Making Twitch DJ Promo Mix Videos

Sometimes as a DJ you may want to reconstruct the Twitch stream you have streamed into a video format to send to other people, for promotional purposes, or just to have a record of what you’ve done. Twitch makes this difficult though, as it mutes copyrighted music in the video it records for your Twitch stream. Also, when you download this video, it does not include the chat log, so any attempts at reconstruction are without the chat, so it looks like the DJ is just talking to him/herself. Not good. However you can get past this. This is how I reconstruct a video set to create a promo DJ video mix for my stream. You will need:

  1. Twitch.tv VOD recording of your stream
  2. A full audio capture unmuted. I use mixcloud.com for this as I find it very convinent. It is a paid service but it’s cheap, and you can just set it as a stream endpoint on Streamlabs OBS and forget about it – it will record all the audio from your streams. Currently there is not an option to download the audio, but you can get past that, see below.
  3. https://github.com/lay295/TwitchDownloader – The Twitch Downloader tool that allows you to download chat logs from the Twitch VOD and reconstruct them into a twitch chat pane video
  4. A video editor and some basic video editing skills. iMovie for OSX is good, I use the free Video Editor for Windows 10

Downloading the video from Twitch

Just browse to your video section of the creator dashboard and you will have an oppertunity to download the video of your Twitch stream.

Downloading the audio from Mixcloud

Make sure your audio recording is published on your Mixcloud and just use the site https://www.dlmixcloud.com to download a m4a copy of your audio stream.

Downloading and rendering the chat playback using Twitch Downloader

This is a great program but is a bit technical. There are two steps you need to do – 1) download the chat logs from a VOD and then 2) Render them into a video. So for example:

  1. .\TwitchDownloaderCLI.exe -m ChatDownload -u 1055017670 -o bla.json

    – where 1055017670 is your VOD ID (find this by browsing to your video on Twitch. the VOD ID will be displayed in the URL)

  2. .\TwitchDownloaderCLI -m ChatRender -i bla.json -h 540 -w 212 --framerate 30 --update-rate 0 --font-size 11 -o chat.mp4

    – this will render your chat playback in a video file with the dimensions 540x212px and the font-size of 11. This is what I use, you can edit this to suit your tastes.

Once you have these three elements, you can use any good video editor to sync the audio with the video, and overlay the chat video onto the video of your stream. Add some titles and there you have a promo video.

Distributing your promo DJ mix video

You may run into problems distributing your video as services like YouTube will flag up that you are using copyrighted music. However you can use the fantastic Handbrake tool to compress your video file into a small filesize, and then upload the resulting video to Google Drive. Then you can set Google Drive to ‘share via link’ and distribute that link to people you want to watch your video. They will sometimes be offered a live stream option but for best results they need to download the whole video file (so make it small!) and watch in a video player like Windows Media Player.

A Basic Example – Here’s one I made earlier

Remember to download the whole file for best results: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qezKXSAvBK29hUCcuRNx1i3-fnodVss9/view
You should (maybe) also be able to preview it here:

Using Navidrome on a RPI3 to host my music collection for DJing so I can listen between sets

As a DJ it is important to listen to the music in your collection so you get an idea of what would work in particular sets, and you have a memory of how the tracks progress. So I decided to host a Spotify like service in my house so I could listen to my 500GB+ DJ music library. Navidrome (free open source software from https://navidrome.org) is running on the Raspberry Pi 3 which is under my desk via a wired connection with it’s own http://navidrome.local custom domain name. This is what it looks like:

It remotely mounts the music share on my main Windows PC which is almost always on, and quickly indexes and serves up the content in a Spotify type way.

I have setup an iptables port redirect so that any web traffic to port 80 or port 443 will be redirected to the correct navidrome app port so I don’t have to remember the obscure port number just the domain name above. I have also setup AutoFS to automatically detect when my main PC is running and mount the windows share automatically, so everything just works whenever my main PC is switched on and off, and docker-compose automatically loads the container whenever it goes down and the setup persists between reboots of the RPI and the windows PC. I have also installed Plex on the same RPI, using AutoFS so that it mounts and unmounts the video share on my other PC when it is switched on. I have ripped a bunch of comedy videos from my DVDs and BluRays using Handbrake.

Navidrome implements the Subsonic API, so it is compatible with a lot of different applications, including the excellent DSub application for Android which offers a more mobile-friendly streamlined player that connects to my Navidrome server and allows caching and pre-downloading, and a bunch of other cool features.

It provides an easy way for me to browse and play any music from my music collection from anywhere on my network, and it has full metadata added as part of my DJ music metadata workflow (see: https://davidcraddock.net/2021/05/05/organising-huge-music-libraries-with-serato/ for more info). I have also setup my RPI3 as a ZeroTier bridge to my local network, meaning I can create a P2P VPN from my phone to stream music via DSub when I am outside the house too, or to access Plex on the RPI from my phone while I’m on the move.

Another useful feature is that I can save playlists using Navidrome and download all the files that make up the playlist via the web interface. This is useful for preparing a set and moving all teh files onto my DJing laptop so that I can analyse them in Serato and play them in a Serato crate.

Proper Care and Operation of Vinyl Turntables for DJs

Setup your new Turntable

Follow this and only this guide. This is the best vinyl setup video on the internet as of 2021:

A lot of DJ turntables are based on Technics OEM clones, and so you will need to set the tonearm height, which is the only thing not covered by the above video:

The Basics

Once you’ve setup your turntable:

0) Should go without saying that I always use a velvet dust brush on my records just before I play them. Only takes a couple of seconds when you’re used to doing it.

1) I always use a stylus guard or record player dust cover when not using my decks.

2) I regularly clean my stylus/needle either by blowing or (how you’re supposed to do it) with a stylus cleaning brush.

3) I highly recommend you get one of these tracking weight scales: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Precise-Digital-Turntable-Backlight-Cartridge/dp/B08DKR87ZC/
and a small 10cm or so spirit level.

4) If you are dealing with expensive records, records you care about, or records that you think one day might become expensive, I do think it is a worthwhile investment to get a set of good outer covers for the vinyl jackets and some good quality inner sleeves to replace the inner sleeves (often printed paper) that come with the record. You typically put the old sleeves next to the record in the outer sleeve so they don’t get worn down by use. This will cut down the amount of dust and static that accumalates also. Take the digital download cards out of the records when you open them – if you leave them sealed with your record for years they can cause compression marks on the vinyl. I usually redeem them online once I buy the record and then rip up the digital download card.

