Johnny DeKam is an internationally acclaimed video artist, VJ and software designer. In 1998 he founded the software company VIDVOX which designs software tools for live video production.
As a VJ he has performed or toured with such notable artists as Sasha and John Digweed, Eminem, Adam Freeland, Dream Theater and electronic music pioneer Thomas Dolby.
Can you tell a bit about yourself, the members of the crew, and the kind of work you do?
I am the founder and Creative Director of a small video design firm called BE JOHNNY based in Los Angeles. We are deeply engaged in producing systems and media content for productions both large and small. I often find myself touring with large concert tours as video director for acts such as Dream Theater and The Glitch Mob. We also work within the public art, architecture and theater context from time to time. My partner is Bree Edwards who is a producer and Curator who is primarily responsible for landing projects and interfacing with our clients. We also work with a select few talented designers on a contract basis for content, such as Bryant Place who is an expert with Touch Designer and Jazz Mutant's Lemur.
How and why did you get into live visuals?
During graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic, I had began my interest in live visuals and custom software programming. Shortly after in 1998 I founded the software company VIDVOX, which as born out of my passion for performing video, except at the time there existed very few software tools for VJs, and so I set upon creating my own. I created several highly regarded video software applications that are in use by thousands of artists and technicians worldwide. Eventually I passed the torch to the talented group of programmers who joined me in my quest. Creating software tools for the public led to many fruitful collaborations and my subsequent career in media design and stage production. I have performed live in over 500 shows across 32 countries in numerous contexts from classical theater and experimental opera to broadcast television and large scale concerts.
How did you discover VIXID VJX16-4 video mixer and why did you choose to use it above other products on the market?
I basically heard about the VIXID through the grapevine, but it wasn't until I was asked to evaluate and review the mixer for a local distributor that I actually was able to experiment hands on. I loved its creative possibilities so much, we decided to carry it in our product line here. What really makes the VIXID very special is the way it handles layers(calque video), which is quite unique compared to everything in the broadcast market.
How are you using it onstage, in a live environment and in the studio?
The VIXID has now been my primary mixer on two world tours. Dream Theater in particular uses many live cameras in addition to media content, so having 16 inputs comes in very handy. They had a specific request to have four cameras on screen at the same time, which the VIXID handles with ease.
How has using this mixer changed the way you work?
With the extensive MIDI implementation, I've been able to completely automate my rig from one control surface. In fact, I don't even touch the VIXID's front panel anymore, its mounted in my rack in a shelf completely recessed!
What features do you find most useful? Are there any features you could not work without?
I've become completely reliant on using blendmodes and the 4 layers. There simply isn't any other mixer that can do this.
What is your typical setup for a live show?
I have an OHM64 from Livid Instruments mounted with a rackmount LCD (3 screens). This connects to second (lower) rack video via MIDI where I keep the VIXID, 2 scan converters, a Matrox tripleHead2go and a couple of 1x4 DA's (which allows me to access the same content on different layers) Also in the rack I have a Mac Pro running VDMX and MAX. VDMX serves 2 channels of media, while max handles meta control between the Ohm and the VIXID. This allows me to program complex scenarios and setups on the VIXID from the touch of a button (the quad cameras for example) or complex chains of blending and effects). The Ohm also passes MIDI to VDMX, so I am controlling my media from the same surface.
How long did it take to you before being able to use it during a live show?
The first show took me about a week to program and implement. However the more complex tour rig took several weeks.
Any tips or tricks you could share with us?
Its very easy to trigger complex combinations of effects by sending sequences of MIDI strings. For example, I have a momentary toggle programmed that causes a strobe on a given channel only while the button is pressed. So the button only sends '0 or 1' which turns 'FX' on or off for that channel. but then I use the '1' to also set the effect to strobe, and the 2 parameters for the strobe (the speed of on an off). I have many of these macros programmed, and no matter which one I press or what order, they always do exactly as programmed without delay. Another fun thing I like to do is automate colorization. For this I like the iPhone (and now my new iPad), which I can use the touchscreen interface to cycle color in complex ways with a simple gesture on a touch screen. Again MAX translates the OSC messages and returns the proper RGB channel messages in MIDI to the VIXID.
What are the best / biggest / most memorable gigs you've done with the VJX16-4?
Oh boy, its mostly a blur. I've done at least 120 shows with the VIXID. Recently we were in South America and player for 20,000 fans in Lima, Peru.
What have you got planned for the near future?
I'm really looking forward to the next tour with the Glitch Mob, I think I'll be able to explore the Vixid in much more depth here. We'll be all across North America in the coming weeks. We start at the famous Coachella festival in Late April. Check out http://theglitchmob.com/ for details.
Anything you'd like to add?
You can always check up on our progress at our website http://bejohnny.com/ I've recently joined the crew over at vixid.noisepages, so I hope to contribute some detailed tutorials, videos and software examples in Max.