So much work goes on behind the scenes of your favorite artist’s performances and Sandy Meidinger one of the unsung heroes of visual production!
Each year, countless fans flock to their favorite artist’s shows around the world to see them perform their music live. What many fail to realize when they’re in the crowd, though, is everything else that goes on behind the scenes to make the show function. From lighting and lasers to visuals and pyro it takes a talented team to bring an artist’s show to life and one of those unsung heroes in production is Sandy Meidinger.
Working hard to bring artistic, unique visuals to her client’s shows, Sandy is currently VJing for Illenium and traveling the world with his crew. She’s created impressive images and animations to be displayed on stage during his sets and make the performance really pop, all while having the time of her life.
Looking to gain some more insight into her career and story, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sandy last month after Illenium stopped through San Diego. Read on to find out what it’s really like to be a VJ for one of the hottest artists in the dance music scene right now, some tips on how to start down the same path, and more!
Hi Sandy, thanks for sitting down with us today. What made you want to work in the EDM industry, and when did you realize that you first wanted to be a VJ?
It was at Tramps Like Us 2012 on Labor Day Weekend. School had just started and I was taking an After Effects class. I went to Tramps Like Us that weekend, and I was watching the LED screens, and I thought, “oh, I just learned about that… that was made with After Effects, I should do that!” I always liked going to raves and I wanted to do a job where I can combine music and art into one. When I saw that and after learning what After Effects was, that was when I knew that was what I wanted to do.
How long have you been working with Illenium?
I actually just had my three year anniversary two weeks ago.
That’s awesome! Any DJs you worked with before Illenium?
So he found out about me because I had done a show with Seven Lions the year before and he recommended me to Illenium. Then Nick emailed me and yeah, it’s been history ever since.
How does the collaboration process go with Nick, and how much freedom do you have with designing the visuals?
I have a lot of freedom in some ways. I have to kind of stick to the brand design, kind of like the album art, so I’m trying to keep everything looking like it’s in the same world. It’s all 3D animated and I get a lot of creative freedom as long as I stay in that brand. Normally, I like to do a lot of 2D animation, but for Illenium I have to work in 3D. You know, lights and fire… things like that. As long as I stay in the brand, I can kind of do whatever I want.
What has been the most challenging part of your job and the most rewarding part?
The most challenging part, at least for this last tour, would be taking the big show and putting it in a really small room. That’s when we don’t have like pyro or flames or certain parts of the lights, so it’s been really challenging. In the same way, the most rewarding part is nights like in San Diego where I get to see everything and we have the whole show where nothing is compromised and it’s 100% what we designed.
It seems like the whole Illenium crew gets very close while you’re on tour. What’s tour life like in general? And how much time do you spend on the road versus at home?
I probably spend half the year on the road and yeah, it’s like a family, which it has to be or else it would be hard to leave home if you were going to work with people who you didn’t get along with or you didn’t like. So it definitely becomes very family-oriented, that’s how I always think of it.
Nick and Sean are kind of like brothers and I’m like a cousin and Trevor’s like another cousin, so we just kind of become a family. I love it when the band comes and Dabin and Said the Sky are there. And there are even certain people in the crew that come in for certain shows, right now our tour is about 40 people, and everyone is just so close. I’m going to miss seeing them every day because it’s all coming to an end soon.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become a VJ or work in this industry?
I always tell people just to follow what you’re passionate about because at the end of the day if you’re not excited about something, you’re not going to do it. Especially being a girl, I feel like sometimes you fall into this trap where you don’t think that you can make a lot of money doing what you love. I think that’s the wrong way to go about your life because then you’re just going to get stuck doing something that you don’t care about.
The more you are excited about what you’re doing, the less important the number on the paycheck is going to be. That number is going to grow regardless as long as you’re passionate and you care about what you’re doing. So I think my advice is just to follow what you’re passionate about, take it by the horns and run as far as you can go with it.
And speaking of being a girl in this industry, that leads into my next question. Some female EDM artists have expressed their concern and frustration with being a female in the industry and trying to prove themselves among a sea of male colleagues. Have you personally faced any challenges or hardships being a female in this position?
I don’t come across too much discrimination. I think people like having a mix of genders around. However, it is intimidating because you always second guess yourself even when you do know the right answer. If there’s an issue, sometimes guys won’t believe you and they’ll do everything else just to figure out that you told them what the problem was in the first place.
So that part gets a little difficult, just the fact that people don’t really see you as an equal, but you have the power to decide how something’s going to affect you. When that stuff happens I try to see the bigger picture of it and just not take anything personally and move on. If I fixate on all of the inequalities or how I’m not treated fairly, then that’s the only thing that I’m going to experience. So the more I can let go of that, the more I can move to a higher place and work without all that negativity.
What software do you typically use and what do you recommend for a beginner?
For mixing visuals, the one that most everyone uses is called Resolume Arena. That’s just for mixing though, so if you want to make content you have to use other software. I use Cinema 4D and After Effects and that’s for animating. So there’s kind of two parts; you have to have content to play and mix to the music.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement in your career?
I think this tour; I think I had read somewhere in another article that they had sold a half a million tickets. Just playing at such big places like Staples Center and Madison Square Garden has really been exciting, and also to have the number of people that show up. I think at Staples there were 11,000 people there and everyone was watching what I created.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to get more into show directing, hopefully in pop music. I’d love to work with a female and direct a show for a female artist.
Like a pop artist?
Pop or even EDM, at this point yeah, I want to work with a girl. I want to make it a female-inspired show. So hopefully I’ll be doing that. I think that pop definitely is the next step for me after EDM.
Finally, a few fun questions to end with! What’s your overall favorite genre of EDM?
It depends because it changes a lot. I used to love Drum and Bass and now I guess I kind of like more singer-type works and less EDM. Some of my favorite singers are Meg Myers or Shura – where they’re just kind of like more about the songs rather than the sound.
Any other favorite artists in general? I know you just mentioned a few.
I love Lady Gaga. Yeah, that’s like my dream. If I could do anything for Lady Gaga and something [of mine] that she used, that would just make me so happy.
Favorite Illenium song?
My favorite songs are the “Infinity” remix, I love that song. Also “Leaving” and “Lonely” because whenever I hear those songs, I just have to sing them. I love them so much.