5) Vinyl is an analogue medium. Occassionally things are going to go wrong – you’re going to get some fluff on your stylus and the record will stop tracking properly, or the record is going to skip, or there will be crackling from surface noise, dust, dirt, whatever. You will have to take action, usually involing lifting the needle from the record, often in the middle of your set. Be prepared, but you can always remind the audience jokingly that you are actually playing real records – they will (hopefully) understand it’s not like pressing a button.

6) Needle drops. I do not recommend beginner DJs start dropping the needle manually onto their records. On every record deck there will be a lever that gently lowers the needle into position on the record, and raises it when reversed. It IS possible to bypass this and drop the needle manually and gently on the record without using the lever, and lots of very experienced DJs can do it so well that there is no long-term damage to the needle and they are faster and often more accurate than using the lever, but doing it this way there is much more of a risk when starting out that you will scratch your records. Scratch DJs and old timer vinyl DJs drop the needle all the time, and good for them. Until you are more used to everything I recommend you use the lever.

7) Flight cases. You can get cheap second hand flightcases that have lasted decades and probably will last decades more. You’re looking for something sturdy and mostly metal but as light as possible. Make sure there are no dents and the catches operate like they should, and your decks and mixer snugly fit in without any movement. Coffin style flightcases are a popular option for vinyl DJs as they reduce setup time, but they are pretty heavy. Remember to check with the venue how much space you will have and will they have a table or booth you can put your entire setup on. A lot of venues are used to much smaller controller setups so check first.

8) Record boxes/bags. There are lots of different options here. I would recommend a secondhand metal flightcase style record box which is as light as possible, opens up at the front so you have plenty of space to shuffle through the records, and has wheels and a handle so you can pull it around like a suitcase. A full record box can be VERY VERY heavy! Only take the ones you know are going to go down well. There is a lot less manouvering space in your set for real vinyl DJing as opposed to just turning up with a controller and 20k songs to choose from, so you have to plan things more. Get a good idea what type of music you are booked for, and what people are likely to like. Make sure the records you have are good quality and will not skip or cause you problems. Remember to keep records away from direct sunlight – they will warp. A good habit is to put them back in the box once you’ve played them. They should always be kept standing up vertically, never stack them horizontally as the weight can cause problems for the bottom records. You may opt to leave behind all the outer sleeves and inlays etc and put each record in your record box only in a paper inner sleeve where you can write the artist, the track, the position on the record, and the BPM, and anything else you want to make selection easier. Colour coded stickers can be useful. Don’t assume you will have light in a darkened environment to read your inner sleeves, and I wouldn’t rely on your mobile phone torch – it uses up battery and you might need it for other things. You can get clip-on battery powered lights or keyring pencil torches that last for ages on a single battery.

Monthly Maintenance

Once every month or so, I do this:

A) Check the spirit level on the platter of your turntable without a record, to make sure that from top to bottom, from left to right, and from the center to the outside of the platter, everything is stable. If anything is off, use the adjustable feet on your decks to make sure everything is level, or put some cut up cardboard under one of the legs to lift it, if you don’t have adjustable feet.

B) Use the scale recommended above to check the tracking weight, again without a record on. Make sure it is within your cartridge acceptable weight range, but relatively low within that range unless you’re doing a lot of scratching. Higher tracking weight = quicker burnout of needle and record, but closer tracking when you scratch.

C) If you are using DVS, use some vinyl record cleaner to clean the DVS timecode records you’re using, and wipe them clean.

D) If you are using DVS, recalibrate the decks using the DVS software so that it uses the right sensitivity after any adjustments you have made.

E) Check all the connections on the back of your turntables, make sure they are tightly plugged in, occasionally they become loose over time and with knocks, and that can cause problems.

F) Check the speed of your platter is stable and spot on at different speeds – most OEM Technics style clones have a small strobe light and a number of dots. Learn how to use those to quickly check that all is in order.

That’s it. That’s all you need to do to make sure your equipment is reliable and lasts a long time.

Lighting and Camera Setup

Light Sources:

  • Phillips Hue Colour Lamp (top right)
  • Phillips Hue Colour Lamp (Middle)
  • Phillips Hue Colour Lamp (Bottom)
  • Phillips Hue Lightstrip
  • “DJ David Craddock” white illuminated sign
  • “Live on Air” blue sign
  • Laser (green or red laser wash)
  • Revolving disco balls

Dark Music Lighting Settings

For Phillips Hue sources I use Hue Sync on my broadcast PC which syncs the lights in time with the music. I will use different palletes depending on the event. For darkwave/dark music style events I will use this pallette:

I will have the ‘Live on Air’ sign on, but not the disco balls or the laser.

Generic Disco/Party Settings

For lighter/retro music settings such as my bi-weekly ‘DJ’s Choice’ I will use the following settings:

I will have the ‘Live on Air’ sign on, and the disco balls and laser.

Cameras

All cameras are mounted on tripods and require a USB port. Most have USB extension cables.

  • Spedal Wide Angle camera – this will be used as the DJ CAM as the wide angle will cover the entire room
  • Logitech C920 A – this will be used as the Decks Cam Right
  • Logitech C920 B – this will be used as the Decks Cam Left

Resolume MIDI Control in my Twitch DJing Setup

I have retired the Novation SL Zero Mk1 MIDI controller that was causing me a lot of grief when I was running Resolume and Ableton Live at the same time, as its Automap functionality was locking on to the Ableton Live mixer in session view now and then, and so, sometimes, when I thought I was controlling Resolumes visual FX, I was actually changing the volume faders in my DJ mix. Which was bad.

I have replaced it with the even older but classic Behringer BCF2000. I use the sliders to control the 8 dashboard visual FX controls on Resolume. I also have attached two pedals to the BCF2000. The first one, the sustain on/off switch pedal, I have mapped to control whether Resolume is running in autopilot mode or just looping the current visual. This will allow me to set it on autopilot through most of the set and then focus on one visual when I want to do some more involved stuff. The expression pedal, I have set to control the opacity of the top layer. I run Resolume with two layers, the main layer which is usually a background of an animation, and then the ‘extra lines and bars and stuff on top’ layer. So when I gradually depress and release the expression pedal, I fade in and fade out the ‘extra stuff’ layer from the scene.

