Sunday, January 16, 2011

The official Shpongletron video teaser has been released

This video was based on our NYC NYE show. One of the first shows ever with Shpongletron:

The video is based on our New Year's Eve New York City show.
This was only the second time this structure was fully activated at a show environment.  The first one was just a day before at Tower Theater, Philadelphia.

The Shpongletron project was one of the most intense things I've ever done.  I was given about a month deadline to come up with the design, 3d mapping, video, custom welded parts, screens, three-dimensional 6 foot Shpongle Mask sculpture, embedded lighting show, sourcing the dancers and transportation.  But it worked - I've delivered what was asked from me.

At some point during the NYE show, Simon Posford's manager came up to me to confess something.  "I didn't want to freak you out by telling you this earlier Zebbie... but I didn't think you could do it... I didn't think I gave you enough time."  I had an instant playback of the previous month happen in my head right then and smiled with relief.  It was done.

There was no way I could have accomplished such a feat on my own in such a short amount of time.  I knew that well from the get go, and found a way to the right crew to help me bring this structure to life.  Blake Courtney from BC Designs is a genius responsible for all of the custom welded parts as well as explaining to me everything I needed to know about scaffolding.  Tess Lee from pulled off some miracles of her own to get the crazy custom screens done on time.  Dado Ramadani was the video genius that mapped and animated the Shpongle Mask sculpture I carved out of foam in 3d.  Then there were some core people that answered a call for video submissions - mostly works from VJ Peter Parker and 1000Errors that really helped brighten up the show.  My custom software Zebblertron got a major facelift just for this project from interim_descriptor (who's planning on releasing the software as an Apple App soon under the name DVJ).  Jacob Fenwick helped code and install lighting support into Shpongletron.  Katie Hayes totally covered all of our transportation needs out of the kindness of her heart.  Matt (Hippie) Welch took serious charge in stage managing and rigging the structure at the shows, joined in NYC by Dorothy (Cookies) Bassett and Jon (Bonk) Macleod who also helped advance the mini-tour.  Shane Martz came in at the right time - and helped us setup our critical structural/projection test at club Royale in Boston, who were gracious enough to accept us there.  Thanks to Teva Macmillan for finding us the right projector/lenses and helping me figure out the projection technology.  Simon Posford's management Coast II Coast came through at a few critical moments as well - helping us source the right gear for this project and leaning on the venues to give us the right amount of time to setup/test.  And there were many other people along the way - that helped with their advice or physical assistance - thank you to all of you!  You certainly helped me stay sane throughout December.

The hardest part is now over, but there is no time to rest.  I am currently deep in designing additions to Shpongletron, editing a ton of new video content synced with Shpongle tracks and advancing our 2011 April-May Shpongle (Simon Posford DJ Set) US Tour as well as constantly working on new music videos with my a/v act Zebbler Encanti Experience. There are also talks happening with EOTO who may want a different projection-mapped stage to perform on for their March-April US Tour... which will put me right back into the second most intense month of my life - this upcoming February.

But what's done is done - and is now cached in the cyber-history.
You can find further documentation of the entire process on my facebook's photo album:
Or by visiting the blog you're currently reading:


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shpongletron fully live for the first time! So it begins.

The folks at Royale Boston have been gracious enough to let us test the full power of Shpongletron in their venue last night. Today we're packing up and hitting the road to perform with it in Philadelphia tomorrow and NYC on New Years Eve. See you there!

Here are some pics, or if you want to see the full progress - feel free to browse my facebook photo album dedicated to this project.

We're likely to upload some videos of Shpongletron in action soon as well. Keep checking this blog for our progress - and feel free to submit for video treatments for it before our spring tour fully kicks off.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Extensive After Effects Templates

I made a CS4 Template that should help you guys along if you'd like to use it.
Here's the download link:
I've separated the entire structure into:

Template Masked Wings
Template Masked Face (outline only)
Template Masked Eye
Template DJ Booth
Template Bottom Main Frames
Template Bottom-most Rectangles
Template Frame Outline 

Load your own content in, preferably something different for each of these presets.
Then open up one of the presets above, select the missing/replaceable clip on the time line, then option-drag the clip you want to see there.  Adjust for size as needed.
Your changes will instantly reflect in the TEMPLATE MASTER01 sequence, which is your master sequence.

If you put effects or distortions in your composition, it could cause the image to spill outside the frame. For an easy solution, I created this template mask, just put it on top of your composition and it cuts out all of the unnecessary pixels:

Also - here's a variation on this theme, a CS5 Template, created by VJ Peter Parker:


And send me some video updates when you get a chance, our time is running short.

We'll be doing the full Shpongletron setup/test on Sunday night most likely.

Monday, December 20, 2010

3d Shpongle Mask download (courtesy of Dado)

One of our main 3d artists Dado has provided some 3d templates for people to play with.  This could save you some serious time if you were planning to use a 3d video program.

