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Articles May - June 2019

THE FAMOUS STORY

Armed with a degree in Marketing and Finance and International Business from University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and Aston University respectively, and after learning the dynamics of the Indian business world at Fanatic Sports and GVK..... read more

FIXINTOGETMIXIN with Brad Divens

Renowned FOH engineer Brad Divens who is currently mixing for Enrique Iglesias and has mixed for Linkin Park, Garbage, Cyndi Lauper, HIM, Bob Seger and countless others in the past, was in Mumbai for doing what he loves to do most...... read more

BToS Productions - The Rising Star

Nazeef Mohommed, the frontman of an immensely young, passionate and growing enterprise – BToS Productions talks to Ankita Bhadrawale about their overall plans for the future and his recipe to designing, curating and executing the event..... read more

The Next Dimension Of Stage Production

Popularly referred to as India’s equivalent of the Academy Awards; the 64th edition of the Filmfare Awards, presented by The Times Group, continued its legacy of honouring artistic and technical excellence in the Hindi film industry of India......... read more

Complete Audio Solutions from Honeywell

Honeywell is the new entrant on the block in the professional sound segment with ‘Honeywell ProSound’. The series is a perfect adjacency to Honeywell’s current PAVA business offering solutions to new verticals like hospitality, entertainment...... read more

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THE VISUAL PACK

Jash Reen and Joshua Dmello of Wolves Visuals, are the guys who are delivering some of the most electrifying and eclectic Big DJ stages on the circuit. From Sunburn to EDC, Beyond Wonderland, Nucleya, Flux Pavillion, the duo works on an extraordinary schedule of high profile EDM festivals. In this interview with PT they talk about the origins of Wolves Visuals, their work and where they are headed to.


The Genesis

With EDM becoming young India’s music of choice and DJs and event promoters endeavoring to sustain interest in the festivals, the quest for larger than life stages with overwhelming visuals has become commonplace. Acting as catalyst are ongoing advances in technology, which have been significant benchmarks for many VJs who are thinking out of the box when it comes to visuals.

Jash Reen and Joshua Dmello - the force behind the Wolves

For Joshua Dmello and Jash Reen it all began from the Marvel superheroes and Mortal Kombat addiction days. “Josh and I grew up obsessed with over the top nineties comic books and video games. I think we were in the sixth grade when a lot of artists from that world started pushing the envelope for what mainstream pop culture would accept. On one hand you had household comics like Marvel or DC and a company like Image Comics would come out of nowhere and shock their readers with the depth and grit in their art style. The same goes for gore-heavy games like Mortal Kombat. That allure to shock convention stood out over being told what to do in an art school or receiving any formal training. It’s also always been a strong communication point for us,” says Jash. “There were tons of animation courses and studios blowing up after we got out of college, but live visuals added this new technical dimension to the mix. You could come up with a left of center visual idea or storyboard as one part of the challenge, and then have to figure out how to scale this idea up arena size and get the attention of a wider audience,” adds Joshua.

The bassPOD stage which has been an integral part of EDC, Las Vegas since 2012 was conceptualized and designed by a Los Angles-based design studio Vita Motus, but the content for the most recent incarnation of the bassPOD is courtesy the Wolves.

Jash and Joshua’s visual agency - Wolves, started off by redefining 3D mapping installations and stage design for some of India’s most cutting edge nightclubs before scaling up to some of the most massive stages around the globe. “We approached every club we could to convince them to let us do a visual set- up. When we started in 2012, there was a large upheaval of clubs that wanted to feature alternative music and events. I think it had something to do with alcohol, tobacco and clothing brands taking a sudden interest in sponsoring shows with about three indie electronic acts under some cutting-edge event name and hosting it weekly. Two main venues - the erstwhile Cool Chef Cafe ( which now houses Slink & Bardot and Kaavo Meat) and the Blue Frog, Lower Parel (which is no longer operational) were the first to give us space to build DIY projection mapping set ups and we scaled it up from there,” informs Jash.

“We were pretty committed to making every kind of space work, even if the angle to hang a projector was downright impossible. Trying to push content in those weird spaces made us value every pixel so when we did get bigger stages and displays we had a trained eye on detail. I’d say it’s the same process creating content for any surface as long as you can create a detailed piece on your own composition / canvas that still holds that amount of detail when it’s scaled up. We’ve never used fixed installs and have worked with different set ups each time,” adds Joshua.

Sprucing up the stage

When people attend a music show today, they really expect it to be a “show”. With the flamboyance of the stage and the energy of the show’s visual content becoming an integral and important aspect of the entire delivery, how much exactly is the visual artist’s involvement.

“Stage design traditionally involves a lot of fabrication and elements that stay constant for the entire course of the event whereas visual elements like the LED displays or even lights evolve and really take that experience forward. For a long time, we’d have clients throw 80 percent fabricated stage designs to us and we’d have to make peace with small spaces to add video, that would rarely be of any use besides maybe seem like weird patches of lighting. We are now lucky to be part of a worldwide shift in the industry that’s seeing a 50 - 50 balance of both. We get the stage designs, cut it up to where the video screens could feature literal animated extensions of the set and usually end up with this whole new beast that keeps both departments happy, says Jash.

