Killing The Radio Star

“From the perspective of the
video jock, the V-4 is about as pimped as it gets.”



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?”
“Of course.”
“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 technology stateside.
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 he goes.
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.
Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications