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Optimize Your DJ Computer for Video Mixing

optimizeyourvjcomputer

With the recent release of DJ/VJ software PCDJ DEX 3, and the improved video mixing capabilities, we figured an update to our “optimizing your computer for DJ software” was in order.

As many DJs have already found out, adding music video mixing to your DJ repertoire not only makes an event more memorable, DJs can charge more for VJing as a premium up-sell service.  Offering your clients and patrons the total multimedia mixing experience will set you apart from the competition, and being more memorable usually means more referrals.

Video mixing is certainly more taxing on your machine than just playing audio files. Since you’re utilizing your CPU (graphics card) to send the mixed video output to a secondary display, you not only need to invest in a premium DJ computer, but make sure it’s optimized for live performance.   Here is a list of other items you’ll need to consider, including where to get high-quality MP4 Music Videos.    Here’s our recommended specifications for purchasing a computer specifically for video mixing.

 

OPTIMIZING YOUR DJ COMPUTER FOR VIDEO MIXING: 

Many DJs assume that a freshly purchased DJ laptop is gig-ready.  While it’s true you want to dedicate the machine you’re going to use to mix music videos with as much as possible for DEX 3, most of the time new machines come loaded with various bloatware and are setup for visual beauty rather than optimal performance. 

I’ve used this quote from Numark in a past article, but it still hits the nail on the head:

“You can’t walk into a car dealership and buy a car that’s ready to enter a race. Even high-performance sports cars come tuned for the road, not the racetrack. The suspension, gearing, and timing all need to be tweaked before a car is ready to be pushed to their limits.”

This holds true for your video mixing machine…

Mixing Music Videos with robust and feature intense DJ software such as DEX 3 is using much of your machines resources – so you really want to squeeze as much dedicated power from the machine as possible.  Here are our suggestions:
 

GENERAL DJ COMPUTER OPTIMIZATION FOR MIXING MUSIC VIDEOS:

  • Remove any un-necessary applications, even antivirus software.  If you absolutely must surf the web with your laptop, and therefore have installed Antivirus software, make sure you disable it while you gig.   Virus protection software, especially overly intrusive products such as Norton or AVG will perform background scans that can eat into valuable resources.  Ideally you should not install antivirus software on your machine, since some products will still run even when you disable them (so they are never completely disabled).  If there is one platform that seems less of a hog on the market, it’s Avast.   Take a look at their product if you’re dead-set on using your video mixing machine for other purposes.   
     
  • Never let your boot drive (C drive/Internal drive) get too full.  Try to spare at least 20% of drive space to ensure “breathing room” for the OS.  Under 20% of drive space you will notice system slow-down.
     
  • The more RAM the merrier. Obviously, but holds true. The operating system alone needs around 1GB of RAM for usual operations, and in the case of Windows 7 or Windows 8, you need a minimum of 2GB for the OS itself.  We suggest at least 4GB of RAM on both Windows 7 and Windows 8.   
     
  • Use an external hard drive for your media files.  Using an external HD ensures you’ll always have plenty of “breathing room” on your local boot drive, but it also means in case of catastrophic machine failure, you’ve got your files ready to go.  Most DJ’s take out a backup computer/laptop for to events, and with an external hard drive it’s easy to plug-in and play with the backup machine.  Preferably (if you have the option) external HD’s should not be USB due to buss throttling when using USB DJ controllers and/or USB sound cards. (although I know many DJs successfully gig with USB3 based drives) Try to use Firewire / Thunderbolt or ESATA.
     
  • Use either a professional grade multi-channel ASIO or Core Audio sound card, or DJ controller with one built in.  Computers today now come pre-loaded with ‘ok’ built-in audio cards, but they aren’t intended for live use and plugging into amplified systems.  Furthermore, they only offer one stereo output in almost all cases.  This means you have no way to cue in your headphones (pre-fade listening) and in the case of Windows machines, your software latency will be much higher due to having to use the native windows Direct Sound (around 60ms latency) or WDM/WASAPI (around 30ms) drivers.  A professional I/O audio interface such as the Electrix Ebox 44, or the Forusrite Scarlett 2i4 provide 2 stereo outputs, with RCA connections, offer easy two-channel output connection to external DJ mixer and very low latency output.   Of course, most of the top DJ Controllers supported by our DJ/Video Mixing software DEX 3 also come equipped with built in professional-grade I/O interfaces.  
     
  • If you’re going to be mixing music videos, make sure you have a video card with dedicated graphics memory!  This is one requirement many DJ’s looking to mix music videos seem to gloss over, but it’s paramount to ensure steady and trouble-free video playback on a secondary display (or multiple displays).   Dedicated graphics memory allows video mixing software to use the hardware acceleration of the video card to output the videos (or lyrics for karaoke) – meaning the local machines CPU is dedicated for the software and operation system exclusively, and the video card handles the mixed video output.  Shared video memory means just that: the graphics card is sharing memory with all other operations on the machine including the OS and DJ software operations too – which can lead to resources issues causing video pauses and more.  Look for an Nvidia (best option) or ATI graphics card in the machine, usually that ensures you’ve purchased a machine with dedicated graphics memory.  