Here's the latest and fullest set of assets for anyone considering taking on the challenge of creating visual imagery for Shpongletron:

3 .obj 3d Shpongle Masks in varying complexity:

a 2d jpeg of the Shpongle Mask I was using as a template for our projection sculpture (reference your dimensions/proportions with this one, as well as the video mapping template:

Latest video mapping template (true to resolution):
Color coded:
Green = opaque screen show
Blue = transluscent 3d screens show
Red = scaffolding pipes show
And of course Shpongle logo with a few outlines for ease of lineup of your 3d or 2d Shpongle Mask treatments.

As always, if you have any questions about any of this, read through the blog or email me  directly at

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shpongletron skeleton assembled / Template Master

Template mapping image source is finally here!
Click the jpeg on the right for the full size image.
Please use this one as your final template to line everything up to.
Color coded:
Green = opaque screen show
Blue = transluscent 3d screens show
Red = scaffolding pipes show
And of course Shpongle logo with a few outlines for ease of lineup.

I will post more assets as they develop, but definitely wanted to get this one out there, as everyone needs a mapping master asap.

It was a loooong and cold night, I finally got everything 95% lined up by 6 am.
This should give you everything you need to get started with though.  Please keep your videos the same resolution as the jpeg map - 1024x768

Thank you Tess, Ike and Blake - for spending these bitter cold hours with me to assemble and test the Shpongletron skeleton.  Love you guys!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Question/Answer: Shpongletron video production plan sample

Alex Ezorsky-lie (Question):

This is so awesome of you mr Zebbler!  Just the thought of having something I made be near shpongle makes my brain curl.  So.
Before I get started, if I do, what exactly do you require?  A video that when played at 1024x768 assuming the projector projects only a little above and a little below the structure will play black where it wont hit the structure and then corresponding video wherever it will hit?  And then once I get that concept down, should I try and pull off some silly 3D mapping stuff?  Since the structure is relatively 2D I guess the only illusion I could play with is that of perspective...As in if something pops out in the z axis we can assume the viewer is looking up at it.  

Is this rightish?
Zebbler (Answer):
I would want (if you're trying to do a mapped video for the entire structure all at once) a single 1024x768 video (we'll be projecting one video at a time), where it's ALWAYS black everywhere that's not within the physical parameters of the structure.
So the easiest (and mostly wrong) way to do it, is to create a .png mask, where the shape of the structure is transparent, and the negative space is opaque 100% black.
What is better visually is to create a visual guide (I'll share mine as I make them, but you don't need them to get started - they are easy to make - even my latest map file would work fine to get started) of your video confines, then create something like this:

I imagine (this is just an example of work/thought flow) creating an outline for the edges of a wing, perhaps blinky smooth green.  Then perhaps collapsing the outline into the middle side - where it connects to the structure, and out of the flash resulting from the collapse growing a leaf/sprout that takes the exact shape of the wing again, and does a blinky light show.  Perhaps trigger the blinks at the precise bpm (130 is pretty neutral and would let me easily speed up or slow it down to match the DJ's tempo).
So then I know my other wings are similar in shape to this new show - and I can simply duplicate, scale and flop the video treatment to make it match the other 3 wings.
Then I would set out to create something for the eye.  A lazy method would be to just record an eyeball, and shape that image to fit the eye shape that we have in the structure/template.  More creative things obviously can also be done.
Then there's the cubes - three cubes on the bottom and the DJ one.
I would do a blinky outline, then transform it in some 3d way to fuck with people's perspective - as the cubes will have screens on the sides and back as well as a translucent ones in the front.  So it would start looking 3d when you collapse an outline into the middle.
Then there's the Shpongle logo.  We are re-creating it in 3d, so you shouldn't worry about it, unless you want to.  An easiest thing would be to line up an actual logo to the template and once again, play with lighting, shape, etc.  The 3d replica will let us cast shadows on it, make it blink, stick out the tongue, etc.
The DJ booth will also have lighting, so the VJ show there can be and should be limited at times.
Another version of the show could just outline the entire structure, following the path of the pipes.  It would be actually sick to make it look all Tron-like, not that I was inspired by the movie when naming it, but it would be cool (the name Shpongletron comes from Zebblertron, which is the name of the custom a/v software I've been using for a while, developed by interim_descriptor).

When creating anything, remember not to start with the full on orgasm.  The magic of this thing is the tease of possibilities and not revealing all of your cards all at once.  It gets overwhelming and boring otherwise.
It's in that blend in between subtle and full on that real magic happens I think.

Hope this example of thinking helps to get things started.

It will get clearer when we start projecting on the structure, but due to limited time, I would encourage immediate thoughts/tests to start regardless.

I am probably going to post this description on the blog, as it might be helpful to others as well.

Thanks for your question,