Opinion on TXT Visuals

Serato Video Test

Rane Serato Video Plugin

Moving image for itch and scratchlive

Serato Video faces the following challenge:
When turntablists want to take the musical step into the bit age, they can fall back on a respectable selection of digital vinyl systems or DJ controllers. The situation is completely different when moving images are to come into play, because most DVS systems do not offer any support for video formats by default. When, with the increasing complexity of lighting desks in the eighties, the profession of light jockey emerged, who in turn received support from the VJ for the next decade, hardly anyone would have thought that a single performer would one day be able to play music, video clips and Control visual FX via timecode vinyls, DJ controllers or the mixer.

Serato Video takes on these tasks and focuses on simple handling by the DJ himself. With a recommended retail price of 213 euros, its main competitor is probably Atomix Virtual DJ, which costs 291.81 euros as a download and is also capable is to control moving images via timecode or MIDI. Otherwise, with the exception of classic VJ programs, the market is rather sparsely populated.

DETAILS

Serato Video is a plug-in for Serato Scratch Live and Serato ITCH that is dedicated to the playback of video clips and can apply effects to them, whereby audio and video files can be freely combined. The result can be played on a second monitor output in full screen format and the DJ becomes a VJ in two respects: On the one hand, VJ describes the profile of the video jockey, born with the spread of clip shows and music TV stations. As an example, I would like to mention Ray Cokes, Kristiane Backer, the “housewives” Galic and Christ - and perhaps the monkey Ronny, who will surely be a household name from his pop show of the same name. The visual jockey, on the other hand, is about the artistic creation of live content in the form of video clips, visual FX and animations with the help of software such as Arkaos Grand-VJ, Resolume or Cell DNA. Our test candidate combines both approaches in a DJ-typical way of working with a lean workflow.

The product Video-SL saw the light of day almost four years ago and was initially only made available to users of a Rane TTM57 battle mixer. Little by little, the manufacturers expanded the compatibility with the Rane product range and meanwhile the successor “gets along” with any certified ITCH and Scratch Live hardware. For example with the DJ controllers Vestax VCI-300/380 and the Rane mixing consoles Rane Sixty Two and Sixty Eight, which are equipped with appropriate MIDI functions. The Rane SL1-4 USB audio interfaces are also compatible. In the latter case, the video functions should be remotely controlled with a MIDI controller.

First contact

Thanks to the German distributor Pro Audio Technik, the Bonedo test license arrived in my mailbox on time for the release date in the form of an email. For this reason, I have to do without my own packshots in this test, but here, too, the competent support helps out in no time with the following photos and precise information on the scope of the standard scope of delivery. This contains the Serato USB stick with the Serato Video software for Mac OSX and Windows PCs, special video content and operating instructions. The minimum system requirements on the PC are: Windows 7 with 2 GHz Core2Duo CPU, 2 GB RAM and 5 GB free storage space. To do this, it requires at least an NVidia 8400 or ATI 1650 graphics solution. OSX 10.6.8 is required on the Mac.

Unlike with Traktor, Mixvibes or VDJ, it is not possible to purchase the basic requirements for installing Serato Video - i.e. the DJ program environment - separately. They are only available in a bundle with a Rane interface, Rane mixer or a 3rd party controller. In principle, the ITCH and Scratch Live programs can be downloaded free of charge from the manufacturer's website and can be used to play and prepare music and playlists, but they only work to their full extent with a corresponding dongle. They are also specially tailored to the hardware administered in terms of the activation of software features. In plain language: The Rane 57 mixer and the SL2 interface only enable two of a maximum of four decks reserved for the SL4 and the 68, whereby the video players are always assigned to decks A / B by default. The VCI-300 controller has to do without effects, while its successor VCI-380 can access a real arsenal of creative additional functions. The video plug-in is largely unaffected by this. Before I can take action, updates of almost 37 MB each for ITCH and SSL, as well as a slim megabyte plug-in program code (for comparison: Video-SL 1.2 was 16 MB in size) migrate from the website to my computer and after nodding the license terms and the installation, the video extension must be activated under the Plugins tab by entering the serial number.

Audiovisual feed

If the buyer does not yet have a library with video clips or visual FX, 3-D animations or graphics on his hard drive, promo content in SD and HD quality is available for free download on the manufacturer's website for the first Exercises should be enough. These clips are ten royalty-free loops created especially for Serato Video customers by American graphic designer Mike Winkelmann (Beeple). The Beeple clips are currently the only SV promotional content on serato.com, which could be expanded in the future. After the download and import, I can find the material in the sidebar of the Scratch Live / ITCH directory tree under "all videos", where all clips can be found that have been imported into the music library. If the user is using the iTunes library under Serato, the movies contained there are also included. Serato Video supports the formats avi, dv, flv, m4a, mov, mp4, mpg, mpeg and qtz, the video codecs H.264, DV, MPEG4 and Motion JPEG A / B, as well as the audio codecs AAC, MPR and PCM. Other codecs such as DIVX and XVID are not necessarily considered incompatible, but are not officially supported.

