The era of the visualist has come to an exciting point. From a relatively fringe activity, we have seen tools and techniques develop quickly over the last couple of years. The idea of a VJ as a performer is steadily gaining more public mind share. Along with this growth, hardware and software concepts from both new and established developers are helping to further expand the possibilities we have for production and performance.

One of the most exciting groups to enter the VJ consciousness recently is Vixid. They’ve been working on their VJ mixer – the VJX16-4 – for several years, and it finally started hitting the market in 2007.

2008-02-05_-_vixid-demo

Unlike the other semi-recent entries to the vision mixer market – Numark’s AVM02 and Pioneer’s Big Expensive Thing – the VJX16-4 isn’t just an incremental upgrade to the basic task of "mixing between two sources of video". Vixid have designed it from the ground up to be a considerably more advanced way of working with live video.

Fortunately, Michael and Todd of artificialeyes were available to guide us through this exciting and slightly confusing new world. We shot many hours of video with the ae guys at ByteMe Festival last December, including plenty of time with the VJX. First up: An intro and overview to this superb piece of kit. The video runs for 10:30. Considerably longer than we’d intended to make these CDMtv videos, however we believe the Vixid is such an important and potentially influential piece of hardware – and such a big investment – that you’d want to get more detailed information rather than a superficial overview. For those who are impatient or feeling texty I’ll follow up the video with some of my first impressions and thoughts.


To me the most exciting aspects of the VJX are the blend modes and layering/switching matrix. My biggest frustration with hardware mixers has always been that they are confined to basic alpha-style A/B crossfades. When performing with software such as Resolume I never use the Alpha blend mode, as it tends to dim and muddy your video sources when in the middle of the transition. Using more "advanced" modes such as Lighten, Darken, Additive, Subtractive etc. is great in software, but the effect is compromised if you then have to revert to a grubby old alpha blend when mixing your sources in hardware. For this reason I do very few long crossfades in my performances, and the crossfader never remains at the midpoint between sources. My V4 or AVM02 spends most of its time as a glorified switcher, or as a backup for when those occasional software crashes occur. So Vixid’s inclusion of these "Photoshop-style" blend modes has instantly raised the mixer’s slot in my rig from a simple switcher to a more artistic tool.

The matrix-switcher and flexible routing system is the other aspect which has really caught my imagination. Initially most people seem to be confused by the 16 input, 4 track setup, perhaps expecting the mixer to have 16 channels which can be selected from and blended like a quartet of V4s. How the system actually works is that each track can select from any of 2 composite and 2 S-Video inputs, then the 4 selected inputs are layered with their selected order, blend modes and opacities. Similarly, the outputs are divided in to 3 channels which each output to S-Video and composite together, and these outputs are switched internally, so they can each be used for a projector, preview monitor, or sent off to an outboard effects unit which is then re-routed back in to one of the Vixid’s inputs.

This is all reasonably complicated on paper, and when using the VJX it takes time for your "traditional" mixer conditioning to be gradually replaced by an intuitive understanding of the abilities available with this strange new beast. However, once it begins to filter in to your brain, it’s impossible not to be inspired by all the possibilities opened up by this new way of working.

At €2500 (US$3700ish) this isn’t the mixer for everyone. If you’re just starting out or on a reasonably constrained budget there are other things you should probably be spending your money on. However, if money isn’t the most pressing concern, I can’t see a visualist lining this up with the other options below $10,000 and choosing anything else.

This is only the most superficial look at the VJX16-4. I was able to spend a couple of hours with artificialeyes’ unit and a video camera in Perth, so I’ll have some more videos on the subject to come. We’re also hoping to be able to get a unit for some more extended reviewing, tutorials and performances as soon as possible.

  • http://www.sparkav.co.uk toby*spark

    i saw the embryonic vixid when it was first announced at vision'r / avit paris, jan'06. i was the same but even more extreme: ever since vdmx2 allowed a full rig inside a laptop, i've always shunned hardware mixers for the lack of any idea of compositing, and so to see a 4×4 matrix combined with an understanding of photoshop was quite something.

    one thing i think is really great about the vixid is that it is completely midi controllable – and back then, there was no working physical interface, it was just a black box. my thought was you could build the intelligent interface of your dreams on a laptop, which then commands a vixid and four mac mini grid/vjamm single channel sources. zero latency, perfect quality, no artistic compromise.

    …if only it was HD, or mixed VGA/DVI. C'mon world, where is the HDMI crossfader box!

    Toby

  • http://www.gesturemedia.tv Giles Hendrix

    So nice to see a new mixer that isn't just an expensive retrofit on the audio paradigm — especially being able to send and control multiple outs. But agree with Toby on the wishlist — we gotta have HD and/or at least mixed VGA/DVI to be next gen. I bemoan the V4 more because of the low resolution than the old school mixing layout.

  • http://artificiaelyes.tv exiledsurfer

    calling LCD Sound System on you toby :)

    btw, a software interface is in the works for the vixid for native support in 3L :)

  • http://www.chromatouch.wordpress.com Leon Trimble

    yep. vga inputs. then we can use those three outs with triplehead2go. instant panoramas without three scan converters, three mixers and a triple ballache…
    the v4 isn't as bad as just being limited to alpha fades tho. i use nothing but the white/black luma a over b switching to b over a on the crossfader to good effect, and often have it in the middle. it is desparately outdated tho and proper blend modes are way overdue.

