VJ (video performance artist)

A VJ is a performance artist who creates moving visual art (often video) on large displays or screens, often at events such as concerts, nightclubs and music festivals, and usually in conjunction with other performance art. This results in a live, multimedia performance that can include music, actors or dancers as well as live and pre-recorded video.


Often using a video mixer, VJs blend and superimpose various video sources into a live motion composition. In recent years, electronic musical instrument makers have begun to make specialty equipment for VJing.


VJing developed initially by performers (mis)using existing video hardware and this tradition lives on with many VJs using a wide range of hardware products sourced from the broadcast TV industry and the home editing markets, as well as newer equipment designed specifically for VJs.

VJ hardware can be split into categories -

  • Source hardware generates a video picture which can be manipulated by the VJ, eg video cameras and Video Synthesizers.
  • Playback hardware plays back an existing video stream from disk or tape based storage mediums, eg VHS tape players and DVD players.
  • Mixing hardware allows the combining of multiple streams of video eg a Video Mixer
  • Effects hardware allows the adding of special effects to the video stream, eg Colour Correction units
  • Output hardware is for displaying the video signal, eg Video projector, LED wall, or Plasma Screen.


During the 1960s and '70s a number of video synthesizers were developed often as home electronics projects by backyard inventors, although a few notable exceptions such as the "CEL Electronics Chromascope" were commercially developed and sold for use in the developing nightclub scene.

In the 1980s the development of relatively cheap transistor and integrated circuit technology allowed the development of digital video effects hardware at a price point within the reach of individual VJs and nightclub owners.

The Fairlight Computer Video Instrument (CVI), first produced in 1983, was revolutionary in this area, allowing complex digital effects to be applied in real time to video sources. The CVI became popular amongst television and music video producers and features in a number of music videos from the period.

By the 1990s, advancements in computing had brought video processing to the desktop computer. Early desktop editing systems such as the NewTek Video Toaster for the Amiga computer were quickly put to use by VJs seeking to create visuals for the emerging rave scene, whilst software developers began to develop systems specifically designed for live visuals such as O'Wonder's Bitbopper.

The first known software created for VJs was Vujak - written for the Mac by EBN artist Brian Kane for use by the video art group he was part of - Emergency Broadcast Network.

Broadcasters by this point had become interested and a TV series on the UK's Channel 4 called Transambient, produced by UK artists Addictive TV put the art of the VJ on national television for the first time. A similar series called Two-Step soon also appeared on German channel VIVA.

The first commercially available and heavily produced VJ software was Motion Dive from Japanese company Digital Stage. By the late 90s there were several PC based VJing software available, including generative visuals programs such as Aesitis and Advanced Visualization Studio, as well as video clip players such as Arkaos and VJamm. These new software products meant that VJs were now regularly taking computers to gigs.

The 90s also saw the development of a number of digital video mixers such as the Panasonic WJ-MX50 and WJ-AVE5. Although these mixers were designed for home video editing and low budget TV production, they were quickly adopted by VJs as the core component of their performance setups. Initially, video mixers were used to mix pre-prepared video material from VHSplayers and live camera sources, and later to add the new computer software outputs into their mix.

In 1998, Roland / Edirol released the V5 Video Canvas, which was a hybrid device featuring solid state storage of still images combined with a basic video mixer. The V5 marked an important transition point, where large music corporations saw an emerging market for video performance hardware. The products that followed the V5 have become the mainstay of VJ hardware setups.

In 2001, Roland / Edirol released the V4 Video mixer, which was arguably the first video mixer designed specifically for VJ use. It features MIDI control to enable integration with digital music equipment, and quickly became adopted as the standard VJ mixer. The V4's popularity lead other music companies (notably Korg and Pioneer) to develop hardware designed specifically for VJs.

Today's VJs have a wide choice of off the shelf hardware products, covering every aspect of visuals performance, including video sample playback (Korg Kaptivator), real-time video effects (Korg Entrancer), scratchable DVD players (Pioneer DVJ-X1 and Pioneer DVJ-1000) and 3D visual generation (Edirol CG8).


