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Of Course You Can, Roland

Roland’s VR-5 is a little box of delights that’s bringing club nights into the homes of party-goers everywhere. Now you never have to miss the party

Popular London hotspot, Fabric are keen to push the clubbing boundaries and also spread their reach out to as many clubbers as possible. To this end, they decided to employ some pretty hi-tech visual recording trickery to make this happen. Using Roland’s VR-5 A/V Recorder/Mixer and with a little bit of help from dance and club production house Hi-Fi Entertainment, the party was literally brought back home. Read on to find out how…

Roland’s VR-5 is an AV Mixer & Recording device which contains all of the functions you would need to produce (or mix), record and stream a live event — it’s a one-stop box of delights. Just plug in your cameras, music source and PC directly into the VR-5 and then stream the content live by connecting a PC to the USB port, or record directly onto an SD memory card using the built in recorder.

The audio part of the mixer is fully digital, and as a result the sound quality is great. The video switcher means that users can also load any pre-recorded video or graphics onto the mixer that you want to use in addition to the live content. DJmag saw this first hand at a recent Cocoon Artists night at London’s Fabric nightclub, where top DJs such as Ricardo Villalobos and Craig Richards were beamed lived into fans’ living rooms as they spun…         

Bela Molnar from Hi-Fi Entertainment was on hand to make this all happen. He has been touring the globe with Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold and Sven Väth, videoing the events and documenting it all for online and DVD reproduction, so was easily the right man for the job.

“Capturing a DJing performance on video and broadcasting it live over the internet as the DJs spins is fast becoming one of the most popular ways for venues and artists to promote themselves to what is, potentially, an unlimited audience,” Bela told DJmag. “We have just started to look into this side of the market, and broadcasting live from a festival or club-night is helping to get fans closer to the event — wherever they are. It offers a ‘being part of it’ feeling to a remote fanbase and at the same time creates content that can be shared and downloaded time and again.”

Following Bela around on the night gave DJmag an insight into how this whole videoing affair works with regards to the clubbing experience, and how it translates from being beamed straight from the club to your home…

Why did you choose to use the Roland VR-5 as the media for this broadcast?


“When I needed a solution to capture and broadcast an event from Fabric live over the internet, the Roland VR-5 AV Mixer and Recorder fitted my requirements perfectly. As an intuitive ‘one box solution’, the VR-5 makes live video production, recording and online streaming effortless by combining cameras, microphones, PC and video playback. The requirement for the event at Fabric was for a system that was compact and lightweight, easy to use and set up, controllable by a single operator and could be streamed ‘out of the box’. After playing around with the VR-5, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

“Despite the small size, there is no compromise in terms of what the VR-5 can do as the design incorporates a video switcher and audio mixer, with built-in touch-screen preview monitors and a dedicated output for web streaming — all in a single unit. The VR-5 also has full (12 channel) digital audio mixing capability — two mono and five stereo audio inputs can be mixed with full digital audio processing, as well as video/PC switching at the touch of a button.”

What makes it better than other A/V mixers?


“The VR-5 is an incredibly mobile unit. You don’t need any extra hardware to do the broadcast — it really is an all-in-one solution.

“For producers like me, the less hardware the better as it not only means less investment but saves time on set-up and transportation. With the VR-5 compact enough to fit in one flight-case, I can even take it as hand luggage on a plane — making it the most transportable product on the market.

“The VR-5 is also a ‘plug in and play’ unit. No set-up is required in terms of warm-up, pre-mix or coding — just plug in the microphones, soundsource, cameras and computer as required. The touch-screen Program and Preview monitors provide an easy way to select the input source and operate Picture In Picture position changes.  

“Another big plus with the VR-5 is that whereas other similar products require extra hardware to handle the streaming element, as the world’s first USB Video/Audio supported AV mixer, web streaming is achieved by simply connecting the VR-5 via the dedicated USB port to a computer which is running a live streaming service such as USTREAM. When I did this at Fabric, the streaming was done from my Apple MacBook Pro which was connected via ethernet to the internet, plugged in to the VR-5 and logged into USTREAM. The MacBook took the feed from the mixer and presented it on the website. The sole purpose of the MacBook was to provide an interface to broadcast to the internet — no software or coding or extra graphics, just the straight-up broadcasting of the night which the fans at home could log on and watch.”

How did you set this up in Fabric?


“For the set up in Fabric, I used two Sony HD video cameras to record the event. The cameras were connected to the VR-5 through two of the three video inputs available.
“Using the third video input, I preloaded content such as premade graphics and pre-recorded videos of the performing DJs which I could then use in the mix in addition to the live feed, to give extra dimension to what the viewer would be seeing watching from home.

“The built-in recorder can record the final output of the VR-5 to an SD memory card, and the MPEG-4 capture format enables easy sharing of recorded video onto devices like iPhones etc. Once the broadcast and recording has been captured, the VR-5 can also then playback the video, still images and audio files from SD card, so it’s quite a versatile unit.

“The separate Video Out and Audio Out knobs found on the VR-5 enable me to control the independent video and audio levels as it was being streamed live. The ‘User Logo’ button can be used to display a stored image such as the venue logo — in this case I was using Fabric’s and Cocoon’s logos. Advanced video composition such as placing a person or text over a background video source can be fine-tuned using a single knob. I use the VR-5 in a portable capacity, but if it is used as a permanent install in a club the PC input allows users to connect a computer to the RGB connector and play back movies or music-based visuals onto screens or monitors to enhance their club night.”

So how would you sum up the VR 5?

“The VR-5 was perfect because of its size. For something so small it has a lot of functions packed into it, and it’s reliable. The VR-5 works every time straight out of the box, which is just what you need when you are working live as there are no second chances!

“Doing live broadcasts opens up the club to people who cannot make it to the venue, and can make them feel as if they were there. It can also show what a DJ actually does technically to manipulate the crowd. This can all be seen from various angles and viewpoints. It really does add an extra dimension to the club night. And this can all be achieved with the VR-5.”

Price   £3913.00
Contact   roland.co.uk
Build Quality
  8.0
Ease of Use   8.0
Features   8.0
Value for Money   8.0
Sound Quality   8.0
Hype   A great audio/visual mixer for advance applications in the club and party environment.
Gripe  

An expensive bit of kit, not for the hobbyist.

Conclusion  

The VR-5 is a specialist bit of kit but shows what can be achieved if this is the area of clubland that you need to explore. While it is expensive it still scores highly for value for money as it does so much in one unit. If purchased as separate parts, the cost would be so much more.

Overall Score   8.0/10
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