In 2000, VJ Vello Virkhaus created a visual art and technology production company, V Squared Labs (VSquaredLabs.com). Creative director and visionary Emilio Sa jumped on board as a partner in 2010 and the laboratory experienced a whirlwind of high-profile gigs and a reputation as the most cutting-edge and innovative in the biz. Sa and Virkhaus share extensive backgrounds in advertising for clients such as HBO, Disney, Interscope and many Fortune 500 companies. So it comes as no surprise that the North Hollywood-based visionaries—along with a crew of 20 top artists, VJs and techies—has recently signed on to a VJ residency with Vegas’ own nightlife innovator, the Cosmopolitan’s Marquee Nightclub. Vegas Seven caught up with Sa and Virkhaus to talk teamwork.
Within Las Vegas, where might we have unknowingly partied under V Squared Labs’ VJ influence?
Virkhaus: We designed [visuals for] Ice, then Rok Bar, then came Perfecto at the Palms where we worked with the top lighting directors on the planet.
Sa: For Marquee, we did the content and engineered our own video system. They had a pre-existing design that we augmented for our VJ residency.
Marquee’s main room would not be the same experience without your original designed themes. What are some custom visuals?
Sa: I created “Golden Goddess,” the signature look of Marquee; it’s Jason Strauss’ favorite look. It’s girls painted in gold that look like Mediterranean golden goddesses and we have Roman and Egyptian architecture in the background.
Virkhaus: We delivered eight main themes, and they [Tao Group] have three favorites: Golden Goddess, Cabaret and Eyes Wide Shut.
Which DJs do you design themed residency shows for?
Sa: Erick Morillo, which is a very Tron-inspired look, futuristic; we call it Digitalism. Roger Sanchez’s is called The Cabaret; it’s very burlesque looking. Chuckie’s was this Vegas lights theme. Kaskade, we call his theme Color Dream. Party Rock with Redfoo, his is a whole crazy ’80s, funky American Apparel thing, animal prints; it’s super, super funky.
What’s was the creative process like for Marquee?
Sa: We collaborate with the artist, talk to their managers, to Strauss and the partners of Tao Group. Strauss is very forward-thinking and innovative, so it’s been a great creative process.
The DJs also love your custom AVDJFX [Audio Visual DJ Effects] iPad Touch tool. How does it work?
Sa: It gives the DJ interactive control of audio, video and DJ effects. The system has two parts: It plays back audio and video that was pre-produced, and also has a generative system that creates live visuals and pre-programmed aesthetics. For example, we give Redfoo 12 buttons. One of them is [LMFAO’s song] “Shots.” So when you’re playing “Shots,” shots [visuals] come on the screen and they can use the audio or not. The other side is we pipe audio from the mixer to the computer and it creates live visuals generated from the music.
Virkhaus: Think next-level iTunes Visualizer.
Sa: The sound triggers the geometry of its aesthetic look. It’s really a new genre of computer programming and animation coming together, but we’re bringing it to the nightclub and taking it out of the heavy tech world.
DJs loved it so much you’ve created custom shows for them beyond Marquee.
Sa: Erick Morillo and Roger Sanchez engaged us after the shows, and we are making custom shows for them. We’ve launched both of them at Ultra [Music Festival]. Redfoo loves us; he’s a huge fan.
Virkhaus: We VJ’d for Kaskade at Ultra, too.
Also huge at Ultra, Coachella and other festivals is the Heineken Dome, where you’re technical and creative directors.
Sa: The Dome is very innovative. The last year and a half we’ve been using technology that’s cutting edge. We’ve gone from doing work that was analog or flat to multidimensional and multilayered.
So even in the midst of production, you’re constantly creating and traveling?
Sa: We VJ the top music festivals in the country as well as Ultras all over the world. We’ve produced several tours for top platinum artists: Sting, the Police, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, 50 Cent, P. Diddy, Black Eyed Peas and top DJs and more.
How are you able to do this without spreading yourselves too thin?
Sa: We have a strong collective of amazing artists and VJs that we work with that I think has brought us to where we’re at now. It’s a Dream Team we have working at V Squared Labs with both of us leading the way.