The evolution of computers has allowed for VJ-specific programs to be produced and has allowed for easier accessibility to the art form.

Improvements in beat detection and audio segmentation algorithms have made it possible to produce automated and semi-automated VJ programs, such as Noise Cradle Such software usually supports user imported images, videos and live video feeds.

Modul8 is a software designed for vjs and live performers. They also organize the "Mapping" VJ and Audiovisual Festival in Geneva, Switzerland. The festival supports the developing areas of vj culture, real time media and performing arts as well as organizing educational workshops, lectures and conferences.

One of the most used commercial software for vj for windows is resolume, now in beta release with the version 3 avenue that allow to mix also music with videos.

An old but interesting software that work with a his own hardware too is the tokyo motion dive with the edirol related midi controller.

In the freeware software list interesting place keep flxer with his very large comunity all around the world that help to emprove it, an other interesting thing about this software it that it run on adobe flash so it's compatible with every o.s. : mac osx, windows, linux and pocket pc, and is now working on an iphone version waiting it will support the flash files.

Cross platform that work with many vj software are the effects freeframe

VJ events

In recent years VJing's popularity has allowed for more Visual Art specific events to be organised.

AVIT is one of the largest VJ events, held approximately once a year in the UK, Germany and North America. There have also been smaller events held in Latin America, along with an AVIT Retreat in Colorado. AVIT's objectives are:

  • To increase public participation in VJing
  • To facilitate the development and skills base of existing VJ's
  • To raise the profile of live video performance as an art form
  • To capitalise on the networked community of or

CIMATICS - Brussels International Festival for Live Audiovisual Art & VJing, first held in 2003, focuses on live audiovisual performance and VJing. The festival aims to promote innovative and outstanding productions, as well as to gather recent artistic and technical developments in order to present it to a general public.

Mapping Festival - VJ and Audiovisual Festival, Geneva Switzerland

Visualux - Tokyo bimonthly AV showcase of top local talent alongside respected international acts at this 5 screen / immersive environment venue - educational presentations and screening precede an upbeat lounge atmosphere. gallery -

Opticlash - an annual DJ battle style VJ competition organized by Punch Drunk Productions, started in the summer of 2005 at the Capital Hill Arts Center, Seattle,

Optronica - the visual music festival created by artists Addictive TV, inaugurated in Summer 2005 at the National Film Theatre and London IMAX cinema, London, Optronica is a high profile international event focusing on audiovisual artists, visual music and the VJ art.

TheVJs - the Window for audiovisual arts and visual performers at the coast of Lima, Peru, started in 2005.


Regional events - there are regular regional meetups of VJs as well. Vision'R in France, VAX Sessions in the Catalonian region of Spain, Video Salon in San Francisco, FREEZINGMAN in Denver, Colorado, Visualux in Tokyo, Lava Sessions in Los Angeles, AV Social in London, VJ School in Bristol, Plug n Play Melbourne in Melbourne, Plug n Play Perth in Perth, Western Australia, Plug n Play Sydney in Sydney and Mapping Festival in Geneva, Motion Graphics Festival in Chicago, lpm live performers meeting in Rome.

See also


External links

  • What is vjing? interview with Brendan Byrne, one of the fathers of this art.
  • VJ lightrhythmvisuals Artists content for the video market.
  • Philosophies and theories on VJ practices
  • Scratch Video & TV Sampling by James Hyman
  • LeCollagiste VJ Weblog on the culture of the VJING, video information and high tech
  • VJ Kung Fu Online Motion Magazine featuring tutorials and experiments
  • vE-jA Book documenting the work of selected VJs from around the world.
  • Systaime.
  • Visual Drugstore - a german based agency specialized in visuals & VJing for events like Mayday, TimeWarp, Nature One, Monza Nights 2008 at Privilege Ibiza.

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