The latest edition of Tom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes tour features live onstage content creation together with a custom video package from Universal Pixels.
Yorke is joined onstage by long-term Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and audiovisual composer Tarik Barri, who is working in his own Versum software. The trio work together to create abstract visuals that match Yorke’s music.
Universal Pixels has supplied the tour since it began in the US in December 2017, providing a curved array of three to five projection screens depending on the venue.
For the latest tour, which included festival slots and tour dates across Europe and the US, Universal Pictures created a recently-devised, flexible video package, designed for speedy load-outs and quick arrangement.
The package features a custom dolly package of five 2.5m x 4.5m 6mm Leyard CLM hi-res LED screens, that make up a seamless front projection screen, three Epson 25k projectors that project onto the LED screen and across the band from front of house, and a compact five camera package containing five robos and one UP 3G minicam to provide IMAG feeds at larger venues and festivals with house screens, all interfacing with Barri’s custom servers and Pixel Taco’s Catalyst servers. Where available, the set-up has been supplemented by a locally-supplied front of house long-lens.
Video designer, Jake Hogenson, said: “The video element of this show impacts the entire performance greatly. Tarik’s visuals provide a unique view of the songs written and performed by Thom and Nigel. With Tarik’s bespoke Versum program, each piece of content will evolve between shows.
“We use multiple channels of Tarik’s content to drive the LED, Projection, and pixel mapping of the X4 bars. I also use Tarik’s content to mix / overlay with our IMAG camera feed. This creates even more depth in the live show environment, in a production that is so visually driven.”
Barri added: “Versum allows me to create and manipulate 3D audiovisual worlds in real-time. It’s like a virtual 3D world that I can fly through with my joystick. All the objects in this ‘world’ can be both seen and heard as the camera flies past them.
“Often, I use this software for performances where I create both the music and the visuals, but on other occasions I basically switch off the sound engine and use my software as a purely visual instrument to accompany other musicians. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still making music, it’s just that this layer of music is perceived through the eyes.”
This approach to creating visuals means that each show is unique, as Barri will ‘flow with the music in instinctual patterns’. Barri explained: “I tend not to know what exactly inspires my choices. Again, it’s this thing of it just ‘feeling’ right. For example, I may have some mathematical experiments inside the computer that generate certain visual patterns on screen – I play around with the parameters, the movements, the colours – all this while listening to the music that I want this work to go along with.
“At some point it just clicks, or at least half-clicks, well enough for me to know I’m on the right track, and I continue fine-tuning. It’s always ‘abstract’ as in that there are multiple ways to interpret what you’re seeing, depending on how you’re wired.“
Hogenson said of the collaboration with Universal Pixels: “Working with UP is always a pleasure. I have a long-standing relationship with Phil Mercer, as well as others at UP, that creates trust and confidence each time we work together. The kit is always clean and well prepped.
“With a bespoke media server driving the bulk of the visual elements in this show, it’s important to have all the right components in line. Together, we have evolved this show from using a small projection-based kit in clubs and theatres, into a show that can tackle outdoor festival stages, arenas and large theatres. UP has packaged the kit for us to have maximum efficiency in whatever venue we play. I’m looking forward to evolving it even further next year!”