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How to install VirtualDJ Sampler packs

VDJ Toolkits Volume 4 and volume 5 are supplied with a pre-configured Sampler pack for VirtualDJ which will save you a huge amount of time configuring all of your video clips in the Virtual DJ Sampler.

You can see the steps you would normally have to go through to configure your clips in my other tutorial, which I would recommend reading to give you a better understanding of how the sampler works.

PLEASE NOTE: This is an experimental new feature – I’ve tested it on a few different computers with no problems, but you do this at your own risk. If you are unsure, please install the MPEG4 files manually following the instructions in my other tutorial.

To install the Sampler pack:

  1. Download the Sampler pack by using the download link titled “VDJ Toolkit Vol.[4 or 5] – HD Virtual DJ Files
  2. Locate your VirtualDJ home folder – this is usually found inside your ‘Documents’ folder.
  3. I’d recommend taking a backup copy of this entire folder before you continue with the installation.
  4. Open the “Sampler” folder. This is where your sampler pack needs to go.
  5. Open the downloaded VDJToolkitVol[4 or 5]-HD-VirtualDJ-Files.zip file and copy all of the contents from there into the “Sampler” folder.
  6. Once you’ve done that, it should look something like this (I’ve highlighted the files that are copied)

Now if you relaunch VirtualDJ, you should find the new sample banks available in the sampler.

If you are unsure how to use the sampler please check out my other tutorial. For further information on using VirtualDJ please consult the VirtualDJ documentation or support forums – I am unable to provide support beyond what is provided in these tutorials.

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How to download and extract your visuals

File Formats

Most of my products are supplied in 3 file formats. The MPEG4-HD is the highest resolution and should be your first choice if it’s available. If you find you’re unable to play the MPEG4-HD files or they aren’t playing smoothly, you should try MPEG4-PAL next. Failing that, MPEG2-PAL should be your last choice, and is provided for compatibility with older computers/devices.

When you download your visuals they will be saved on your computer in a compressed ‘ZIP’ file. This makes the files slightly smaller and therefore quicker to download.

Before you can use your visuals you need to extract them from this ZIP file. To do this follow these instructions:

Windows

Right-click the ZIP file and select “Extract all”, then follow the instructions.

Mac

Double-click on the ZIP file. It should open in the Archive Utility (if not, right-click and select Open With-> Archive Utility. This will extract the files to the same folder that the ZIP file is in.

Linux

There are various unzipping utilities supplied with different Linux operating systems, but usually you will just need to double click on the ZIP file and then press an “Extract” button.

If there is a ‘ReadMe’ file supplied, you should read this for any product-specific instructions.

I strongly recommend you keep a backup of your visuals. This will allow you to quickly restore them in the event of a hard drive failure or if your computer gets stolen.

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How to Play Video in the VirtualDJ Sampler

The Sampler in VirtualDJ 8 provides an easy way for you to play back video content directly from within your DJing software, saving you from having to hop between different software applications or use multiple laptops. It supersedes the Clipbank plugin that was required to play video clips on older versions of VirtualDJ, and is much more flexible.

It does take a bit of work to set up, so this guide will take you through the steps required to load video clips into the sampler.  Please note this does not apply to music videos, which are best played directly on the decks.

(Note that these instructions have been written based on a Windows computer – processes may vary slightly on Mac).

Locating the Sampler

If the Sampler isn’t already visible in the Sideview, you can toggle it into view by clicking on the little Sampler grid button at the bottom of the screen. (Please not this tutorial is based on the default skin, and positions of User Interface buttons etc may be different in other skins).

Creating a new Sample Bank

Sample banks provide a way of organising your video content into meaningful categories to make it easier to find clips quickly.

To create a new Sample Bank, right-click on the orange Sampler folder in the file browser area on the left-hand-side. Select “Create new sample bank…” and enter a meaningful name for your new bank.

To switch between Sample Banks you can either right-click on a sample bank in the Folder view and select “Set Active” or you can right-click on the sample bank selector at the top-right of the Sampler panel, and select one of the Sample Banks from this list.

Add Video Content to the Sample Bank

To load video files into the sampler you can either locate it on your computer using the folders and files navigator inside VirtualDJ and then drag it onto the Sampler bank that you’ve created, or you can simply drag the video files directly from a folder on your desktop into VirtualDJ.

You can now click on any of these samples to switch them on and off.  However, there’s not really any point in switching more than one video sample on, as only one will be visible in the video output (unless your videos have transparent areas in them).  I find it’s easier to control if you set the video samples up such that only one sample can play at a time.

Assigning The Samples To a Group

To do this, you need to put all of your samples into a Group, as only one sample from a Group can be played at a time.

Select all of your samples (either by clicking the first one, then pressing Shift and clicking the last one, or by simply pressing Control-A to Select All), then right-click and select “Assign to Group > New Group”.

