A brief history or VJing

I bought last week a magazine about computer music and VJ.

According to computer music special, volume24 laptop DJ 2007 “visual spectacle, in combination with live music, is nothing new. For centuries, music lovers have been fascinated by the idea of fusing music with visuals. Colour organs-mechanical devices designed to produce coloured imagery in combination with music-date back to the 18th century. In the second half of the last century, these gave way to psychedelic projection shows and 70s bachelor –pad light organs, and even these early effects continue to influence visualists today.

Getting beyond coloured lights, though, required more accessible video equipment. The critical moment came when hardware such as Sony’s 1965 videoPortapak was used as a live digital instrument. With video, moving images could be sampled, manipulated and played back live. According to legend, the famous video innovator and artist Nam Jun Paik was so excited at the prospect of getting his hands on Sony’s new toy that he met the first shipment at the dock. Paik’s use of the Poratpak set the blueprint for today’s video jockey.

The parallel innovation was video was video synthesis and processing. Just as analogue music synthesizers such as the Moog and EMS were caching on among musicians, a select group of video innovators were applying new ideas in electronics to visuals. If you have seen groove abstract video effects from the early 70s ,the chances are they were produced by one of these little-known ,rare devices, such as the Bill Hearn Vidium ,Rutt –Etra raster video synth , Nam June Paik’s own video synthesizer and others.

The use of video technology live was initially the domain of ‘high art’ video artists , but by the late 1970s ,it was making its way into clubs.

Whereas video artists leaned towards the conceptual, the work of clubland artists was increasingly dynamic, feeling more like a musical performance. It was in the late 70s that the crew in New York’s Peppermint Lounge started calling themselves VJs –several years before MTV appropriated the term for their broadcast hosts (it is an unfortunate fact that more people outside the scene still equate the term VJ with a talking head rather than a live video performer).

In the 1980s, all of the technologies converged in the mainstream. Just as Firelight’s Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie helped to commercialize audio sampling and digital music production, their Fairlight computer video instrument was a breakthrough device for video work, combining analogue and digital effects. Many of the now-clichéd effects from 1980s videos came from this device.

By the late 80s and early 90s, Vjing had become a big part of rave culture and emerging new media arts. Computers from companies such as Apple ,Commodore, Atari, and others were powerful enough to produce animation and process video and came at prices that amateurs could afford.

By the late 90s , the first commercial live video applications –such as VJamm, Arkaos, and Motion Dive-had been released , and the stage was set for digital visual performance to reach the same level of accessibility that electronic sound had several years earlier. [ computer music special, volume24 laptop DJ 2007]

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