Arkaos and Numark, the team behind the NuVJ console and software, are set to release GrandVJ which is a major update to the ArkaosVJ line of software.
What is GrandVJ?
GrandVJ is computer software for live video and visuals mixing. It can be used for live performances by VJs and DJs or by artists and filmmakers for real-time video mixing. Its important to note that the software handles only video content - not audio content. In the dance music world, this software would be ideal for VJs who do visuals, DJs, live artists, and bands who play in club venues.
How does it work?
GrandVJ can be used in two modes - keyboard or mixer mode. Keyboard mode uses the notes on a keyboard to trigger visuals and effects. Mixer mode uses an 8-channel horizontal line mixer with faders to set the intensity of visual and effects.
Thinking like a DJ vs Thinking like a Producer
Traditionally, DJs perform with two sources of music - two turntables, two CD players, or two channels of mp3s on a laptop with software like Traktor or Virtual DJ - imagine two parallel vertical sources. Producers create music source with multiple channels of instruments - either on a traditional analog mixing board or with software like Logic, Acid, or Abelton- which has multiple horizontal channels. Grand VJ is performance from a producer perspective - with 8 horizontal channels controlled by faders. This is similar to Mixxmeister DJ software which has 8 horizontal channels for songs and different from the previously reviewed NuVJ console which has two parallel channels.
GrandVJ comes with a multitude of visual generators, effects and text screens. Using a Novation Remote 25 MIDI keyboard, I was quickly able to manually map these effects to be triggered by push buttons or keys - with the control codes. The difficulty I had was with Novation Remote and figuring out how to get it to send standard control codes. Within in an hour of figuring out the keyboard, I had GrandVJ up and running in both mixer mode and keyboard mode. Its important to note that the Grand VJ is run either in keyboard or mixer mode - switching between the two causes a delay and a blank screen.
Unlike many other visuals programs I have used, GrandVJ is incredibly stable. Running it for three days of consecutive six-hour DJ shifts, there was not a single crash or stutter. The only usage issue came when I mistakenly click on the desktop outside of the control screen and the full screen mode turns off. Basically - click off the screen and the output stream stops - not good. Seeing as this is not yet a final release, I am sure this will be fixed before it is commercially available.
Using this as a good chance to test tech support, I sent an email to Arkaos. Since tech support response is a good guage of software quality, I was pleased to receive a response in under an hour. Cancelling full screen mode is a result of an "exclusive" setting that is in place for performance enhancement. By removing the "Force Resolution" option in the preferences, you can avoid this from occurring when clicking outside the active screen.
Mixing video and visuals
GrandVJ also does something pretty ingenius with two of the 8 available video channels. On top of being able to utilize nearly every imaginable video format (.mpeg, .avi, .mov), those two channels can be used for things like a USB 2.0 web camera and/or a FireWire video input to add to your GrandVJ performance.
In my testing, I am using a double laptop setup with one running Cue and mixing music videos - sending the video signal to an external graphics card that converts it to a firewire stream. This firewire input is picked up by GrandVJ and handled precisely. There is no time delay with the video playing and it stays in perfect sync with the audio from the first laptop - regardless of what effects or visuals are thrown onto it.
What else can it do?
Since this is a preview and not a full review, there are many features that I haven't discoverd after three days of use. I will be testing it more intensely and write a complete review in the very near future.
What is it: a software program for visualizations and video manipulation
Who is it for: video jockeys who need to create visual programs for a musical program
How long does it take to set up: software loads in less than 5 minutes, setting up a controller will take longer
What is required for its use: a PC or MAC
Difficulty level: 3.5/5 (1 is easy, 5 is difficult)
Release date / price: August 1, 2008 / $499 MSRP