VJ = DVJ
| Pioneer marketing director
Karl Detken explains how the new DVJ-X1 will “create a
This year, the big buzz during Winter Music Conference wasn’t
about a hot track or an emerging artist. Instead, everyone in
the industry seemed to be talking about technology. In addition
to the excitement surrounding digital “record pools”
and ring tone licensing, people were obsessing over a radical
new product: Pioneer’s looping, scratching, adjustable-pitching
DVD deck, the DVJ-X1 (MAP $3,299; available in July). As soon
as we had somewhat recovered from the non-stop daily panel discussions
and nightly parties, we caught up with “Karaoke Karl”
Detken to find out what all the fuss was about. As Pioneer’s
Director of Marketing for North America, Detken is uniquely
qualified to discuss the development of the DVJ-X1, as well
as its possible impact on our industry. Also, as a working DJ,
he fully appreciates the creative potential of this funky fresh
DVD player, and how it might forever change nightclubbing as
we now know it.
your trip to Miami Beach this year? It was excellent.
It was a busy week for us especially, because we were involved
with everything from the UltraMusic festival, the Dance Star
Awards, the Remix Hotel, the Winter Music Conference and some
event parties, too.
How long have been working for Pioneer?
I’ve been with Pioneer almost 12 years now. I work closely
with our product planning group in Japan, and we meet two
to four times a year around the globe to discuss the next
generation of Pioneer products, to help the engineers develop
what’s coming out next.
I’d like to congratulate you
and everyone else at Pioneer for winning the 2004 Club World
“Best DJ Product” award for the CDJ-1000 MKII.
Thanks. We are very proud of that technology and that the
CDJ-1000 has become a standard over the last three years.
It’s our flagship model, and as you know it’s
very popular in our industry. I remember right after we introduced
that product in 2000, I asked the engineers – the white
lab coat geniuses, who live on a secret island off the coast
of Japan, in an underground lair [laughs] – in my unqualified
engineer voice, “Listen, guys, if you add a DVD chip
or a DVD lens to the CDJ-1000 or whatever you need, create
a DVD version of this next year…we could revolutionize
the industry.” At the time I didn’t understand
why they laughed at my request. Now I do! Manipulating video
is much more difficult than audio. To give you some perspective,
it took 40 engineers four years to develop this DVD turntable.
That’s the largest team of engineers and R&D we’ve
ever had working on a single project. Now, as you can see,
they’ve finally engineered a way to take the CDJ-1000
features and use it with DVD or CD. They exceeded our expectations.
Was the similarity to the CDJ-1000
something that Pioneer was determined to have from the beginning?
Absolutely. At the time we hoped that the CDJ-1000 would become
a standard in the industry. We wanted [the DVJ- X1] to be
backward compatible and very intuitive to the DJs who have
become accustomed to the CDJ-1000. Essentially, we’re
creating a new kind of DJ, a DJ that not only creates his
own music, but also can create his own videos. So if we got
too different with the features or too crazy with the design,
and the aesthetic look and feel of the player, it could be
harder for the market to accept. I think we just made a conscious
decision that we needed to make this player familiar. There’s
that initial apprehension when a new product comes out: “This
is something new. I don’t know how to use it, it feels
foreign to me.” We wanted to make this so they sit in
that driver’s seat and say, “Wow, this feels just
like I’ve been here before, it feels like a CDJ-1000.”
Since it’s backward compatible, you can actually put
a CD in it and it’ll function exactly like a CDJ-1000.
A DJ can now take it a step further to create the video content
on his computer, burn it onto a DVD disc with his music, and
control the sound and vision, thus touching the soul of the
audience. “Sound Vision and Soul” also happens
to be our company slogan.
It’s all about the user interface,
then. Anybody who’s used a CDJ-1000 would be comfortable
with the DVJ-X1. Can you do the same sorts of things, such
as pausing, back spinning, looping, or even scratching?
Every single one of the features works exactly the same as
the CDJ-1000. There are just two added items on the DVJ-X1.
One is an emergency loop button right next to the looping
controls. With the touch of one button, because it’s
got the automatic BPM circuitry built into it, the DVJ-X1
will create a four-beat loop without having to set the in-point
and out-point, or without even hitting the in-point on the
beat. If a DJ is busy taking a request and he turns around
and sees that he’s got 10 seconds left and nothing cued
up on the other table, then he can simply hit that emergency
loop button. It will start looping the audio and the video
and give him a chance to get the next song ready.
took 40 engineers four years to develop this DVD turntable.
That’s the largest team of engineers and R&D we’ve
ever had working on a
So the screens don’t go dark and the
club doesn’t go quiet. Exactly.
