Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jonsi 4/10/2010 Concert Review: A letter to the visual designers

I just wrote this letter to 59 Productions.  They are the creative visual force behind Jonsi's current concert, and they created the best visual performance that I've ever seen in a concert in my life.

To whom it may concern,

I wanted to thank you very, very much for the incredible set and visuals at Jonsi's last night's performance at the Showbox Sodo in Seattle, Washington.

Having been to a fair number of concerts, I've never seen such visuals so perfectly integrated with the music.  These effects trump Roger Dean's association with Yes.  And, although it was not as extravagant as a Peter Gabriel show I went to several years ago, (he bounced around inside of a human sized gerbil ball, rode a tricycle upside down, and made his stage crew wear bright orange suits), it was by far the best I've seen.  It didn't seem that you threw money at a problem to solve it.  It looked like everything was very well thought out.

I like how the show started with the color palate of a Brothers Quay film, and ended on some very bright notes.  The overall transition was incredible. 

I have some dated motion graphics experience (not my profession any more).  There were some subtle things that other members of the audience may not have picked up on.  I wanted to compliment you on these technical points, as I know that it required a lot of extra work to do it the way you did.  For me, this paid off immensely.  For everyone else, I'd suspect that subconsciously they were drawn into the performance more, and had a deeper, richer experience.  Thank you for not cutting corners.

For main video sequences, I never saw any loop points.  It looked like you spent the extra time to use full lengths of footage.  If there was a loop, it was seamless.

The window pane in the background:  I liked how you slowly revealed how exactly it was aligned to your video source.  At first, images played over the whole thing.  Then, with the rain/water filling up sequence, it showed how you had some vertical alignment  (I *think* you might have used the same water source, time delayed between parts.  Am I right?  If so, this is a smart example of asset reuse.)  Finally, one song had drum beats causing the shadows of individual panes to bump out on vertical & horizontal lines.  That obviously took more time to set up.  And, I think it was very much worth it.

That last piece made me wonder one thing:  was that 'bump' effect in real-time and synched to the drum mic?  Or was it prerecorded, and the band had to use an in-ear speaker to listen to a metronome to synch up to your graphics?

I was also impressed with the live video with effects overlays in real-time.  Things certainly have changed since I've done this type of work.

So, now for only a few constructive criticisms:

On several occasions, I noticed that the video playback paused for a split second.  It was pretty minor. 
The animal and ant rendering technique was exquisite!  However, their motion (all but the fox/wolf) was a bit stiff.  The ant on the ball was the worst.
The film burn stock footage:  As it burnt, there was still a 'film scratch' footage comped over it.  These all look like pieces from the Artbeats stock footage library, and, well, once the footage get burned up, I don't think there should be any scratches left!  I doubt anyone else in the audience thought about this. 

At any rate, this was a very memorable concert experience, and I'll cherish it for a very long time.

Thanks again,
Troy McFarland