  • JR

    Looks great but I have found that some product demos online can make even the most exciting stuff really boring…

  • MoRpH

    Excellent edit, I bet there was a hell of a lot of raw footage :P

    Loved the Vixid, top unit was great to have a fiddle with it with the AE guys. Its already on my shopping list :)

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  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    @MoRpH: Yeah.. I've got a reasonable stack of tapes here… 9 with "artificialeyes" written on them. That takes up a reasonable amount of space when captured as Cineform codec HD. I bought an extra terabyte of hard drives after coming back from Byteme :)

  • John Sweet

    The performance setup described is (I'm guessing) about $38,000 with the projectors, $14,000 without. One of the best visual shows I ever saw was my man Aron rocking the crowd with a nice borrowed opaque projector, a legal pad, and a Sharpie. Total cost there about $2.50.

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    @Toby: I'm with you on the HD/HDMI crossfader box, although I don't have any projectors which take HDMI, but SVGA/HD15 would do fine for now. I don't want any effects, keyers, weird transitions etc. Just a headless box with midi control would be fine.

    Until that happens, the Vixid is the most attractive option I can see.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @John: totally, I'm all about the ghetto chic rigs, too. But then, that's the point — we want to see people getting creative with their tools at any end of the spectrum. You figure some pro gigs are going to involve pricier tools, and you want that money to be spent well — and it's encouraging to me that there are pro gigs out there and AE have a business put together for that. But Live Sharpieism? Also VERY welcome.

  • http://danwinckler.com Dan Winckler

    @Michael, Todd and Pascal:

    I'm with Giles on the lack of HD input/output. I wouldn't buy a projector that couldn't do 1080p, much less a mixer. I'm very curious: have you ever asked Vixid about the challenges and possibility of making an HD mixer? What did they say? Is it not possible at this price point?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    @Dan: It's frustrating that we're still sitting back in analogue video land when our computer/camera/content abilities have moved way beyond it. I spent a while last year planning to remove all the analogue video from my rig, but then realised that 95% of venues I play at don't even have S-Video connections to their beamers! Let alone HD projectors.

    I'm going to be interviewing the Vixid guys on the process for the VJX, and their future plans, and the digital video thing is one of the first questions on my list :)

    I actually spent some time last year touring with an electronics engineer, We spoke about this very issue, and his opinion was that making a digital video mixer would actually be an easier project (from a hardware design point of view) than working with analogue video, as digital video is basically a DSP problem, whereas analogue video is more complex to interface with due to carrier signals etc. This is probably an oversimplified way of looking at the issue, but it's heartening to hear. I'll be very surprised if we get to the end of this year without several digital video mixing solutions popping up.

  • http://artificiaelyes.tv exiledsurfer

    @john

    yes we have an expensive rig. And we are still getting paid the same as when we didnt have that rig. The reality in the market for vj's has become that without equipment you cant get many gigs that pay you enough money to live on. So in the end, we are a video rental house, and we show up with the gear to put content on it. Although everybody just squeels with delight with what ewe put out on the projectors, the reality is, they are paying to rent them, and arent willing to pay for what we put ON them. this is the casw whether we are doing a (free) underground gig, a marketing budget product launch or a large festival. We are all for cheap do it yourself as well… we just found ourselves in a position where we can afford the tools we have now…and of course that determines the way that we work and what we create. All in all though, the bet records i ever heard were mastered on four track tape decks in garages in jamaica — u either got the soul, or you don't, regardless the price of the gear.

    @dan
    one of the FIRST things we talked about with the vixids when we met them was the possibility of a DVI gen mixer, and, it "is" on their minds. will they manifest it? I would guess that depends on the sales figures of the VJX-16-4 doesnt it? Their current production schedule calls for 35 units a month, and i guess they have more takers than they can satisfy right now. That being said, i would guess that they wil continue in ths year to update the firmware regularly on their existing machine.

    That al being said, i would like to weigh in on the demand for HD tools.. There IS a unit available, the edirol v440 hd… and it costs close to 13,000 EUROS. now thats some COIN. I dont think, that if the market EVER moves into true HD that the prices willever reach even double a v4's price.. and you know how long it takes most vj's to scrape together enough cash to even get one of those. HD output tools require not only the mixer, but the cables as well…and those are damn expensive too.. 15 meters of HC cable vs 15 meters of composite..or maybe svhs? most clubs will staty with normal video signals i bet. And oh yeah.. the STORAGE for HD content… need tons of it. And the software on a laptop, playing full res HD with multiple layers, scratching, real time fx? AINT THERE MAN. Not to mention the cameras to produceyour content. although the prices are coming doen and will come down further, i just dont seee the vj world (other than those on hge festivals or tours) making the shift to HD for a long long time, and honestly, the reason we havent, and probbly wont make the shift to HD until we absolutely HAVE TO is because we just dont see it as being financially attractive in any sense of the word — financially, creatively, production wise etc… I just dont buy into the HD hype, at all… and todd? he HATES HD like the plague.

    That all being said, inevitably, things will move in that direction, and the vj hardware and software to deal with it will too. But i will always have a soft spot in my heart for 320×240 upscaled in realtime in software.

  • MoRpH

    Ahhhhh good old 320×240…..

    /morph sings…… "memories, like the corners of my mind…"

  • http://www.airtightinteractive.com felix

    as a noob I'd love to see some examples of what you can do with this tool. Does it just layer 4 video channels with photoshop style blend modes?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis

    @Felix: I have some more footage to come on the subject. I spent a couple of hours with it and shot video, so that will be posted as soon as possible. Not for a couple of weeks though as I'm about to go on holiday.

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