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When Music Meets Art 1: Haydn Robinson’s Think Tank


Anyone who has been to a large music festival, so pretty much everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock since beginning puberty, is likely to have had some sort of sensory psychedelic transcendence aided by visuals provided by a live VJ. However, despite becoming an important production component of any half decent festival, elaborate visuals rarely form part of club night.

I held this opinion until early one morning, at the height of last magic mushroom season, I ambled through the doors of Back To Basics in order to watch experimental techno aficionado Andrew Weatherall. I was delighted to be met by this...

Think Tank - 3D Projection Mapping from Haydn Robinson on Vimeo.

The music, visuals and unrivalled Basics’ atmosphere definitely provided an experience that lay beyond the ordinary range of sensory perception. This is the Think Tank, created and developed by 3D Motion Designer Haydn Robinson. So what exactly is it and how did it come about?

What first attracted you to art and how did you end up combining it with music?

I was really intrigued by animation and visual effects, so that is what I studied. I’d been DJing for about five years before I started that, so I just decided to mix the two together. So when I first started VJing, I was just rocking up to nights and doing it for free, or just for the cost of travel and a few beers. It was only about two years ago I had my first proper projection mapping gig.

Where was that and how did it come about?

That was down at Beaverworks for Brotherhood Soundsystem. I made a little test video; three cubes and a pyramid, and put it online. It was spotted by George Hartshorn and he got touch and asked me to come down and do something at his night.

What exactly is projection mapping and how does it differ from other forms of digital media?

You take projectors, create bespoke graphics designed for a particular show and used the projection mapping software to match up at points onto the surface you are projecting onto.

So, my head has been severely twisted by the Think Tank twice now, tell us about that project?

The idea behind that was to create the best possible effect using the most minimal materials possible. That was in order to make it affordable because a lot of club nights, they want high quality projection mapping but as soon as you start adding up the costs they may well reconsider. It’s not something that is going to draw in the crowds like a headline DJ, y’know? So my aim with the Think Tank was to make it more affordable without compromising on quality of experience. With it being two large flat screens, one in front of the DJ and one behind encasing the DJ in the visuals, it opens the door to using a greater variety of graphics. Sometimes with different shaped screens you are limited to what you can use. You create graphics for that structure and they will only work for that structure, it can be very time consuming.

BacktoBasics - Think Tank 3D Projection Mapped DJ Booth from Haydn Robinson on Vimeo.

What was the inspiration behind the Think Tank and the graphics projected onto it?

There is DJ Yoda Magic Cinema Show which also uses a flat screen but also V Squared Labs. They operate mainly out of the States and go about creating very elaborate stage structures, crazy abstract shapes. They have to create specific graphic for them shapes and then you’re talking a couple of grand for the production. So yeah I set about creating the best effect possible for at affordable price.

What sort of experience do you aim to deliver to the clubber on the ground?

With the Think Tank the idea was to have the visuals audio reactive so you’ve got visual responding to the sound, the DJ is at the centre of it all. I really try and come up with something that represents the soundtrack the DJ is presenting.

Illuminating York 2014 - Space & Time Projection Mapping from Haydn Robinson on Vimeo.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

It’s just that overwhelming sense of achievement. It’s such a pressure, rush and to be honest a bit of a stress sometimes. Trying to get it all together because it’s always very last minute, usually the club has had an event the night before so you can’t install until the actual day. Sometimes you find that you are working over 24 hours to make it happen. But when it comes together it’s all fun and games. I really enjoyed supporting David Rodigan at MiNT Festival because he’s an absolute legend.

So what have you got in the pipeline?

Well the Think Tank is in quite big demand at the moment. There is negotiations going on and a potential for collaboration with some high profile DJs but I don’t want to say too much until it’s all squared off. But in the long run I am looking to go down the holographic route. I want to look at the emerging technology that hasn’t really graced the scene yet, especially when it comes to club visuals. You have seen a little bit of visuals with the Tupac hologram at Coachella but it really is new territory still. One thing that I have pushed for, particularly at Outlook Festival, is a hologram of Bob Marley. I know it has been requested loads but nobody seems to be doing anything about it. It would only take about a five grand investment and if you think about the wow factor of seeing Bob Marley, maybe alongside The Wailers. Imagine having Bob Marley and The Wailers on your line up. It is just finding someone who is willing to put up the initial investment, I’m confident I will.

You can contact Haydn via his website here. @oldspeak1