The dancing picture show

The Guardian (Manchester); 20 May 1993; Claire Neesham; p. 17

Never mind pop videos-here comes the complete audio-visual experience

RECLINING on an oriental carpet in the sound studio of his cyberbunker in Chiswick, Guru Josh, mentor behind GJ Productions and the Dr Devious videos, describes his latest creation as a continuous composition mixing classical with hard core dance music. The Dr Devious and the Temple of Kaos video, which is due to be released on May 24, combines electronically generated music with computer graphics and video effects. Their aim is to create a complete audio-visual experience for followers of the rave scene.

Unlike the slick pop videos of the 1980s, Dr Devious and the Temple of Kaos is not simply a glossy promotional piece designed as packaging for a song. For artists such as Guru Josh, who began his career in the dance era with hits like Infinity, computer graphics are now as much a part of the creations as the music.

Jeremy Clark, director of the latest Dr Devious production, says: ''The music and graphics influence each other. In Josh's case the creation of the music usually comes first, and then he likes to work with separate images. I tend to get inspiration for the overall effect at the start of the first video editing phase, then I may be working with computer graphics, music, video clips and even live video input.'' The type of visual effect Clark is looking for is something abstract but, at the same time, suggestive to people in the right frame of mind. Examples in Dr Devious and the Temple of Kaos are the 3D models of Shivas and pyramids, which are accompanied by the music of a string quartet, and the spinning ball, computer-generated streams and coloured landscapes used with the ''hard core'' dance music.

All the music and most of the images are generated in GJ Productions' digital studios. In the music studio, Josh has banks of synthesisers and samplers, which are sequenced using Steinberg's CuBase 3.0 running on an Atari ST Mega 4. The resulting pieces, plus any live recordings from studio sessions, are then mixed digitally and transferred to a DAT tape. This soundtrack can also be put on to the Super VHS video tape used for rough editing, or transferred to professional quality Betacam or D2 master tape.

Most of the computer graphics work is done on six 486-based PCs. These run packages such as Autodesk's 3D Studio, which is used for 3D model generation and animation, and a range of fractal generators and graphics effects routines. Some of these have been developed by outside enthusiasts, and Clark says GJ Productions is always looking for new talent in bedrooms and university computer centres. In fact, images created by students at Middlesex University are used in the new video.

GJ Productions is not the only company to recognise the potential of mixing digitally-produced music with computer graphics. A similar fare of randomly changing colours and shapes with hard-hitting dance rhythms can be found from the likes of Cyberdelia and Hex. In fact, Hex - which describes itself as the first true multimedia group - has taken the genre one step further with eScape, an ''interactive entertainment experience'' for Philips CD-i players.

The eScape experience involves a series of randomly-changing patterns in penetrating psychedelic colours, overlaid with some simple animations and backed by the latest dance music from artists such as Coldcut and Psycore. The style is similar to GJ Productions, but the CD-i technology can't yet support the digital video effects and textured 3D graphics that feature heavily in the Dr Devious video.

Instead, the eScape buyer gets the chance to contribute to the production. With the CD-i player's controller, the eScape watcher can change the colour of the graphics and alter the movement of some of the animated characters.

Matt Black, one of the driving forces behind Hex, says: ''What we have done with eScape is invented a new type of album. We have added vision and interactivity into the equation.'' Black adds that the interactivity is important because it signifies the movement of power away from the big production houses and into the hands of the user.

This is a theme that Black has pursued in his work with Hex. In addition to eScape, Hex has produced a range of more traditional pop promos for groups such as the Darling Buds. It made one of the first interactive productions and the company also wrote the Top Banana game for Acorn Archimedes, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga computers.

Black's colleague, Miles Vismen, created eScape's graphics in assembler. He used a variety of colour cycling algorithms, fuzzy logic and rule-based programs to generate shapes and changeable colours. An animator was then brought in to draw the 2D illustrations using a simple paint program. This visual data was merged with the Midi music files using Philips' CD-i toolkit.

Sandy MacKenzie of Philips believes that it is products like eScape - launched last month - that will attract people to interactive technology. Philips plans to take this type of production further to create a virtual nightclub. Users will be able to wander around different spaces, jam with their favourite musicians and dance with the partner of their choice.

Philips sees this mixture of computer game, music and video taking the place of today's CDs. This idea is supported by the growing demand for graphics and music videos like those from GJ productions. Nor is demand confined to the home. Videos are used in clubs, and Black thinks the mixture of a music venue, a cinema and an amusement arcade will soon be part of the club scene.

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