KEXP is more than a radio station - it's an institution, for both Seattle and for music fans worldwide.
The public station is known not just for its radio or web stream broadcasts, but increasingly for its polished and intimate video recordings of live in-studio performances from legends and up-and-comers alike.
In its former, more modest studios, KEXP's rather small live performance room became known for the christmas lights twinkling in the background bokeh.
Recently, through the largesse of its fans and a number of supporting organizations in the Seattle area, KEXP was given entirely new, updated facilities, including a vastly upgraded live performance room. Along with the new space, it was time to upgrade the look.
For Listen, in a project supported by Microsoft as part of their Music x Technology initiative, we teamed up with LED engineer and technical director David Crumley and our strategic partners Slanted Studios to create a wraparound low-resolution LED wall with custom software to drive it.
The system is, at its heart, driven by TouchDesigner, which is used to generate about 15 custom animations - a mix of particle systems, 3D geometry, fluid simulations, and basic shader approaches, with some looks using the Kinect to capture and animate performers' movements. All are controlled by a Surface tablet from which the team can change any looks' colors, speed, brightness, and masking on the fly.
The LED display itself is a custom-manufactured system to Crumley's spec, permanently installed into the structure of the room. Inherent in the system design was an added challengeportunity (opporchallenge?) in that alternating LED columns were offset by 6" both vertically and in depth, creating opportunities for parallax effects and challenges in signal generation and previs.
After a successful kickoff performance in January 2017, we look forward to seeing what the KEXP team do with the system and seeing the twinkle in the background of their videos for years to come.
Production Companies: Hard Work Party & Slanted Studios for Listen and Microsoft
Producer: Jen Vance
Technical Direction and LED Engineering: David Crumley
Software Development and Realtime Animations: Noah Norman and Michelle Higa
Additional Animations: Michelle Higa and Terra Henderson
Surface Programming: Charlie Whitney
Jan 11, 2017
Photos 1 and 4 [the good ones] by Amber Knecht for KEXP