After dark: Video syncs to the club beat

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Club aesthetics have progressed since spartan warehouses and muddy fields housed the embryonic acid house movement.

It used to be flashing lights and psychedelic images until VJs started blending ambient video with hands-on lighting control.

Chris Bird, Henry Northcroft, Lawrence Oakley and Tobyn Cleeves are members of United Visual Artists, a new south London multimedia collective pushing the genre to the next level.

UVA are now pioneering a computer programme that allows them to play and manipulate video footage in time to the music.

"The old system used to be that if you wanted visuals in, it had to be video footage. VJs would only be as good as the tapes that they'd play," says Oakley. "Once a video is played, there is little you can do to the footage apart from rewinding and playing again."

But the computer system allows them to be more responsive to the surroundings by tailoring the video cuts. It allows them to store masses of footage and to synchronise on-screen graphics to the music's beat, integrating live pictures from the club venue.

"When the music bangs in, you can't cue the videotape forward to the best piece of footage," says Bird. "We progressed from buying videos to making our own collages. We've incorporated a live camera element and switched to computers which allow us to select and alter video sequences like a DJ selects records."

In many cases, watching video footage in clubs is hard work on the eyes but you'd be amazed just how long a dancing computer baby can hold your attention at 4.30am - especially if it boasts better dance moves than you.

"People may not see anything on the screens for half an hour," says Bird, describing the creative process on the night. "All of a sudden images will start to appear, dimly at first, but as the music rises in tempo, the image gets stronger until the lights start to flash and a giant robot appears on the screen and reaches out towards you."

For UVA, the new technology has opened up a wide range of opportunities that stretch beyond nightclubs. With sponsorship from Apple Computer and using the world's latest digital technology, their innovative work seems to be appearing everywhere.

And for Northcroft, UVA's work goes far beyond the confines of nightclubs. "We can apply amazing special-effects to camera images but we're not only about sending out mad images in nightclubs," he says. "We work with live acts as well as sponsors who want to get their brand across in an exciting and innovative way.

"People will have more control of their surroundings in the future through music, visuals and other interactive innovations. They'll be able to control visuals by movement and heat.

"Young people always embrace new things. We help people lose themselves in an amazing environment. We're offering a journey - a new environment."

Do you want a ride?

United Visual Artists (0958 927898)

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