The dreaded argument of “what constitutes a live performance” or “how does the audience know you’re really doing anything” seems to come up again and again. Josh Cardenas decided to settle the matter once and for all by designing a unique system of cameras for turntablists DJ Shdaow and Cut Chemist’s latest collaboration “The Hard Sell” to incorporate into the visuals.
I had the chance to run visuals for a unique DJ act called The Hard Sell, a collaboration of turntablists DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. The art of spinning and cutting records is usually not visible to dance club audiences. Cut and Shadow wanted to let everyone see, up close and personal, all the action on their 8 simultaneously spinning turntables playing old 45s. But they needed a way to do it unobtrusively. Given the often cramped spaces of the venues they perform in, they couldn’t have a crew of sweaty dudes in black clothes wielding cameras in their faces. Also, Cut and Shadow wanted to mix in additional visuals from DVDs, to change and match the moods of the different tracks.
I got involved when Ben Stokes, the show’s lead visualist, said to me: “I like robots. I like cameras. I love robot-cameras! You build all kinds of crazy stuff; what can you come up with for this?” I suggested I could probably make some small robotic mounts for the cameras, each with their own pan-and-tilt mechanism driven by hobby servos. They’d be small, light, cheap and effective — my favorite combo!
Here’s the multi-camera live setup I devised for the show, and a lower-budget version that you can put together without all the professional equipment.