I have additionally mapped four buttons on the Behringer BCF2000 to manually skip forward and backwards each layer through the prepared layer list. So if one layer is boring or I want to select something specific I have some control over that without having to open the Resolume window on the PC.

So far I’m happy with the autopilot setup I’ve got. I want to spend more time on Resolume and the VJing side of my stream, but for now this will do and will offer sufficient variety.

Hybrid Serato DJ Pro DVS/Ableton Live DJ setup (21/4/21)

I recently found a good price on a Vestax VCM-600 controller. It is a specially made MIDI controller for Ableton Live, with the same build quality as a DJ mixer. It allows for control over 6 channels in the Ableton Live ‘session’ view, which is arranged similarly to a mixing console. It also adds dozens of MIDI mappable DJ controls such as the traditional Hi, Mid and Lo EQs, a crossfader, a filter control, control over a lot of Ableton FX, and more. It has 6 channel faders + 2 send faders for FX. More info in this video:

It replaces my Pioneer DJM-S3 mixer. I use a 4×4 interface compatible with Serato DJ Pro DVS, the Denon DS1, and run the timecode audio from the Reloop 8000Mk2 decks through the Denon DS1. It outputs the Serato DJ Pro modified audio for both decks. The outputs of the DS1 are connected via a Douk VU-Meter (to see the levels for both decks for accurate gain control while mixing) to the Behringer UMC1820 audio interface which is connected to my broadcast PC running Ableton.

When I move the faders on the Vestax VCM-600 controller attached to the broadcast PC, it functions as a DJ mixer, with the actual mixing taking place in Ableton through the UMC1820 audio interface.

The microphone for streaming is connected to the sound interface as usual, and the DJ headphones are connected to the headphone amp on the the sound interface, with mic levels and cueing dealt with via Ableton Live.

The advantages of this setup over my previous setup are multifold, as I now have a 6 channel fully configurable mixer. Firstly it will allow me to bring in various external hardware instruments such as drum machines, hardware synths etc, all controlled via Ableton. I could also bring in software instruments/VSTs. It would allow me to use high quality studio software FX in my DJ sets. It would also allow me to trigger samples from Ableton Live and have them output on one of the channels, synced to the beat.

I am currently using the 4-band X:One EQ filter Ableton FX Unit clone from https://tarekith.com/freestuff/, see: https://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?t=144388 .
I am also using the https://xferrecords.com/freeware DJM-900 filter clone. I have adapted these both into my Ableton VCM600 template set. I might release this set later once I’ve built it up more with Ableton FX.

I am currently using Serato DJ Pro FX controlled by my Akai SP8 cheap controller connected to my DJ laptop, which I have changed the knobs on to make them more tactile. I also have an Ableton Push mk1 controller hooked up to broadcast PC which is useful for multiple things, but mostly for quickly controlling Ableton Live without having to mess around with the mouse. I have not synced the BPM automatically yet between Serato and Ableton; Serato has a problem with Ableton Link integration I found. For the moment, I am using the Serato DJ Pro beat-synced FX on Serato, and using tap-tempo on my Ableton Push controller to set the BPM in Ableton Live. I don’t need the BPM to be exact at the moment for Ableton Live as I am not using any beat-synced FX or looping FX on Ableton.

Looping, beat repeat, cue point jumping, tempo, sync, scratching and platter changes for each deck are handled by the controls on the Reloop 8000mk2 which are both connected via USB to Serato on the DJ laptop, so they function as a DVS system but with also pads and controls for Serato too.

I am using Resolume on my broadcast PC. I run a number of scenes on autopilot mode, and use the ancient Novation SL1 Mk1 MIDI controller to apply video FX to Resolume. I sync the BPM to Resolume through Ableton Link, with Ableton Live setting the BPM for Resolume through Ableton Link, and me setting the BPM for Ableton Live using the tap-tempo on the Ableton Push controller.

I have a sustain pedal which I use to trigger the ‘ducking’ affect in Ableton when I want to talk over the music.. when the pedal is depressed, the music fades down and the mic up a bit, so people can hear me better. When the pedal is let go, the microphone volume is killed so no background noise is picked up.

Here it is in action – the clicks are me flipping the crossfader or the channel faders on the VCM-600:

As you can see from the video, the latency really isn’t an issue. It’s very responsive even though the timecode audio from the turntables is being processed by the Denon DS1, sent through the Douk VU-meter, and then converted to digital signals by the UMC1820 sound interface, sent through an EQ and FX chain, and mixed by Ableton according to the VCM600 DJ controller movements.

Here is a flowchart which should help explain the signal flow:

Here is a list of equipment that I use:

  • VESTAX VCM-600 Ableton Controller. Came out in 2010, cannot buy anymore new. Bought second-hand for £175. Had to clean the knobs with isopropyl alcohol as the coating becomes sticky after years and years of use.
  • Novation Remote Zero SL Controller. Very old MIDI controller, cannot buy anymore. Can buy very cheaply now. Not sure if I would buy this exact controller again but it certainly is durable.
  • AKAI LPD8 Controller. Very cheap MIDI controller still being sold. Bought new for £30. Took the knobs off and replaced them with Doepfer knobs from my Eurorack for better grip.
  • Behringer UMC1820 Sound Interface. Very good value USB audio interface with lots of inputs and outputs. It comes with 8 physical inputs and 10 physical outputs. To get access to the other inputs and outputs you would need to buy an ADAT or SPDIF expander. Bought new for around £200.
  • Douk VU-Meter. Very cheap though accurate VU-meter for checking volume levels. Bought new for £60.
  • Denon DS1 Serato Interface. Not sold anymore, sadly, although it has a class-compliant driver for OSX so it is likely to remain suported for a while, while the alternative Rane Serato interfaces may not. Bought secondhand via Ebay for £120.
  • Reloop 8000mk2 vinyl turntables. Excellent turntables with a huge amount of features and a solid build. They are available quite cheaply new. Paid around £400 each for them. I use Concorde Mk2 Digital needles and Serato Butterrug slipmats and Serato control vinyl.
  • Ableton Push Mk1 Controller. Although the MK2 is out, the MK1 is still supported and there is no indication it will be deprecated soon. Not available new anymore, buy secondhand. I paid £250 for mine although they’re available much cheaper now.
  • RODE Procaster Microphone, cage, pop sheild and boom mount – This is an excellent high quality microphone. You can get a lot cheaper if you wanted to. Mic setup cost about £200 new.
  • Apple Macbook Pro 2015 13″ Retina edition. Still going strong from when I bought it. Only has 8GB memory and that is shared with the graphics card, but otherwise it is fine. I have kept it on Mojave, no plans to update. I only use it with Serato DJ Pro. I have an external HD attached to it for all my DJ music.
  • Broadcast PC – a workstation PC I built myself. For the specs see: https://davidcraddock.net/my-computer-setup/. In particular I have found the Nvidea 1080 graphics card very useful for Resolume – no way would it run well on my laptop.

