Starting a few years ago, shortly after adding support for GLSL shaders in VDMX, we were especially excited to start seeing artists using it as a jumping off point for learning how to write their own shaders. Among the projects that we would hear about there was one in particular that we have been trying to get for a guest interview since it first landed on our radar – VJ Zef’s Saturday Shaders. It popped up in our timeline places like this, this and this… wonderful weekend treats of inspiration. Now finally we have Joseph here for a talk about these videos (and shaders!) that we have seen online.
What tools (hardware, software, other) do you use in your process?
I enjoy the performative aspect of improvising live so I tend towards “playable" generative visuals in my sets.
I started doing visuals in Montreal's Satosphère dome, building virtual environments in Unity 3D, piping in UV textures from VDMX via Syphon. This allowed for a great amount of flexibility, using a mix of vj loops, live cameras, inputs from other visualists, and so on, all controlled via OSC & Midi using a Jazzmutant Lemur & NI Maschine.
I've since simplified my setup and I try to just use VDMX. I’m starting to play around with the DMX lighting side of things and with audio and OSC coming in from Ableton Live, so it seems that my software/hardware toolchain is starting to expand again.
Tell us about how you got started with writing GLSL, and your Saturday Shaders!
I started writing GLSL shaders when I saw VIDVOX announce shader support in VDMX. I figured shaders were a great thing to learn seeing how it is supported in so many real-time graphic applications. Coming from a background of using code to generate visuals with Processing, Cinder, Unity3D and the like, I was very excited about the possibility of using code in VDMX, reducing the need of rendered clips.
I started Saturday Shaders as a way for me to combine learning how to code shaders with quickly outputting something visual to share. I opted for a weekly schedule as opposed to everydays to make the learning process seem less daunting, yet regular enough to feel the progression from one week to the next.
I begin the day by finding a relatively simple piece of code or tutorial online, usually from the Book of Shaders or a basic Shadertoy, and play around with the code using interactiveshaderformat.com until something interesting comes out of it, usually somewhat accidentally.
Once I have something playable, I import the shader into VDMX and create variations by exploring different slider assignments and configurations. Mapping to LFOs, clock positions, measure positions, etc.. quickly gets the shader animated and synced up to music.
It wasn't long before these shaders found their way into my live sets. Starting with Igloofest in Montreal where I recreated a very simplified version of my Unity UV textures setup, this time all within VDMX using v002 Model Loader plugin with all textures generated by shaders.
These shaders also found their way into my work. I used them in an architectural mapping project for MAPP_MTL where I projected the shaders onto styrofoam shapes and a crude model of the building in front of a video screen, creating in-camera feedback effects.
Other design projects I’ve done using these shaders includes visuals for the Opus Merriweather festival where I used them as background elements and as displacement maps on geometry within Houdini.
What are some of your other latest projects?
An ongoing project I have is doing visuals for drone/chant/spaghetti-western artist Hellenica using a mix of rendered clips and ISF shaders, all stylized using FX chains to give the whole set an abstracted, painterly look.
I'm also currently focusing on improvised music performance in a project called Notes from Underground, live streaming with VDMX, Ableton Live and OBS. I’m developing an audio reactive aspect to the visuals and Saturday Shaders are sure to find their way into the mix.