October 21, 2020

Amplified Visuals // An Illuminating Interview

Devan Corona AKA Amplified Visuals is the lighting specialist and VJ (visual jockey) behind many of our shows. Whether in a club, the woods, or an art gallery, Amplified curates inspired lighting, lasers and visuals for music events.

NS: How and when did you begin your journey into creating lights and visuals?

Amplified: I started dipping my toes into this stuff in early 2018. My best friends and I kinda just became obsessed with lasers over the years from going to shows...like cult level obsessed. At some point we just needed to buy one to bring that laser vibe into the living room. So I bought this dope knockoff laser from china on Ebay. From there it was kinda like that book “If you give a mouse a cookie”. Once you have the laser, you realize you need a haze machine, then you wanna control it so you get a midi. We’d set it up at parties and it was a hit. I started filming the lasers and making edits to whatever music I was feeling and posting them on Instagram. From there it kind of just snowballed into the mobile lighting and video rig I use today.

NS: What do you consider your first gig and which one is your favorite?

Amplified: My favorite gig was High Hopes fest last year. I think New Something really put together something unique out there in a campground in the middle of nowhere. We all worked our asses off to pull off that festival and it was a great experience. 

My first “gig” was a show I did at some of my friends’ house. I had just put together the full lighting rig for the first time and wanted to test it before bringing it in front of a crowd of people I didn’t know. So we had a party, I called it “Amplified: Progression Session”, made an event poster to get the homies hyped. I pre-recorded an Ableton Live mix and put my lighting desk where the DJ would normally go and threw a show. It was so fun to show everyone this thing I’d been working on for so long.

NS: How does your background in aerospace engineering influence your work?

Amplified: Getting that degree was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The aerospace engineering program at CU is pretty nuts in terms of workload, but through it all, I mastered the process of solving really challenging technical problems. That process and way of thinking enables everything I do with my visuals. Things like designing my mobile lighting rig to work just as good in the middle of the woods as it does in a venue. In live streams bringing in camera feeds to make the DJ a part of the visual effect rather than just placing them over a green screen. I think I’m way more technically creative than I am artistically creative... the tech is my art.

“The New Something crew is amazing to work with... There’s a mutual respect for everyone and their art. That’s really nice to be around.”

NS: Are there any visual artists who inspire your work?

Amplified: Greg Ellis, aka the LazerShark. He’s the mastermind behind the Pretty Lights visual package, leading the design of the show, running lights and video synthesizers. I really respect that show because it’s run totally live, Greg is improvising the show’s look based on what he’s feeling that night. That means no time-code sequences triggering the production, and no preset cue lists. The things Greg and his team pull off are absolutely mind blowing.

NS: What’s unique about your rig, and how do you see it expanding?

Amplified: I think I’ve designed a rig that packs a lot of punch on a small budget. I love that I can configure it in so many different ways to suit the venue and artist I’m lighting. Maybe I need lasers today in a big room, but the next show I can’t use them because we’re throwing a DJ set in an art gallery. I can ditch that module of the rig without changing my show-file and it just works. As far as expansion goes, it’s all focused on software and the lighting console. Right now, I’m really limited by my console software. It works great for my current rig, but to grow, I need to be able to incorporate new lights into my show on a moment's notice. Venues have house lights, and touring artists have their own lighting packages, and they will let the opening act use pieces of the rig during their set. I need to be able to quickly clone my show into those rigs so that no matter what I’m using, I can light it up.

NS: What is your dream venue/show?

Amplified: Red Rocks has always been the dream, but I went to Mishawaka last year and I’ve gotta say that might have topped Red Rocks on my list. “The Mish” is just so intimate; it’s in a canyon and there’s this mountain directly behind the stage with a river running between the stage and that mountain. I don’t know if it would be allowed, but I can’t imagine anything cooler than projecting lights and lasers onto the mountain over the river during a show.

NS: What’s your experience been like working for New Something?

Amplified: The New Something crew is amazing to work with. So much talent, drive and creativity; but more than that everyone associated with NS is just a really good person. There’s a mutual respect for everyone and their art. That’s really nice to be around.

NS: What’s next for Amplified?

Amplified: The main goal over the next few months is to really dial my skillsets in live visual production. I feel like I’m approaching the tipping point between Amplified being a passion project and a career… I want to get over that tipping point. When I talk to people after shows or streams, they might say something like “super dope lights” or “really loved the visuals”. I want to leave people saying “your stuff is professional level, how are you not doing this at Cervantes or The Mission Ballroom?”. That’s the next step in my journey.