DJ display screens – a good idea

DJ display screens - a good idea

Why do we need DJ display screens?

The dead horse beating of design elements is well known – be it every ad agency in the 80s hammering the Helvetica Neue font into typeface , going grundgy and distressed in the 90s, and images going hi def or tilt and shift in the last decade. But the current de rigueur video effect seems to be the perspective video overlays. In the case of the DJ industry, it’s actually really useful to demonstrate key product features.

I for one wish that his virtualisation of the software features was more than an overused video effect. It’s actually a bloody good idea, that with a little work can be a reality.

Taking this back to its roots – controllers popped up because DJs wanted a more tactile approach to DJing, and this has developed to the point of wanting to get away from pressing keys on their laptop. The attention is on the DJ gear rather than the keyboard. But the laptop is still a key if annoying part of a DJ setup, if only because the DJ needs to see what’s happening in the software and have a visual way to load the tracks. So logically, finding a way to put that visual information on or near the DJ gear would be extremely useful.

Numark VM03-MKII screens

Take a look at this shot from NAMM. It shows a Numark NS6 running Serato ITCH and Serato Video with a Numark VM03-MKII. With video becoming the next big thing in the next few years, it’ll be near essential for small video monitors to hit the market. But my contention is that they can be used in much the same way for software elements too.

It’s an age old principle – if something is at capacity, you either work smarter or expand. With so much being crammed into laptop screens, the working smarter element is getting harder all the time. Collapsible elements or tabbed screens are all well and good, but there comes a point where it’s unworkable.

This leaves expansion, and to me this means additional monitors. There’s something to be said for hooking up a 40″ flat screen to your computer, but it’s not especially practical for most DJs. The above Numark unit caught my eye for exactly this purpose, but digging a little deep showed a few possible alternatives, in particular small USB monitors.

DJ display screens - a good idea

DJ display – some examples

For example, Mimo make a range of screens – all USB connections and ranging from 7″ to 10″ in size. Some have webcams, others pivot and some are even multitouch. But this isn’t an ad for Mimo, more an indication of what’s out there. But looking at the cheapest as an example – $180 direct or around £120 online. For this you get a pivoting USB powered 800×480 touch screen. Now imagine 4 of those – one for each deck, showing whatever you wanted to on screen right above each deck. And latency permitting, everything is but a touch away. This would also leave your laptop screen for other things, and importantly put your attention right on your DJ gear. Nice. Very nice indeed.

But all this theorising and fantasising is pointless without the software supporting it. Traktor, Scratch Live and just about every other piece of DJ software are locked one screen wonders. Virtual DJ 8 shows promise with undockable windows, but for this to gather any steam, elements e.g. decks will need to be assigned to separate screens. And then there’s the issue of converting onscreen elements to touch compatible ones al a Smithson Martin Emulator.

With a powered USB hub and small touch monitors, you’d have a really cool workable setup. All we’re really waiting for is the software to be adapted to suit. But again, I must underline that this is just an idea that I’m putting out there for discussion. It has many merits as well as a few hurdles that I feel could easily be overcome.

What are your thoughts on DJ display screens?