Dave Rife and Gabe Liberti are the co-founders of Dave & Gabe, a NY-based “interactive installation studio” specializing in one-of-a-kind experiences blending sound, light, and tactility. Featured in AdWeek as one of 20 content creators “Setting the Bar for Creativity” the pair has worked for brands like Red Bull and Microsoft as well as musician Matthew Dear. While their projects are zany as can be—see “Ghoul World 3D,” an immersive Halloween experience held in their studio featuring a host of characters right out of the uncanny valley—these guys are more than sci-fi dreamers. As AVNetwork makes clear, “it’s not sci-fi; it’s art, and art that leaves a lasting impression at that—pleasing not just audiences but also corporate sponsors looking for new brand experiences.”

We spoke to the pair about their vision, their work, their corporate secrets, and their decision to use an image of both their faces split down the middle—“Face/Off” style—as their logo [edited for length and clarity].

Resource Magazine: Tell us about your work.

Dave and Gabe: We like to play with the expectations of our audience, manipulating a space and the patterns of how it is used. If we can inject unpredictability and intrigue, a space can suddenly feel alive, reacting with its own personality and behavior. For our project Dryads, we turned live edge wood slabs into loudspeakers by attaching acoustic transducers to thinly milled acoustic pockets. The name refers to tree spirits, an inspiration that led us to arrange 14 of these slabs in a forest-like configuration. Using our custom spatial audio software, we were able to address all of the wood slabs as a single 3D audio system, moving organic sounds through the array of vibrating wood to yield a new coherent acoustic space. It’s important to us that the environments we create feel familiar and that they are real.

RM: Tell us about yourselves- Who you are, how you met, how you’re so close that you feel comfortable sharing a face in your logo?

D&G: Dave grew up playing music, has a degree in physics, a Masters in acoustics, and he worked at the engineering firm Arup for 7 years doing architectural acoustics. Gabe has a degree in music technology and spent years recording, mixing, and producing bands in New York as well as doing audio restoration for classic films at The Criterion Collection. We first started working together at a time when we were feeling frustrated by the pace and limitations of our respective industries. Our studio was initially started to develop projects that would embody a new type of spatial musical experience, one that would immerse and react to the audience. Since then, our motivations have evolved and grown to encompass a broader approach that we now take with spatial experience design.

Given the hilariously large amount of time we spend with each other, and the eponymous title of our studio, sharing a face together was the absurd logical conclusion for our bio photo. It was unprompted and brilliantly shot/designed by photographer Marshall McDonald at Sanborn Media Factory.

RM: Process- How did u land on the idea of making video tactile?

D&G: One of the first large-scale installations we worked on was an interactive music experience called DELQA. It was a flowing pavilion comprised of stretched mesh fabric. It was the first time we used a depth camera to sense the movement of fabric as input into an experience. It was really important to us to make this interaction tactile because standing in front of a camera and waving our arms around always felt silly. By using the fabric, it creates a sculptural form in the space, and it also physically grounds the interactions – the audience can feel the tension of the fabric and the pressure of pushing in on it. In the case of DELQA, it was modulating the sounds and lighting of the environment, but we had also seen it was possible to project visuals directly back onto the screen. 

We share our studio space with the brilliant designer Beau Burrows (futurewife.tv) and he used this projected technique in his inflatable project Boolean Planet (which we helped him program the reactive sound design for). Last Spring, we developed our own Dream Screens project as a framework for quickly installing these types of visual experiences at events. We wanted something that was modular so it could scale for large and small settings and allow us to design in a huge variety of styles and aesthetics. We found that especially when sound design is linked with the interaction, the entire piece can feel very vivid and exciting.

RM: Gear- How the heck do you make all of this?

D&G: We use a variety of tools and techniques to develop our projects. At the core of our software development is Max/MSP and TouchDesigner. Max is incredible for creating robust sound interactions and 3D audio systems. TouchDesigner is where we program all of our reactive visuals, it’s an intuitive node-based environment that allows us to quickly design interactive software systems for our installations.

A series of sensors and micro-controllers are used to drive the interactive components of our projects – from cameras to accelerometers, we build sensing systems to record real time data that gets fed to the software packages outlined above, then the data gets sent out through various sound and lighting interfaces to various loudspeaker arrays and lighting fixtures.  All of these hardware and software systems come together and are run in real time, enabling our projects to continually be reactive to input from the audience and environment.

We also greatly benefit from our shared studio space in Brooklyn, called Future Space. Inspired by collectives like Dark Matter Manufacturing, we came together with four other studios to sign a lease and renovate a massive warehouse and turn it into a combination design studio, fabrication workshop, photo studio, and event space. This enables us to build our projects at scale using in-house resources and expertise, then easily load them out. It also provides a platform for us to debut our most experimental projects, like the Halloween collaboration we did with the surreal animators of Cool 3D World. We’re hoping to continue to build the audience for these types of events that are not driven by a brand marketing campaign, but rather the sheer enjoyment of designing something extremely unique and powerful for the people that love and appreciate them.

Insta Handle: @daveandgabe

Site: daveandgabe.com

Images Provided By Dave and Gabe

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 Issue of Resource Magazine. You can buy the whole issue HERE