Friday, September 7, 2012

Meet Leviathan, the local visual-design group behind Amon Tobin's stage show

Posted By on 09.07.12 at 02:30 PM

AmonTobinbside.jpg
Brazilian dance mastermind Amon Tobin graces the cover of this week's B Side, and Miles Raymer touches on the DJ-producer's concert visuals in a preview of Tobin's Saturday-night show at the Congress Theater: "It consists of stage-filling stacks of cubes and boxes covered with projection-­mapped computer-­generated images that move in time to the sound, like a bigger and far more trippier iTunes visualizer in three dimensions."

Tobin needed a lot of help to create this live setup, and he found it in a local production studio called Leviathan. Since starting up in 2010, Leviathan has created a variety of large-scale advertisements and live interactive presentations for a slew of clients. Currently the firm has designs in the works for the North Face, AT&T, and Capital One, among others, but Leviathan executive producer Chad Hutson says the company also gets opportunities to do creative projects like Tobin's stage show. Last year the team developed a live projection design for Drake's OVO festival in Toronto, and right now they're working on an installation for Expo Chicago, an international art and design event at Navy Pier at the end of September.

Leviathan ended up on the Tobin job thanks to renowned VJ Vello Virkhaus, founder and CEO of LA-based visual-arts company V Squared Labs. Virkhaus is an old friend of Leviathan chief scientist Matt Daly, who's collaborated with Virkhaus on a few projects, including the 360-degree visuals for Heineken's Inspire Dome, a gigantic inflatable tent that's been used as a performance space at festivals such as Coachella. V Squared Labs had started working with Tobin on the setup for last year's ISAM tour when Virkhaus got in touch with Daly. "He called Matt up and said, 'This Amon Tobin show is going to be huge, and I'm going to need some help with it,'" Hutson says.

Leviathan first connected with Tobin in early 2011, at which point the stage's gigantic cube-and-box structure had already been designed; the Leviathan team set to working on show's projection-alignment tool and creating the visuals for five of the songs on ISAM. It took about three months to put the content together, with Tobin collaborating closely every step of the way. For the final setup the Leviathan team modified an Xbox Kinect controller, creating a 3D data stream that gives Tobin the ability to adjust the visuals on the fly.

Things are a little different for Tobin's new tour, ISAM Live 2.0. "The biggest change, even apart from us, is just the size of the set," Hutson says. "It's almost doubled in size now." Hutson says that some of the visuals are the same as on last year's tour, but the Leviathan team developed new content for a couple ISAM songs—"Journeyman" and "Wooden Toy." For "Wooden Toy" Daly reached out to local nonprofit performance company Redmoon to collaborate on a series of vignettes projected onto individual cubes that come together to form the image of a gigantic wooden toy; Redmoon and Leviathan used junk parts to handcraft the various parts of the toy, providing a new texture to Tobin's set. "It brought more humanity to [what's] otherwise a very computer-animation-derived piece," Hutson says.

Tickets are still available for Amon Tobin's ISAM Live 2.0 show, so you've still got a chance to experience this spectacle in person.

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