For new equipment I use Thomann.de often or DV247.com, or Amazon, or whatever is cheaper on Google Shopping.
For used equipment I use Reverb.com or Ebay.co.uk or occasionally Facebook adverts.

Twitch Streaming Technical Setup

I thought I’d write a bit here about my Twitch DJing setup and some of the hardware and software I’m using. Twitch streaming has become very popular over the lockdown period, and I think people might be interested in how I have configured my stream. Something that seperates my stream from anyone else I’ve seen on Twitch is that is that I do live vinyl DJing AND live VJing at the same time on my stream. This is how I achieve it.

Broadcast PC

This is my main desktop PC that I use for personal use as well as streaming. It has a Nvidia 1080 graphics card which is very useful with Resolume Avenue, the VJing software I use. I have one main big monitor and one smaller second monitor which I have attached to a long HDMI cable and placed next to my DJing desk along with a second mouse and keyboard which goes into a USB 3.0 hub and a long USB 3.0 extension cable. When I go to DJ I set the Windows graphical settings to duplicate my screen on both screens, so I can control the broadcast computer from where I am standing next to my DJ equipment. I have a Behringer UMC1820 sound interface which has 8 balanced phono inputs. Inputs 5&6 are permanently connected to my DJ mixer, and I use Input 1 for my microphone.

Broadcasting Software

I use Streamlabs OBS on my broadcast PC. I did initially subscribe so they let me download one of their custom themes, which I have heavily edited but still remains integral to my setup. For some reason even though my subscription has lapsed that has not made any difference to whether I can continue using this theme and the app, although it has turned my follow/subscription/bit notifications back to the plain old free ones. I prefer it over free OBS for three features at least.

Firstly, the studio mode – I am not sure if OBS free has this (maybe it does?) but it is useful when fixing things live to have two scenes active, one which is being broadcast and one which is only visible to me. Secondly, the way you can order the layers on the scene, this is very intuitive to me and was more intuitive than the layering (front to back) on OBS free. Thirdly, the remote control element.. I have a remote control app for my Android tablet and phone which allows me to quickly cycle through scenes – no need to shell out for fancy scene controllers.

I use the free NDI tools for NDI streams to Streamlabs OBS for the external video elements on my screen – one from Resolume Avenue on my broadcast PC and the second from my Macbook Pro which is running Serato Video. I also use streamelements and Moobot to enable kappagen effects, and to moderate the chat and provide information to chatters.

Cameras

2x Logitech C920 web cams on tripods. I bought them because I saw them used at the BBC where I used to work. I think if I had more USB3 ports on my computer the bandwidth for these cameras would be increased and the resolution would be wider, but as they are, they are really solid. I’ve only had occasional problems with the auto-focus when there is a lot of lighting strobing going on.

DJing Equipment

I have a pair of Reloop 8000mk2 turntables with a Pioneer DJM-S3 Serato mixer. Both integrate really well with Serato and offer additional performance features. I use Serato on my aging Macbook Pro 2015 and have actually got it to reliably output Serato Video using NDI capture tool and send it over the network to my broadcasting computer without the fan having to spin up. I only use Serato on my Macbook because I don’t want to burden it – it is doing enough as it is! I have a 2TB external HD where I put all my digital music files and have it mounted as a network share so I can transfer files over the network from my main PC. I use Mixed in Key to add Serato cue points to music I use, and the free MusicBrainz Picard to correctly tag files and organise my music collection.

Lighting

I use Phillips Hue lightsources and the hyeDynamic Windows 10 app. It connects to the Hue hub strobes the lights in time with an audio input. I have a Hue Lightstrip and 4x Hue Colour bulbs and they all sync together. I also have a small laser unit that syncs in time with the beat and is useful as added background lighting.

VJing

I use Resolume Avenue with a number of clips I have commercially bought. I have it running mostly in autopilot mode with all the clips synced to the beat. The beat is provided by a free app called ‘AudioBoxBaby’ which I am really looking to replace, but there is simply nothing else out there on the market. It detects the approximate BPM of any audio coming in on my sound interface from my DJ mixer, and translates it into a single repeating midi note. This midi note I have mapped to the tap tempo button in Resolume so it is like a human tapping the tempo along with the music in theory. Serato DJ Pro supports Ableton Link, and so does Resolume Avenue, but I have found that syncing via Ableton Link to be very problematic when using Serato, and of course it doesn’t work when not using Serato, for example with all vinyl sets.

I also have a Novation Zero SL controller which I have had for over 10 years and still works perfectly, so I really recommend it! It is attached via a USB extension cable to my broadcasting PC and I use it to control some basic VJing effects that I put over the audiopilot clips to create buildups and visual changes in time with the music. It has 8 sliders and I move them in time with the beat or to create buildups/variations etc.

Microphone/Voice

I have a Rode Procaster mic with a Rode microphone boom, shock cage and pop shield, which is attached to my audio interface for my broadcasting PC with a long cable. I have it wired so that when I press a piano sustain pedal on the floor under my microphone, vocal ducking happens – e.g. the music fades down slightly and the microphone volume fades up so you can hear me talking over the music. In order to accomplish that I use two commercial apps, the first called ‘Auto-Duck in Real Time’ which allows me to configure the vocal ducking linked to a keyboard keypress, and ‘Bome’s MIDI Translator Classic’ which when the MIDI signal that is generated when I press the sustain pedal connected to my Novation Zero SL controller, the MIDI translator converts it into a keypress that is picked up by the ‘Auto-Duck in Real Time’ app to trigger vocal ducking.  I have it configured so while I am holding down the sustain pedal, it ducks the music playing and when I release it, the music goes back to normal.

