The Projection is Bright for Bob Zegler

There is something special about seeing Chance the Rapper and The Social Experiment perform live. It’s completely electric, and generating much of that energy are the geniuses behind the scenes helping bring the performance to life. This is where a humble Bob Zegler steps into the spotlight. His specific role as a live event video director contributes to visuals that are seen throughout Chance and The Social Experiment’s performances. Bob runs video in two ways: manually as the show goes on, or with a system that runs video cued by sound and Ethernet signals triggering the video to play.

Bob has been active in their overall operations for a number of years now, but the self-taught video director was not always a master in the field of live events. Interestingly enough, Bob’s path to working with big artists like Chance (as well as talents such as SZA, Rae Sremmurd,  Kehlani, and Towkio) was not a planned career path.

Bob’s beginnings root back to film and cinema. Creating video content with friends when he was in high school, Bob graduated from The University of Iowa with a degree in Cinema. Often producing projects with friends,  a film company “Rubbish” emerging from their continuous collaborations. Making music videos, filming concerts, and more, Bob and his business partner Joe worked with zero payment or profit beyond the fulfillment from pursuing their passions. Soon after starting to work with Joe, Bob stumbled upon an unexpected opportunity - the opportunity to work with Team Chance. Fresh off the release of  Acid Rap, Bob was brought on to edit and produce videos displayed during Chance’s performances.  

If you think you’re in a weird position… just reconsider it, and maybe there is a possible way to find yourself somewhere better.

For Bob, this was an adjustment not without its share of anxiety and doubts. “Both Joe and I… we came from the film world and not the staging world. We had to learn how to set everything up and how to program the lights.” The two sought help to learn basics of the programs from a few local high schoolers. Remaining disciplined, Bob taught himself the different programs that would assist him in executing video and lighting properly. In his self-taught ways, he was able to successfully do what he was brought on tour to accomplish, and pulled it off marvelously.

Returning from tour with Chance, Bob was faced with a career altering decision. “Do I want to continue producing film stuff, or do I want to chase this dragon over here? [Being] This idea of a Job that I had no idea existed.” Contributing to his dilemma was his knowledge that the company he and his friends created, “Rubbish”, was reaching its end. Having invested a great deal of time and energy into the unplanned video gig, Bob took a moment of reflection. “If you have ‘inertia’ as a person, and then you get in a group of people, you all have the same inertia. But at a certain point, you’re going to splinter”.  It was time for Zegler to chase this elusive career path of directing video for live shows full-time.

He spent weekends experimenting with different video software, figuring out which program worked best for him. He found that software to be “Resolume” for its user friendly attributes. As Chance’s stardom rose, the shows got bigger and bigger. Feeling as though he needed to keep up with the Chicago superstar, Bob had to transition from “Resolume” to other software such as “Disguise” (or D3) to run these bigger shows. “However big he is, you gotta match”, was Bob’s approach to Chance’s superstar status. And with help he received from his friend Mikey during these larger shows, and faith that Pat Corcoran encouragingly expressed to have in him, Bob was able to channel the extra motivation from his two friends to execute video and lighting for the bigger, more challenging venues.

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“I feel like I’m using every part of me [and] they’re using every part of themselves”

—Bob Zegler

The influence of Zegler’s friends are a driving force in his work. From support expressed by Mikey and Corcoran, to discussing video content with Chance, collaborating with friends energizes and motivates Bob to bring his best efforts. “I feel like I’m using every part of me [and] they’re using every part of themselves”. Working with friends includes working with the artists he directs live video for. “He’s very hands on”, he mentions regarding Chance. “The shows are him coming up with an idea, [and] Mikey and I sort of crafting it and then bringing it to life”. Aside from working closely with the rapper, he and Music Director/Producer Peter Cottontale regularly meet to prepare for shows together. They plan the synchronization of signals for video to run from specific songs that Peter cues. It’s a chain reaction: Peter releases music cues from his computer and those signals tell Bob’s computer to run specific video.  Creating with his friends makes the job all the more rewarding for Zegler.

The preparation and execution processes of his work are pieces of Bob’s craft. Some of his most recent work can be recognized from Chicago artist Towkio’s stellar performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in late February. The visuals that Bob creates are colorful, vibrant, and uniquely designed. The motion of the objects he programs are not only pleasing on the eyes, but it is also pleasing to view as Towkio performs amongst the live instrumentation by Peter, Stix, and Lido. Just as these artists provide their talents with vocals and music, Zegler contributes by providing video skills and designs.

Whether running video and lights for Chance shows in college cafeterias, or working sold out arenas and stadiums, Zegler’s talents have worked in just about any environment. Of course, team Chance is his highest priority. That said,  in the future, he’d like to continue working with even more artists/clients in live video creation, and hopes to learn more about other aspects of live events such as lighting and production design. “I could definitely see an artist coming along that I could make a great creative director for, but I think that’s still a ways off”. Stumbling upon opportunity, Zegler’s story is one of making the most out of an unexpected situation by approaching tasks with zeal. It’s no surprise that Bob now stands positioned as one of the many amazing talents behind the scenes. “If you think you’re in a weird position… just reconsider it, and maybe there is a possible way to find yourself somewhere better.” As Bob continues to conquer new heights, we’ll be excited see what new ideas he cooks up next!