First impressions of Arkaos GrandVJ 1.2 beta

Arkaos GrandVJArkaos is out with a new beta for version 1.2 of their GrandVJ application and that prompted me to check out their software. Especially since they promise support for native Quartz Composer files. The new beta is out for both Mac and Windows. grab it here:

So now I have the beta and since I am a seasoned Modul8 user I thought I’d try and do a Modul8 versus GrandVJ feature comparison. Keep in mind that I have a total of 5 hours of experience with GrandVJ versus 3 or 4 years with M8, but I will try to be fair and balanced.

General impressions of GrandVJ

The basic idea of GrandVJ is not that foreign when coming from Modul8. A lot of the features are pretty much the same in both apps and I don’t cover those here. For instance the midi mapping and key mapping seems to work in a similar way, and adjusting the size, speed, transparency of a movie is also basically the same. That said I will go on to describe the only the main differences between the two apps.


In GrandVJ: No. So that’s perhaps the biggest difference of them all. But as far as I read you can write custom effects and so called generators – that may solve a lot of the same tasks as the modules in Modul8.

The interface and the clip banks

GrandVJ has way more space for clips than Modul8. The default clip bank is organized in 16 tabs of 16 clips and is customizable to hold as many as you like which is a vast improvement over the 8×16 limit of Modul8. Furthermore you can import and export banks of clips – something that is really lacking in M8. Also the interface of GrandVJ is more flexible than Modul8. Windows can be floating or grouped in tabs as you prefer.

Handling effects

GrandVJ handles effects as clips that you drag and put onto your media whereafter you can tweak the parameters of the effect. This is quite different from the Modul8 paradigm where effects are mostly handled by dedicated knobs and sliders in the interface or in the modules. One strength in GrandVJ is that you can assign an effect directly onto your ‘library items’ in the clip banks. For instance in your clip bank you have a clip of a dog with a yellow tint effect and another instance of the same clip of the dog with a red tint. In Modul8 the color or any other effect is always tied to the layer.
One major limitation in GrandVJ however: You can only have one effect at a time on any one clip. So to spell it out: In GrandVJ you don’t get a red dog with a blur unless you have it as a clip.

A and B group and layersets

GrandVJ doesn’t have layer sets. So if you need to switch between collections of layers Modul8 is the winner. However GrandVJ does have an A and B group and you can move layers to the other group by the click of a button. Also GrandVJ doesn’t allow dragging layers to change their order. However you can quite easily copy the contents of one layer to another.

Synth mode versus mixer mode

GrandVJ has two modes and you can switch between those as you wish. The Mixer mode has layers similarly to Modul8 whereas the synth mode is created for easier clip triggering. If you choose mixer mode GrandVJ functions very much like Modul8. You put your clips into layers and tweak some parameters of those layers. You have an A and a B group and you can fade between hose two groups.

In synth mode each clip you trigger is stacked on top of the others. You can however retain some control of the order of your clips by labelling them to go into the background, middle or top. All clips can be triggered with the keyboard of a midi controller and you have an onscreen label of what key is assigned to the clip.

As I see it this is a strong feature in GrandVJ – the ability to switch freely between these two modes within the same application – at any time during your performance.

Quartz Composer support

As I mentioned in the beginning a new feature of the 1.2 beta of GrandVJ is support for Quartz Composer files. Simply drag a file into your clip bank. There’s nothing much to say, it’s an improvement over Modul8 as Modul8 handles QC files only through a Safe Mode which disables a lot of the features of Quartz Composer. On the other hand you don’t get direct access to tweak parameters of your QC file as you can do in VDMX. This is however a feature that the development team of GrandVJ has in mind for a future release, whereas Modul8 team has stated that they don’t see any further development of QC support in Modul8 in the foreseeable future.

Where is the animation?

One major feature that is lacking in GrandVJ when coming from the Modul8 world is animation. Where is ‘auto move’, ‘auto scale’, ‘auto rotate’? And where is the sequencer module that I use all the time in M8? All the animation features of Modul8 makes it easy to create movement using still images with transparent backgrounds. In GrandVJ it seems that all movement must come from the clips or from manually triggering and tweaking parameters. I suppose with an external midi sequencer a lot of the sequencing and animation can be achieved in GrandVJ but I know my style of working is very dependent on those basic features.


Overall GrandVj seems to be designed for the club VJ whereas Modul8 is brilliant for all kinds of performances with a more strict choreography and scenography. GrandVJ makes it easier to browse and trigger a large number of media whereas Modul8 lets you preproduce mulitple sets of layers with custom settings.

In general though – for my needs GrandVJ has potential but there is still a long way before I would consider it as a general alternative to Modul8. When that is said I wish Modul8 would be inspired and solve some of the basic limitations of their software. Mainly import/export of clip banks and generally allowing for more items in the banks.

Also despite the new version 2.6 of Modul8 development seems to be stagnating, so if GrandVJ keeps evolving, who knows what the score looks like in a year.

Add your comments

Let me know what you think. Have you tried both apps? Have I missed some major features? Add your comments below…

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  1. Seems like a fair deal, comparison wise.. only one aspect seems to be missing from the comparison and it’s performance.. have you tried to see when both hit the wall and start lagging playing heavy clips at high resolution ?

    I think it’d be an interesting aspect to cover.

  2. Udart (Author)

    You’re right. I have a hunch that GrandVJ has a bigger footprint, the fan on my Macbook Pro seemed to start when running simple clips on a couple of layers, something that I don’t see happening in Modul8. But I kind of shied away from the topic as there might be some configuration options in GrandVJ that I might have missed.

    Also stability of the software was a topic not covered. Would be unfair to try and test that with a beta version.

  3. Aurelio Ramos

    I have to make a correction to your comparison. It is in fact possible to apply more than one effect to a video clip in grandVJ. But in order to do so, you would have to load effects on any number of cells (without visuals) and then trigger the effects after or simultaneously with the cell that contains the actual visual being effected. Interestingly, the order in which effects are applied is dependent on the order in which the cells are activated. To do this you have to carefully set your priorities for the visual tab of all the cells involved, even those that have no visual, I can’t remember exactly the correct setting of the top of my head since I am a newbie.

    Thanks for your well informed report and perspective!

  4. Interessant post, some comments:

    – “So to spell it out: In GrandVJ you don’t get a red dog with a blur unless you have it as a clip.”

    You can, using two layers. And you can assign two layers to the same controller or keyboardd key and define the target layer, so until you need the 8 layers…

    – Quartz Composer: “On the other hand you don’t get direct access to tweak parameters of your QC file as you can do in VDMX.”

    You can control 4 parameters if you set the composition as an effect, but not if you use it as a source visual simlpy drag&dropping it like a MOV or video file.

    – “Also stability of the software was a topic not covered. Would be unfair to try and test that with a beta version.”

    From my experience, both apps are very stable.

    – Not covered by the article:

    More movie formats are supported in GrandVJ
    Multi-screen is more advanced in Modul8

    To me both softwares are very different. I know GrandVJ better and understand its potential and efficiency. As well I saw Modul8 working in very widescreen or multi-screen environements and understood how easier it was than doing this with GrandVJ.
    Modules programming is very interresting in Modul8 while GrandVJ offers customization through Flash programming, effects programming and Quartz Composer…

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