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Photo: Mark Ewing. The Kaoss Pad Entrancer builds on the success of the Kaoss Pad 2, offering the same versatile X-Y pad-driven audio processing capabilities, but adding video processing to give you real-time control over both sound and vision.

There have been superstar DJs all over the world for years, but the concept of the VJ video jockey has taken longer to get going, although it's been big in Japan for a while. Now that the idea is beginning to find favour in other cultures too see the links near the end of this article , recent developments like Roland's V-Link connection protocol which permits the sync'ing of video to other MIDI gear , and Korg's new affordable video-orientated processors and mixers begin to make sense.

The new Kaoss Pad Entrancer under review here adds video functions to those of the earlier audio-only Kaoss Pad 2, which seems to have found a niche predominately in the DJ market. With a selection of audio effects and the ability to manipulate them in real time via the X-Y touch pad, it's actually a fantastic way to add exciting sonic textures to any live performance, regardless of musical style. In broad terms, the Entrancer includes audio effects, video effects, two sample memories, eight Program memories, a tempo-sync function and an X-Y touch-pad for real-time manipulation.

Whereas the KP2 gives you only audio effects such as filters, delays, reverbs, a vocoder, a synth, and sample-manipulation features, the Entrancer's video-processing functions offer manipulation of the video sources by adding video noise, stretching, freezing, splitting, spinning, or colouring your images, generally allowing you to distort the picture in all sorts of interesting ways. Whilst there are dozens of software VJ programs out there, they tend to be far more complex, primarily because many of them integrate functions to generate raw material as well as the means to process it.

The Entrancer is really all about real-time hands-on video processing, and in this role it excels and is truly creative. You can use the Entrancer purely for audio processing, as with the KP2, or solely for video processing, or both at once. You can call up any of the video effects which can be allocated to eight different Program Memories for fast recall, making it possible to move through a variety of video effects as the music progresses.

In addition, you can work with the X-Y pad to create a range of fabulous visual effects. All of these 'instant' effects make it very easy to add live visuals to any show and give you control over how images change in real time. In addition, if you're into totally programmed performances using sequencers and a bunch of MIDI gear, you can use MIDI to control both the audio and video effects selection.

For a one or two-person show, this is great for adding professional visuals to your performance. The rear edge of the KPE1 is busier, with the connectors for the main audio and video output, the other audio and video input, MIDI and power. To get something out of the audio side of the Entrancer, it's best to feed it something. However, the video side is different, in that the unit can produce automatic video effects without having to process any video signal; you can just plug it in and watch the pretty pictures.

These visuals are a collection of simple waveform, spectrum-analysis and oscilloscope-type imagery which the sound controls. The unit really comes into its own when you feed it a video signal, be it from a live video camera or moving imagery from a VHS or DVD player. Movement is the key here, as it's the basis for generating really exciting results.

By manipulating raw source material, you can impose different video effects and modify the output in real-time using the X-Y pad.

When you perform a pad movement you like, you can even record the pad motion and keep it repeating. The two Sample memories let you record up to six seconds of motion each and allow you to 're-effect' them as source material in your performance. For example, you can sample a still image a logo, say into one memory and mix it into the video stream as required throughout a show. Inputs : Two Input 1, on the rear of the KPE1, accepts a composite video signal via a phono connector, and stereo audio via left and right phono connectors, while Input 2, on the front edge of the KPE1, is video-only, accepting an S-Video signal via a mini-DIN socket or a composite video signal via a phono.

Inputs 1 and 2 are switchable. Main outputs : One on the rear of the KPE1. An S-Video signal is available via mini-DIN, composite video is available on a phono, and individual Left and Right phonos handle the stereo audio output. Headphone output : One via quarter-inch stereo jack, on the front edge of the KPE1, with associated Volume control. Moving your finger around the Entrancer's pad horizontally or vertically creates smooth changes in the sound, the video or both, whereas tapping the pad in different positions gives you more dramatic changes.

