Video Artist Vello Virkhaus and his team of animators at V-Squared Labs seized the opportunity to produce some of their best work to date for the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s summer European tour.
Eleven separate pieces were produced that transcend the definition of video “content” and push the boundaries of art. The pieces are designed to complement the highlights of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s show including: ‘Suck My Kiss,’ ‘Can't Stop,’ ‘Californication,’ ‘Purple Stain’ and ‘Parallel Universe.’
Production Designer for the show, Grier Govorko, gave V-Squared Labs a free hand to design what they thought would be most appropriate based on their work with other artists such as Sting, Beyonce, Blink-182 and Korn.
“I sat down with Vello and a list of possible songs, I think there were 23 possibilities at the time,” said Grier. “I had in my head a list of ideas in terms of basic visual concepts. Vello and I went over these ideas, elaborated where possible, and I whittled away the numbers as we went through. Twenty-three tunes in a month was obviously to much to try and pull off, so I chose eleven tunes that I thought from past experience would be sure to get played.”
Virkhaus took the chosen eleven pieces and created a detailed spreadsheet with all the ideas and information that he and Govorko had agreed on. “Once we had decided how we were going to treat each piece, I storyboarded each and every idea,” said Virkhaus. “When we knew what the characters were going to look like, what kind of animation would work best, how many shots each piece was going to be, how long it was going to take us and whether we had the budget, we started the filtering down process and choosing the animators. Certain people have certain skill sets, so it makes sense to distribute it out once we have an idea what it should look like.”
‘Californication’ featured Brahm Revel’s comic book-inspired animation style mixed with photographic montages taken and assembled by Virkhaus. Tristan Maduro and Gene Shih gave a hand-drawn look and feel to the story of a time traveling dragon for the song ‘Parallel Universe.’ Sunny Lee created primary-colored and highly graphical works for both ‘Emit Remmus’ and ‘Can't Stop.’ Ron Brookler produced a truly knock out, punk rock-inspired piece that incorporated hand signals and photographs for ‘Suck My Kiss’ with his signature gritty flare. Matt Daly brought his unique style of character animation to the table on ‘Purple Stain,’ creating spherical and spline-based figures that danced a ‘Chili Pepper’ inspired ballet.
V-Squared Labs designed video content for Red Hot Chili Peppers' European Tour
As well as creating and designing the visuals for the show, Virkhaus oversaw a dramatic upgrade to the V-Squared Labs Edirol, real-time video editing and playback system, for the tour. “We added networking capabilities to the Edirol,” remarks Virkhaus. “It meant that we could avoid the whole online editorial process, by using FTP to send files directly to the system once they are rendered. It also meant that we didn’t have to bother with renaming files or anything like that. We just dragged and dropped the file and pressed play.”
Virkhaus also added a Firewire to serial digital (SDI) transcoder to the Edirol rack. That meant Govorko could mix two SDI signals directly. By avoiding online editorial process and directly rendering the loops in DV format, V-Squared Labs work onsite was finished with an entire day to spare. “We originally designed our system for VJ’ing,” remarks Virkhaus. “Here it is in the rock / lighting universe and even after massive abuse, it has never failed once!”
“My experience in the past had been with standard-type pro switching and hard drive storage systems,” says Govorko. “They are just not designed to be used in the live video playback world of rock and roll. Vello showed the Edirol to me, and I was instantly impressed: a graphic interface, instant replay, variable speed on the fly, simple coloration etc. All of this in a very small package, physically. To be honest, there was nothing not to like about the Edirol system.”