DVJ, derived from the term "DJ" and its sister "VJ", is a term used to describe a combination of the two—in other words, a DJ who performs live using an audio-visual music player instead of an audio-only setup consisting of CD turntable players or vinyl-record turntables. This is not to be confused with a VJ, which usually refers to a host of a music video TV channel, or a visual-only performer separate from the DJ in a live environment. As the term DJ usually also applies to composers of music played by DJs (whether they themselves are performing DJs or not), DVJ has a similar meaning with composers in the audio-visual format. Although we may say "DVJ" to describe a "video jockey" artist, the term comes from the industry-standard Pioneer DVD-turntable, called the DVJ. A more common name is simply DVDJ (DVD jockey) or VJ (video jockey); however, the latter, as mentioned previously, is sometimes confused with TV music video channel hosts.



Pioneer SVM-1000 DVJ mixer with DVJ-1000

Visuals in one form or another have always been a part of live DJ performances, but until the advent of this form of performance, the visual aspect was largely limited to computerized strobes and spotlights, laser projectors, and/or pyrotechnics. With the advent of DVD technology (especially once it became cheap enough for the average individual to create his or her own discs), a push was made for a device that would give a performer the same flexibility in accessing the music and video on the disc as the turntable-style CD players commonly available for DJs. Pioneer Corporation became the first (and as of this writing, still the only) manufacturer of DJ equipment to produce such a device, the Pioneer DVJ-X1, first released in 2004. That design has been refined into the DVJ-1000, released in 2006, generally regarded as the "gold standard" DVJ turntable today.


DVJ discs, as noted above, are DVDs containing one or more music videos the performer wishes to play. The music and video contained on the disc can be anything the performer desires, but as with standard DJs, the most popular genres are the various forms of electronica. In addition to the audio, which is sent to a sound system like other player systems, the video component is output to a video projector or other visual display. The audio and video for the disc are then always in synch regardless of any scratching, mixing, and other transformations the performer does on the media. This was a huge improvement over any previously possible method of performing with audio and video together, as the performance often had to be very meticulously planned so that the video being displayed matched the audio. This sometimes required a second performer to handle video playback, leaving little room for improvisation by the DJ.

In addition to the DVJ turntable players (virtually all DJs have two players for their "native" media of vinyl, CD, or DVD; some have additional players to accommodate other media, or they mix multiple sources at once), "DVJing" requires the use of an audio-visual mixing console, which allows the DVJ to select sources for audio and video and to blend or mix them. Many mixers also give the DVJ the ability to perform simple transformations on the video. Just as an audio mixing console allows for changes in equalizer levels, dynamics, and balance, an A/V mixer allows variations in hue, color saturation, brightness, sharpness, and other "TV-type" settings. They also allow for various types of transitions between video clips, such as fades, blends, and wipes. A/V mixers are nothing new to the recording and performance industry, but they are more often found in production rooms of television stations or editing suites of movie studios and are a new feature of live turntablist performances.

The relative simplicity of the performance using the DVJ turntable, along with the added dimension of video for the DVJ artist to expand into while composing, has resulted in a move up to these media by some former DJs and recording artists, where they are in high demand by nightclubs and rave party organizers. However, because the technology is still very new and the players and projectors very expensive, "DVJing" is, as of this writing, still only a small part of the DJ and nightclub scene, one such venue that uses this is Liquid Basildon, although it is largely restricted to professional DVJs such as Sander Kleinenberg, Christian S and Kel Sweeney. Of course, as the technology becomes more widely accepted and established, the price of the central piece of equipment (the DVJ turntable) will become cheaper and should eventually be within the reach of amateur performers. Future advances in video processing may allow the DVJ to perform real-time advanced transformations on the video, such as polarization, color negative, digital color grading, and other digital filters.


A common setup for a DVJ includes two turntables, an audio mixer, and a video mixer. For a component setup, the "standard" DVD turntable is the Pioneer DVJ-1000; it is a DVD player with a higher read speed than the average home dvd player, and a memory buffer that allows for quick jumps or backtracks in playback. This is coupled with a controller that emulates a vinyl-record turntable. By rotating a control wheel, the performer can quickly search through a video; slow or speed up playback (pitch) to match the other playing track; and, with a "scrubbing" motion, quickly stutter forward and backward, producing the well-known "scratching" effect. Other controls that take advantage of the digital media include A-B looping, freeze frame, slow motion, and instantaneous pause/play (a traditional vinyl-record turntable requires a small amount of "spinup" time).

