Getting Started In Video DJing, Part 1

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Last updated 24 February, 2014

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Video DJing
Video DJing, visual DJing, VJing… whatever you want to call it, it can add an exciting extra element to your DJing.

Are you interested in video DJing? Yes? Increasingly, so are we. It’s an area of growth in DJing, which has been made – just as with normal DJing – more accessible, cheaper and more fun by digital technology. In this eight-part series we’re going to look at all the whats, whys and hows, including the different types of video DJing, the gear, the software, getting the music, and getting work as a video DJ. But we’ll start right at the beginning: What is a video DJ?

What is a video DJ?

The first thing to make clear is that unlike “normal” DJing (which has a history going back to the middle of last century), video DJing is a very young discipline. Nothing is set in stone – not even what video DJs call themselves! VJ, VDJ, video DJ, visual DJ… these are all names used by people who engage in the art of presenting visuals on screens. What name people choose to call themselves to an extent reflects the kind of video DJing they do. For instance, “VJ” was made popular in the 1990s thanks to MTV, who had personality-style “video jockeys” introducing music videos. “Visual DJ” can be used by people who DJ exclusively with visuals. In some venues, this doesn’t even have to be accompanied by music (think art installations).

MTV
MTV popularised “VJs” – personality DJs who introduced music videos – but things have moved on considerably since then.

Or maybe “video DJs” may be more heavily involved in mixing pictures, from all kinds of sources – live cameras, old videotapes, bought loops, you name it – to complement DJ sets. So let’s take a look at a couple of the types of video DJing a little closer. While the aforementioned MTV-style “personality jocks” basically died out as MTV stopped showing videos, there are still plenty of DJs who make a living from playing music videos. This can be in commercial venues, but doesn’t have to be – after all, there are 30 or 40 years’-worth of music videos out there. There’s no reason why you couldn’t mark yourself out as a DJ who plays music that also has video accompanying it. Then there are the DJs who use visuals that are separate from the music. Using bought loops or found source material, these guys produce visuals that can go along with the work of a DJ. Typically they work alongside DJs, and are often hired in to do tours, or to works with DJs in certain countries, to add a visual element to those big-name DJs’ shows.

What we’ll be covering

In this series, we’re going to assume you’re already a DJ, and you are looking to video to add something “extra” to your art. Therefore, we’re going to approach video DJing from two angles:

  1. DJing literally with video files rather than music files. You’re doing the same job, but with added vision
  2. Adding visual elements to your DJing that are nothing to do with the music (after all, most underground EDM doesn’t come with pre-made videos at all).

In both cases, we’ll consider closely how easy it is to do, and how cheaply you can get started. If either of these areas interest you, this series is for you. Next week we’ll look at some of the reasons why you might want to consider adding video DJing to what you do.

Check out the other parts in this series:

Are you a DJ who uses music videos or mixes visuals to accompany your performances? We’d love you to get involved with this series by offering your thoughts and experiences in the comments!