Holidays are fast approaching. Do you have enough new gear to keep your brain occupied while your body suffers though the inevitable food-coma? Peter and the CDMu gang have listed their choices for electronic musicans. So we’ve decided to follow up with some last-minute ideas for yourself or the visualist in your life. PK: I like to think of this as, rather than last-minute shopping — or, erm, after-the-fact shopping if you were looking for Hannukah — this as the Way to Cure the VJ Blues By Shopping For Yourself list. And, aside from having been raised half-Orthodox (Christmas isn’t for over a week yet!), my birthday is in January, and should also be a holiday. (Macworld stuffers?) So, without further ado…
VJ: Audio-Visual Art and VJ Culture
Sick of trying to explain what it is you do to random wrinklies at family gatherings? VJ, put together by the immensely talented D-Fuse gang. Pingmag interview about the book and the state of VJing here
Update: Reviewed on We Make Money Not Art
Ok. So with the newest console on the block sold out everywhere, this item may be a little wishful. Unless you’re willing to pay whatever the
scalpers extortionists scumbags fine chaps on ebay are currently asking, then it may be prudent to wait until the storm has passed. Of course, that doesn’t stop you from picking up a wiimote, making with the wireless midi for a while, then bringing in the console for some multiplayer boxing at a later, saner time.
Nintendo DS Lite
Of course, the Wii’s teeny tiny wireless buddy is available. So if, like me, you’re loving the Wireless MIDI possibilities (and haven’t played Electroplankton) maybe you should pick one up. Write it off for tax. You’re a visualist, you can do that.
I am just loving my Arduino. In fact, there’s a second one due here any day now. After having used other people’s tools for most of my creative life, with Processing and Arduino I am almost paralised by the new possibilities open to me. Warning: Electronics is addictive! If you don’t already have the basic collection of components and tools (or a friendly geek to lend them to you) be prepared for repeated trips to your local electronics store and a considerably lighter wallet.
Collaborative Visuals: XBox Dance Mat
This is something I’ve been planning for a while, but I’d like to share it with any solder-savvy visualists as a holiday gift: XBox controllers are USB compliant, so with a little soldering and appropriate drivers you can plug them into your computer and let the kids on the dancefloor trigger visuals for you.
Behringer BCD2000 and BCR2000
For my money, these are the best value midi controllers currently available. They’re definitely not the prettiest, nor the smoothest, and to get the BCD working as you’d like you may need to wrassle, but if you’re VJing without a midi controller, don’t go another second.
BCR: US$130 BCD: US$125.
Akai MPD24 Midi Pad Controller
If you’d like some pads with your knobs and sliders, the recently released MPD24 has been getting great reviews, and it has 2 extra faders, loads of LCD characters, and a lot more sexiness than M-Audio’s similarly priced Trigger Finger.
MPD24 Preorder: US$200
Everything he said. And also …
Now available for both Mac and Windows, this little jog wheel lets you fly through audiovisual apps (pre-mapped for Adobe software and others), and menu options like brush size. Since it can be configured to send keystrokes in any app, it’ll transition easily to a live visual tool onstage. There are some A/V controllers with more buttons, but none close to this price that feels so solid.
ActionScript 3 Cookbook
This fantastic reference has already gotten me deep into Flash 9 before it’s even launched. While it’s written with Flex developers in mind, it works perfectly with ActionScript 3 code compiled using the Flex SDK and the free Flashdevelop for Windows. (Should work nicely with Xcode on Mac or even Eclipse, as well, though I haven’t tried it yet.) With a no-nonsense, look-up-what-you-need-to-do-and-find-the-answer approach, it’s just the thing for building advanced generative animations or custom VJ tools. This might be at your local bookstore, too, so it could be a good last-minute gift.
There’s no more essential piece of hardware for visualists on the planet. The best analog mixer / compositor / FX, hands-down. Somehow I still don’t have one, too, and badly need one — though I can’t wait for the day when CDMotion announces “First Sub-$1000 VGA-resolution Mixer.” That won’t be happening any time soon (right now, they cost about as much as a compact car.) In the meantime, the V4 is a classic. It’s the VJ’s Technics 1200 deck. Only a mixer. And visual. Well, anyway, you get the idea. And damnit, I prefer t-bars to (optional) cross-faders. Who says you can’t fade fast on a t-bar? Builds muscle.
JL: Each time I’ve tried to buy one of these my entire country has been sold out, and I’ve never seen one for sale on ebay. People buy them and then never let them go.
If you don’t have one, you need one. If you do have one, you could use another. If you have two, put the third in another bag so you always have it handy. And if you know anyone who owns a camera (still or motion), they need one. Or three. And you can buy them everywhere. And they fit in stockings. Here are my two favorites:
For lighter cameras and unusual situations, I use the flexible GorillaPod:
For everything else, visualists need something rigid, like this nice Canon model:
Wonderful things come from Australia, as Jaymis will attest. In the luggage category, there is no more wonderful thing than the Crumpler. I have the oversized messenger bag, which is perfect for VJ gigs: it’s hugenormous enough to fit both a laptop and a controller. They’ve been expanding their line, as well; I may opt for backpack form factor next. Crumplers cost a price premium over your plain-vanilla laptop bag, but they’re worth every penny. I’ve abused my Crumpler, and it still looks exactly like new, a year later. That’s after cross-country trips, subway rides, getting stepped on, dirty club floors, dangerous amounts of gear stuffed inside pockets that aren’t really big enough for them, and other unspeakable experiences. Not a seam is loose, not a square inch of fabric looks worn. It’s a little scary, actually.
Crumpler Bags (US$various)
JL: I have a crumpler Backpack (Team Player) which is 3+ years old and has travelled the world while stuffed with 2 laptops and enough cables and devices to have the baggage scanners at airports going back for a second look every time. As with Peter’s, it is in perfect condition. The T1000 of backpacks. My current recommendation: Photo/Laptop backpack form factor. Even if you’re not lugging an SLR around, the extra compartments make it easier for you to find the exact power pack or cable you’re looking for.