What’s the other bonus feature
on the DVJ-X1? Just like the CDJ-1000, it’s
got three hot cue buttons. You can also keep them in permanent
memory using a provided SD card, so that the next time you
put that DVD in, whether it’s a week or a year from
now, it’ll remember those cue points or loop points.
A key difference from the 1000 is that because this is a visual
medium, it can send a preview visual out so you’ll be
able to view those cue points as JPEGs on your monitors, and
you can scroll through those to find the one that you want.
So you’re visually recalling those cue points. And you
can save 5,000-plus of those cue points depending on the size
of your memory card.
Do you expect to see some of the
innovations from the DVJ to trickle-down to the CDJ series?
I’m sure they will, but it
really depends on the feedback we get from DJs. When we’re
developing products, we travel around the world and meet with
hundreds of DJs from a variety of skill levels and backgrounds.
All of that input gives us an idea of what features DJs would
like to see. If we put out a product and nobody really uses
a certain feature, we take note of that. The next time we’ll
save the engineering costs and design something else.
On the hardware side, what else
would you want in a club’s DVJ booth? There
are a couple of things that need to go along with two DVJ-X1’s.
Obviously, you need an audio mixer, but in order to transition
between videos so you’ll also need either a video mixer
to fade back and forth, or a simple $30 A/B switch to make
a cold changes between video sources. It’s more than
likely, though, that the club will invest in some sort of
video mixer, spending anywhere from $400 to $1,000. A preview
video monitor system is also an essential, just like headphones
for a regular DJ.
Instead of just hoping for the best,
what can we expect next from Pioneer in the way of DVJ products?
We’re currently developing a combination mixer that
will do both audio and video, with some onboard video effects.
One fader will be able to control all of it. We’re really
looking into the future with that.
How do you expect the DVJ-X1 to
change our current collective nightclub experience?
What effects do you think this product will have on the marketplace
and on club culture? Currently 70 to 80 percent of nightclubs
have some kind of video presence. They’ll have projectors
or plasmas, and they’ll have a VJ that runs visuals
throughout the evening.
If they’re lucky, they’ll
have a VJ, as opposed to some random screensaver or videocassette.
Yeah. A lot of the world-renowned DJs are traveling with their
own visuals now. Paul Oakenfold did a gig at the old Limelight,
which is now called Avalon, in New York on New Year’s
Eve, where he used visuals choreographed with his music. Bad
Boy Bill is using DVD visuals in his performance, [as is]
BT. Many, many DJs see the importance of controlling the visual
stimulation during their performance. I believe that not since
the creation of the Technics SL-1200 has there been a product
that can change the way a DJ delivers entertainment. It might
take a few years, but I think the DVJ-X1 is going to create
a different kind of DJ entertainer, a combination DJ-plus-VJ,
or DVJ, if you will. As mentioned, there’s already a
lot of interest from international DJs, including DJ Shadow
and Sander Kleinenberg. These guys can create their own video
content on a computer and burn it onto a DVD with their music.
The DJ will have the control of the video – not just
the auditory stimulation that he’s creating for his
audience during that four- or six-hour set, but the visual
stimulation as well. I don’t think that it will eliminate
the VJ – VJs will be needed for content creation –
but it’ll give the DJ more control over what the audience
is experiencing. I think as DJs and their audiences start
to see it, experience it, to use it, they will start to realize
what a powerful tool the DVJ-X1 is for artistic expression.
It creates a different artist.
will also give dedicated VJs an opportunity to author a lot
of new material for the clubs and DJs that adopt this technology.
What kind of response did you see during Conference?
Anyone who’s worked with uncompressed video by itself
knows how complicated it is to manipulate it, i.e. to scratch
video, tempo-change video, loop video, instant hot cue recall,
etcetera – they can appreciate the DVJ-X1’s power.
Up until now they needed a $60,000 Avid computer system to
do this. The first impression to the DVJ-X1 is always, “Wow!
I can’t believe you can do that on a single, stand-alone
Some of the big artists are visionaries, trying to find a
new angle to what they’re doing. They want to take it
on tour. DJ Shadow recently did a review for Rev magazine
and indicated he would like to take it on his Blackalicious
tour next month. He sees the potential. He already has video
content, and attaching that to his music, and scratching it
over the music – it gives him a new level of control.
It’s going to take a little time for others to find
their application. There will be two types of DJs using this
product. Some DJs will mix record label produced music videos
(like MTV) that are provided to DJs via companies like Promo
Only. Others aren’t necessarily going to be using MTV
videos – they will be creating their own music, making
their own video content, and burning it to DVD at home or
in the studio. From the initial buzz, I think Pioneer has
hit a home run again, and to paraphrase Neil Armstrong, “It’s
one small step for the DJ, one giant leap for club entertainment.”