Hunched behind a laptop, Jon “LJ” Schenk uses a computer program to create shapes, images and colors that project onto stages to create 3D video mapping.
Video mapping is the projection of 2D images onto a 2D or 3D surface. When Schenk, video mapper and freshman audio production major, was introduced to this video form, he said it changed his viewpoint of how new media can enhance the music scene.
“It completely changes the stage dramatically,” Schenk said. “You can use one 20,000 lumen projector and create a whole new world.”
Schenk, who has concert and club lighting experience, started his work in video mapping about six months ago when a stranger randomly introduced him to it.
“Somebody just shoved their iPhone in front of me and said, ‘Check this out.’ I just saw on this tiny screen an amazing show that Amon Tobin (an electronic music composer) did and it blew me away,” Schenk said.
From there, Schenk started his research. Then he started to experiment with video mapping and eventually felt comfortable enough to put his work on display — a chance many video mappers don’t attempt, Schenk said.
“Behind closed doors, practicing and experimenting is cool, but eventually when you’re ready to get it out in the real world, that’s a big leap. That’s a big jump,” Schenk said.
Schenk said his career goal is to break into the live concert scene. To do this, Schenk said he needs to stay current with the latest media. Video mapping, he said, could become a “staple” in the music and concert scene along with lasers, automated lighting and high-end sound systems.
“This new video just blows all the, you know, $100,000 LED screens that people buy,” Schenk said. “You can get that for (an) eighth (of) the cost with just one projector, a nice laptop and someone who knows what they’re doing.”
Before he started his work in video mapping, Schenk set up lighting, which earned him about $25-50 each time. With video mapping, Schenk said his standard price is $250 for every 500 people who attend an event.
Schenk designed two stages in one day on Oct. 26 — one at 2720 Cherokee on Cherokee Street and the other at Shiver Vodka Bar on Washington Avenue. His friend and coworker, Nick Cantino, assisted Schenk and controlled the video mapping at 2720 Cherokee.
“At the end of the day, this is what I’ve learned in the music industry, is that you’ve got to be a certain breed in order to work right in the world, to be successful at this,” Schenk said. “You can say you can be a video mapper, but are you going to get gigs? You really have to put yourself out there. Talk to people. Do shows.”
Cantino has picked up Schenk’s passion for video mapping and is now his mentee. They met about two months ago at the Upstairs Lounge night club on South Grand Avenue in St. Louis when Cantino volunteered to help Schenk with his set-up. Cantino said he has observed Schenk’s commitment to video mapping and the music scene.
“He’s no holds barred,” Cantino said. “He’s willing to commit to his work. You don’t see that a lot from other guys in this scene.”
Schenk said his skills have developed enough that he can predict the path of the song and where the DJ will take the music. He will also research a DJ or artist before a show to know the style of music he has to work with.
“I make it (the video mapping) literally work with the music because every little detail of the video that you see, like a splash or a crack, goes along with the music. It really can bring the show into detail a whole lot more when you bring in video, because there’s more visualization stimuli,” Schenk said. “When you have a bunch of laser beams and lights pointing at you and flashing at you, I consider it old school. It’s not as analog. With this, you’re bringing in media as a whole, as a picture to really give more feeling to the patron.”
Schenk said it’s an accomplishment if the audience doesn’t completely understand the video mapping.
“When they figure it out — what’s going on — on their own, you’re not really impressing anybody,” Schenk said.