Internet Connection

I have a fast Virgin Media internet connection with 30mbits/second upload. I think my Twitch stream and everything else in my home requires about 5mbits/sec upload! I also have a backup internet fibre DSL connection that thankfully I have never had to use when I’m streaming, but it also has around 15mbits/second upload and I should be able to switch between both relatively quickly if I needed to.

Phew! That’s all! 🙂 I realise it is technically involved compared to a lot of peoples setups, but I have always been really interested in the technical side and have been lucky enough to be able to create exactly the setup that I really wanted for my stream. If you’re interested in checking it out, my regular stream is from 4PM UK time/UTC every Sunday and I play for at least 4 hours. Follow me on Twitch at: http://twitch.tv/djdavidcraddock

Struggling with the technical side? If you are interested in hiring me to help develop your own streaming setup, I have worked before in this capacity and can supply excellent references. The work can be done online, as with your permission I can remote control your computer and configure things. Please send me a message if you are interested via the contact form on this website.

Audio Routing for my PC

For my own benefit as much as anyone elses, I thought I’d document my PC audio setup. I have two soundcards and two sets of speakers, one surround soundcard and speaker set for gaming and watching surround sound movies, and one audio interface linked up to my studio monitor speakers for music production. I also have a Digi 002 mixer which I use to mix in the outputs from my synthesisers to my recording interface. When I want to record, I usually record one track at a time from a synthesier to the audio input of the audio interface, via the Digi 002 mixer:

Untitled Diagram

These are the audio cables needed for this setup, some of which I will need to order in shorter sizes than the 3m ones I already have, to reduce cable clutter:

single phono to phono
2x phono to 2x phono
single phono to phono
single 3.5mm jack to phono
single 3.5mm jack to phono
2x phono to 2x phono
2x phono to 2x phono
2x phono to 2x phono
2x phono to 2x phono
2x phono to 2x phono
2x phono to 2x phono

ADAT with Digi 002 Consoles – Don’t throw them away just yet!

So I got given a Digi 002 console version, which looks like this:

Digi 002 Console

A fairly old style digital audio interface and mixer, which was all the rage back in 2002 when it first came out, but now is often found sitting in the skip. Why? Because it is a Pro-Tools inteface, and Avid stopped supporting it about 5 years ago, so it won’t actually work under Pro Tools and Windows 10 (believe me, I’ve tried!). It only works as a recording interface through Pro Tools, so you can’t just connect it via firewire to your PC and expect it to work.

It does have a stand-alone mode though, which allows you to use it as an analogue mixer, and that is pretty useful in itself if you want to drive monitors or record things from the master out. However after digging around on internet forums for a while, I figured out a way of actually using it as a recording interface! This is through use of the ADAT output, allowing you to plug it into a ADAT capable soundcard and record seperate channels over optical.

Caveats: it has to be 44.1khz sample rate, and you still have to use the Digi 002’s analogue to digital coverters in the chain, which are pretty old now!

If you’re willing to live with this, and I was considering what the console cost me, you get an extra 8 audio input channels in your soundcard! Well worth the effort I’d say.

To set it up with my Focusrite Sapphire 24 Pro, I followed the following advice from the Focusrite forum. This should work on most of the Sapphire range of soudcards.

A Basic Eurorack Technique

I thought it might be of some interest to describe how I use my Eurorack, at lot of the time, in making tracks. I have a 3 oscilator – 3 VCA – 3 filter Eurorack which I use primarily so that the oscilators initially work in unison mode with some slight detuning. I typically use a single loop, arpeggio or pattern that I repeat over the song. Then, partway through a track, I will transpose the octaves of the oscilators and vary the sustain of the envelopes, along with the filters and pulse-width modulation amount, to make a morphing yet harmonious sound texture progression.

Here is my Doepfer Eurorack, which has 2 oscilators, the third is provided by a Doepfer Dark Energy MK1 semi-modular synthesiser that is wired into the Eurorack.

eurorack

 

Here is the patch I almost always use:

 

Eurorack Patch Diagram

Here are some examples of where this same basic technique has been used:

Use Siri, Apple Earphones and Apple Music Together

This requires you to have a subscription to Apple Music and a 3G/4G/wireless data connection, but it is so useful! Using this tip, you can be walking along with your iPhone in your pocket and your Apple earphones in, and then change music just by pressing a button on the earphones remote control and saying ‘Play (your favourite band)’.

blog post image

1. Activate Siri and subscribe to Apple Music. I used to subscribe to Spotify so I switched to Apple Music when I realised the advantages of the integration on my phone, and the wider selection of music. You will also need to set Siri to stream music over your cellular network, this can be done in the ‘Music’ section of iOS settings.

2. Put the iPhone in your pocket with the standard Apple Earphones plugged in. With the standard Apple Earphones, there is a remote control on the cable with one button on it. To activate Siri, hold that button down for a couple of seconds until you hear the ‘Siri’ ‘bleep’.

3. Say ‘Play The Prodigy’ if you want to listen to The Prodigy, for example. This may require a couple of tries occasionally, but usually it just works.

4. Siri should look up The Prodigy on Apple Music, find their most popular songs, put them in a playlist, start streaming them and playing them through your earphones. To skip a song, press the remote control button twice in quick succession. To adjust the volume, press the edges of your remote control, the top edge to increase volume, the bottom edge to decrease. To pause all music playback, just press the remote control button once. To resume playback, press the remote control button once again.

A limitation of this is that you have to be in an area with good reception, enough to stream your tracks from Apple Music. You shouldn’t have a problem if you live in a city like Manchester, I usually get 4G across the whole city.

