lvs800_top Does the Worship market really only want to run at standard definition? Now that computers are increasingly the primary video source, why do mixers still look like they’re designed for connecting VHS tape decks – especially when you’re shelling out thousands of dollars for the hardware?

Let me get something straight. I love Roland, on both the audio and video side. The V4 video mixer remains one of the great workhorses of all time. Roland and Edirol’s gear sometimes may cause sticker shock, particularly among more casual users, but it can also be extremely reliable and intuitive to use. I also love standard definition video. There are many cases in which I think HDMI, for instance, is the wrong tool. And I’m sure the LVS-800 is the perfect gear for someone out there. I also expect Roland knows their existing customer base much better than I do.

But then there’s the rest of the potential user base. It’s impossible to ignore the painful absence of any gear that makes it easy to mix two computer signals together at their native resolutions. It’s such a ubiquitous need, in fact, that it’s hard to even describe the usage scenario. The potential target base is, basically, everyone on Earth working with live video video or visuals or computers, from churches to clubs to the arts. Heck, watching people struggling to swap input signals on a projector in a presentation is argument enough, so count conference centers in that list, too. That’s before you take into consideration HDMI output from increasing numbers of cameras and video sources.

So, why would I unload all of this frustration on the LVS-880, a decent-looking 8-channel mixer? I think it deserves some wrath from visualists for three reasons:

1. Edirol, makers of the massively-successful V4 and the king of selling video equipment to the worship market, would be a logical choice to make an affordable product for computer mixing, but they still don’t.

2. The LVS-800 makes the use of PC/Mac video sources a selling point, and has two VGA inputs for mixing on the back – which it then converts to standard resolution and outputs as composite video. Whatever technical reasons for doing that, it’s the opposite of what a lot of their users want.

3. It’s the year 2009, not 1999 or 1989.

One (output) is the loneliest number. Photo (CC) Francis Bourgouin.

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a simple video mixer, the LVS-800 looks lovely, so long as standard definition is what you’re using. You’ll pay for that functionality, with a US$3795 list price. But once you do, you can connect up to eight video sources, for cameras, samplers, and (via the two VGA ins) computers. You also get multiple outputs, with separate A/B mix and Program Disk. You can use the LVS-800 as a switcher or a mixer, or both, with A/B mixing and various fades. There’s also a fade-to-black and fade-to-white, plus a simple, powerful keyer (“Downstream Keyer: Composition Function” or DSK in Roland-speak).

lvs800_back

Of course, at this price, you should also consider the “boutique” Vixid video mixer, the applications of which our own Jaymis has been blogging for a number of months. The VJX16-4 has 16 inputs, 6 outputs, A/V sync, more interesting effects and blend modes, allows compositing of four sources (A+B+C+D to the Edirol’s A+B) with four faders to match, richer MIDI control, image correction, and more preset storage. In fact, even at EUR2990, I’d really have to recommend the Vixid over the Edirol. The Edirol has VGA inputs, it’s true, but since it doesn’t mix or output in VGA, that doesn’t really help you. The Vixid is far more interesting for blending and effects, and you get what amounts to a video matrix and 4-channel mixer/blender compared to what from Edirol is really just a switcher and 2-channel mixer. Sure, the Vixid works out to more cash ($4374 US, currently), but you get a lot more in return. If you only want two-channel mixing, then the Edirol still makes some sense – and you save a little bit of cash – but erring on the side of flexibility is usually a good idea.

That’s if you want to mix standard definition signals. The simple reality, though, is that computers are increasingly capable of dealing with HD video and generate 2D and 3D graphics that only really look right at higher resolutions. To the VS-800 – like so many video mixers – any computer input is an afterthought:

A built-in scan converter converts the incoming RGB signal to a standard definition video signal. Channels 7 and 8 can be used for both computer and S-Video input. When both types of signals are input, the S-Video takes priority.

That’s not to say Edirol doesn’t face some challenges. The architecture of existing mixers is able to do all these fancy tricks, but not to handle higher-resolution computer inputs. And Edirol is largely alone when it comes to hardware mere mortals can afford – for now, at least.

But I have to make a plea: I’d love to see Roland stay in the video game. The company has, historically, embraced (and invented) the future on a number of occasions. It’s just hard to believe Roland couldn’t find a way to make a simple 2-channel VGA mixer. If they don’t, eventually someone will. 

LVS-800 Mixer/Switcher [Roland Systems Group]

  • joshua goldberg

    it's anguish. just anguish. i just spent $1200 to repair my 3,1 MBP because i cannot live without composite output, mostly because collaborative mixing is one of the joys of my artistic practice. i lose that and it will feel like losing a limb.

    i've seen those portable scan converter thingies people are using. they look worse than the dongles from the DVI port. it's so upsetting.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, Josh, if it makes you feel any better, I've got composite video out on both my laptops (my PC and my Mac), and I still want to be able to do VGA/DVI. ;)

  • 3DEE

    It's absolutely ridiculous! I am so sick of big corporations having their heads up their %!!.
    How can they be so dumb with product design??

