VJ'ing styles

Long time ago I believed that the job of a VJ consisted simply in turning on or off the lights in a club with more or less fortune.

Some years after, the guys at threepixels did their first steps with vj'ing at their newlife'03, the new year's eve party, using neon for the first time, if I am not wrong. That was the first time I heard about vj'ing with a normal computer and not with a set of lights or a more or less dedicated hardware, like professional dvd players and video mixers, etc.

In fact I had been talking with jcl about his VJ system at vmslabs, but I think that I didn't really understand the capabilities of a modern vj tool until I saw neon's results.

And it was when xplsv was founded some months after. They released some captures which showed the abilities of their software and then I asked them some questions, like how did it work, how did they create everything and integrate it in realtime, etc...

I felt, and still feel, a great admiration for mac and the big efforts he did for creating threepixels studio, the tool they used for building almost all threepixels demos; so seeing how he was able to use the same engine both for demos and visuals, thus allowing to create the content just once, and how it enabled to play with demos and videos in realtime, was simply astonishing!

I started to feel curiosity for all what surrounds the vj world, so I paid more attention to the visuals when I went to an event or a party. Casually, the low prices for the video projectors enabled lots of pubs and clubs to buy one -even if they didn't need it- so lots of more or less serious vj's have been appearing around in these last years.

Most of the times, as I have seen, they just get a copy of resolume or any of the programs that one can find in the net, and start triggering random videos during the dj's session. Those videos are usually very short clips at 320x200, with a very low frames per seconds (fps) rates, which gives a poor appearance to the gig, resembling a 486 playing FLI/FLC sequences.

It also seems like they all get the videos from the same source. I already have seen several people using the same Metropolis clips. Maybe it helps that the movie is now in the Public Domain and you can do whatever you want with it, but it tends to be boring like hell to see the same horror faces in every party where we go.

But even worse than it, is the absolute disconnection between the music and the images. Your favourite dj can be playing the most savage and evil hardcore gabber music, and the vj can be playing a video where Frankenstein is giving a flower to that little girl, in a slow pace. And for all of this, they even use a dedicated midi controller with lots of knobs and faders. Please somebody explain it to me!

Then you have the most advanced styles - way ahead!). They use several layers, like dressing and customizing the visuals for each gig, thus giving like a global mood. The videos are syncronized with the beat - and they play at more than 12fps usually, at 640x480.

There are also 3d scenes, which I think it's one of the great advantages in comparison with usual vj software. Not because other tools do not play 3dscenes, but because they do not explode their possibilities. Maybe it's because of our habit of taking care of even the most ridiculous vertex and think of a way of making it look good and impressing, maybe because of knowing that modern graphic boards are really powerful and have lots to offer, who knows! The key is that instead of just playing a plain 3d scene, they play with the scene, altering several properties of the objects, like let's say the scale, rotation, etc, but based on the actual music which is being played in that very moment.

The idea is really simple and not complicated to achieve. In fact, I don't know if that's implemented in the other programs. But if it is, I can't see it when looking at what people do. But I would like to encourage them to experiment with this approach of doing visuals, as it's funnier to pay attention to the music and try to play clips and scenes which really fit what the dj is currently mixing than simply spend the whole night browsing the clips library and selecting them randomly. And I'm really sure that the listeners/viewers will thank it too!