Now, when you switch on any other sample from within that group, any other sample currently playing in that group will be switched off automatically. (Groups are unique to each bank though, so you could switch on a sample in one bank, switch to another bank and switch on another sample on top of that. Unfortunately there’s not currently a way of preventing this).

Opening The Sample Editor

Now we need to configure our samples to behave the way we require. This is done with the Sample Editor.  To access the Sample Editor you’ll need to switch from Trigger Pad View to List View.  You do this by clicking on the View Display toggle button – the button with a grid on it in the top-right of the Sampler.

Also in this area is the Sampler Trigger Mode button – you’ll probably want this set to “On/Off”, which is the icon shown in the screenshot below. The other modes are Hold, which will only play the clip while it is pressed; and Stutter and Unmute which are of probably only of use when using the Sampler to play audio clips.

Once in List view, you can either right-click on a sample and open the Sample Editor from there, or for easier access you can add an ‘Edit’ button to the list of samples.  To do this, right-click on one of the column headers at the top of the list.  This opens a menu which allows you to configure what information is shown in the List View.  If you click on “Edit”, this will add a new column to the list with a little cog icon for each sample.  You can then simply click on this cog icon to access the Sample Editor.

Configuring Each Video Sample

The Sample Editor allows you to control how each sample behaves, as will as editing the sample if required.

For most of the video clips in my products you will want them to loop continuously.  To do this, set the Mode to Loop.  For video clips which aren’t designed to be beat-driven, you should set the Loop mode to Flat.

Sometimes you want a clip to just play once and then stop. To do this, set the Mode to Drop.

There’s currently (at the time of writing) a bug in VirtualDJ which means that the default thumbnail image in video clips gets deleted if you make any changes to a Sample using the Sample Editor.  To replace the thumbnail you will need to hover your mouse over the waveform in the Sample Editor – move left and right across the waveform until you find a good frame to use as the new thumbnail, then take your mouse off of the waveform by moving it directly upwards, and then right-click on the little square icon in the top-left of the Sample Editor, and select “use video preview” from the menu that appears:

Unfortunately there’s not currently (at the time of writing) a way of selecting a bunch of samples and applying the same looping settings to them all at once, or automatically setting a thumbnail image for all samples.  This is something I’ve been asking the VirtualDJ developers to implement for 3 years, and still hasn’t been done which is a real shame as it makes it a very time-consuming process to configure a large video clip library. The good news is that you only have to do it once. If you find all this tedious setup frustrating, please let the developers know through their Wishlist forum and maybe they’ll eventually implement my suggestions: http://www.virtualdj.com/forums/188630/Wishes_and_new_features/

Beat-driven Video Clips

For video clips which are designed to be beat-driven (for example, my Club Candy TV products, VDJ Toolkit Volume 4, Christmas Beats, and the Lighting clips in VDJ Toolkit Volume 3), you need to set the Loop type to Sync-Lock.  You may also need to set the BPM to match the BPM of the clip that you’re using if VirtualDJ hasn’t correctly identified it.  For all of my beat-driven products this is 125bpm.

This will allow VirtualDJ to match the speed of the visuals to the master tempo in VirtualDJ.

Once you’ve done that, you can switch off the Audio track using the Audio button at the bottom, so that any audio on the video clips isn’t output through the speakers.

To switch on the video output in VirtualDJ, make sure the Video mixer is selected in the mixer panel, and then click on the “MASTER OUTPUT” box in the middle to activate it. You may need to make some changes to the display settings on your computer to allow this to work.

Your video will be output full-screen on your second monitor output.

By organising all of your video clip content into Sample Banks, you can quickly and easily have hundreds of video clips available at your fingertips, making it very easy to control video whilst DJing:

Other useful things to know about the Sampler

There are various options related to Video in general, and the Sampler in the main VirtualDJ Options menu. For example, the samplerImageSize option allows you to set the size of the thumbnail images in the Sampler Trigger Pad view.

Alternatives to the Sampler

One of the main limitations of the sampler (at the time of writing) is the lack of ability to play a sequence of clips from within a bank.

There is a plugin available for VirtualDJ called TellyMedia which allows you to play a ‘carousel’ of video files: http://www.tellyvisuals.com/.  I haven’t tried this personally, but have heard a lot of praise for the plugin and for the support provided by the developer from people who have used this plugin.  (At the time of writing, the plugin was only available for Windows).

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How to improve your mobile disco with video

Talking to professional mobile DJs at the BPM show each year, people often tell me that they don’t use screens because they don’t want to become a video DJ, and they usually give the reason that replacing their enormous collection of music with music videos would be too expensive.

However, video screens can do so much more than display music videos. I like to think of screens (in a mobile disco situation) as being a modern equivalent to the lightboxes that were central to most mobile disco setups for decades, but video screens are so much more versatile.

