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NuVJ Secrets/Scratch Lock mod
NuVJ "Scratch Lock" hardware modification
(and detailed photos of the inside of the NuVJ)

Ok so this is a standard NuVJ. I've been toying with an idea of a hardware mod for a couple of weeks now and today I finally plucked up the nerve to take the soldering-iron and drill to my beloved controller.

I've had it about a year now and it's proven very reliable, but the warranty period is probably up and anyhow this has been bugging me for a while...


One NuVJ was slightly traumatized but survived intact, click the photo for the details.


Please Note
If you carry out any of the stuff on these pages you will invalidate your NuVJ warranty. These modifications are defintiely NOT endorsed by Numark and they would almost certainly *strongly* advise you AGAINST doing this, and they'd probably be right.


So why drill holes in your perfectly working NuVJ?
How it currently works now is this: while clips are playing, the nuvj rotary dials act as a "pitch bend", just like most CD decks. You can scratch too but you need to hold down the scratch button which pauses the video (and stops the audio output) and lets you scratch. When you let go the video picks up and carries on playing.

The approach works pretty well for the most part,  problem I have with it is that it takes two hands or fingers to carry this out so adjusting other stuff at the same time is tricky. If you're scratching something but need to come out of it - that means you need to set something else up and all of a sudden you might find there's a shortage of fingers.

Also to scratch both sides at once doesn't really leave you many options. CD decks also usually have pause buttons which the NuVJ does not and I believe lack of transport controls is a common gripe - doesn't particularly bother me but I see the pause as a bonus.


The solution
My mod is basically to add an override switch to each of the scratch buttons so they can be latched on and off without having to occupy an extra finger. It should be somewhere convenient but reasonably out of the way so as not to risk catching on things or getting broken off. It needs to be a robust, permanent solution which will survive repeated gig situations.

There's no rocket science here, the buttons are switches which can be identified from the back of the main PCB. All we're doing is adding a remote overide switch to short that connection as if the scratch button had been pressed. The mod even triggers the light on the scratch button so you know when it's on or off :D

This mod also allows you to change clips *whilst* scratching and adjusting other parameters..since now there's more fingers available.

Also I found that with some codecs - e.g. quicktime PhotoJpeg, the NuVJ responds really well when in "scratch" mode but not so well when playing normally. Might be a ram/hdd issue but it was a contributing factor in todays events sicne I think it might be possible to do some interesting things with that "abnormality".

Whilst it's quite a subtle modification I think it'll allow a few more tricks than before. I would say that although simple in principle, this was quite lengthy to carry out and took me the best part of 6 hours, but then I had nothing to refer to and was proceeding very carefully since I didn't want to have to explain this to Numark support ;)

Once I've finished captioning the photos I'll post a video of the mod in action so you can see what I mean.

I'd say this is slightly harder overall than chipping an Xbox with one of the old Matrix style chips which required ninja soldering skills. This doesn't need quite as ninja soldering, and is in essence quite a simple modification, but it had a *lot* of steps complete smoothly if I was to get the kind of result and reliability I wanted.

I didn't actually intend to actually do this today - it was supposed to be a scoping mission to see if my intended mod was possible but as it happened it all went smoothly and I just happened to have all the right bits to carry it out so I went with it.

I took a bunch of photos along the way (about a hundred) which show almost every step in detail - some of them need bits highlighting, arrows etc and I'll update them as soon as I can.

On a side note I'd like to say I think the NuVJ is a great little bit of kit. I think people pass it over because it doesn't have all the knobs and whistles of some of the other systems and for the most part the built-in effects are a bit too "recognisable" to use. It's also not exactly cheap either, but in terms of the very essence of video-mixing, and plug-and-play reliability it's about the next-best thing to a set of DVJs and is a lot lighter to carry!

Given some of the junk Numark have tried to pass off as mixers in the past I was pleasantly surprised by the NuVJ's construction. Right to the core it was sturdily assembled and looked pretty well thought out. Screws were in tight and everything had a positive, solid feel to it. Credit where it's due. It was more like dismantling a Sony than a Dell ;)

My only disappointment was that in the process I scuffed the rubberising on one of the knobs while the unit was face down on the desk (hence the importance of the foam/blanket!). This coating seems to be very thin and once the button was scuffed at all the rest of the coating soon followed it so now I have one shiny button but I can live with that.


Conclusion
A set of vynil decks is basic but look at what people manage to do with them once they put their mind to it. The NuVJ forces a disciplined approach because you need to put the effort into clip preparation and practise rather than having a gazillion controls.

From my point of view it forces me to define the line between production and performance, and that's a good thing. I used to have to take half a carload of kit to gigs and setup would be intricate and take hours. Occasionally there are still those gigs but for all the others I can turn up and my kit fits in a lockable Pell case. 13-amp socket, video output and we're rolling.

As they say, it's about the content not the buttons.

The NuVJ in the pic has by now played countless live gigs, from Pink Floyd tributes to 12-hour hardstyle marathons and whilst I think it's most suited to short (1-2hour) sets maybe that's just my attention span. After 6+ hours on it it can seem pretty limited but then what doesn't after that sort of time.


Checklist:
If you decide you DO want to attempt this mod, then you'll need the following tools:
  • Small "watchmaker's" screwdrivers in a few different sizes
  • A couple of sizes of regular philips (cross-head) screwdrivers
  • Electric drill of some kind, with variable speed control (so you can go slow and carefully!).
  • A small soldering iron for delicate work. I used a 15w one with a pointed tip like this. I would not recommend anything bigger or the "gun"-type irons for this sort of work.
  • Multicore solder (i.e. not plumbing solder!)
  • Soldering flux (optional) - I know the multi-core solder has flux in it but in order to minimize the heat applied to the solder joints inside the nuvj, I used a bit of regular flux on the existing nuvj joints to get things flowing a bit quicker.
  • Some sponge or thick material to rest the NuVJ on (face down) and protect the front.
  • A couple of small random blocks of wood for propping up and applying pressure while soldering (see the pics). An extra pair of hands would be as good or better.
Other than the switches themselves and a couple of bits of wire there wasn't much else needed in terms of hardware.


To the photos


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