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Thread: Idiot's guide to mixing with VDJ without external hardware

  1. #1

    Idiot's guide to mixing with VDJ without external hardware

    in this article, i will give a summary of what needs to be done in VDJ in order to get basic transitions done and get the (in my opinion) bare minimum right for simple, but good sounding sets.

    no external hardware (such as a mixer) is required for this. you will only need a pair of decent quality headphones.

    first, let's take a look at VDJ's CONFIG dialog. the CONFIG button is in the top right corner of the screen. click it and open the "Sound Setup" tab. select NONE for Inputs and HEADPHONES for Output.

    in the third dropdown menu, there are now 3 options: "Mono Separated", "2 Cards" or "4.1 Card". what you need to select here depends on the kind of audio hardware you have. the best choice is either "2 Cards" if you actually have two soundcards, or "4.1 Card" if you have a soundcard capable of surround sound output (4.0, 4.1, 5.1 or 7.1). in either case, you need to have your speakers connected to the main stereo jack (the "front" output) of your soundcard (the "first" soundcard if you have two or more), and the headphones connected to some other jack. this will either be another jack on the same soundcard (for the "4.1 Card" option), such as the "rear" output, or the main output jacks of a second soundcard you have (for the "2 Cards" option).

    two notes here: 1) you can NOT use the "4.1 Card" option if you actually have a complete surround sound system hooked up to your PC and don't want to change your cabling. 2) otherwise, if you only have stereo speakers hooked up to your 4.1+ card, you still need to configure your sound driver for surround output (5.1, 7.1 or something like that), even though there is no actual surround sound involved.

    in both cases, you will need to select the sound card(s) to use, and which card and channel will be which card/channel, in the remaining dropdown menus. the "master" is always what the final set will be, what will be recorded and what the audience would hear. the "headphones" setting is what you'll hear in the headphones only.

    the most common setup is with the "4.1" option, using whatever main soundcard your PC has to offer, with the "master" on the "front" channel and the headphones on the "rear" channel.

    the third option, "Mono Separated", is for cases when you really cannot get a dedicated output for the headphones, for example if you really only have a single stereo soundcard (without surround sound support), or if you only have a single surround sound card and have a full surround sound system hooked and don't want to change that. with this option selected, you will be using headphones only, without any sound coming from your speakers. on one ear you will hear the "master" output, that's what will be recorded and what the audience would hear, and on the other ear you'll hear whatever you would hear in the headphones only otherwise. if you choose to go with this option, note that in all descriptions below, "headphones" will really only mean one ear of your headphones setup, as the other one will reflect the MASTER output, that is, what usually would come out of your speakers instead.

    if you're unsure about which card(s) you have to select, which channel(s) you have to select and/or which audio jack(s) you need to connect your stuff with, take a wild guess for now and keep reading, you'll have a chance to actually test it out soon.

    the second tab you need to take a look at in the CONFIG dialog is the "Keyboard Shortcuts" tab. here you will need to create two new shortcuts by clicking the ADD button. select "equalizers" and then "kill_bass". select "on deck 1" and make sure the "momentarily" box is NOT checked. then hit whatever key you want to use for this shortcut. hit OK and repeat the whole thing for "on deck 2" with another key. which two keys you use doesn't really matter, personally i've found that comma (,) for deck 1 and dot/period (.) for deck 2 works well.

    last but not least, take a look at the "options" tab in the config dialog. make sure "auto gain" is set to "auto+remember", or "always 0db" (depends on VDJ version). the rest can stay on defaults.

    that's it for the CONFIG dialog. but before closing it, make sure you're using the "internal mixer" skin of VDJ by opening the "Skin" tab. select it if it isn't. then hit OK to close the dialog.

    now let's take a look at the VDJ main screen. take a look at the top bar, where also the CONFIG button is located. from left to right, there's the headphones volume, the CUE/MIX slider, BPM buttons for both decks, then Master volume and the clock. the headphones volume and the master volume should be self explanatory. one note about the master volume though, it also controls the volume of whatever you're recording to file, so you better not touch it once you've started. the CUE/MIX slider controls what you hear in the headphones: CUE means you will hear whatever deck has PFL active (see below), MIX means you will always hear both decks. you can also blend between those states. note that VDJ has changed the behavior of this slider somewhere in between version changes, read the first reply post here to find out how to change this slider's behavior.

    let's take a look at the main vdj screen:

    load up a track in each of the two decks to make some parts of the screen more "active".

    the important parts are highlighted. first of all, check the two time displays. make sure they're set to "time remaining" and not "time elapsed". you can toggle between them by clicking on the field. also check the two "keylock" toggles and make sure they're not activated.

    now let's confirm our audio setup. start playing both decks. check the line faders and make sure both of them are fully up. first observe your MASTER output, that means whatever is coming out of your speakers. you should hear both tracks playing at the same time now. take down one line fader and you should only hear one of the tracks playing then. bring the line fader back up and take the other one down, and you should hear only the other track playing. take down both line faders and you shouldn't hear anything playing. if this isn't working, go back to the audio setup.

    now let's confirm our headphones output. move the CUE/MIX slider to CUE and click the left PFL button. you should only hear the left track playing in your headphones now. click the right PFL button and you should hear only the right track playing in your headphones. all this should be independent of how you move the line faders. if this isn't working, go back to the audio setup.

    the PFL buttons control which deck is considered "active". only one can be active at a time, and the button will light up when it is (left will be blue and right will be red). the shades of red and blue will also change in the waveform display. the "active" deck will be the one you can move around by clicking and dragging your mouse in the waveform display area, and it will be the one you hear in the headphones when the CUE/MIX slider is moved to the CUE side.

    now move the CUE/MIX slider to the MIX side. you should now hear both tracks playing in the headphones, independent of how you move the line faders and independent of which deck is selected as "active". if this isn't working, read the next post.

    you can also confirm the hotkeys you've set earlier now. press the keys you chose (for example "," and ".") and watch the kill switches. the bottom of the 3 kill switches on each deck should toggle on and off and you press the keys. if this doesn't work, go back to the keyboard shortcuts setup. and before you continue, make sure both kill switches are OFF.

    now you're ready to start mixing. as an example, the following step by step guide will assume you will make a transition from the left deck to the right deck. that means, a track will be playing in the left deck already, and you want to mix another track in, coming from the right deck. so in order to do this, start playing a track in the left deck and move the left line fader up, so you can hear it in the master.

