Edirol’s Rob Read
discusses the NEW V-4 mixer, video as a club staple, and live
performance’s hybrid future.
By James BrundageSix years ago, musician-turned-marketer
Rob Read, at that time a sales manager for Edirol Direct, was
called to Japan to talk to the founder of parent company Roland.
The subject of the meeting: the future of video and audio.
Ikutaro Kakehashi sat Read down and asked him two simple questions.
“Do you enjoy listening to radio?”
“Do you enjoy watching television without sound?”
“Well, no, not as much.”
With a smile and a bit of further explanation, Read was invited
to head up the sales of Edirol’s Videocanvas product line.
Edirol’s vision for this line is both amazingly simple
and complex. Video without audio is incomplete, and a video
production needs capable audio to work well. Kakehashi envisioned
a world in which audio tools were used in video production;
in which audio and video performance were intertwined. And he
put Read in charge of bringing that dream of audio-video interactive
And who better to do it? Read is one of those people whose been
around music so damn long that going a day without a song would
be an anathema to his existence. The son of a drummer and a
symphony flutist, and the step-grandson to an MIT-graduated
audio tech, Read grew up learning about recording and playing
musical instruments, as well as doing the occasional performance
in small towns like Moscow, Helsinki, and Stockholm.
The shared passion for audio landed Rob the job at Edirol, and
later the task of selling the states on the concept of audio-interactive
video products. It makes just a little bit of sense that Edirol
would be the company to do it…after all they just happen
to be a subdivision of Roland, manufacturer of such electronic
music production classics as the 303 and the 909.
But what’s the club angle, you may ask? Well Edirol has
recently put out the groundbreaking V-4 video mixer, a sleek,
sexy little beast that can let your video jock rock the club,
your lighting jock control the video from MIDI, and your patrons
see a sicker, better video presentation.
From the perspective of the video jock, the V-4 is about as
pimped as it gets. In Japan, where video is the rule and not
the exception, the V-4 sold out in every store on its first
day of release. Stateside, Read’s marketing prowess is
showing itself in just how damn hard it is to get a V-4. Every
vendor here sold out of them in about a month’s time.
(MSRP is around a grand.)
And Read’s being smart with who to choose as V-4 pitch
men. Going the way of such companies as Stanton, which signed
on respected DJs to demo its Final Scratch product all over
the world, Read picked SF VJ extraordinaire (and esteemed Club
Show panelist) Grant Davis of Dimension 7 to demo the V-4 everywhere
In the following Read details the V-4, Edirol’s just-launched
V-Link feature, and a surprising vision of the future.What
were some of Edirol’s first video product releases?
Our first video product was released in Japan about 10 years
ago. It was an ISA video card designed for doing simple video
editing with your PC. The video software and hardware package
was called the “Video Kun.”
In 1998 we came out with our first stand-alone video mixer called
the V5. The V5 was the first audio-interactive video hardware
to respond to MIDI commands, hence it was very well received
by the VJ community. The V5’s had a host of features that
you just don’t see in your average video mixer, like a
built-in scan converter for bringing in graphics and titles
straight from a laptop. It also had the ability to tap out a
BPM or to control any function in the video mixer via MIDI.
Tell us about the features of the new V-4.
The V-4 is a really cool four-channel video mixer complete with
effects including chroma-key, luminance-key, colorize, strobe,
picture-in-picture, mirror, multi-screen and many more. It also
has over 200 different transition effects, from simple dissolves
and fades, to some pretty funky wipe patterns. It’s also
switchable between NTSC and PAL in the same unit, and has a
presentation mode for switching video sources on the same bus.What’s
the cool- est thing about it? Its ability to roate
the T-bar vertically or horizontally to accommodate a range
of users from video professionals to DJ/VJ style mixers. It
also allows for BPM sync so you can have your effects happen
with tapping to the beat of the music.How would it work
in a club environment? It would help spice up the visuals.
We have some top MIDI lighting systems programmers working on
MIDI messages to control the effect parameters of the V-4. Programmers
say that they can control effects, switches, and video mixes
with lightning speed.What is V-LINK? V-LINK
is an exciting new feature that provides for real time performance
control over digital video. With a V-LINK equipped device, like
a keyboard, connected with our DV-7PR [video “performance
system”] or V-4 video mixer, you can trigger clips, perform
video effects and transitions all directly controlled by the
expression being used in the musical performance in real time.
The V-4 video mixer also has MIDI in/out/through, for real time
or sequenced control of video sources with effects and transitions.
What are its possibile applications? We introduced
seven new Roland products with V-LINK capability at NAMM, and
I believe that this is only the beginning. Even though these
very cool musical instruments have V-LINK technology, the real
power of it is the ability of the Edirol video products to respond
to their MIDI commands. There are not any video products today
that I know of that respond like the DV-7PR does to MIDI commands.
The DV-7PR can color correct, color balance, speed up, slow
down, and dissolve native DV video in real-time. The results
are amazing: We are just starting to see the various applications.Where
has that DV7-PR been used? In March it was used at
the Canadian Music Awards in Toronto. The video production company
loaded over 100 video clips and triggered them on demand as
the awards and nominees were announced. The production team
was amazed at how much time it saved for them to load the video
clips ahead of time on the hard drive, and trigger the appropriate
clip with ASCII keyboard command.Where do you see video
in clubs going? Today we see DJ artists and VJ artists,
typically because these artists concentrate on audio or on video.
I believe the future is to have artists that are strong in both
audio and visuals, and performing both live music and controlling
their visuals at the same time. Picture someone playing a MIDI
keyboard, and that keyboard has V-link and is controlling cameras,
visual effects, and clip playback.How is Edirol preparing
for that future? Every time I get a new beta version
of our software I am amazed at how the engineers implement features
that our customers are requesting, and even features that they
aren’t asking for. I believe that is one of our strengths.
The mission of our company is, “We design the future."
It’s the future here, but lucky for them Edirol doesn’t
have to guess what’s going to happen because in Japan,
A/V performances are run of the mill: Bedroom video jocks are
as plentiful as your bedroom DJs are here, and every major club
has a visual aspect to it. But in Read’s vision for the
States, a club could have an amazing video show with a single
jock controlling every aspect of the room from a V-LINK device.
Concept footage could be stored and kept on-hand to assist touring
jocks, and V-4s and video systems would become a staple of clubland.