REVIEW: algoriddim vjay


Link: algoriddim – Price: $9.99/£6.99 – Buy Here – Requires iPad 2 or 3.

Introduction

Video is the next big thing. Well it’s been the next big thing for as long as I can remember to be honest. Pioneer made big moves at the high-end with their DVJ players, but things seem to have died down in that area. Virtual DJ, like so many other features that others hadn’t done, has been video friendly for the longest time as well, albeit at a lower quality level than Pioneer. Serato have also renewed their video ambitions, as have MixEmergency. Various other solutions for DJs have come along, but despite the availability of solutions, video has yet to set the world on fire? Why? Well that’s a news story all on its own.

But like most things technology based, the top end filters down to the bottom, and that’s exactly what has happened with algoriddim‘s vjay. Having set the ease of use standard in iOS with djay, they’ve now turned their attention to what I would have assumed was an insurmountable task of VJing on an iPad. There are many hurdles to leap over – the power of the iPad, the audio and video output options and physical capacity of the iPad to deliver a decent amount of footage.

Undaunted, they set off and one by one leapt over each hurdle and have delivered an app that for the first time (I think) on iOS, allows you to mix audio and video like a DJ.

Disclosure

As ever, algoriddim love the previous video work I did for them, thus I was contracted to make another for the vjay launch. But I’ve had no involvement in the design and production of vjay whatsoever.

What is it?

Algoriddim’s vjay is a full DJ style video and audio mixing app for the iPad. It gives you 2 “decks” aka video windows where your can drop the contents of your iTunes library  and use them just like you would with any DJ app. You can mix, scratch, apply effects, broadcast via AirPlay and HDMI, record your video sets and use MIDI controllers. Wow – they actually did it.

First Impressions

It’s unmistakably from the djay stable. But the regular DJ layout has been cast aside for something that works better for VJing. It’s still quite DJ-like, but lacks the actual decks. The display is dominated by the main master screen – the master output if you will, with the “decks” sat in either corner below. You can glean the detail from the screenshots – no need to describe further.

The interface is very intuitive. Hit the library icon and up comes your iTunes collection – demo content, videos, camera roll, playlists and the iTunes store. Tap it, load it and you’re off – the big wide word of VJing just opened up to you. What is really clever is that you can load in audio OR video. Pop in your favourite music video, and then add a completely different audio track. Now that’s pretty cool, and especially useful if your plans extend beyond the normal A to B and back again style of DJing.

Getting into vjay is easy. It does exactly what you expect, and works in a most intuitive way. Half the battle is won before you even get into the nitty-gritty.

The Decks

I keep putting decks in inverted commas, because while you can’t actually see them, the video screens act just like regular turntables, but more so. Moving your finger left/right or up down makes the audio and video scratch, a circular motion acts like vinyl on a platter, and a swipe is like a forward or backspin. Nifty, but don’t be expecting perfect backspins – it does break up if pushed too hard. There’s a single cue point too, which I found a tad disappointing.

You can also replicate these same gestures on the main screen too. And depending on which effect you’re using, you can touch that specific area of the screen and scratch down to mosaic tile level.

Last but not least is full screen mode. This gives you the whole iPad screen given over to your mixing, but does lack any accessible controls, bar a pause button. You can however do the normal touch screen stuff.

Overall, the decks offer exactly the performance you need – highly responsive and almost latency free. Not too shabby considering you’re potentially throwing around 2 different audio and video tracks at the same time.

The Mixer

vjay isn’t exactly over endowed with mixing controls. At first glance, you get a crossfader with 6 different transitions. Well actually you get 6 different video transitions, but the audio is a straight crossfade. That said, the fader can be used automatically with a preference setting that adjusts the time, or of course manually. You can also tap the fader for an instant on fader style. So transitions are well catered for.

It does get a little more clever when you find the split fader setting in preferences that allows you to have a separate fader for audio and video, and both operate exactly like each other.

Just like djay, vjay also offers split audio output, as well as allowing an HDMI monitor to be connected as either a mirror or as a video master output.

You do have to dig just a little deeper to find more audio based controls, something I could kick off about. But we must remember that vjay is predominantly about video.

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Effects

Clicking… I mean touching the hand icon brings up 4 different icons (and I have no idea if they’re called these or not):

FX: vjay comes with 4 joint audio and video effects. these can be controlled with the XY pad or on their own with a wet/dry control. Using the XY pad adds a filter into the equation, one that applies a high pass/low pass to the audio and a light/dark to the video. The effects are gate/strobe, phase/twirl, flange/fisheye and crush/pixelate. The XY pad is clever and provides continuity from djay, but importantly draws you into just having fun with it. I would however like to have a little more independent control over the effects, or have separate controls for audio and video.

Transport: Despite the lack of actual decks, there are still some play controls to get to grips with. Reverse is cool but needs some time to master exactly on beat. Slow motion half speeds the video but time stretches the audio. But it’s slice mode that is the most useful, either 1/2 or 1/4 beat, and adds a really nice effect with little effort.


EQ: This can work on audio and video (acts like RGB sliders), or via a preference effect audio only. While I love how this works, it lacks full audio kill. Other than using the crossfader, they’re no way to turn the audio off on a video. This needs fixing.