OPTIMIZING WINDOWS 7, 8 AND WINDOWS 10 FOR DJ SOFTWARE:
 

  • Disable graphical effects:  When optimizing your VJ computer in Windows 7 or Windows 8 it is a good idea to disable some or all of Windows 7/Windows 8 graphical effects. The visual effects may be ‘pretty’ but they can actually be very resource intensive and demanding.  Performance on even the highest-end systems can suffer if too much demand is placed on the processor/s at once. To disable the visual effects: 
    DEX 3 Video mixing 2-decks

1.    Right + click your computer’s desktop.

2.    Select Personalize from the drop-down menu that appears.

3.    In the window that opens, click on Window Color and Appearance.

4.    The Window Color and Appearance control panel will open. Click on Open classic appearance properties for more options.

5.    An Appearance Settings window will open. Under Color scheme, select Windows 7 or Windows 8 Basic.

6.    Click Apply.

7.    Click OK to close the Theme Settings window.

8.    Close the Personalization control panel by clicking on the X in the upper-right corner of the window.

9.    The borders of your windows will no longer be clear, freeing up system resources for other programs.

  • Disable programs running in the background. The icons in your system trey next to the clock show you (some) of the programs that are running in the background. As noted under our general optimization tips earlier in this article, it is advisable to exit out of any programs that aren’t 100% necessary.  Ususally, Right-clicking any of these icons will bring up a menu. If there is a Close, Exit, or Quit option choose it so that you have exited out of the running application. You should also check what applications and processes are running in the background by viewing your Applications and Processes tabs via the Task Manager. To access the Task Manager, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, and then click “Start Task Manager.
     
  • Disable Automatic Updates. The last thing you want is Windows to download updates in the middle of a video mixing set. Open the Windows Updates control panel (from the control panel). Then, on the left-hand side of the window, click “Change Settings,” then select “Never check for updates.”  With this disabled you will need to manually check for windows updates in the future, while you’re not mixing at a gig. 
     
  • Turn off wireless networking. Wireless networking can also interfere with or interrupt audio. Wireless cards in computers automatically scan the airwaves for available networks. This take up some of your system resources, and can sometimes hurt performance.  You can disable the network card in the device manager while you’re VJing. Its a breeze to turn back on when you’re not recording.
     
  • Set your Power Options to High Performance. In the Power Options settings via the Windows Control Panel choose High Performance. Then click Change plan settings button, and set Put the computer to sleep to ‘Never’. Then click Save Changes.
     
  • Disable UAC (user account control).   UAC can restrict an applications access to certain items in Windows 7 and Windows 8, including your documents folder (where in the case of PCDJ DEX 3 or RED Mobile 2, we store you settings and library files).  Go to your control panel, double click ‘User Accounts’ and look for “User Account Control Options”.   Click that and adjust the slider all the way down to ‘Never Notify” and click ‘Apply/OK’.
     
  • Try a “Latency Checker” tool to verify PC performance. The ‘latency checker’ is an great tool to diagnose how well your machine is running and whether you will have potential problems running video mixing software such as DEX 3.  Download the latency checker HERE  Save this file to your desktop. It is a standalone program so no installation is necessary. If you run this and see red spikes it means that your machine may have issues running audio software and would indicate that you consider uninstalling unnecessary programs that are starting up in the background.  It will provide a report that should help you know where to look for potential issues on your VJ laptop.
  • Ensure your video mixing software is using your high-end graphics card (and not the shared).  Many laptops today come equipped with two graphics card – a shared on-board graphics card and a dedicated graphics card.  You will want to make sure you’re utilizing the high-end graphics card, instead of letting windows choose for you. WATCH THIS for how to make sure you’re using your dedicated graphics card for video mixing. 

OPTIMIZING YOUR MAC FOR VIDEO MIXING SOFTWARE: ​
 

  • Turn off System Sleep.  In the Energy Saver System Preferences Panel, select the Sleep tab, and set the option titled “Put the computer to sleep when its inactive for” to “Never.
    DEX 3 - 4 Deck Skin

     
  • Turn off Hard Disk Sleep.  Under the same System Preferences Panel, uncheck the option titled Put the hard disk/s to sleep when possible.
     
  • Turn off AirPort.  In the upper right corner of the screen, next to the clock, click the AirPort icon, and select “Turn AirPort Off.” The airport automatically scans the airwaves for available networks. This will eat into system resources, so a good idea to shut off while DJing. It’s easy to turn back on when you’re not.
     
  • Turn off Bluetooth.  In the Bluetooth Preferences Panel, uncheck ‘On‘, and uncheck ‘Discoverable‘. Again, this is easy to turn back on when you’re not performing.
     
  • Turn off Time Machine.  If you use ‘Time Machine‘ to back up your computer, turn it OFF when you’re mixing music videos.  Your Mac may pick some inconvenient times to start a backup. Select the Time Machine System Preferences Panel, set “Time Machine” to “OFF.” It’s easy to turn back on when you’re gig is finished. 
     
  • Turn off unnecessary startup items.  In the Accounts System Preferences Panel, under Login Items, uncheck any items you don’t need open everytime your system boots.
     
  • Quit any unnecessary applications.  When VJing make sure to exit out of any programs unrelated to your ‘current project‘. This will free up the most resources possible for your video mixing software. You can monitor how much of your computer’s resources any program is using with the Activity Monitor Utility (located in Applications > Utilities).
     

I hope these tips help ensure stable trouble-free gigging with video mixing software.  As noted in the beginning of this post – it’s worth adding video mixing to your DJ services if you want a jump on the competition. It can truly differentiate you from a crowded pack.

If you have any other tips and suggestions for PC or MAC video mixing computer optimization please feel free to comment below!   

For a free demo download of PCDJ DEX 3 Video Mixing Software, CLICK HERE