show, so we have been able to perfect the processes and technical design of such a massive undertaking. The other side of the equation is having amazingly talented directors/programmers to carry out the vision in real life. They are definitely more like associates once we hit the ground on site. I have to trust them with a lot of decisions, and that is not easy to do when you have been vested in a design for six months. They deserve a lot of credit for putting up with me!"