DJing with DVDs / Some thoughts


Last night we (as Sub Bass Snarl) tried our hand at DVD-DJing. This was considerably more directly video-dj oriented than our previous efforts at the Queensland Art Gallery.

We had been asked to perform as part of the line up for Reel Dance Tracks. This was as part of the Reel Dance Film Festival which is a film festival of films about dance/dancing. Working with our regular visual collaborator Superlight we were given a long list of music videos to play with. Obviously, not everything was suitable for DJ mixing with different moods and tempos so we had to make some aesthetic choices and, for example, play different music by the same artist whilst another of their videos was chopped up.

Having seen DJ Yoda at Sonar 2005 we were pretty determined to not be too narratively structured by the video content, but at the same time it had to be relatively clear to the audience that the video was connected to (if not directly, then by association) with the audio/sound – unlike a standard VJing gig. DJ Yoda’s approach was to simply transpose his regular scracth DJing to video – effectively working mixing two singular sources. For ten minutes at Sonar this was interesting, beyond that it because very tiresome. Fortunately, by being able to work with Superlight who had already sampled a slew of visual elements from not just the clips we were mixing but also from other related clips and film sequences, we were, as a team, able to deliver considerably more visual stimulus and associated narrative than just 2 DVD turntables ever could. Also, Richard/Superlight was able to send different signals to each of the three screens around the venue.

After last night I can say it is very hard. Much harder than we’d expected.

Almost every mix were were one pair of hands short – even with three of us.

There were moments when it worked wonderfully – at the very end of the night mixing the audio of Lush’s cover of Love At First Sight under a slowed down sequence of Ladytron’s Seventeen video and bringing the singer onscreen during the vocal moments; the New Order megamix; and, had the audio mix not been stuffed up, the seqgue from LFO’s Freak video into the fight sequence in Squarepusher’s Come On My Selector video.

The other big problem is that of engaging the audience. Does the audience watch the screen, or do they dance? Can they really do both? As a DJ I’d usually mix tunes on their sonic similarities – genre, bpm, mood – but once you start having to deal with video aspects as well obviously it becomes much more complex.

It wasn’t helped last night by the low volume, and there were plenty of times when we felt very constricted/constrained by the need to mix video as well.


About Author

Seb Chan founded Cyclic Defrost Magazine in 1998 with Dale Harrison. He handed over the reins at the end of 2010 but still contributes the occasional article and review.