XL Video UK supplied equipment to video artists Yeast Culture for their inventive work on the Jamie Cullum tour.

The show featured three upstage 10'x7.5' screens, showing an eclectic and fluid mix of animations, pre-recorded footage, color and effects, plus live two camera feeds of Cullum. The screens were deliberately trimmed low to bring a sense of intimacy and close proximity to the stage to the audience.

The visual dynamics of the live camera work very much revealed Cullum close up--raw, live, and direct-–a real person and a genuine performer.

Yeast Culture was formed by Nick Hillel and Marc Silver six years ago. They create music visuals, art installations, films, and documentaries, and their work has acquired its own very individual, often combative style and aesthetics. Two years ago, Cullum saw a Yeast performance and asked them to work with him. That was the first time that Yeast met XL Video, and since then, the two companies have collaborated on numerous other projects.

XL’s project manager Paul Wood says, “Nick has produced a very intense yet intimate look that truly enhances the Jamie Cullum live experience”.

Cullum does not have a set list, and the shows are completely random, so all the mixing is done live and the video operation set up has to be extremely flexible and instantly accessible. The Yeast team consists of Hillel mixing and two camera operators (Kelly Sandall and Niken Corrigan) who spend most of the show each pointing a Sony PD 100 DV camera closely at Cullum and occasionally onto other band members.

Hillel runs the video show from stage right, just to the left of Cullam’s piano, and the two camera operators sit either side of the piano with their target in the middle. “We don’t try and disguise or cover up the fact that were are right there onstage,” explains Hillel, as it’s all essentially part of their creative oeuvre.

The pre-recorded footage consists of a series of loops, all stored on a laptop. They were created by Hillel using Adobe After Effects and Director and are recalled and replayed live via a Korg Kaoss Pad Entrancer that allows the visual manipulation of images in real-time with fingertip control. The live cameras are also fed through the Kaoss pad so they can be manipulated in time to the music. The three Sanyo XP50 projectors are backstage behind the screens.

He also uses a Panasonic MX50 mixer and a 16-way matrix switcher to switch any source to any destination. It’s an older piece of gear, but Hillel likes it because it works well for camera material, which is recorded in black and white to give it a stark but filmic quality. “The MX50 also has a great feature enabling the layering of shots in a very specific way that later models don’t have,” he says.

There’s a DVD deck onstage, which Cullum sometimes scratches live. He also controls one piece of video playback himself with his voice, fed from the sound desk into the video computer, so the louder he sings, the faster the image runs onscreen.

The discussions about the tour visuals first started back at the beginning of 2005, although the tour didn’t kick off until October. Hillel spent a month of long days preparing the video clips and animations before the tour commenced. It goes to America in March, where the video will be once again be supplied by XL.