Producing

Producing

Producing a visual music light show week after week was not something you went to college to learn. It was done using instinct and skill. The rigors of producing new content, using experimental technology and traveling made for some exciting times. How did the Electric Collage come to be? What was it like doing a show?

Steve said, " Before the light show became a commercial venture I had been making experimental movies. Some of my influcene came from Stan VanDerBeek and Ed Emshwiller. I started shooting 8mm experimental movies in 1966. Then as I went on into kenitic media the premise that colors and textures have harmonious relationships in aural and visual music were at the core of my production values. As an artistI I had studied this in depth and did many experiments. I had done some small scale light shows at my apartment for some friends. I combined my films and kenitic art to the Rolling Stones. I was just having fun making art.

During that era when I was living in a midtiown Atlanta apartment. I met my light show partner Frank while I was doing a show at a local coffee house called The Catacombs with a band called The Bag. It was on the corner of 14th and Peachtree St.in Atlanta and was the first gathering place for the new culture.14th St Atlanta 1969 Several 60's bands got their start there. Frank and I clicked immediately and went in business together. We got a house to live in so we could live where the equipment and production facility was located. We built a darkroom, bought some projection equipment and started a commercial venture doing light shows at music concerts.

We worked almost every week. Several times many weeks. Frank worked at his band booking agency Discovery, Inc.and kept us and many local bands in jobs. I worked as an artist and filmmaker. Together we produced media and the shows. We put a lot of miles on the black dodge van and went through a lot of projector bulbs. Somehow between the two of us if we needed something done, one of us had the right skills. We built our own control panels, had a darkroom and made many different pieces of media. We produced a live show setting up scaffolding and screens and projectors show after show.

We worked a lot at rock concerts and not much at the symphony. We wanted to work other styles of music. We could do some very different visuals. But we did a lot of rock concerts. So the media library was full of stuff that was appropriate for rock and roll. Everything we did in the sixties seemed to be related to some mission to fix society or improve life for the entire world. Much of our imagery was associated with those ideas. I recall doing a few shows with other styles of music but the rock and roll jobs paid the bills.

As an experimental filmmaker images were flying around in my head all the time and it was all I could do to get them all rounded up and into the light show. I was always seeking new ways to make my visualizations come to reality. I had to push photographic, projection and a couple of other technologies to get the images I wanted. It was a very creative process much like any other art form. The experiments with the media, the completion of a work of art and all the joys of being artists when your ideas work out. Frank and I working together experimenting with the media and producing films keep us in new media.

For me the liquids were just a piece of the collage on the wall and mostly used for blending the various pieces of media and to add motion to the screen. I depended on them to be very accurately manipulated and that is why I did that part myself during the show. Over time I spent a lot of time developing the formula to produce the liquids. This was one of our trademarks. Our colors were always brilliant and full of different hues.Liquid Projections Visual Music Light Show

Using the multiple projectors and custom control panel we could mix much more complex images than you saw on television or in motion pictures. TV was still very basic with images that were mostly designed for black and white. Except for color and resolution movies were not much more sophisticated than TV and had very little special effects. 2001 A Space Odyssey had just been released and their single special effect with the infinite color tunnel was taken right out of a light show. People used to flock to that movie just to see that sequence.

In contrast, our imaging was multi layered, windowed and very complex. Plus they were in real time and spontaneous. We often had many different story threads going on the screen. Very complex images. However, it was our intent not to distract from the music but to enhance it. It took a lot of instinct and elegance to use all those special effects without being a distraction. But as artists were had no problem blending the visual music with the aural music and building a harmonious experience for the audience.

Producing the light show at a concert was an exciting experience. It was a jam session. We got very involved with the music and the concert. Our media was as much a part of the show as every musical note. The visuals flowed naturally for every song and we instantly knew what mix and mood we wanted to convey as each song started. The synergy created by the musicians and the light show was one that is impossible to describe in words. You had to be there.

After each show new ideas soon emerged for new visuals. Some experiments, some production tests, then a new show was underway before we had a chance to take a breath. Constant evolution. Over time we produced thousands of different visualizations on the screen. We did not need to go to any imaging extreme to have an interesting show. No shock stuff, no porn. Just pleasant images. Since we were the counter culture's TV channel some of the images were from current events. We kept the show interesting and evolved it to a new level for each production.

By the end of the era we had mastered the technology. We were looking at television as a new medium but we could not produce the show using TV technology of the times. Lasers were crude and could not produce holograms or we would have added that to the show.

It would be 30 years before TV was able to produce the same complex images we had put on the wall using projectors." said Steve

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