Live visuals for Beardy Man with Tongue Fu at the Roundhouse in Camden.
Who they are
Tongue Fu is one of the UK’s leading spoken word shows. Poets, storytellers, rappers and comedians perform with jaw dropping improvised soundtracks and films from the genre hopping Tongue Fu Band made up from a rotating roster of leading jazz session musicians. Poets performed with have included Salena Godden, Kate Tempest, Beardy Man, Irvine Welsh, and Buddy Wakefield to name a few.
The challenge for Tongue Fu was to create branding and animations for a dynamic and diverse stage show that was just finding it's feet at a residency at Rich Mix in East London. The crowd at the time was small and they had no visual presence. We proposed to develop a logo and start mixing films live in the background of the stage on a 4M square screen that was present at the venue. At the time we did not anticipate the challenge of mixing films live with an ever changing music soundtrack in addition to lyrics coming from a roster of totally divergent poetic talents that we were completely unscripted. It quickly became apparent that if we were going to be effective we would need to develop a solution that blended in with what was happening on stage. The show is based on improvisation so its ok to make mistakes, but when we realised that when there is an audience watching it quickly becomes apparent when the visual element of the show is overpowering the performance. Since we began working with them the exposure and audiences has grown and we have gone on to perform at venues around the country. This has meant our offering has had to become increasingly air tight from a technical point of view and more conceptually profound to react to the higher level of talent and greater expectations of the audience.
We work with the latest technical projection mapping software
to create a seamless live performance experience.
What we did
CR&D has worked with Tongue Fu for over 10 years on concept development, branding, art direction, posters, flyers, motion graphics and installations:
We have created a library of thousands of clips, both archival and animated, which are all carefully catalogued so that they can easily be searched and triggering dynamically on the fly. The process of creation involved filming, viewing archive footage, and animation using After Effects and Cinema 4D.
We worked on art direction, animation and production work on 36 short films and a bespoke digital interface for thespace.org website (the BBC and Art Council’s cultural digital broadcasting site). Project included working with a large team of producers and crew. Helped with arranging the shooting and animating films set to the words of a selection of well-known poets. Also worked with BBC’s in house team to develop a digital interface that was incorporated into their site.
At The Photographers Gallery
We collaborated with Tongue Fu to create a bespoke visual installation for an event commissioned by the Photographers Gallery in Soho, Central London for the Burroughs, Warhol and Lynch retrospective.
We built an X shaped array of screens which immersed the band within the projections. The poets were then placed in front of this installation while we projected multiple feeds from several projectors over the top of the whole construction.
Branding, Flyers and Posters
As part of our continuing work with Tongue Fu, we worked on CD packaging for Tongue Fu Tapes, a live CD of experiments in spoken word and music. Moreover, we created flyers and posters to promote their events around UK.
Website Concept and design
In addition to print media we have also developed and designed website and digital marketing for the client.
Performing live with Irvine Welsh at the Roundhouse in Camden.
The process of working for Tongue Fu is a complex one. The brief has always called for an improvised solution which when you are talking about animation is not straight forward. When we go to perform we have no idea what the musicians are going to play nor what the poets will speak about. Unlike musicians we cannot simply animate on the fly, hence we need to have a deep asset bank from which to draw from in order to have footage which we can show that matches the mood of the music and the poetry being performed.
Over the years we have collected a vast archive of footage from sources including the BFI and the BBC archive. We take hours scrubbing through reels of footage and the clipping this source material down into bite sized clips which are then catalogued into a library. We also take the time to create our own bespoke library of unique animated motion graphics which are also added to the library. Through the use of cutting edge software we then mix the footage live on the fly in a series of collaged loops trying to match the visuals to the mood created by the band.
Tongue Fu has grown from being a small show in a pub to a national touring show, consistently selling out venues such as the South Bank, the Roundhouse and Rich Mix. When we started working with them they asked us for a flyer design which began a long journey of conceptual development and exploration that has fostered a strong ongoing relationship. In the past 10 years we have gone from strength to strength working together. The visuals have become more dynamic and engaging, the branding has helped focus the promoter, and the audiences and scope of work has grown. We look forward to continuing to work with them on increasingly diverse and complex projects.
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