    1) load up a new track in the right deck.

    2) make sure the right line fader is moved all the way down.

    3) activate the right deck by clicking the right PFL button.

    4) locate the first beat of the track in the right deck. you can do this by dragging around the track in the waveform display, by dragging the mouse over the turntable, or just by playing and listening to it in the headphones and then hitting PAUSE when the first beat comes around. after hitting pause, you can drag the track around again to move it more precisely to the first beat. note that you shouldn't hear the track in the master output while doing all this. move it around until you find the first beat, and position the track so that the white vertical line in the center of the waveform display is just BEFORE the first beat of the track.

    5) hit the CUE button on the right deck. you will see the CUE line pop in in the waveform display.

    6) test the cuepoint you've just set: hit PLAY on the right deck and listen to the track play. then hit CUE on the right deck. the playback should stop and the track should return to the cuepoint you've just set, which is just before the first beat of the track.

    7) during all this, playback of the LEFT deck should have continued unchanged. also you shouldn't have heard any of that in the MASTER output, only in the headphones.

    8) move the CUE/MIX slider to MIX. repeat step 6. now you should hear both tracks in the headphones. make sure the right deck is stopped and is sitting on the cuepoint you've defined before you continue.

    9) hit the SYNC button for the right deck. this will match the BPM up.

    9) listen to the track in the left deck play, and observe the left time REMAINING display. start listening closely when it hits about 2:30:00. listen to the track playing and wait around for a good spot where to start off the next track. make sure you got your headphones on, and that CUE/MIX is moved to MIX.

    from here on, you'll have to move fast.

    10) once the spot you've been waiting for is coming around, RIGHT CLICK on the SYNC button on the right deck. try to hit it at exactly the same time when the beat you've been waiting for is playing. it has to be exactly ON SPOT. if you missed it, wait around for the next spot, it will come. if you kicked off the track anyway, hit CUE on the right deck and stop it and return to the cue point. then you can wait around for the next good spot and try again. HINT: a good spot will usually be around 2:00 remaining and 1:30 remaining of the currently playing track.

    11) both tracks are playing in the headphones now. they should be roughly in beat and synced, but may be slightly offbeat. listen closely to the headphones and use the PITCH BEND (+/-) buttons on the right deck to sync the beats up.

    12) once your satisfied with how the beats are synced up, take off your headphones and listen to the master only (except when you're using the "mono separated" audio setup type). you will hear only the left deck now.

    13) press your hotkey for the RIGHT kill switch you've defined earlier (for example the "." key). you won't hear a change in the master, so watch the kill switches on the VDJ screen.

    14) now you can start moving the right line fader up, whenever you feel comfortable with it. listen to the master and listen how the track is coming in. also watch the time remaining display (on the left deck) to make sure you got enough time left to complete the transition.

    15) as the bass kill switch in the right deck is on, you will have to do a bass switch at some point. just as there's good spots to kick off a new track, there's also good spots at which you can do the bass switch. listen closely and wait around for that spot. note that you should have completed moving the line fader up by the time that good spot comes around.

    16) once the good spot for the bass switch comes around. hit both of the hotkeys you've defined (for example, hit "," and "." at the same time). try to hit them just a fraction of a second before that good spot for the bass switch.

    (finding the good spot for kicking off the track and for doing the bass switch is one of the more difficult parts for a beginner, check out this thread for hints on how to find them.)

    17) now the bass kill switch on the left deck is enabled and disabled on the right deck.

    18) start moving the line fader of the LEFT deck down slowly. make sure you complete this before the track hits its end.

    19) you have now completed doing a transition. prepare for the next one by loading up a new track in the LEFT deck and start over at step 1. make sure you swap LEFT and RIGHT in all the steps.

    practice and enjoy!

    of course there's tons of other things you can do with VDJ, this is just a basic guide. i'm sure other people will have more helpful hints on what else you can do easily with VDJ.
    Last edited by dfx; Mar 26th, 2009 at 03:21. ::

  2. #2
    for the cases where the CUE/MIX slider isn't doing what it's supposed to do... or let's rather say, i'm not sure what it was supposed to do in the first place, but apparently VDJ changed its behavior at some point. it used to be like i describe above, but in newer version the MIX slider setting isn't really doing anything useful any more (it seems to be just reflecting the master output, which can also be useful, but then there's no chance to listen to both decks before pulling both line faders up).

    my personal solution to this is to define another hotkey. go to the keyboard shortcuts tab in the config dialog a define a new hotkey for the action "system volumes" and then "headphone_crossfader". check the "value" box and set it to 2048. leave "momentarily" and "reset" unchecked. confirm with OK. now, every time you hit that hotkey, you will hear both tracks in the headphones, independent of the CUE/MIX slider. it won't change the behavior of the slider, if you move it around you'll lose that setting again and you'll have to hit that new hotkey again if you want to hear both tracks. maybe someone else has a better solution... ::

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