Modular Progress

Modular Synthesizer
modular layout

My Eurorack modular has been progressing. I’ve added several low-cost modules, a Doepfer A-138b audio mixer module so I can mix the audio outputs of the oscilators, the noise output, and my Doepfer Dark Energy modules. I found this so useful with the Dark Energys that I have ordered another mixer. This I can use to mix audio before sending it to the filter, for example, or mix audio before sending it to a VCA to be amplified. I also added another envelope generator, Doepfer A-140, a sturdy workhorse and also useful for triggering the filter independently of the VCA envelope. Then I added a syncable LFO.. I already have 4 LFOs from the quad-LFO module in the top right, but I wanted a LFO with a reset option that I can use for MIDI syncing. On order is also a A-148 S&H (sample and hold) module which I will use for generating interesting random tones once I have expanded the ‘generative music’ theme of my setup a bit more.

I also added a secondhand Kenton Pro Solo, a small midi-to-cv converter which has a lot of features, including clock sync output as well as CV and gate.

Next purchases may include (all Doepfer) a ring-mod, small essential module that it is. I also want a clock divider and clock sequencer, allowing me to take the midi clock output of my Kenton Pro Solo and link it up to activate timed triggers. I eventually want to get a Make Noise ‘Maths’ module as the highlight of my small modular, but the budget does not permit that right now.

microKORG Original + Novation Impulse 61

I picked up a rather ugly (but very cheap!) customised microKORG, and also the excellent Novation Impulse 61 USB/Midi keyboard controller.

mkplusnovation

The microKORG I like a lot. It was my first synth, and at first I couldn’t make any sense of it. I do agree with the Reddit /r/synthesizers view that it is not the best synth to learn on. Their view is that the best synth to learn on is one with a one-to-one mapping between controls and sound engine parameters. To put another way, the best beginners synth is one which has lots of knobs and buttons on it that you can tweak and hear actual results in the sound. It makes it more difficult if the sound engine is hidden away behind a large menu system with lots of daunting menus, like the microKORG has.

However, now I know the basics of synthesis, I’m finding it much easier to get the most out of the microKORG. You can also map a midi controller to a lot of the parameters, turning it into a poor man’s MS2000. The older MS2000 shares the same engine as the MK.

The Novation Impulse 61 is great, although it does take up a lot of desk space. The keybed is much better than any controller I’ve tried before, and even though it’s not weighted like my digital piano, it is very playable. The aftertouch and the velocity sensitivity are settings I will no doubt appreciate more in the future, for now I just turn them off. The arpegiator with the step sequencer is amazing! It turns the arpegiator into a little groovebox. It is quite similar to the arp sequencer on the microKORG, where you can hit the pads to change the notes on the fly. However the Impulse pads are a lot more sturdy, and responsive.

There is a lot about the Novation Automap functionality that I haven’t explored. I want to wire up my old Remote Zero SL unit as a controller for the microKORG, so I have more of a one-to-one mapping between knobs and the MS2000 parameter functionality exposed via MIDI on the microKORG.

Pioneer DDJ-SR Serato Controller Review

dj controller

I decided to buy the DDJ-SR controller because it was cheaper than even the cheapest pair of Pioneer CDJs. I’m no stranger to using a laptop and controller, before the DDJ-SR I used my trusty Faderfox DJ2 controller, which is a basic no-frills ‘play buttons, 3 EQs, crossfader and volume faders’ unit.

I was considering getting the Native Instruments Traktor S4 DJ controller, which is one of the most popular full-size controllers for Traktor. However, after borrowing one from a friend, I compared the build quality of the DDJ-SR versus the S4, and there was no contest! The Pioneer DDJ-SR has the same buttons and jog wheel as the Pioneer CDJ units, which are rock solid and industry standard. For anyone wanting to use CDJs in the club after using the DDJ-SR at home, you will find the feel very familiar.

I looked at the DDJ-SR’s big brother, the DDJ-SX1. The SX is much bigger in size, and not as portable as the SR. This was a major factor for me, as it’s often difficult enough to find space in the DJ booth, even for a small controller. The DDJ-SX1 (not the newest model which may be out by now) has a pretty similar feature set to the DDJ-SR. There is only one main difference that is significant to me. That being the fact that the SX is a full 4-channel mixer, which can operate without being connected to a computer. But it wasn’t enough to justify the larger footprint and the much increased cost. So I decided to opt for the more portable DDJ-SR.

I tried out the controller at my local music shop, Dawsons (Manchester) . I recommend trying out the controller and also buying locally if you can, because it’s much easier to return a controller to the shop than it is to send it back to an online store, if you are not happy with it. I also believe in supporting your local music stores.

Being used to Traktor, and having used it since 2006, I was initially a bit cautious over switching to Serato. After I played around with it, and for my typical use, there was not a lot in Traktor that I didn’t find equivalents for, in Serato. One thing that was very nice is seeing the waveforms from each deck, and how you can visually ‘sync up’ the starting track with the beats of the one that is already playing. I have been surprised about how useful this is, it really makes beatmatching so easy when you don’t want to use the sync button, which I often don’t.

Pioneer_DDJ-SR

The DDJ-SR comes with 8 pads under each jog wheel. They are very responsive, every bit as responsive as Akai drum pads used for music production. The pad FX definitely expand the creative potential of laptop DJing. The ‘slicer’ is my favourite so far, it cuts the upcoming music into 8 slices. You can choose to play a slice (or beat) out of time with the progression of the track, for example, instead of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 you can opt for 1-2-2-4-5-6-6-8. You can play combination you like, assuming you hit the right pads in time!

The ‘slip’ feature is very nice. When toggled on, the track plays on as you trigger samples and loops. It is as if the track is kept playing in the background while you pick out sections earlier in the track and play samples over the top, and when you have finished, the track snaps back, not to where you left it, but to where it has progressed to. You can use this feature to replace whole loops with other loops in the track and keep the rhythm of the track going. It is really powerful.

There is a four knob ‘FX’ section above each jog wheel. This is used to add FX such as delay, reverb, flanger, and so on. I don’t find myself using this much for my style of DJing. I do wonder how much of the FX and pad hammering you can actually do to a track before you start to annoy your crowd. They are great to use occasionally though.

Overall, I am very happy with my purchase. I had a pair of Pioneer CDJ400s and mixer back in 2009 which had a lot less features and cost over twice the price as this unit, and yet had the same build quality. Even if you ignore the ‘which is better’ argument of digital DJing versus CDJs, if you already have a laptop, this is a great setup for the money.

