Wires were running everywhere. Ambient VJ Ben ‘Bean’ Worley had three projectors, a live camera, three video mixers (both analog and digital), and a laptop with two terabytes of video clips. The music group LYONNAIS only added to this collection with three keyboards, mixers, a guitar with a-maze-of-effects pedals, and multiple microphones. Bean mixed live video with prerecorded clips and various special effects. The live video, which focused on the band members, offered the performing musicians a backdrop of themselves, albeit one rendered in a kaleidoscope of colors and digital designs.
Bean has been creating video installations for galleries for ten years now, and recording video for much longer. His latest installation, entitled SYNTHESIZ, at Get This! Gallery has been punctuated with multiple live performances over the past two months. While 22 nifty abstract video stills are for sale, the crowds appear when bands collaborate to create an audiovisual experience for attendees.
Many VJs limit themselves to predefined edits of prerecorded music videos; Bean’s approach is much broader. While his library of video clips has grown over the past 10 years, Bean also works with live video feeds and alters the mix and visual effects to match what the band is doing. He continuously adjusts the mix based on feel, where nothing is predetermined and no two performances are ever the same. Bean refers to himself as an “ambient” VJ, a title that suits him well.
Bean’s job has been getting easier as technology improves. Initially he was limited to working with 10-second video clips to match the respective computer-processing limits, and storage required a computer stack. Now he works with movie-length videos, and carries around his clips on a disk no larger than a post card. He also used to record all of his own clips, but now takes YouTube videos and processes them into his portable library. While he really enjoys his gallery performances, like this one at Get This!, his income comes mostly from club shows at venues like Tongue & Groove, Halo, and out-of-town festivals. While technology has certainly advanced, there is still the matter of all of those wires.
Dodge & Burn is a series of photo essays documenting local culture with a focus on artful imagery, movement, and light. Check BURNAWAY’s homepage for new photography every week, and watch our Flickr account for regular updates!