Software interface

In principle, extensions for Scratch Live or ITCH can be activated and deactivated as plugins if required. Whereupon they a) integrate seamlessly into the Scratch Lives user interface during use and b) do not (waste) resources when deactivated. Similar to a standard DJ setup, Serato Video is assigned a deck on the right and left side, with the mixer in the center. The pop-up window that appears as a floating window when it is started for the first time, just like the central window, shows the mixed image signal as it later reaches the projector or the connected screens via HDMI or a second monitor path. The external full screen output is activated in the Preferences. The two faders for video transparency are positioned on the outer edges of the playback units and can optionally be linked to a MIDI fader. Each deck can fire two effects simultaneously, which in turn have separate parameter controls and power buttons. There is no higher-level bypass or a boss controller for joint conducting per deck or for the master. The crossfader parks, provided you have pressed the small "F" under the mix window, where you expect it to. At the ends there are two buttons for automatic cross-fading. Two more buttons show the palettes for Image-FX and Text-FX, with which the complete working tool looks like the screenshot below and calls for a pixel requirement of 1000 in width and 320 in height. For my MacBook Late2009 with its 1280 x 800 pixels, that's pretty big. It looks different on the HD screen of the Winbook. If a clip contains an audio track, this is indicated by a red icon. Linked clips are marked in white. The repertoire, which is muddled by images, currently includes almost two dozen cross-fades and over fifty clip FX. Effect presets and clip assignments to audio files can be permanently assigned and saved.

Clip and blend FX

The crossfader can come up with more than 20 (!) Different transition effects, which include more computationally intensive representatives such as Melt, Tiles or Luma Key and less resource-hungry wipes, slides or the box bezels. The quality and selection of the Blend-FX knows how to please.

In principle, Clip-FX can be divided into three performance groups with light, medium and high resource consumption. Easier rotations, color or zoom manipulations are among the more modest representatives. Isolate Color, Anaglyphic 3D, UV-Paint, Brightness, Saturation, Contrast and Gamma are a little less frugal and can be assigned to the middleweight division, where Luma Key, Posterize, Negative and Sepia are also found. Color Photocopy, Emboss, Sharpen, Blur, Edge Detect, LED Billboard and Rotoscope belong to the performance-hungry variety.

Text and Image FX

A special editor is available for moving fonts, which is used to enter text first. Attributes such as font, size, color, alignment, scroll, zoom, speed and opacity adapt the typeface and movement to the desired purpose. If the DJ saves his work with a meaningful name, this text effect is then available for direct selection in the FX palette. Subsequent changes are child's play, because all you have to do is select the relevant entry, make the corrections and save again. Texts can be sent to the right, left or master channel. At this point, I find a bit of a shame that it is not possible to load complete text content (rtf, txt, doc). The editor is also a bit small with a line of a maximum of 25 characters, but you can fill it with copy-paste. The Image-FX work similarly in terms of FX parameters, although image files can of course be loaded in the conventional way and there is a separate controller for the size of the graphic.

It's all a matter of attitude

Setting options for the output format, memory allocation and quality settings for an optimal interaction between computer and software are hidden behind the "Setup" button. If we ignore the authorization panel with the serial number and the EFX panel, which shows whether there are any restrictions for the graphics hardware, three tabs remain: Output defines the general conditions for the output, starting with the aspect ratio (4: 3, 16: 9) and the quality in five levels from poor to best. If the image jerks during playback, the output quality can be reduced at this point. Captured in the picture, it looks like this:

Poor

Then it is time to define the filling method. Preserve doesn't change anything for now. With "letterboxing" the proportions are retained and the video is adapted to the screen width and, if necessary, provided with black bars at the top and bottom, whereas stretch fills the entire screen, which inevitably leads to optical distortions. Output, right-left and right-output-links are available as an arrangement. Output represents the mixed signal, Left-Right splits the output window twice and fills it equally with the image of the left and right deck. The third option is to frame the mixed signal with the two originals.

Last but not least, vertical synchronization, frame blending and buffer size can be set in the output window. The former synchronizes the Seratos frame rate to the monitor and thus prevents the image data from being updated while the screen is being drawn up. Number two ensures that Serato inserts additional images during slow playback, which makes the playback appear smoother. Buffersize determines how much MB of the main memory should be reserved for Serato's video buffer. Current information on frame rates and frame buffers can be found in the info panel. The timing for the auto crossfade and the cursor blend function can be set up in the control tab.