I had the pleasure of doing live projections last night at Brooklyn’s C’mon Everybody to accompany DJ sets by DFA Records artist The Juan MacLean backed up by my friend DJ Stewie Decimal, DJ Treatz, Marosy and Higgins. It was BYOProjector and the setup was far from ideal—I was wedged at the corner of the back bar with my laptop on a bar stool. When I put up my first test projection, a giant inverted map of the US with doppler weather data from the past 5 years overlaid, the first DJ came up to introduce herself and say she was excited for the projections but would I mind not shining the image directly into her eyes? This is something I’ve heard occasionally from DJs but usually as a general grievance/DJ downside, not something that had a solution. If the DJ is standing front and center and you want a big projection on the stage, they are going to be in the center of it. Was there a better way?
My first thought was to shift all the projections to a square of space to the left of the DJs so it would not be shining on them at all. This worked for a bit, until a bunch of tall guys stood in front of the beam, so I was basically projecting onto their hats. Next thought: a horizontal bar above the DJs’ heads, which worked well for an hour or so, but when people really started dancing, I knew would more energetic to project on the entire stage and light up more of the audience in the process. But again, I didn’t want to blind the DJ—now the Juan MacLean himself, who was killing it. So I created a black circle to act as a mask to all the other light and positioned it over his face.
You could do this with any VJ software. I was using Modul8, so this involved taking the top layer, putting a test card on the layer, lowering the color levels so it the test card became solid black, then enabling the transform tool, warping the image to change it to a solid sphere, then positioning it over the DJ booth. If you were projecting something that was super literal, like an old movie or sports bloopers, it might look a bit odd to have a black circle front and center, but for abstract projections, it comes off as an intentional design choice, while saving the DJ that awful feeling of having a flashlight shined in his or her eyes.