Visual/Sound/Walls returns to Cucalorus Film Festival with bigger show

By Brian Tucker

“I think the reason is that the directors involved in the past are getting bigger bands now,” John Gray said of the mainstream or higher profile acts whose videos are part of Visual/Sound/Walls during the Cucalorus Film Festival.

Videos from Ryan Adams, Wye Oak, and Thee Oh Sees lend additional credence to V/S/W and compliments previous filmmakers like Ben O’Brien who directed last year’s video for Dan Deacon and “The Tower” for Wye Oak. This led to a larger presentation for V/S/W’s “Director’s Cut” program on Saturday where directors will discuss their creations. This year’s featured director is Ryan Staake.

“He’s an amazing video concept creator, (whose work) revolves around cutting edge technology,” Gray explained.

Staake’s video for Booka Shade (“Crossing Boarders”) was created using a drone and seven GoPro camera attachments to it and flying over various landscapes. The video, presenting a fish-eyed 3D perspective of Earth, will be shown on the Oculus Rift device in addition to its 2D version.

“The Oculus Rift, it’s a new virtual realIty helmet, and we’ll have one that people can try on and see the video,” Gray said. “You put it on and you’ll be able to look around at this virtual world, the direction you’re looking affects the video.”

This is V/S/W’s fifth year, happening at Bourgie Nights in downtown Wilmington on Thursday at 10 p.m., where attendees will be surrounded with video screens, immersed in both visual and musical stimulation. Thirty four videos from around the globe will play seamlessly. Two videos will be accompanied by the musicians. Brooklyn’s SoftSpot (singer Sarah Kinlaw directed both videos) will perform a special set reinterpreting music from their latest release MASS.

“For (Saturday night’s) party, we’re really trying to increase the audience interactive-ness of it,” Gray added. “We’ve got more character involvement, characters that will appear and interject things now and then.”

That’s where Internet Carl comes in – the only human ever trapped in the internet. Carl is a character that will appear on all the screens and talk.  

“I don’t want to reveal all our secrets but I think he’ll be back stage somewhere,” Gray said of Carl’s Oz-like presence. “We have some dancing characters doing dances throughout, little togetherness things.”

Saturday night will also bring together live music and visual art. Called “DJ’s & VJ’s BF’s 4 EV’s,” performers are matched up with visual artists. Political Peruvian rapper Camboi Smif will perform with VJ MXL PXL and Cucalorus resident artist Rozalind MacPhail, a classically trained flutist, will make and loop music on her Ableton Live (a music sequencer and digital audio workstation) and play the flute over it.

Video director Michael Reich (Crystal Antlers’ “Licorice Pizza”) will be performing as VJ Normal TV using lo-fi, old video cameras where he’ll capture shots onstage, distort it, and play it back out on all the video screens as local trio Mountain Thrower is playing.

Mountain Thrower’s “Ununpentium” live video idea was dreamed up by the band’s singer-guitarist John Manning as a nod to late 1960s videos in the vein of Blue Cheer. Manning (part of Saturday’s “Director’s Cut” program) and Chris Bare cleaned out the back room at Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern, painted the wall green, borrowed cameras and filmed a live performance. The “green” was replaced with footage from YouTube for the background.

“The performance at Bourgie Nights will be fun because I don’t think any planning is going to go into the marriage of sight and sound,” Manning said. “We’re taking a MacGruber-esque approach of winging it and just seeing what happens. We’re basically going to do a 30 minute set and Normal TV is going to throw his special moves at the music totally free-form.”

Q&A with Mountain Thrower’s John Manning

What were you going for in the video, to emulate late sixties footage? 

Manning: Pretty much. We tried to be as sneaky as possible inserting ourselves into the collection of old green screen performances that can be found on the YouTube. We didn’t have the budget to resource the correct sound stage, lighting, or cameras, so we had to take the overall idea and make it our own.

Chris Bare and I cleaned out the back room at Reggie’s and painted it green. We had our friend Greg Gordon, who works in the film industry, lend us some halogen lights. Then we had Ian Millard recording the sound onto a portable rig he put together. The cameras were just borrowed DSLRs. The important thing was that it was of the band during an actual live performance with no overdubbing.

Did you edit and coordinate the video yourself?

Manning: I dreamed the whole thing up when I was trying to think of ways to boost our presence on the web. Whenever I search for videos of artists, I look for live performances. I could care less about what a band does over a studio track. The green screen videos from the seventies are a perfect balance of live performance and added visual style. So, I knew that we had to pull off something similar on our limited resources. 

We took a big risk just hoping that our green screen would work. Luckily, Logan Tabor has access to video editing software which made the editing pretty easy. Logan clicked all the buttons to make all the visual effects happen. But, with the software, we found it was very easy to go overboard with the hokey effects, so we had to sit there and really decide whether something we had done was really worth it. 

Is Logan Tabor (from Mood Mechanics) sitting in or is he in the band now? 

Manning: Logan is official. 

About avenuewilmington (308 Articles)
A website hosting articles about Wilmington music history (its bands and bands visiting the area), articles from my ILM based base publications Avenue and Bootleg magazine (2005- 2009) and articles from other publications (Star News, Performer, The Tonic)
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