New Synthesiser Additions: Microbrute, Nord Drum and Access Virus A

I bought some new synths.

Access Virus A

access virus a

This is the original 1998 Access Virus A. It, it was a staple synth for trance and electronic music in general for the early 00s. I am very happy that I managed to get this secondhand for less than a MicroKORG. It cost over £800 when it came out in 1998. Old digital synths seem to be unpopular at the moment, I’ve heard comments along the lines of ‘if it’s digital then I might as well use a plugin in my DAW’. But I think this is ignoring the tactile control surface that you get, and how it gets your head outside the computer and playing an actual physical instrument. The presets are really inspiring, several sounds that you will recognise if you were into electronic music in the 00s. VNV Nation, one of my favourite bands, produced their entire ‘Empires’ album with just the Access Virus A and a couple of samplers.

It has two oscillators which have extra functionality, as you can choose the waveform from a large selection of presampled waveforms, in addition to the usual sawtooth, sine, square. There is also a suboscilator, two filters, each with a ASDTR configurable envelope, the usual ASDTR for the amplifier, and three LFOs. You can choose to map the LFOs to almost anything, allowing a great amount of flexibility. It also has effects – delay and unison, as well as multiple timbers, meaning that you can have up to 12 different patches playing at the same time, each controlled with different MIDI channels. The whole thing is extensively controllable via MIDI also. It is my first polyphonic hardware synthesier, and so has opened up a whole range of new composition possibilities around chords.

Microbrute

microbrute

The Microbrute is fully analogue, and it can produce a good number of sounds through its one oscilator, by allowing you to blend in different quantities of sawtooth, sine and square, along with some extensive extras, such as a metalizer. It has a Steiner Parker filter, a LFO and a step sequencer. You can get more technical details about the Microbrute in Marc Doty’s great series of videos.

It has a hard aggressive character to the sound, especially when used with the ‘brute factor’. I like its sound, but sometimes wish for a little bit more warmth. However you can make all sorts of sounds with it, and I particularly like making chiptune arpeggio with the square wave, such as in my track ‘Blue Sky’.

It also has a mod matrix that I haven’t fully explored yet, but is very powerful, especially if you want to link it up to other CV capable synths.

Nord Drum

Nord-Drum 1

This is an analgoue modelling drum synthesiser. It is the first Nord Drum so it only has four channels, but the presets sound great in the mix. I haven’t even looked at the synthesis options on this yet, as I’ve been really happy with the presets, but there is a whole range of options that you can shape and edit for your own sound.

My synth ‘shelf’

I have swapped out the older synths that I don’t use anymore. Currently I’m using the three synths above. The keyboard at the top is my Alesis Q25 MIDI controller, there is a ZED 10 mixer on the middle shelf which I use as a recording device, as well as a gold EMU Orbit which I don’t have plugged in at the moment.

My Synth Shelf

Current Music Setup

I like to dabble in making and playing music. Here is the equipment and setup that I use.

Ableton Live Intro

This is the DAW I use. I have been using Ableton Live for several years now, and I know my way around it. I have tried others but they never really felt as comfortable. Live comes in three flavours, ‘Intro’ is the most basic paid-for version. I was surprised how cheap the ‘Intro’ version was, and how little I find myself needing the features of the more expensive versions. I only have one paid-for VST plugin, and that is the KORG Legacy Cell MS-20, which I use on almost all the music I’ve made.

ableton live example

KORG Electribe R-1 MK2 Analog Modelling Drum Synthesiser

This is what serves as my drum machine. I picked it up on the cheap, but I’m really happy with it. I really like the built in step sequencer, and the drum synth itself. The sounds you can make from it are quite varied, and I really like the way you can put together live compositions on the fly. I’d be interested in getting some more KORG boxes, such as the EMX Electribes or the Volcas.

korg-electribe-er1-mk2

Waldorf Rocket Monophonic Analogue Sythnesiser module

This is my analogue synthesiser, which I use mainly for leads. In practice I find it quite annoying not being able to play real chords, and the lack of a sequencer is difficult because it means I can’t put together patterns away from the PC, or even really play it without a keyboard. I do like the sound, and the filter is great. The ‘fake chords’ option is great fun I just wish you could more easily change between the chords on the fly. The arp is pretty cool also. I think this will become a lot more awesome when I get a hardware sequencer, I already have my eye on the cheap BeatStep to pick up when it is released.

WALDORF+ROCKET-1

KORG Monotribe Analogue Sythesiser and Drum Machine

I don’t really use this for anything, unfortunately. It was my first synthesiser and although I liked it at the time, nowadays I find the lack of MIDI and the ribbon keyboard a major problem. I might either sell it or get a MIDI mod and install it. I find it quite noisey when recording anyway, so maybe I’ll just try and sell it. It does has some nice acid style sounds though. A shame.

monotribe

Yamaha P35 Digital Piano

I was looking for a decent MIDI out keyboard that would allow me to put together more complex melodies and learn how to play keyboards for possibly joining a band in the future. The Yamaha NP31, which was my original choice, was out of stock and so it got me looking at others. I thought it would be interesting to learn to play the piano, as we had one growing up but I never really learned before. In the store I really liked the feel of the P35’s hammer action keys, so decided to buy it. I can play some simple tunes with it but want to get piano lessons so I can improve. This will also function as my main MIDI controller for my other hardware.

717aZc6BIwL._SL1500_

Line 6 Mobile Keys 25 USB Keyboard Controller

This is a nice little keyboard controller that I use with Ableton. Unfortunately it does not have MIDI out, only MIDI via USB, but I can run it through the MIDISport to control audio hardware. The keyboard action is very nice, much better than the M-Audio Keystation 49 which I had before and would not recommend.

controller

M-Audio MIDISport Anniversary Edition 2×2 MIDI/USB Interface

This is a fairly standard cheap MIDI to USB interface. I used to use the M-Audio Uno, but that has only one input/output and it has problems with some audio hardware.

midisport

Insights into a modern Indie Music label

I read this remarkable post on a public mailing list I subscribe to. I thought it was such a great insight into running a music label, that I just had to post it here. It discusses issues facing modern music, such as DRM, DMCA, and other ways of making (or losing) money. Fascinating.

