A while back we saw a pretty awesome Slice Transform tutorial by Sean Bowes.
This is how we got introduced to this talented VJ, content creator and animator.
While digging through his YouTube-channel we found many cool interviews with familiar faces like Laak, Joris de Jong and Sandy Meidinger.
So we decided to flip the script and ask Sean if we could interview him, and here we are.
Hey Sean! Thanks for taking the time for this interrogation. Tell us your story, how did you get into VJ’ing?
I have always had an interest in art, technology, and music - always drawing as a kid and filming skits on my parents camcorder with my siblings. That evolved into an interest in graphic design as I progressed into high school. After high school, I decided to pursue a BFA in Graphic Design and Studio Art.
During that time I started to see projection-mapped visuals at concerts. Specifically, I remember seeing EOTO at the beginning of 2012, and being really impressed with the design and animation of their new Lotus Stage design. The next day I looked up who was behind the visuals of that show and discovered the AV Artist Zebbler. I sent him a few emails with questions about projection mapping and how he approached making that type of content so I could try to do it myself. He set me further on the path of exploring Cinema4D and also introduced me to Resolume.
In 2015 I heard about a VJ Competition that was happening as part of the Together Festival in Boston. I had been playing with Resolume quite a bit in my free time but had never performed outside of my own bedroom before. I entered the competition and ended up winning first prize! That introduced me to more VJs in the area and opened some doors for me to start performing at some clubs in the area.
After your initial introduction into the world of VJ’ing you quickly started landing bigger gigs and festivals. Bigger gigs means more responsibility and art direction. Do you prefer the “anything goes”-vibe at clubs over art directed festivals and concerts?
I actually enjoy a mixture of both. I am a fan of variety.
I always like working on something new, and working in new situations with new people. So it is fun to switch gears between creating from my own ideas, and helping to execute someone else's. It can be refreshing and inspiring to see an idea that someone else has come up with and help to bring it to life with some of my own creativity, and I am often given access to opportunities that I wouldn't necessarily pursue on my own.
That is also why I enjoy being an animator / VJ / YouTuber. Moving from creating content, to mixing content, to educating others keeps me feeling inspired and helps me to continue learning and to think about my process in new ways.
Funny that you mentioned YouTube as we’ve been binging your channel at the Resolume HQ. How did you get started with YouTube and how does this affect your career as a VJ and animator?
I’ve had a YouTube channel for several years where I have intermittently posted videos about trips I’ve taken, daily life vlogs, and some tutorials here and there. Its current form started around the end of 2019 when I made a Getting Started in Notch tutorial. It was a piece of software I was excited about, but some of my peers seemed confused about how to get started or confused about the pricing. So I made a video that attempted to get them over the barriers of that first attempt, and a few friends watched it and liked it. I liked that feeling of actually helping people more than the usual flame emoji comment on an instagram post.
Then Covid-19 hit and I wanted to make stuff even though I couldn’t go out VJ’ing anymore. I made a couple more tutorials and I started doing interviews with people from the VJ scene.
The interviews didn't get as many views as I think they should, I guess this is because the subject is for a very niche audience of professional VJ’s and my channel was quite small at this time. So after about a dozen of them I decided to continue making tutorials. They attract more new viewers because they are more searchable. Eventually, I would like my channel to evolve into a comprehensive guide to get people started with VJ’ing. This is also why I go beyond making Resolume tutorials and do tutorials about landing gigs, buying a computer and other software packages.That has helped grow the channel and bring more eyes to the interview series as well.
I’ve met a lot of people as a result, from people I’ve looked up to and now have the privilege of interviewing, to new VJs who are excited to enter the field, and even some new clients. That's what I love about YouTube, you are building a community that you can interact with.
We are very happy to see a content creator making videos about VJ’ing in general.
Professionalization of the VJ profession is a noble cause indeed. What would you say beginner VJ’s need to learn to make the step to the big boys league?
From a technical point of view: You should know the Advanced Output inside and out. Big stages come with lots of creative and technical challenges, so having a solid understanding of all of the mapping tools and techniques will really help you. Also, learn to work with cameras, capture devices, and video routers. Eventually you also want to have a basic understanding of timecode as bigger artists tend to incorporate that into their shows in some way. This one sounds basic - but an understanding of color theory for matching visuals with lighting is another essential skill.
From a professional point of view: Learn how to work with the lighting guys and art directors. Work with people, and be enjoyable to work with. Coordinate transitions, build-ups and drops with the lighting guy. You can start practicing that at small club gigs. Be humble and willing to learn from other people, and if you don’t know how something works: just ask.
From a gear point of view: Stress-test your system and make sure your machine is up to it. Create a MIDI-mapping and familiarize yourself with it. Practice, practice, practice.
Let’s talk Resolume for a bit. What Resolume feature was a game changer for you?
Groups, definitely groups.
Separating your content into groups makes larger projects more manageable.
I separate my groups into tasks; a group for content, a group for logos, a scenic group and/or a group for advertisements.
Separation into groups really helps when you are working with content that has different mapping requirements, or needs to be always on, or manipulated separately. You don’t accidentally mirror the event logo or apply glitch effects to ads.
Thank you so much for sharing your story Sean. We are looking forward to new interviews and tutorials.
PS: Like and subscribe! And something with a bell.. And share.. Something! Am I doing this right Sean? …Sean?