User Preferences: Tech Q&A With Graphics Designer Jean-Michel Verbeeck
Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: Jean-Michel Verbeeck
The Creators Project: Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jean-Michel Verbeeck. I’m a freelance motion and graphic designer from Antwerp, Belgium. In 2010, I founded Konstruktiv Media Labs, my personal portfolio and visual playground. Since 2010, I’ve been exploring the world of illusions and their relationship to modern technology. My work involves video mapping, light canvases, and other visual installations which are stripped down to their most fundamental features and created with a minimalistic approach. I’m fascinated by technology and the human brain, and in all of my work I try to find the right balance between what is real and what is digital, with the purpose of bringing the audience into a state of self reflection. In other words, I try to show the audience that there are not only new perspectives, dimensions, and possibilities in the digital world, but also in our reality.
What hardware do you use?
In my studio I have a few Apple computers that I use for general graphic design and motion graphics. I have my live VJ setup that consist of two Macbook Pro Laptops and a Codanova VMX V64 MIDI controller for live mixing. I have a few basic projectors at my studio and for video mapping I also use a Canon 600D to take full advantage of spacial scanners.
What software do you use?
For graphic design I prefer to work with the Adobe collection. When working on animations and motion graphics I use Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D. For live VJ and video mapping, depending on the type of projects, I use Resolume Avenue, Modul8, MadMapper, IR Mapio, Millumin. Other pieces of software that I love working with are: Quartz composer, Processing, Final Cut Pro, Ableton Live, and Traktor.
If money were no object, how would you change your current setup?
I graduated in September 2011 and now I’ve been working hard to gather a budget to start a design company or visual label. I have big dreams for the future. I would like to start a company here in Belgium that involves all kinds of people from different creative fields. I would like to bring people together and work on amazing projects. Bringing design, video, and audio to one place has always been my dream, working together with producers, editors, designers, sound engineers, and visual artists. So, to finance this company I would need a lot more, my future setup would involve much more than my current. But one step at a time. Right now I’d like to invest in some stronger computers and projectors.
What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
Since I’m a visual artist experimenting with our perception, other dimensions, and perspective, and being really interested by our consciousness and the potential of the human brain, I’d love to see our reality being augmented. Currently I’m exploring the quantum brain and quantum mechanics and I did my first creative approach towards this subject with my newest light canvas called Innovates. The installation is all about humans living in 2012 and the relationship that we have with technology. It reflects the contradiction between digital and physical reality and asks the question to the audience, through an illusion of perception, what their role is as innovators of 2012. It gives them the task to think about their perspectives and possibilities in life. I’d love to see something developed that really reflects who we are and shows us what we are capable of if we set our minds to it—an installation that acts like a mirror, a mirror into the future, into the mind of an individual. Call it another dimension if you like, but I believe that when we wake up, we have an endless sea of possibilities and we only choose one on a daily basis, preferably we always choose the same one out of comfort. That is also the main reason that I would like to start a company. I love to motivate people into looking for the best version of themselves and if technology would make that possible with a simple device, I think we are going to meet more and more amazing people with great, innovative ideas.
Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
I’ve always been fascinated by light and how it interacts with us. How we can manipulate, control, and create it. And how, by the presence of light we get an impression of depth, movement, and shading. It reveals, hides, and brings into existence. In my teen years, I was an obsessed collector of lamps. I had them in all kinds of different shapes, colors, and sizes. My weekly activity was to go to flea markets and find unique pieces. Back at home, I would stare at the light emitted by the lamps and try to give meaning to its existence and the relationship we share with light. Until this day I’m still fascinated by light as I’m exploring the practice of photons, electricity, and optics. So for me, working with our perception and creating illusions, I must say that light in general inspired me the most to start experimenting with visuals, projectors, cameras, etc.
What’s your favorite relic piece of technology from your childhood?
I can think of a lot of pieces that really annoyed me when I was a child, especially answering machines and pagers. But my favorite piece, and I’m still using it now, has always been my cassette player. I only had a few cassettes back then but I knew them by heart. And of course, the Nintendo Game Boy—that big grey monster which I wasted a lot of time on.