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Packing up VJ Gear to fit on an airplane can be tricky business. I flew from Portland to San Diego in order to join the Xochi Media crew for Coachella this year – luckily, they’re supplying most of the heavy equipment, so I needed only the essentials, as photographed above. Here’s what I brought and why:

  • Edirol V-4 Video Mixer: The ever-present 4-input, 2-channel mixer which broke the price barrier for amateur VJs and became the staple mixer for many live video perfomers.
  • Canon HF100: This is mostly for documentation. I sold my trusty GL-1 last year for this super-compact High-ish Def Camcorder.
  • Monome 128: This minimalist, handmade interface is my main controller for VDMX. My Four-Layer setup maps beautifully onto the 16-button-wide box, and the bidirectional communication allows me to see what clips are playing at a glance. Additionally, the second-to-last row of buttons emulates a MIDI keyboard, allowing me to use all my keyboard-reactive animations without the need for the keys. The case was handmade here in Oregon by mapmap
  • Cavalry 500GB eSata Drive: This is my dedicated content drive, running at 7200RPM and sending its zeroes and ones over eSata through my ExpressCard slot for faster-than-firewire performance. It may, however, soon give way to an SSD…
  • 7″ LCD: This is a little touchscreen marketed for use in cars, purchased from a Chinese importer for around $130. The color on it is better than my old 5″ Gamecube monitor, but it’s forever stuck in a 16:9 ratio, stretching all my 4:3 content to fit. It acts as the preview monitor for my V-4.
  • Korg NanoKontrol: Just the right amount of faders and knobs to control my VDMX setup. This replaces my UC-33 which was a bit overkill most of the time.
  • Mesh bag full of cables and adaptors: while the Xochi Media crew will be providing the bulk of the cables, I bring enough USB, Firewire and Power Cables to patch my own stuff. Also important are DVI-to-VGA and DVI-to-Composite adaptors to get video signals out of my first-gen MacBook Pro, a 4-Port Powered USB Hub, my Logitech Gamepad, and a small bus-powered Firewire drive in case something happens to my eSata.
  • Stanton Uberstand (not pictured): This foldable laptop stand is a tremendous help in conserving precious table space, and it folds flat into its own carrying case. Minus points for needing a velcro cable-tie to keep it from collapsing
  • MacBook Pro (not pictured): The heart of my VJ setup, my now-slightly-aging First-Gen MacBook Pro kicks out the pixels with the help of Vidvox’s VDMX5, which I use as a 4-Layer Video Mixer, and a healthy dose of Quartz Composer for interactive visuals.

Everything goes inside of a case for protection, and then I put towels and sweatshirts in the case to keep things from moving around. I actually was slightly over the 50lb weight limit this time around, had to take out my camera at the baggage check counter and stuff it in my carry-on. But the equipment arrived safe and sound, and that’s enough to make me happy after the joys of my inaugural flight with this case:

I’ll be writing updates about Coachella throughout the next week and a half as we prep and rehearse – check it out: Momo the Monster’s Coachella VJ Diary.

  • http://superdraw.intervalstudios.com superDraw

    hey momo, what's the TSA notice picture at the bottom?

    I'm about to leave for Communikey (a week early, taking the child and wife on a little vacation).

    I'm mortified of having stuff stolen by TSA from checked luggage (or broken, as the keys in that picture seem to be).

    Since my own setup is relatively simple I try to fit it inside a single largish laptop bag and carry it on… it's worked when I've had to fly to gigs so far, but I'm afraid of the day when the TSA won't let me board because one of my controllers is too funky.

  • http://www.colour-burst.com cat

    My laptop always comes carry on, you can't do the gig if you loose that! Everything else goes in a peli-case and always gets put through large/fragile items, so far no loses! I don't know for sure if going through the large channel helps, but I'd think that the lower amount of luggage going from there, and the fact its not just shoved on a conveyer belt and left to bar code/rfid scanners has got to help!

  • http://momothemonster.com momo the monster

    @superDraw – that's from a previous trip from Portland to Detroit where the TSA decided to 'inspect' my luggage, which involved prying up a few keys on the keyboard.

    For some reason, this case seems to be 'inspected' more often than my old duffel bag. I dug around a bit into the TSA complaint system and prospects are not good for you if these things happen – you fill out a complaint/reimbursement form and send it to TSA headquarters, who claim that it will take about six months to respond, and the final decision is fully up to their discretion, no appeals allowed.

  • http://superdraw.intervalstudios.com superDraw

    bah, that's exactly why I try to carry everything on.