Common brands for commercial video mixers are EDIROL and Videonics. These pieces of hardware simply accept multiple video sources and combine them in various ways such as fades, wipes, and a number of other transitions. Another common piece of equipment in the DVJ arsenal is called a switcher. Most digital turntables, whether CD or DVD, have a fader-start capability, in which the cross-fader of the audio or video mixer can tell a player to pause or play. By using these types of switchers (the Pioneer A/V switcher is a very common example), scratching video effects can show the typical back-and-forth motion heard on audio. More-advanced video mixers also have a chroma-key capability, known by most as "green screen" compositing. Currently, Videonics makes a number of mixers that will allow for this effect. VJ artists may play DVD tracks with a certain color that is set as the chroma-key color on the mixer. The mixer will then locate this color on the track and replace it with whatever the VJ has chosen. Many times, he or she will use a camera and camera operator to take live video feeds of the dancing crowd and superimpose them on a video of something else to give a novel effect. A top end mixer option is the Pioneer SVM-1000, which has preview screens, switchers, video FX, and audio FX, all in a four-channel mixer. A standard setup can be the Pioneer DJM-800 with a VSW-1 Switch and a three-screen monitor. This kind of setup must have numerous media discs which must be transported to, or available at, the location. Swapping discs increases the changeover time for videos vs. a computer setup, and there's the possibility of skipping or stopping with scratched or damaged discs.

As opposed to a fully component setup, computer solutions such as OtisAV DJ, PCDJ, VirtualDJ, and Serato Scratch Live all deliver full audio/video capabilities. Video mixing is done within the computer, which can then be plugged into a video system or splitter, eliminating the need for an external mixer in many cases. The software uses the computer as an all-in-one unit: player, A/V mixer, and monitor. Regular turntables using control cds/vinyl records can directly control the media, and some software suites allow the use of external (midi) controllers that emulate turntables, or add additional controls to the software, allowing a more versatile/portable setup or eliminating the added cost of buying turntables or even a mixer. To take advantage of this solution, DVJs copy their DVD tracks, video and HD media onto hard drives, which means less equipment needing to be carried to gigs. This solution is not only more compact, it's less expensive; the software and related external turntable controls can be purchased for a few hundred U.S. dollars and used on any laptop with sufficient computing power and memory, while the Pioneer DVJ players retail for around US$2500. Even a basic component-based setup can cost far more than a top-of-the-line laptop, software, and storage—especially if a sufficient computer already exists and thus doesn't have to be bought new. In addition, with this method, videos can then be manipulated to have more effects, different audio tracks, or even be completely different than the original.

Computer-based systems can only run reliably on very powerful computers with the latest graphics cards, anything less can lead to lowered video quality, skips, lagging, and even crashes—all potentially fatal to the performance. The settings are used to encode and play back media files are extremely important and can negatively affect quality, although with the current methods and quality standards, this has become a non-issue. In addition, whereas component players are limited to SD resolution, products like Serato can deliver high quality HD 720p playback as well as 1080p, although not technically supported yet.

An audio DJ uses headphones so the DJ can hear the unmixed output of each turntable independently in order to queue up the next track. A DVJ needs similar capabilities with video, which requires multiple displays. With component-based systems, a small flat-panel monitor or TV needs to be set up for each player and given the raw video feed of the player through a Y-splitter cable. With a computer setup, the computer or laptop must have two video outputs; the primary screen has both sources and the mixed output shown, and the mixed output sent out the secondary output to the house, and commonly a monitor for the DVJ. This setup saves space needed in the DJ booth from 3 monitors plus a controller down to the pc/laptop(s) and an output monitor. As better technologies, formats and resolutions are available, these systems can also be upgraded to support them, a major point over component systems.

Computer setups using Serato Video Scratch Live have been incorporated into many venues, notably several Las Vegas mega-clubs. VJ and Turntablist Mike Relm has also switched from using a component setup to a software/controller setup with Serato VSL and a Jazzmutant Lemur.[1]


  1. ^ [1] Mike Relm, featured artist, Jazzmutant.com

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