Now in a sense, that was the easy part. With VJing, just like with DJing, anyone can buy the gear – it’s the material in your collection that counts. So now it’s time to look at where to source the actual content – the music videos and VJ loops you’re going to be using to video DJ with.
HD or SD?
First, let’s get the quality question out of the way. While HD video is all the rage in the home, VGA or SD (standard definition) still rules supreme out in clubland and is the format most video DJs still use. There’s far more material available in lower resolutions anyway, and nearly all video systems in venues will be old-style SD.
Undoubtedly in the future HD will dominate, but it’s not a necessity right now. (Having said that, several of the companies that we’re about to talk about, including Mixmash and Resolume, have started supplying HD material.) If you’re interested, be sure your system can handle it smoothly too.
OK, so on to the material itself. What you want and need is going to depend entirely upon the kind of video DJing you’re planning on doing, so we’ve divided our advice below into music videos and video loops.
Playing music videos
If you want to play straight music videos, you’d think it’s just be a case of buying the music videos from somewhere like iTunes, right?
Not so fast! The issue with music videos is that the version used in the video is often different from the released version, and is rarely a DJ-friendly extended version. While you may get away with the latter, you’re definitely going to want to check first that the version you’re getting has audio that’s even usable at all.
Otherwise you may not only be saddled with something equivalent to a radio mix, but be saddled with extra sound effects that go with the video content, that aren’t present on the audio-only versions. For DJing, you definitely don’t want these versions – and what’s more it’d be nice to have decent intro and outro beats for mixing, too.
Luckily, there are services that can supply you with just such versions.
Where to find music videos
Promo Only is big in Europe, and they’re pretty comprehensive and cutting edge. They have a pool service that allows digital downloads. Mixmash is another UK-based service that many music video DJs swear by, but there are several more that spring to mind, especially for US and Canadian DJs; check out ERG and Top Hits USA for straight-up commerical stuff, for instance. Several VJs have asked us to point out Xtendamix, which has a wide variety from the 50s to now, covering genres as diverse as rock, latim and reggae as well as modern pop and dance.
Of course, music videos – while being the source material a lot of people reading this may think they’ll want to use exclusively – are only half the story.
Why? Well, not every tune has a video so unless you’re a straight-up commercial jock, DJing with music videos alone is not going to be possible. But also, there is a lot, lot more to adding a visual element to your DJing that just playing music videos. You may want to mix up the two, or you may want to present a visual set that’s nothing to do with your music. In these circumstances, you’re going to need video clips designed specially for VJing.
These VJing loops are typically shorter than full music tracks and cost as much, so very quickly you can spend a lot of money. And the audience will bore of them quickly, too, so it’s not just a case of buying 10 or 20 and leaving them randomly repeating al night.
There is a whole scene around creative VJing, and at the other end of the spectrum from music videos are some incredibly creative VJs who are making their own loops and getting just as creative with visuals as the best DJs do with producing their own sounds.
If the bug gets you and you’ve got the talent, you may well end up taking that route – but for now, if you want to add abstract or non-music related visuals to beef up your output of branding, logos, software-generated effects and so on, you’ve got two choices:
- Use what comes with your software – Increasingly, VJ software sellers are realising that content is one of the biggest challenges, and so your package may come with access to pre-recorded loops for free. For instance, Serato Video comes with loops from Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple. Discounted purchases are sometimes offered from the sources that provide the free loops that are “in the box”, so to speak
- Go out and buy some – Again, video software manufacturers can help (check out Resolume for an example), but there are several third-party companies offering loops too – see below
Where to find VJ loops
Look at VJ Hive and Source Visuals as examples of VJ specialist loop retailers. Also realise that just like music producers, video loop producers sell their own loops from their own sites – a good example is Peter Parker Brodhead (Parkerism). More mainstream companies like Motion Elements, which are roughly to video what iStock and Shutterstock are to still photography, tend to have VJ loops as part of their offerings.
These are just examples; I suggest you check out the excellent Dancehall Media site which has a long list of sources ofr loops. Some of this stuff is hard copy (ie DVD) so if you choose a source that doesn’t have digital download available, you’ll have to get au fait with ripping it once they send it to you.
Please don’t use YouTube to pirate music videos. Just like with using it to rip off audio if you plan on downloading YouTube videos with a downloader and playing with those… well, good luck to you. It’s not right and it’s not professional and the quality is far from guaranteed. You’re on your own on that one.
Next week, we’ll look at how to go about getting work as a video DJ.
Check out the other parts in this series:
- Getting Started In Video DJing, Part 1
- Video DJing, Part 2: Why Video DJing?
- Video DJing, Part 3: Why You Should Take the Digital Route
- Video DJing, Part 4: What Software to Use
- Video DJing, Part 5: What Hardware to Use
- Video DJing, Part 7: Getting Work as a Video DJ
- Video DJing, Part 8: Further Steps for New VJs
Where do you get your VJ clips or music videos from? What’s your to tip for sourcing your own original material? Or do you actually create clips yourself? We’d love you to share your experiences in the comments.