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AV Sequencing with Live + VDMX + Monome

I had a blast making the VJ Beatbox clips with the share.LA crew – this is the method I have developed so far to perform with AV libraries like these in a live setting. First, let me introduce the four technologies I’m using.

 
  • live_banner_small.pngAbleton Live – you’ve probably heard of this one. It’s become a favorite among DJs and Live Electronic Musicians for the way it’s geared towards doing things on-the-fly, with much of the power of a traditional DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I use it to sequence MIDI and affect audio.
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  • vdmx_small.pngVDMX5 – this is my video performance program. This new version is in Beta, and I’ve found it to have the best AV Triggering performance of any program on the Mac. Modul8 takes a close second place. In this Beta form, there’s some missing functionality and an interface that takes some getting used to – but it works great for this project.
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  • monome_small.jpgMonome 40h – my controller interface. I first saw this at the Maker Faire in 2006 and was immediately attracted to it for just this sort of purpose. It’s an 8×8 grid of led-lit rubber buttons, powered over USB, speaks serial, OSC and MIDI, and it’s ready to do whatever you can program into it. No proprietary, undocumented secret codes necessary for communication (*cough* MACKIE *cough*) – heck, they even give out the firmware code and the parts listing.
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  • soundflower.jpgSoundflower – internal audio routing for the Mac. This enables me to send the audio from VDMX to Ableton Live for processing before it is played out through my speakers.
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    To set up for this performance, I first run the driver for the Monome. Next, I run a Max/MSP patch that converts the Monome’s button-presses into MIDI notes, and listens for those same notes coming back, lighting up the corresponding button when it hears them. I set my input and output to the virtual “Max/MSP runtime 1″ port, and the channels to “16″.
    Next, I start up Live and my accompanying .als file [monome_sequence_live.als]. ableton_setup.jpg

    I arm my left-side track to receive MIDI from the Monome by pressing the corresponding ‘arm’ button on the interface. Now when I press the buttons on the Monome, I’ll see them light up underneath my fingertips, since I have Live route MIDI from Track 1 (Left-Side Monome In) to Track 5 (Monome Out).

    vdmx_setup.jpg
    Now that my MIDI control is up and running, I start VDMX and load the Preset that I’ve built specifically for this performance. It consists of two Media Bins looking at the same folder of clips. The bin on the left will listen for the 4×4 grid of notes generated on the left-hand side of the Monome, and vice-versa for the right. Each bin triggers to its own layer, which has been resized to half-size, and moved to the left or right in order to give me the split-screen effect. Now when I push the buttons, I see the video play, and hear the audio.

    sound_output.jpgThe audio is actually running through Soundflower (see above), which I have chosen as my default Audio Output in my System Preferences (VDMX does not yet support picking your output from within the program). Live is set to monitor the output coming from Soundflower and run it through my fx chain in Track 7 before sending to Master Output.

    I have three empty clips on Tracks 1 and 2 that I use for recording/looping my live input. By pushing the corresponding track button on the Monome, I can start the clip looping and rehearse what I want to lay down. At this point, I’ll either turn on my metronome or a drumbeat to play along with. Once I’m happy with my rehearsal bit, I turn on Overwrite (OVR) using the Monome, and lay down my triggers. I’ll turn Overwrite off again as soon as I’m done so I don’t accidentally record the next rehearsal bit. Sometimes I trigger things a little too late, in which case I’ll simply drag the offending note backwards a little bit in the Live software interface.

    .40h_live_layout.jpg

    At this point, I can continue laying down tracks – up to three on each side for now. I can turn on my audio effects for extra oomph.

    TO DO: It would be great to have an ‘Undo’ so that I don’t have to mess with the mouse to delete a bad performance. There’s a way to trigger Undo via MIDI by telling Live that my Monome 40h is a Mackie Control Surface, but I can’t pick to enable *just* the undo command – it makes many of my buttons do things that I don’t want them to do (arm/disarm/play tracks, etc.). I’d like to be able to nudge notes without using the mouse as well, though I haven’t figured that one out at all yet.

    Comments/suggestions greatly appreciated! I’ll have this setup (or something like it) at the VJ Kung Fu Booth at the Maker Faire this year – you should should come and play.

13 Responses to “AV Sequencing with Live + VDMX + Monome”

  1. Momo the Monster Says:

    I wouldn't suggest picking up an older Mac Laptop, since you don't want something PowerPC based at this point now that they've gone Intel.

    On the PC end, you should check out VJamm – great AV performance tool.

    As for PC-focused tutorials, I rarely use the windows partition on my Mac and don't have a whole lot to teach on that end. So you'll have to convince one of the Windows-based VJs to write up some articles for us!

    There will be more articles in the coming days focusing on platform-agnostic hardware like video mixers and screens and whatnot.

  2. diedwater Says:

    thats really amazing, but what about us PC users? oh well…you seem to be a mac person, I’m thinking about getting back into the mac world again, but I don’t have the money to pick up a mac pro, especially I don’t even know if I’m going to stay or not, so can you give me a suggestion on an older model of mac laptop thats capable of doing all this stuffs, but without the new mac price tag?

