There’s no denying that electronic music is having its day in the sun with artists like Skrillex winning three Grammys this year and electronic music festivals drawing hundreds of thousands. But watching live shows where people trigger sounds on their laptops does not exactly qualify as performance art.
This is where V Squared Labs comes in. The L.A.-based visual art studio uses 3D projections, light displays and other visual effects to create elaborate stage shows for everything from Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, which attracted more than 200,000 attendees in March, to “American Idol.”
The lab also created the explosive staging and visual effects for electronic superstar Amon Tobin’s current Isam tour, which stops at Coachella this week. It’s quite a feat, with a multi-dimensional, shape-shifting 3D art installation rising 25 feet into the air. “The idea was to make an entirely different kind of concert experience — not a dance party with pretty lights to look at but a genuine integration of performance, 3D cinema and musical exploration,” Tobin says. “(V Squared Labs) wasn’t scared to try new things and approached the whole project with a level of ingenuity that was vital to the success of the show.”
Vello Virkhaus, founder of V Squared Labs, says the Tobin collaboration pushed boundaries. “We crossed into new territory of 3D mapping,” he says. “We talked about interesting set pieces and sculptures and how it would exist on stage … then we wrote a treatment with some concept images that we turned into a whole show.”
Virkhaus founded the company in 2000 to satisfy his desire to bring art, technology and music under one umbrella. What started off as a risky creative venture has become a highly successful commercial endeavor. Now Black Eyed Peas, Goldenvoice and “Germany’s Next Top Model” are clients, and business is booming.
V Squared also designed the elaborate visual displays for Coachella’s Sahara tent and Heineken Dome this year, where they’re doing live VJ sets and backdrops for electronic artists.
“With the success of dance music entering into the pop music world … it’s becoming more commercially viable,” says Virkhaus. “There’s a lot of competition now, but competition creates innovation and rising to the occasion to do something even better.”