    It seems like nowadays if you want something done right then you need to wait for some smart people to form an opensource project for it.

  • 3DEE

    p.s. At these prices why not just make a dedicated PC with mult video card recorders and some midi controllers? Use some VJ software or something custom to mix signals and add fx etc.

    There may be latency issues but you would get a lot more bang for way less bucks.

  • ml

    Multiple intensity cards in a linux box? COuld work..On a Mac, you'd get about 4 frames latency I think.

    Better latency being claimed for this HD-SDI card…

    http://www.activesilicon.com/products_fg_phx.htm

    Catalyst VJ software uses this..

    http://samsc-pm.com/index.php?option=com_content&…

    But they've spent years getting the software to run a steady framerate. Not so easy to program at home.

    Basic problem with doing it in a box is that you have to grab a frame from each source, transfer it to a buffer, stick it onto the graphics card, render the image and output it.

    Rendering can be quite quick, but transfer quite slow, or that's what I've been told.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I'm encouraged by the computer options; of course Anton and others have talked about those possibilities here. But just as computer mixing and effects has advantages hardware can't match, I'd say the reverse is true — there are times when dedicated hardware has some real appeal.

  • http://www.tekkind.com neb

    Unless there is a significant technical roadblock, I don't see why Edirol, Roland, Numark, and everyone else aren't jumping on the digital/HD VJ gear bandwagon. Looking back at how intensely the [bedroom] DJ evolution ( vinyl -> Cd -> MP3 ) drove gear makers, It's baffling not to see that happening on the visual side.

  • http://www.top10veejayz.com/ VJphantomX

    this ROX! I gonna order one today.

  • http://www.modul8.ch/ ilan

    Seriously.

    I am glad to see Edirol doing such a fine job with their hardware. They obviously know their target market.

    Looking forward to the VGA mixer that will be built by people that I know personally and I am willing to give my money to.

  • http://www.lotech.co.nz lotech

    The fact they make the V-440HD means they have the technology but clearly haven't managed to bring down its manufacturing costs.

    Add to that this is really a V8 with features removed or tweaked, and that the V8 itself was really a V4 with an extra 4 inputs and a scan converter built in. There hasn't been the amount of progress from Edirol as we should have hoped in the 5 or so years since the V4 took over. Its a little disappointing.

  • 3DEE

    meanwhile uP, FPGAs, DSPs and GPUs have grown exponentially in power over the past 5 years.

    They have lot's of options for creating a better system these days (and some top notch in house engineers who are using this same technology for their music products)

  • http://www.badmindtime.com SKY(nard) RON(stein)

    'Worship' market?

    Is 'Religulous' available in HD? They should all watch that!

    (I should be more tolerant, i know. Couldn't resist . . .)

  • toby*spark

    it beggars belief. and even the V440HD is a joke too: can't do 1080P, can't do triplehead. unlike this prototype: http://twitter.com/tobyspark/status/2709858283, on which more when i can say more.

  • http://www.vdmokstati.com grigori

    Ah… Roland/Edirol.

    Only few weeks ago, I did this gig where we ended up having Edirol v440 as out vision mixer switcher… (not as much on effects really). And all I was thinking, – "oh please someone, blend this tool with vixid and I'll grab it instantly!!!" this one is not quite that… at all….not by any means!

    What would be awesome to see from video mixers for live visualsists.. Compact size with 3 + vga inputs and vga output and effects(similar to vixid).

    thanks for posting this article Peter.. once again.. you on top of it :)

  • http://www.timreha.com Tim Reha

    Peter – Great post.

    I am also looking for a HD video mixing system that can handle DVI and 1080P. Interested to hear any one who has hacked together gear like the Matrox MXO2 Mini, etc. to create a reliable system.

    Anyone?

  • http://vjzoo.com Jasper

    Nice work Peter. so strange another SD mixer.

    @ toby*spark that mixer looks fantastic! cant wait to hear more :)

  • http://chriscaines.com Chris

    I've got a V440HD which does vga mix to vga out at vga resolution but even that pricey bit of kit is very limited in usefulness. Great to be at last able to mix two computers together though. Does the Intensity card mixing (with dvi to hdmi cabling) really have too much latency? I haven't tried it, but its a solution that crossed my mind too.

  • http://www.phononoia.at bilderbuchi

    @toby*spark: sounds exciting! any ETA on more details?

  • hugel

    this mixer is made for the museum.
    composite video is past !
    i do not know any vj who is working
    at video resolution anymore.

  • http://vimeo.com/aka AK

    I have similar frustrations with the Pioneer DVJ1000 DVD turntable, which is designed for performance only – no studio work. The only input is DVD. The only output is analog!

