After more than a year of relatively trusty service and a country-spanning tour, my BCD2000 has finally become too flaky for performances. I’ve been looking at the various DJ-style midi controller options, and was down to about 5 options when I was asked to play a set on short notice at a relatively big festival this weekend. So I made a snap decision and picked up a Numark Total Control, choosing this over the NuVJ because it has a couple of extra sliders and knobs.

NuVJ Glamour Shot
This is a NuVJ, my second choice MIDI controller from Numark

As a class-compliant USB MIDI device it installed fine. I loaded my VJ software of choice, Resolume, mapped the jog wheels to scratch video, and scratched.

The video went bonkers.

A couple of moments looking at the MIDI messages in MIDI-OX told me why – the Total Control jogwheels use a bizarre schema for their endless encoder messages. All the MIDI controllers I’ve encountered in the past have used the same format for endless encoders, rotating clockwise will send out a stream of, (to paraphrase the machines) “+1” messages. Counterclockwise gives “-1”. Spin your jogwheel or knob faster, and it sends out more messages per second. The Total Control, however, changes its message depending on how fast the wheel is spinning, so an increasingly quick movement would look like “+1 +1 +2 +3 +5 +7 +7 +8” etc. Even more bizarrely, the values seem the reverse of what they should be, so a clockwise movement gives negative values.

So I took the controller back to the store, along with my Macbook to road test any alternatives. The guys were happy to swap my Total Control for a NuVJ, whose jogwheel behaved much better when tested with Resolume. It was still backwards, but it wasn’t causing the playhead to jitter all over the place.

I should have done a little more testing though, because it turns out that all of the knobs on this device work the same way. The only piece of software which recognizes them correctly is the version of Arkaos bundled with the NuVJ. Ableton Live does an ok job with the general knobs, and the jog wheels work ok moving clockwise, but counterclockwise has the live controls snapping backwards at 5 times the speed of forward movements.

So, sadly, I’m back at the same position I was in 17 months ago, sitting with a well made and reasonably priced controller, which will require hours of hacking and re-mapping to complete simple tasks.

Is anyone else in CDMLand in a similar situation? Or better still, have been in a similar situation and discovered a quick and elegant solution?