The cost of large screens has dropped considerably over the last few years, so adding one or two to your setup probably isn’t going to break the bank. They’re very lightweight now, and it’s easy to repurpose VESA wall brackets to clamp onto existing truss or scaffold poles with some half-couplers rather than buying expensive freestanding TV supports.

If you play at bars or clubs where you don’t take your own equipment, you may well find that the venue has TV screens that you’re able to connect to from within the DJ booth.

So what can you use video screens for?

Enhancing Your Light Show

A TV screen is a light source, and by displaying the right content on your screens, they can become a part of your light show – my “VDJ Toolkit Volume 4” was designed to do exactly that and features effects divided into categories such as “neon”, “blinders”, “lightboxes”, “geometric”, “lasers”, and more, to suit different types of music. They were also designed to be synchronised to music, but more on that later…

Abstract and Themed Visuals

Abstract visuals such as those sold by MotionLoops.com are a good ‘generic’ option for screen content and are sold as collections of visuals that have a specific style so you can select a collection that suits the kind of events you work at.

If you have a gig at a themed event, themed visuals can be displayed on your screens to contribute to the décor and atmosphere of the event, and offering these might well give you the edge over a competitor in the eyes of an event organiser. My range of themed visuals covers a variety of common party themes and MotionLoops also has a few themed collections in their range.

Displaying Messages

You can display text on your screens to convey the kind of messages you would normally announce with a microphone – for example “The buffet is now open” or “we’re now taking your requests”. You can either generate this text yourself using software, or alternatively buy collections of pre-made clips such as my VDJ Toolkit range which provide a low cost means of getting professionally-designed content onto your screens.

Another option is to display customised visuals – for example you could display a bride and groom’s name at a wedding reception, adding a bespoke touch to your disco which your clients are sure to appreciate. Or you could offer this as an additional service to increase the value of your booking. You might want to display your DJ name and booking details at the beginning of the night, or create titles for party games that you host.

You could pay a motion graphics designer to create this content, but that is often prohibitively expensive. The Text in Motion website allows you to create custom animated video loops featuring your own text at an extremely low cost. It’s also much cheaper than buying custom gobos (and used in conjunction with a video projector, may actually be a superior option to a gobo projection!).

Music Videos

Club Candy Music VideoMusic videos are great for encouraging your crowd to follow along with a dance routine such as “Gangnam Style” or “The Macarena”. Promo Only and Xtendamix are good sources of high quality music videos, and often produce extended music videos for full-length dance remixes and seasonal mash-up video mixes. They also sell packages of classics which can help you quickly build a foundation of music videos to get started.

There’s no need to immediately replace your whole music collection with music videos though – you can just select songs which have music videos that are likely to encourage the crowd on the dancefloor, and play any of the other content described above when you’re not playing music videos.

An alternative to music videos is my Club Candy TV series, which is designed to look like a music video (it features professional dancers), but without any singing, so it can fit with any music. It also features a drum track for audio synchronisation.

Getting Content Onto Your Screens

At its very simplest, you could just have a single TV screen playing a single video file on repeat from a USB memory stick plugged into a port on the back of a television – a feature which most modern TVs have. This does have its limitations though. TVs don’t do a very good job of seamlessly looping video files, and if you want to change what’s displaying you’ve got to faff about with the menu on the TV which doesn’t looks particularly slick or professional!

The next step up would be to use a computer and a simple media player to play back video files. If you’re a bit computer savvy, you can buy tiny computers such as the Raspberry Pi which cost as little as £30 and are capable of playing back HD video. You can run home media server software on these computers which gives you a simple interface to select and play back videos from an attached storage device such as a USB stick.

An improvement on this would be to use a laptop, which means you can control the video from your laptop screen, and output the actual video content via the HDMI port which is found on most modern laptops, so you can switch from one video to another without your audience seeing you interacting with the media player software. VLC Media Player would be my recommendation for this, and you can watch a short tutorial on how to set it up.

But in my opinion, the ultimate way for a mobile DJ to play back visuals is to use video DJing software, and this is essential if you want to play music videos. VirtualDJ is a good example. You can build a library of video files within VirtualDJ’s Sampler, which then gives you easy instant access to your video clip library without having to leave your DJing software. (I’ve put together a tutorial on this here…) Other options include PCDJ and Serrato.

Best of all, if you load in video clips which have a drum track, it will identify the tempo of the video and synchronise it to the master tempo on the decks, meaning that your visuals will be synchronised to the music for perfect “sound-to-light” synchronisation.

This was a technique I used back in 2009 when I created my Club Candy TV series, and has subsequently been used on my VDJ Toolkit Lighting Effects title. You can watch a tutorial on how to beat-match clips to audio in VirtualDJ here.

You can also use dedicated VJing software such as Arkaos, but this would likely require running a separate computer dedicated to visuals.

I believe video screens are a worthwhile and versatile addition to any mobile disco, and as discussed here, you don’t have to dive in at the deep end or spend a huge amount of money to get started.