Throwing Beam for Fun and Profit

the live performing graphics

VJ performances often involve canned imagery      the visual equivalent of lip-syncing. But a new breed of visual performer dumps this crutch and creates fresh graphics on the spot as the primary aesthetic delivery vehicle, worthy in itself of a true and completely realtime performance. The images may be improvised or performed according to a predetermined score. In either case, however, the images are generated live in realtime under immediate continuous performer control. This new artform is known as "Throwing Beam".

Throwing Beam

To perform visual images in front of a live audience. The images may be improvised or played according to a pre-determined plan, possibly even from a visual score (although at this time very few performers can read graphic choreography notation or for that matter have ever seen a visual score). In many circles, however, improvised live is strongly preferred. As Mezz Mezzrow sez in Really the Blues, " ... to us the two things were one, a guy composed as he played, the creating and the performing took place at the same time."

The role played by algorithmic help in manipulating pixels is a matter of performer preference and hot debate. Some graphicists have complex libraries of image subroutines which are then invoked and controlled through live interaction. Others distain such "mechanical interference" as too distant and clumsy, instead using software which allows them to get their hands directly on the graphics. "I want to feel the pixels between my fingers."

And, finally, just to be absolutely clear: Throwing beam is never, ever pre-recorded and then played back in front of an audience as if being created live (no finger-sync, no Milli-viz-Vanilli).


Amy Alexander, aka VJ Übergeek,

more videos

J.Walt performing Gardens of Thuban at the Glendale Planetarium


Tim Thompson at Different Skies,

Please Vote

Other beam throwers (of note, but not on this year's panel)

Surya Buchwald, aka Momo the Monster,

more videos

Craig Latta,

Creon Levit, David Tristram, Ron Fischer, The Rastermasters

                                  (photo by Faustin Bray)


The VJ Book: Inspirations and Practical Advice for Live Visuals Performance,   Paul Spinrad

Live Graphics Nightly,   F Lakin


In Memoriam

To Ralph J Gleason, 1917-1975, he of generous spirit, open yet discerning ear, and precise words. Performing Graphics needs such a friend.

© Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 PGC

"Performing Graphics" is a registered service mark of PGC.