Chromatouch Dome at Shambala festival

Chromatouch Dome at Shambala festival

After the success of the Black Country Touring piece, Occasionally We Skype, I went back to my immersive engine research, bought a 10m geodesic dome from www.shelter-systems.com, (something that I’ve wanted since I finished my first piece for fulldome) and hunkered down in the studio to build a software engine to accomodate the various audio, video and control inputs from other artists,

This would entail a video server software like Resolume Arena to handle the content such as live cameras, laptop input, video files and to apply effects. it works in real time on many layers and you can pipe video around within the computer from app to app using a protocol called spout. Then you need a 3D engine to map those layers to a virtual model of the space you are going to project in/onto so they appear correctly in the cameras (which in turn go to the projectors) – a lot easier in a dome which intrinsically has no corners. Initially Unity 3D seemed like a good idea to do all the mapping for the realtime engine, but after what seemed like a month of a programming friend failing to get it to work (bad spout plugin mainly to blame – Unity is a gaming engine after all…) I decided to rebuild it in a proper VJ software – Touchdesigner which is essentialy a 3D engine made for realtime video work. It worked a treat and handled all the UV mappings beautifully and I can’t wait to do more with it over the coming months.

I’ve been working at Shambala festival for coming up to ten years now and from running the visuals for the Gaia Nova dome back in the day and through to when it turned into the Kamikaze dance tent, I now always do the mainstage visuals – mixing the live cameras nightly and nursing the visuals for one of the days – usually Saturday. It is my fave UK festival because of it’s size, friendliness and holistic attitude to qualitative fun and mutual respect. As a more sober individual in my forties than i was in my thirties I don’t note any  change in my enjoyment of Shambala from the early days to now. An experience I can’t say carries across from your average pub.

So, having built the engine and bought the dome it was time to convince the festival to give me a slot and to decide what was going in it. My experience of working for Rejenr8 dome (the last guys to run a dome in the woods at shambala) was that a full on rave wasn’t what the woodlands organisers wanted, so the perfect candidate to curate the Saturday night was long term fave of mine, my friends and the (now sadly defunct) Big Chill forums – the ambient supremo Mixmaster Morris who rules the mixcloud charts in many categories…

Also, now the woodland area is open in the daytimes it made sense to bring in the 8bit lounge gamning sessions as an aside from all the visuals when it wasn’t possible to project. With this in mind it was only fitting to bring a selection of UK chiptune musicians for the Friday night such as GrayCFGK, Sam Wray and George Lazenbleep. My partner in crime at 8bit lounge Tony Grainger (DJ Subcitizen) has a vast collection of other worldly electro so this was also a good mix to introduce into the Friday blipfest. And finally to round off the first night I had a chance encounter with none other than Tony Culverville who i befirended on a trip to Brazil in 2012 – four times DMC DJ winner and current champion of the world, Mr Switch!

Friday and Saturday sorted I decided to take it down a notch in terms of popular culture and turn to some more academically minded sounds on Sunday night, combining electro-acoustic, live-coding, live AV and modular disciplines, namely BEAST, Shelley Knotts & Holger Ballweg, Diarmo & L’Aubaine and Dave Headcleaner, respectively.  Thrown in for good measure and to utilise the 280 slices of vinyl he had brought, Tony Grainger soundly rounded it off with some suitably shuffly techno.

Visuals were taken care of by myself on the whole, but also Sam Wray with his self-programmed visualiser engine ModV – a bit like the dome engine i built, a very solid software creation but slightly unfathomable to anyone else but it’s creator 😉 Also Laurie Bender (L’Aubaine – London based, Swiss born). George Lazenbleep, lastly, stepped in with his own projectors fed by the Gieskes 3trinsRGB+1c and they really made a nice addition to the darker corners…

I’ll leave the exact tech to another post but suffice to say it all worked well on the whole. A great weekend with a weeks worth of time spent in the woods to make it happen. Special thanks to everyone who helped out like the Cliffords, Paul Kent, Liam & Arlene Burnett, all the daytime DJs like Jon Harris, Mark Smallman, Mach V, Olbi Iyah… And big big thanks to my old college buddy Sid Sharma for giving the thumbs up to the whole thing along with master man Morgan Robinson who drives buggies around and shouts at bridges a lot. 😀

Photo Credit: Laurie Bender

p.s. our neighbours in the Mexican Cantina were awesome, they had essentials like water, brooms and frozen margueritas at 1.30am when we were setting up cheers Lynne!!!