    I really can’t wait to try that out, keep up with the good tutorials!

    but I really think you should have some PC based stuffs too, or just some universal stuffs that applies to both world.

  3. zeropoint Says:

    Nice work man….

    You mention wanting to find a way to automatically delete a bad performance….

    I haven’t tried what I describe below with video but I use it for automatically resampling/chopping and mapping audio to the monome grids.

    If you haven’t already you should check out using the monogrid code which will enable 8 layers of 8x 7 buttons on your monome. So your top layer could remain pretty much as you have it, your currently unused row being the one that switches between grids.

    With a combination of iac busses and midistroke the following becomes possible:

    Rather than having empty midi clips which you overdub into you can create a “midi clip creator clip” on another midi track…and later a “select midi clip(s) and delete it(them) clip” Map some midi notes from say your second grid on the monome(that are NOT used for triggering video clips) to the slots you want to record your midi(i.e those notes that ARE triggering video clips) into. Now on your midi clip creator track create a clip that outputs to your midi track 1. Program a sequence of the notes mapped to slots in midi track 1 one note every two bars, or however long you want those recorded midi clips to be. Set Global quantise to two bars. Map this clip to another button on the 40h. When you fire off this clip it will automatically create midi clips, one below the other, in midi track 1. If you jam on the notes that you have mapped to video clips at the same time, you will simultaneously record them into the new clips as they are being created by the “midi clip creator clip”.
    Now you can set up a clip delete clip. Map a note in midistroke to the LEFT arrow command. Another to SHIFT UP arrow. And finally one to the delete key. Let’s say that this select and delete clip is going to live in slot 4 of track 3. So to select and delete the clip in Midi track 1 you want the cursor to move 2 Tracks to the left (LEFT arrow x2) and then select the 3 clips above(SHIFT UP x 3) and finally delete them. Program the corresponding notes into your clip – I find that sixteenths work ok but if Live doesn’t respond quick enough try eighths. When I am doing this with audio clips I usually allow one bar to complete the deletion process. Once deleted you can trigger your “midi clip creator clip” again and record some new stuff. You have to be VERY careful that your select and delete clip is actually selected in Live(i.e the cell is green) before firing it off. Otherwise your Live set will start eating itself…..

    I realise that by going this route you might lose the midi feedback you’re getting via your max patch….can you run chuck at the same time??

    But then think of all the clips you can map to the monome if you have 8 Grids of 56 buttons…

    I hope this makes sense…if you want any more info you can usually find me at http://www.abletonlivedj.com

  4. skabenga Says:

    Will this work with Live 5?

    I have followed the instructions pretty carefully and am still having issues with the live sequencing part.

    Basically when I play notes on my triggerfinger, it triggers the video and I see the notes playing in live. Overdub works and I see the notes being laid over each other so it looks like its working fine but then when the playback head in live loops back to the beginning and encounters notes it does not trigger the video in VDMX.

    So Live and VDMX are reciving the same midi notes but live is not controlling the VDMX video once notes are recorded.

    Any suggestions? Seems like a great technique and I would love to get it working.

  5. Momo the Monster Says:

    It sounds like the problem is on the Live-Transmission end. You need to set up a MIDI track that receives notes (in Ableton) from the track you’re recording into, and sends notes ‘To VDMX’ or to some global MIDI routing program. How is this set up on your end currently?

  6. angels Says:

    hei diedwater, i have a suggestion that might help regarding using pc, what ive been doing to do this is with visual jockey and midi yoke and ableton live. midi yoke to send midi signals from one program to the other inside the same computer.
    hope this works 4 ya

  7. screenflicker Says:

    Hey this works great! Thank you very much for the tutorial. But I faced another problem. If I change the system preference settings to soundflower I’m able to send the sound to Ableton Live. But I’m not able anymore to get the sound with my line out:( I can hear it on my speaker but as soon as I plug in my headphones I can’t hear anything. Is there a way around or how did u solve this?

  8. Julian Adenauer» Blogarchiv » AV-Sequencer Says:

    [...] Jetzt habe ich bei VJ Kung Fu ein Tutorial entdeckt, das zeigt, wie man sowas hinbekommt. Und das sogar live! Als Eingabegerät nutzen sie hierfür ein Monome 40h und vor allem Ableton Live als Software. [...]

  9. Create Digital Motion » Monome as Open Source Visual Hardware: Video Roundup Says:

    [...] AV Sequencing with Live + VDMX + Monome [...]

  10. Jason Donnelly Says:

    can I also scratch video clips using the SL1 and Serato bridge combined with your software?

  11. Mike Says:

    Any where I can get the max/msp patch you are using?

  12. » Blog Archive » ableton live, vdmx,touch osc sync Says:

    [...] http://vjkungfu.com/archive/av-sequencing-with-live-vdmx-monome/ [...]

  13. Jonny Says:

    Your totally awesome, this is really really really smart way to do it

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