Here it is:

I work for a (fairly small) indie label – from witnessing this model in action I feel I have to stick up for the label given that I see the model working (or sometimes not so well) on a daily basis! Where we’ve done deals with artists in the past, they’ve almost always been a 50/50 arrangement – the artist receives 50% of net royalties. Where a label fronts recording costs, these can easily become £6-10,000 for an album session. Even an EP session can be upwards of £1,500 although these figures are a little pessimistic (though not unrealistic). (We actually designed, built and owned studios for ten years until 2001 but the project haemorrhaged money.)

With regards to CD pressing, a 1,000 run will cost around £800 including full colour print in a basic jewel case. The AP1/AP2a MCPS licence costs another amount on top. When getting your CDs pressed, add in other things (Super Jewel cases, slip / O-cards, digipaks or gatefolds with high quality card / fancy posters) and you can easily top the 1k mark, not even counting the artwork design costs. Of course, discount comes with with bulk, but almost nobody except the Big Four do >1k discs in a pressing. (To put things in perspective: when SyCo have done the X Factor Finalists CDs, they press up >10,000 of EACH finalist’s recording of the song – and shred the losers’ copies when the winner is announced!)

To put stuff into distro with someone like Universal, you have your line costs simply to have the title listed on their system – monthly recurring, per title – then handling costs, despatch costs, “salesforce” costs (even though really the only people they sell into are HMV now, and from last year they’ve stopped guaranteeing racking in all but the top 6 or so stores in the UK, it’s a joke). You can’t sell your discs through at full retail, you have your wholesale (Dealer) price. We’ve sold albums through at £6.65 and I’ve later seen them in a London HMV for £12.99. Oh, and did I mention that supermarkets and stores like HMV *DEMAND* what they call a “file discount” of up to 40% just to take stock? (which is on a non-negotiable sale or return basis with up to a six month returns period.)

If you end up in a position where you don’t sell stock through into shops, it usually costs less for your distro to SHRED your discs than it does to send it back to you! Ridiculous. The costs are stacked against the labels at all points – incredibly frustrating. And that’s even before you begin to contemplate any plugging, promo, advertising, miscellaneous online, merch, booking agent / gig costs… Or even an advance for the artist! But it gets better…

So, this figure of 63% which the old techdirt article might quote as truth where valid for major labels (who might also own distribution, management, publishing and studios under the same roof), the model quickly falls apart as soon as focus on a smaller label. I used to think the whole model was bullshit and the artists got shafted, but if anything it’s level pegging – smaller labels have just as tough a time as artists as the risk to them to fund any new release is proportionally WAY larger. Also, the techdirt article works on the basis of the artist receiving a 20% royalty – this is dismal, and the artist should be smacked for agreeing to such a pitiful rate like the chumps they probably (hypothetically) are.

Take one of our real world iTunes scenarios – from a 79p purchase, iTunes immediately keeps about 32p. For UK and most worldwide sales, this also includes the royalties which the label’s obliged to pay (in the UK, to the MCPS-PRS Alliance). However, the USA requires the selling party to pay the mechanical on each sale (an arse-about-tit form which has arisen from the disconnected Collection Agencies – Harry Fox Agency being the incumbent on Mechanicals and ASCAP, BMI and SESAC on the Performance royalties – which adds yet another level of complication.

From what’s left (47p), you halve the resulting amount on a 50/50 deal. Neither the label nor the artist gets much for their work. On some artists whom we’ve purely done digital distribution for (on a rolling licence agreement), we give the artist 80% of net. As you can imagine, we get virtually nothing – and our income’s directly tied to their success, so we have an interest in seeing them do well. It’s a tough environment to be in.

For receiving US/Canadian/Mexico/European/Australasian payments, we first have to receive the currency and have the bank convert it to GBP. Of course, we can’t get the Interbank rates, nobody but the banks get those – so more money’s immediately lost in conversion. The larger labels will have sweetheart deals with their banks (or almost certainly have accounts in each relevant territory) so this isn’t so much of a big deal, but the amount of administration just scales inordinately. If you deal with managing your artists’ Publishing rights, you can quickly become LITERALLY swamped in paperwork. The amount of time sucked up by adminning the release of music is extraordinary.

So please nobody think all music labels have it easy… I have no doubt that the Big Four have royally shafted artists in the past but they can largely lumber along based on a few artists doing exceptionally well for the rest of their current roster (with their back catalogue from very famous artists helping too). The problem they’re going to have is that almost none of the artists whose catalogue’s been released in the past two decades *really* has the staying power of the classic artists – Dire Straits, Genesis, Pink Floyd, The Who or Fleetwood Mac, just to name five off the top of my head. Don’t even get me started on the epic fail that is streaming revenues from Spotify, mFlow, We7 etc.

Now even with all of this, I still regard sites like YouTube as a promotional tool. Some of our most famous catalogue I’ve held off on issuing DMCA takedowns for, because it’s a genuinely beneficial promotional tool – it’s the pragmatic response. Where do people go first if they want to quickly listen to a track? YouTube! What happens if they only ever wanted to hear it once and never again? You’ve not lost that sale because it almost certainly would never have happened. What happens if they still want to have a copy of that track? They’ll go buy it from one of the easily accessible venues, it’s not expensive to do. The label’s job is to make the catalogue ubiquitous on all of the major (and some of the trendier niche stores) where at all possible. The digital distribution costs are another thing the label has to absorb – monthly, per track, per store usually, if not on an aggregation deal where it’s a percentage on each sale but the label usually ends up worse off. It’s a tough position because the label almost always feels the need to protect their ‘content’ (shudder – hate that word) but issuing takedowns for every instance of a track is more often than not a kneejerk reaction which harms longterm sales. I’m personally torn between leaving them, taking them down or even putting up better mashup/promo mix versions on the label’s official account!

Treat your customers like adults and I think you earn their respect a bit more. This applies to all forms of digital media, including tellybox shows. (thesis: DRM = genuinely unhelpful towards nurturing that unique supportive viewer-provider relationship. Trust your customers, they’ll not disrespect you.) In music, nobody wants to buy a track if they can never audition it, and 30sec samples aren’t really a good enough.