BPM: Like djay, vjay analyses the BPM of your music and videos, which allows syncing to be used, making mixing so much easier. It gives you a familiar waveform, and darting around keeps your finger dropping in sync. If your video has no audio, it simply uses the BPM from the playing audio. There are limits however – trying to sync a 98bpm track with a 127 one saw the sync box greyed out. But there’s no pitch range adjustment though – just a fixed 25%, which would explain why. But you do get pitch bend and a full pitch slider.

The success of this feature set will depend on your style of mixing. Finishing this section off is looping. No surprises here – 4 beats to 1/8 beats. But how I wished for 8 beat loops.

Library

All this is great, but you need stuff to play. And seeing as your iTunes library is fully supported, that’s every file that you chuck in iTunes, including HD video and all your playlists. And as previously mentioned, you can add audio and video independently of each other, giving you full freedom with your library.

Well when I say full freedom, I had hoped for access to photos – denied. And text entry too. It’s probably coming though. And you can’t add audio from a video file to an existing video file either.

This library also includes your camera roll, and also the ability to record video through the iPad cameras and drop it in. Mid party, being able to drop someone’s face into the mix is a nice feature. And should said party person shout a request, full access to the iTunes store is supported too.

Some caveats – when I say HD, it’s supported, but your chosen model of iPad might not be happy using a couple of 1080p videos with the full complement of effects at the same time. vjay will even warn you if you’re pushing your luck. But with 720p, you should be just fine.

Overall, vjay is extremely capable and offers solid flexibility with your music and videos. I would however suggest that you take the time to prep your library. Analysing can take a while so it’s best to put in the time first for a most instant experience later.


Playing and Broadcasting

Having all this powerful fun in your hands is all well and good. But what is you want to play out? Well vjay has that covered quite a lot more than I expected at this point. Like djay before it, you can hook up Numark‘s iDJ Live controller and mix and scratch. And with the split audio and video crossfader, you can control each independently. It is however hard-coded so it does what it does. That said, it does add that oh so important tactile feel.

That tactile feel is really important, and adds a lot more polish to an otherwise touchscreen set. Numark’s iDJ Live brings vjay alive – proper jogwheel feedback, buttons that respond the first time you press them and EQs that are instantly accessible, freeing up the screen for other work. And it’s all pretty instant. Granted, the jogwheels will never rival turntables, but for me the partnership of app and controller makes this a considerably more enjoyable experience.

As for video output, owners of iPad 2 and 3 (or whatever Apple call the new one) should be able to hook up their favourite screens and projectors via the Apple HDMI adaptor. It’s only 720p though, but more than adequate for people likely to be using an iPad for video. Let’s remember that while vjay is highly capable, it’s not going to rival dedicated systems costing many  thousands.

About audio – as mentioned before, vjay uses the same split audio capabilities as djay Basically a stereo signal split for monitoring. Tests show that the HDMI and headphones share the same output. This means that whatever you hear in your headphones is exactly what you’ll hear through your HDMI device. This does make audio slightly more tricky. Seems that if you want to cue, you’ll have to turn off the HDMI device’s volume and use the split audio cable with headphones and speakers.

One caveat about the adaptor – I had no issues hooking up iDJ Live and my 24″ LG monitor independently. But together the iDJ Live lost connection. It would appear that the adaptor doesn’t much care for MIDI. And I couldn’t get my iPad to hook up to my 40″ Samsung TV. So before running off gung-ho, it would be worth doing some research online as to exactly what this adaptor will work with. Or at least be prepared to buy something that it will work with.

The other very Apple way is via AirPlay. If you have suitable hardware e.g. Apple TV, vjay can broadcast wirelessly to big screens. This obviously helps get round the above possible compatibility issues.

Recording

One last gem in the vjay crown is recording. Yes, you can perform and record your sets to an easily shareable file. Hit record and you’re putting your master mix to a file that can be pulled off via iTunes or shared to your camera roll and mailed or sent directly to Youtube. Some issues worth noting – even on this new iPad, recording can effect performance. I noted that hitting cue points was met with a definite lag, which basically will make your recorded performances less than perfect.

Output is also SD only, so if you planned to use vjay for making HD video mixes… well you can’t. That said, a better approach might be to hook up something like a Blackmagic Intensity box or the new Elgato Game Capture HD to grab HDMI output directly. This way, you don’t drain the resources of the iPad by recording live, and you can get 720p output too. That is provided Apple’s HDMI adaptor works with them.

Battery Life

Given the amount of time I’ve spent with vjay and the iPad, the real achilles heel here is battery life. Working with audio is hard enough on power, but routinely tossing videos at each other laden with effects is obviously going to be incredibly tough on your iPad’s power. It’s also going to be very hard on older iPads. My new one seemed to handle everything with aplomb, but I imagine that an original iPad is going to complain a little.

On its own, the iPad is likely to give you no more than 90 minutes hardcore play. With iDJ Live, you’re looking at 60 minutes and no way to plug in the power. Thus you hit the hardware limitation of the 30 pin connector. The HDMI adaptor can plug into a power supply, but doesn’t allow for the iDJ Live to be connected. And iDJ Live has no power. One can only hope that Numark have an iDJ Live 2 planned that has a power supply.

Algoriddim’s only comment with this review has been the battery life findings. We’re looking into this to see if there’s something funny with my iPad 3 that is causing massive battery drain. This part will be updated in due course.

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