In recent years, LEDs are being used extensively in large-scale live shows. It’s rare today to find a major music festival that doesn’t feature larger-than-life displays on stage. “The EDM industry is pretty much 100 percent on LED only stages right now and that’s not a bad thing. In 2015, we managed to convince Sunburn to have a larger, all LED set for one of their arena shows. We stacked up about 35 ft of LED and animated this monolithic mechanized fortress (we later called the Imperial Guard) to shift form constantly on it. That little experiment definitely changed our approach to stage design drastically,” explains Joshua. Having said that Joshua is quick to point out that with budgets varying more frantically in India than any other part of the world, the duo is armed and ready to have to make the smallest LED layouts or inventories work. “We make our content in layers such that they can be scaled up or brought down to its simplest form as the surfaces develop,” he says.

Elaborating on one of the most challenging stages the pair has worked on, Jash says, “The Beyond Wonderland stage in 2017 was an absolutely immersive LED stage designed by Steve Lieberman and his company SJ lighting. The total LED usage was massive here but the actual space to work within those arches was very constricted. We pushed for three different ‘realms’ to shine through with the content. One was a ship bound on a hopeless voyage, an enchanted forest that looked like it was cut out of a Guillermo Del Toro movie and a steam punk labryinth of sorts. The content was designed to be pretty anamorphic, so if you stood at the absolute centre or the FOH position and looked towards the stage you saw a seamless piece of content and if you roamed around and looked along a single arch, you had plenty of standalone detail to pick up on as well.”

With small-scale stages to large-scale stages using a blend of larger than life sets to augment live performances, projection mapping has become a favourite with many Visual artistes, especially for EDMs. However, with LEDs making for a much brighter output of light and allowing endless configurations, for the Wolves, the scales seem to tilt in favour on LEDs. “Projection mapping is always fun to work around, but usually suits art installations and more intimate layouts. It works best if you want to take an unusual or darkened space and bring it alive with motion graphic content. We prefer LED as a powerful, self-luminescent surface that can cut through the lights and other stage FX that crowd larger events like music festivals. At the same time, it doesn’t all have to be angular and boring. Using the LED effectively enough can really effectively change the way fabricated stage surfaces look,” says Jash.

The Vegas Extravaganza

Giant Structures, Colossal faces, Sci-fi DJ booths, Conical Pods, Pyramids - whatever the genre, there’s something tailor-made for everyone.

The bassPOD stage which has been an integral part of EDC, Las Vegas since 2012 was conceptualized and designed by a Los Angles-based design studio Vita Motus, but the content for the most recent incarnation of the bassPOD is courtesy the Wolves. The new iteration followed up on previous 360 design strategies by immersing the crowd in heroic-scale sculptural art.

Although Wolves Visual stepped in to create content and execute it for the 2017 edition, 2018 was the first year EDC debuted the new look for the stage. “We have to give a shout out to Forrest Hunt who’s the Executive Producer over at Insomniac Events. He believed in our content and execution right off the bat and put us in touch with one of the most forward thinking design studio in Los Angeles Vita Motus who originally designed the bassPOD. For the rehauled version in 2018, we were able to go back and forth with Vita Motus to discuss concept notes of what the new structures symbolize and create a set of five environmental set looks based on an ambiguously titled ‘Space Monkey’ theme . The video screens added a different face to these bold sci-fi angular structures, especially for the structures that were up close in the audience. We based all of the content on the first arrival of these ‘space monkeys’ and that different people in the audience might process an alien invasion differently. Some visual content made the fabricated structures look like heavily mechanized military crafts. The other content made the stage look more organic and driven by peaceful biological beings,” enthuses Jash. The design complemented Insomniac’s recent re-branding, channeling modern aesthetic sensitivities into thematic sci-fi. “The bassPOD definitely was and continues to be the most exciting stage show to put together,” he adds.

The Work Process

When working on something as massive as EDC and other EMD shows, surely different elements come in to play while embedding imagination into the creative process and presenting it to the countless fans thronging the fests. “We always lock the video surfaces first and then settle on what the audience perspective to the content will be. If they’re a bit lower than the stage this could make for some menacing towering content. If they’re right up there with it, we want something that’s erratic, animation heavy and in your face. A 100 crude sketches later we finally settle on three solid looks that we’re convinced was always what that particular stage was meant to look like (often times it doesn’t make sense till we actually animate it and see the pieces move),” says Jash.

Detailing their choice of tools to bring their creativity to life, Joshua says, “We use studio grade animation software to put it all together and feed it into a pixel map that the LED screen or video surface providers usually provide us with. Pixel map is a fancy word for a tool used to understand how the most ballistic content will actually look on site and on stage. The software that has made and will always make this transition seamless from day 1 is Resolume. It evolves quick with every update and is rock solid for handling live visuals for the most demanding events.”

Vision

With more and more opportunities for extravagant visual displays at sports events, weddings, corporate launches etc., presenting themselves, today, the scope for visual jockeys has extended beyond music festivals. While there are few visual design agencies at the moment, the number is surely and steadily growing. So where does Wolves see themselves going forward.

“We’re at a really good place where we can stay a Mumbai-based studio and feed screens all over the world with the portability in live visuals. Our clientele right now is 50 percent music entertainment and 50 percent corporate events. In the future, we might start looking into creating failproof ‘black box concepts’ for both industries so we can feed many tours, festivals over a larger period of time. It’s sort of already happening, but for now we do enjoy being out there in the field and operating / being personally connected to the content we make,” says Joshua.

“We’re also still fans of the visual medium in its purest sense. We’re essentially an animation studio at the end of the day so it would be cool to pull back all these storylines and concepts we feed into our live visuals and give back into a medium like video games or film,” concludes Jash.

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