Just as VDMX and Resolume have been treated to ground-up rewrites, so, too, has a name in VJ apps that has endured since the early days of computer VJing: ArKaos. GrandVJ is a completely new program, though it does maintain ArKaos’ signature feature – a music keyboard along the bottom of the screen.

Now, I’ve wanted to root for GrandVJ’s new release since the beginning, partly because of its MIDI keyboard-savvy design but especially because the new release is fast — blazingly fast. Thanks to a rebuilt, ffmpeg-based video backend, it can really rock its way through high-framerate playback without a second thought, which goes nicely with all the jamming you might like to do on a MIDI keyboard with clips.

That said, the initial release of GrandVJ just felt a little too minimal. Now, nothing against minimal – not every set has to be an audiovisual mash-up a la Resolume 3 or some elaborate modular setup of effects as you can build in VDMX. But just getting basic alpha support or setting up a simple crossfader for clips proved to be challenging.

That’s why I’m really pleased by the direction taken by GrandVJ 1.1. ArKaos are aggressively attacking a lot of the main things I wanted address:

  • An optional all-black interface, in case the white was blinding your eyes (which, believe me, can be an issue in a darkened club).
  • Alpha support: chroma masks, alpha in effects (very lovely), various alpha previewing tools, and support for RGBA PNG, BPM, QuickTime PNG, and QuickTime Animation codecs.
  • This is what proper crossfading and compositing looks like.
  • A/B with crossfader support: Yeah, finally. But here’s the cool bit: you can have, say, 8 layers, and assign them arbitrarily to the A or B bus, then crossfade – just as you do with audio in Ableton Live. So, while crossfaders are nothing new, this is basically my ideal implementation. It’s possible to do this in other tools, but as you can see from the screenshot, the compositing + crossfading interface is dead simple.
  • Hardware support: Hercules DJ (Console MP3, MK2, STEEL, RMX), and most awesomely, default templates for Korg NANO (PAD + KONTROL or KEY + KONTROL). Plus mouse wheel slide support
  • OpenSoundControl: Don’t tell the music software industry, but here on the visual side, OSC is already a standard. You’ll need normalized data (0.0 – 1.0), but otherwise the implementation looks quite nice – OSC “learn” included. VDMX has set a really high standard for OSC support, but it’s great to see GrandVJ in on the fun, too — that’s what standards are for! (And it means a single OSC rig could control two laptops, one running GrandVJ and the other running something like VDMX or Resolume.)

1.1 is still labeled a “beta,” so your mileage may vary. But this stuff looks fantastic. As I’ve said before, different VJ apps are differentiating themselves rather than simply leapfrogging one another. With this added polish, I think GrandVJ is very much in the game and stands to make real gains as the simple, straight-up VJ app. I’ll be testing this week, and I think 1.1 is mature enough for a proper review.

Photos via ArKaos on Flickr.

GrandVJ 1.1 Features, with download links, on the ArKaos Users Forum