The pad also changes colour when you touch it, helping to create a very cool mini light show on stage. As far as the video side is concerned, the pad allows you to change various key parameters of the currently selected video-processing effect; in total, the KPE1 offers different effects grouped into themes.

Some of the effects are self-explanatory and will be familiar if you've ever worked with video processing before, such as Emboss, Wipe, Mirror, Squash and Spin, while others are more cryptic, such as Dispersal, Sketch and Random Snap.

Typically, moving your finger around will change the current image's scale, coloration, amount of stretch, spin speed, and forward or backward movement this is great for 'scratching' a video sample , and the FX Balance knob tends to control the depth of the effect.

When the unit is operating in 'Combi' mode, where audio and video manipulation is simultaneous, choosing a particular video effect also calls up a complementary audio effect or what Korg deem to be complementary, at any rate — the choice is not left to the user.

For example, auto-rotation of the video image is combined with a tape-echo treatment, while the Emboss video effect is combined with a phaser. The speed of movement is instant, and there's no discernible lag in the video display — if you wish, you can swirl your video around, spinning and flipping it until you make your audience ill. Oh, and on that point, Korg do include a warning about the very real danger of visually induced epileptic fits, so don't overdo it.

The KPE1's controls and main X-Y pad are sensibly backlit for ease of use in dark surroundings — and it looks cool, too! There are eight Program Memory buttons where you can store any of the effects for instant recall. This is particularly important in a live performance, as you don't really want to be dialling through options looking for what you want.

Unlike the two Sample Memory locations, these Program memories are stored when the unit is switched off, and will remain so until you overwrite a memory location with another choice. From a performance point of view, whilst the eight memory buttons are clearly backlit and well spaced, the lack of a 'write' or 'scribble' strip underneath them means you have to resort to sticking a length of masking tape on the unit and write any prompt notes on that instead.

However, on the positive side, Korg have thought through the ergonomics of the KPE1 and must be congratulated for grouping all the buttons and switches in very handy positions and making them all backlit.

This made the unit a joy to use live in the typical low lighting conditions on-stage during the recent Bill Nelson tour see the box on the next page for more on this. Depending on your style of VJ'ing, this switch could well become the most frequently used control on the whole unit; it can really bring a performance to life.

In the Audio mode, it allows you to mute the sound on and off so that you can superimpose your own rhythm onto the music. In Video mode, it freezes the motion of any image currently being played.

With the switch pushed upwards, the unit functions in the Pad Motion mode and lets you record up to six seconds of your finger movement or tapping on the X-Y pad. Once captured you can play the captured motion back by holding the switch up. This is designed very much as a temporary performance 'macro' and it immediately disappears when you touch the pad again.

This is great live, because it means you can grab bits of sound and video manipulation on-the-fly, build up 'phrases' and repeat them over the top of the music or video if you wish. Tempo values in beats per minute may be entered in one of three ways.

Finally, you can tap along to the beat in manual mode and eventually the unit will sync up for you. There is actually a fourth way to sync, which is to use an external MIDI Clock signal from a sequencer or drum machine, say. Several of the effects in the audio and video selection are specifically designed for use with the BPM function, allowing the tempo to drive the visual effects and produce all sorts of dazzling colour shows, pulsating waveforms, spectrum analysis, lissajous figures and many more effects, all sync'ed to the beat.

The sample modes let you sample visual material in a number of ways. As with the 'audio-only' KP2 Kaoss Pad, there are two Sample memories accessed via the two buttons on the front of the unit at the bottom edge. Once sampled, you can treat the image by selecting an effect and then mess about with the X-Y pad to create new imagery. As mentioned earlier, you can use the same Sample memories to sample up to six seconds of motion video in both memories, and re-effect and manipulate them with the X-Y pad if desired.

If you sample two different 'micro-movies' into these sample memory locations, you can use them to build interesting visual rhythms in an interactive way, and you can sample both audio and video, which is great for combined DJ and VJ work. Whether you use the Sample memories for stills or motion video, they are very 'temporary' and meant to be used as part of a live performance. Once you switch the unit off, the samples are lost. The Korg Krossfour is a very useful stand-alone four-channel vision mixer.