    It's seems incredible it doesn't have a built-in hard drive and Firewire I/O so that it would work with a computer. That's all it would take. Burning DVDs is inconvenient: the pitch shifts, the tempo shifts, and the colour shifts. Getting output back into a computer means running it through an analog2digital converter. Once it's back in the computer, everything needs to be pitch-shifted, tempo-shifted, colour-shifted, and manually resynced.

    Same goes in the film world. Everyone wants a digital cinema camera. No one makes one. So we build them ourselves with components and learn to master the most complicated cameras in the world. Years pass. No one builds them. More years pass.

  • http://casimirsblake.deviantart.com/ Casimir's Blake

    I rarely dabble in video, but I'd thought I'd post here to say that something similar – for some – is happening in the music world at the moment.

    Who wants a hardware sampler? Okay fine there's loads out there if you don't mind a huge great big rack.

    Oh you want something portable? Closest options are the Nord Wave (£1400+!!), Waldorf's Blofeld (only 60MB RAM?), and Korg's MicroSampler (mini keys and limited effects). So as another poster here stated, nothing out on the market right now save for open-source projects.

    In the film world right now, I suspect that the ideal similar workhorse would be a portable video playback device that stores on standard 2.5" or 3.5" hard disks and outputs HDMI (component probably useful as well). I'm baffled to see that HD connectivity hasn't made its way to project video products yet. Not even "mid-range" ones?

  • ml

    There is this….
    http://www.aja.com/products/acquire/

    But not cheap. as usual. Most people would rather spend money on a computer I guess.

    Better than this would be MacBook Pro with SSD drive and a converter from DVI to HD-SDI.

  • massta

    I know this isn't a solution to a "vj" mixer, but this company makes solid HD Mixers.

    http://www.tvone.com/c2-7200-main.shtml

    List price for the C2-3350 back in March of this year was $4500. Much cheaper than the V440. Check your rental houses to see if they have a model to play with.

  • http://www.weissgold.tv Jan

    I use my V4 mainly to catch dust. No really, I dont use videomixers anymore.

    Just some MBP's, each connects directly to a DVI distributor, to mutliple beamers.

    The mixing happens in VDMX. At 800×600 for example.
    In the near future laptops will get even more powerful and handle higher resolution.

  • skyvat

    I ran a Mac Pro with 2 Intensity cards capturing 720p for a gig last week. Performed fine – I have not found the latency to be an issue but we also weren't doing incredibly beat-matched work. I was doing this in Jitter, but I would like to try using the M8 beta and see how that all goes.

  • ml

    I've only just twigged that the only output on that thing is composite SD.
    Why would you want to put your nice clean computer images into a furry edge generator?

    It's a Boat Anchor.

    Once you can input cameras into computer-based kit like the post above, with solid frame rate and low latency, you can start to replace some very expensive bits of production kit, like HD vision mixers and screen processors. You'd have the whole live video production industry wanting one.

    But these issues are trickier than they look…

  • http://chromatouch.wordpress.com/ leon trimble

    now ati has multi display technology from gaming cards (5800 series) without the need for tripleheads it'll have to change, if that be software or hardware it looks like hd/superwide mixing is about to happen for real.
    composhite (as sleepytom calls it) won't be the standard for much longer.
    although you can't beat a v4 and a couple lappy's for speed and portability…

  • http://www.phononoia.at bilderbuchi

    seems toby*spark has reached the next step, and is collecting/gauging interest and potential buyers for his HD/TH2G mixer:
    http://tobyz.net/tobyzstuff/projects/dvi-mixer

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

    ha! so much for a soft launch! i just wanted a friend or two to read through and sanity check before announcing it to the world. but, yep, there it is, go read and sign up if you're serious about getting one.

    (and, double ha! that means i really need to make the sparkav.co.uk redirect)

  • http://www.phononoia.at bilderbuchi

    well, sry 'bout that, but in that case you maybe shouldn't post it on the internet ;-)
    sanity check: i presume the th2go is not included in the projected price, although it's pictured in the announcement poster?

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

    ah, you're too quick on the ball, those damn rss feeds on the whole website =]

    more seriously, nope, a th2go is separate. that poster says "£750 for processor and controller" i think.

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  • http://Www.shadowvex.com Shadowvex

    Way to go Toby! Laptops don't even have s-video these days. I'm sick of hauling and wiring scan converters, and I sure ain't going to pay $4k for the convienence of them being inside the mixer and I don't need frakin 8 channels as im not running a cable station lol! Looking forward to dvi baby! ;)

  • RajaDean

    I stumbled across this page – quite interesting the comments. Based on the last entry date it looks like interest has been lost.

    Although this mixer is also a camera controller it might be something to look at – http://www.vaddio.com/product-detail.php?p=48  – enjoy!

  • faouzi

    i would recieve pictures & user guide about fonction of lvs 800

  • ml
  • http://www.bondahigh.com Nelson Musundire

    Even with VGA output from a video mixer, how would it be input into a computer? Isnt it that a TV/Turner card will be used and reduce quality?