Optique Vid Tek
If you’ve attended any large-scale Chicagoland raves you’ve most likely seen the work of OVT. Behind-the-scenes engineers, they spend hours photographing, animating, and tweaking video footage to ensure that your experience is as intense and sensorial as possible. For the past 5 years OVT has traveled all over the U.S. and even overseas creating visuals for concerts, raves, music videos, and even MTV. Massive talks with Brian Dressel of OVT to discover the illustrious life of OVT…
Tell us about O.V.T. and its members…
There are 3 core members in OVT- myself (Brian Dressel), Brien Rullman and Vello Virkhaus. I am 28, Brien is 30 and Vello is 25. I work at a company called Post Effects during the day as a 35mm motion control cameraman. Basically I program a huge robotic camera used for special effects shooting of commercials and films. Vello is a freelance designer and 3D animator for commercials and TV shows at The Filmworkers Club by day. Brien is our full time projectionist, contacting aliens in his off hours.
OVT is a collaborative effort between the three of us to do something fun and get major exposure of our art. OVT stands for Optique Vid Tek, where we got that name from I don’t know… I guess I don’t care what people call us, as long as we get paid. We have been together for almost 5 years now. We each have our own particular style, which adds quite a bit of variety to our shows. We have so much footage we have all created that we can have a show going for 12 hours without anything repeating. It has taken us years of effort to get to that point.
How did you all get started?
We all went to school for film/animation/photography. I worked as the head projectionist at Sony/Star theatres before I moved to Chicago 6 years ago, so I have had some previous projection experience. But what we do is so far beyond that now – we are always learning and teaching ourselves new techniques. Brien is currently working with the performance group ‘Mass.’ They created special gigantic round screens out of aluminum to look like giant suns, which they project on. I am working on a multiscreen thrill-ride to use at raves. It will be similar to a Disney ride, but way more freaky. Expect it later this year.
Aside from raves, what other kinds of shows do you do?
We do many other shows besides raves. We create visuals for concerts and large scale events, like Dennis Rodman’s New Years Parties and birthday parties, Ministry, Korn, Pigface, Crystal Method, Daft Punk, Meat Beat Manifesto, Filter, Rabbit in the Moon and many others. We also have our work displayed on MTV’s Amp and the MTV Music Video Award Show ‘97. I will be working with Ogre from Skinny Puppy to direct a music video for his new band Ritalin with Martin Atkins. I also have a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters which make it all worthwhile.
Tell us about Dennis Rodman’s New Years Eve Party.
What can you say about a party with Dennis Rodman. Fun, chaos, hanging with superstars, naked people…
Weren’t you also in Milwaukee this past New Year’s Eve?
Yes. We are able to do two, sometimes three parties at one time, because we have enough personnel and equipment to go around. On New Years Eve, I worked at Dennis Rodman’s New Years Party, while Brien did Drop Bass’ Teenage Wasteland.
Is your material original or “borrowed?”
We create it all ourselves. That is what makes it fun for us and gets us the kind of work we like to do. Promoters see our passion for our work and see how we can transform an ordinary room into a whole new environment using projections. We occasionally have different themes for parties, like alien contact or an underwater theme.
Honestly, do you ever use subliminal messages?
Yes. No. What fun would it be if you were looking for it? If you feel like having sex after watching our videos, maybe that will explain a few things. There are certain studies which suggest that certain visual patterns can invoke different feelings in people. It has something to do with brain wave frequencies. We are always coming up with ways to fuck with your brain without taking drugs.
What do you try to convey with your images?
We don’t necessarily have a concrete message in our work. We do try to convey abstract ideas with it, but the viewer gets out of it what they want. We see it as organized chaos. Much like your brain on acid. It is a free flowing visual overload, with images of things we were thinking about when we were creating it. Our work definitely has a rhythm to it, which flows perfectly with techno music. We have different imagery for different styles of music too.
What equipment do you use to make your visuals?
We all use really fast Macs running lots of graphics, animation and various 3D software to assist with footage we shot with our video cameras. It is actually a long process. We like to shoot and edit stuff we shoot, then add effects and mix it with all kinds of other things we made, which creates something new altogether. I think what we do best is live mixing, we can anticipate changes in the music and change the visuals with the music, creating live music videos as we go. We use many video switchers and video formats for our work. Our baby is the Panasonic WJMX-50 and Sony DFS-500 video switcher. We also own 10 bright-ass video projectors and lots and lots of VCRs. We usually take 2 truckloads of gear with us to every show. It takes a lot of gear to do what we do at raves.
Where has OVT taken you?
We have been all over the country to every major city. It’s awesome! We have been going non-stop for over a year, travelling everywhere. Brien was just in Italy for a big show and I was in New Orleans for Zoolu 4 during Mardi Gras. That was incredible. Vello is in San Francisco working on the visual design for a new TV show. It just keeps getting better.
What are your most memorable events?
I think the Zen Festival last summer in Tampa was my favorite party so far. We were working with Rabbit in the Moon. There were over 13,000 people there and it was mostly outside. There is nothing like raving under the stars in 80 degree weather. It was great to have such a large audience too. There are so many memorable events we’ve done, like Zoolu 4 in New Orleans, Eclipse in DC, Tornado, Voodoo, Hardcore Chicago and Unified in Chicago. I think our visuals looked spectacular at these parties.
Aren’t you working with Rabbit in the Moon again this year?
Yes! We are doing a nationwide tour with them right now. It is cool for us because we get to fly to the location only for the weekends, then fly back here to work on other projects during the week. We can always stay in some cities longer if we like though, like Miami Beach or New York. We had Bunny up last month and shot some really great footage of him doing some weird stuff that we have incorporated into the show. All of our visuals are synced to the music for every song. Basically, we have edited a music video for each of the songs.
Tell us about the infamous “Atlantis Freak Out.”
We were working at a party called Atlantis, which was probably the first party held at the infamous Dalton Expo Center. That was only our third party we had done. We have since worked at over 200 raves. We borrowed 8 16mm projectors from the equipment manager at Columbia College in Chicago. During the night, some kid purposely knocked all of our projectors on the floor, smashing them to pieces. Luckily a security guard saw him and caught him before we could get to him and gut him. It turns out the kid was rolling out of his mind. Whatever. There is no place for people like him at raves. I got him to pay me $2000 for damages and repair of the projectors, because he was a Navy recruit and I threatened to have him kicked out. We ended up buying the projectors from Columbia. So this really terrible event actually started us out into doing multi projector shows. I actually have great video footage of the guy with his head under the security guys boot. Luckily, we haven’t had any similar problems since.
I heard you have some pretty impressive videos… how can interested readers can get them?
We currently have three videos available, Probe, Infinity and Evolution. There are three more on the way within a few months. You can get them at vendor tables at raves, Gramaphone Records and other various record stores in Chicago, or order from our web site. We have our favorite DJs and musicians do the music for us to mix to, including Dan Efex, Intox (of Austin, TX) and Drew Young (all original music). Bad Boy Bill is doing the music for my next tape, which should be interesting.
Any projects coming up for you?
Yes, we have several. We have been doing a lot of special effects work on national and local commercials. Also, there are always raves, concerts and art gallery openings. We are going to Brasil for a rave in a couple months, which is exciting for us.