Its solid aluminium construction, colour and size indicate that it's been designed to complement the Kaoss Pad Entrancer, but it is equally usable in its own right. The idea is that you allocate each of the four sources to fader positions labelled A and B. For example, you could have a DVD player connected to Input 1 and routed to position A, and a live video camera plugged into Input 2 and routed to position B.

By moving the KF4's main fader between A and B you can visually crossfade from one source to another, or position the Fader mid-way and blend the two images together.

There are four different fader curves associated with the transition from fader position A to B selected via a switch on the front of the Krossfour , and these range from the normal smooth crossfade to faster curves which result in a more instant fade from one image to another.

It's important to mention that all of the Input selection buttons have two functions. Pressing a button once selects the input to be assigned to A or B, but pressing the button twice causes that input to ignore the source and set itself to one of four Modes, either Black, White, Chroma-key or Luminance-key, as determined by a switch on the front edge of the unit.

The Mode function is very useful in a live performance context, as you can instantly 'kill' a video image by making the screen black or white. Alternatively, you can assign any Input to the fader position which is not currently live and fade across to it for example when fading to black at the end of a performance. The Chroma and Luminance Key features are great for superimposing one image onto another, allowing you to mix one image into either the chroma or luminance part of the video signal of another image.

There's even a small adjustment knob to allow you to fine-tune the extent of the superimposition. It's not really going to give you broadcast-quality back-projection type superimposition, but it's still very usable for effecting the overall image, and a worthy inclusion.

The last button to mention around the Input select buttons is marked Hold. As the name suggests, pressing this button will freeze the current image. Finally, a set of buttons along the top of the unit allows you to select any of the four input sources or the currently live output for viewing on an optional external monitor.

This feature is very useful for cueing up a source before you bring it into the vision mix. Thankfully, all of the buttons and the A-B fader are backlit, which is exactly what you want when you're fumbling around in a live venue in the dark! My only reservation about the KF4 is the same one I have for the KPE1 — the power cable and connector are so flimsy for a unit otherwise so well designed for live use.

In a nutshell, the Krossfour is a simple little unit that does its job perfectly well. Inputs 2, 3, and 4 accept only composite video via phono, and input 4 is on the front of the unit. Monitor output : One on the front edge of the KF4, on phono jack only as a composite video signal. Switches : Fader Curve four crossfade types , Mode offering instant black or white backgrounds, and Chroma-key and Luminance-key image-superimposition effects , plus a Fine control knob for adjusting the 'Keying' level.

The overall construction of the KPE1 is very solid and sports connectors on both the rear and front edges sensibly, the included headphones socket and associated volume control are located at the front. This is fair enough, though, as the chances are that you'll be plugging in the outputs from a VHS, DVD or a video camera as well as standard stereo audio.

Video Input 1 provides a video and audio input whereas Input 2 only provides video. Only one of these inputs can be in use at any point in time, so a switch on the front edge of the KPE1 allows you to select between the two. If you want to choose between more than two sources, this is where the separate Krossfour vision mixer would be useful; there's more on this in the box on using the KPE1 live below.

Finally, if I have a moan about any of the connectors on this unit it must be the power adaptor socket. In this day and age, we all seem to have to live with the 'wall-wart' adaptor; an understandable but often hated short cut which allows manufacturers to make the same basic unit for use worldwide and then make separate external power supplies with the correct voltage for different territories. However, in a live context, where a unit such as the KPE1 is being handled all the time, and is certainly subject to lots of vibration, the simple push-in power adaptor plug is a poor choice.

Whilst I realise it would be impractical to manufacture the unit with a fixed power lead, the use of a better 'screw-on'-type chassis socket and line plug would have put me at ease. You can think of the KPE1 as a kind of 'video synthesizer'. So, whether you're looking to get into the VJ club scene, add a dramatic visual backdrop to your live show or produce interesting video manipulation in a performance art environment, the Kaoss Pad Entrancer is a super little unit that's well built, simple to operate and is bursting with audio and visual possibilities.


Korg Entrancer KPE-1

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