  • VJ Air

    re : " eSATA – it may soon give way to SSD "

    i was discussing the step up from eSATA to SSD, with someone who is realy quite in the know the other week. he said that the speed increase between from eSATA to SSD wasnt "that" much realy, and reccomended going striaght to an external RAID system. we were discussing optimal storage for using hi resolution DXV footage in Avenue.

  • http://momothemonster.com momo the monster

    @VJ Air – I ran some tests today and was VERY impressed with SSD. I'll post the results in tomorrow's blog.

  • http://www.magneticpitch.com john kennedy

    hello momo,

    just curious–why do you need/use the V4 if you're using VDMX (& usb accessories) as your 4channel mixing system?

  • VJ Air

    cool, id be interested to see them. i have no practical experience of SSD myself, and one persons concept of "not that much difference" can be different to anothers, esecialy if it means i dont have to fork out bucket loads to upgrade :D

  • http://momothemonster.com momo the monster

    @john kennedy – good question! Two reasons:
    First, the V-4 is great if I need to take my computer off-screen. If I crash, or need to switch programs, I can smoothly and easily fade to a live camera or an external source.

    Second, my rig is part of a much larger beast for this project, so I need to be able to route video through my setup (from other VJs, mixers, or from the stage).

  • http://www.colour-burst.com cat

    SSD are very fast, or certainly they can be, depends how much you spend to a certain extent, but its the multistream part that makes them stnad out…

  • http://torley.com Torley

    @momo, (enroute to SSD) what made you decide to choose a Cavalry HD? I'm curious because I first came across them on Amazon and found their casing to be quite robust. I have an eSATA one too.

    Thx for sharing about your experiences! A bag of treasures.

  • http://dust.unrecnow.com marc

    yay, my monome cover design is internet famous!
    (thanks for the plug momo.)
    i love seeing breakdowns like this of what people use live.
    it should be a regular feature of CDMo + CDMu

  • grigori

    Good write up.

    In last 3 years especially, my flight travel has increased tons, so it was important for me to keep things as minimal as possible also. Atm I manage to pack EVERYTHING into one back pack and aluminium suitcase. It also means that I can be quickly in and out from the gigs in time for those afterparties :)

  • digilove

    sorry for offbeat question, is this atari mpk have endless rotary knob or not?

  • http://www.sin-r8.com Sin-R8

    Momo, what specific case did you use? I travel with a similar setup (MPD24 instead of Monome/Nano). Did you mod a synth case? Side note, of all my stuff the Uberstand gets the most questions…

  • http://www.sin-r8.com Sin-R8

    Got another one: Momo, if you AV mix what's your audio interface? I know you send VDMX audio through Live (via Soundflower?), but are you using the headphone jack?

  • Andrew Benson

    I'm working on my gear list for Coachella as well today, so it was nice to see someone else out there doing the same. My rig is pretty simple:
    - Canopus ADVC-110 for live cams input
    - BNC adapters
    - Bunch of cables (RCA,USB,DVI-VGA,firewire)
    - LaCie 250GB hard drive
    - MiniDV camera
    - NanoKontrol (perfect nomad gear)
    - MacBook Pro running Jitter
    See you there maybe!

  • http://momothemonster.com momo the monster

    @digilove – yes, the Akai MPK49 has endless rotaries.
    @Sin-R8 – I've got a Gator ATA case of some sort – I couldn't identify it on their site. It's bigger than the 49-Key keyboard case, and came with foam for a bunch of Mics (which I ripped out).
    Re:Audio interface, it's been ever-changing. I've got an E-MU 0404 USB at home, but I like to leave it hooked up. I've used an eMagic 2|6 for a while, but that just died on me. I just dug my old Edirol UA-1X out of Chiral's closet, and I've been using that for now. Also, I've dropped the VDMX->Soundflower->Live for now, because I get much better response by running Audio from Live and Video separately from VDMX, and just use MIDI to keep things in sync.

    @Andrew Benson – awesome! Where/with whom are you playing? We'll be there Wed-Mon in the Sahara tent, so come on by.

  • http://pixlpa.com Andrew Benson

    I'll be supplying visuals for M.I.A. on Saturday. Probably driving out there on Friday evening and leaving Sunday morning sometime. I'll see if I can get away for a minute and introduce myself. So much good music, I wish I had more time to hang out and watch it!

  • http://www.accentfeed.blogspot.com Miguex

    Hey Surya, what tent will you be in?
    I'm going to be there on sunday, I'll come and say hello!

    I wish they would let me in with my real camera so I can snap some photos, but they only allow point and shoot.

    see you there

  • http://momothemonster.com momo the monster

    I'll be in the Sahara tent – looking forward to seeing you!