I wrote in my recap of NAB that I believe Blackmagic Design (BMD) is targeting educators (http://schoolvideonews.com/Equipment/Article-10).
Now a month removed from NAB, I got a package from BMD that included the new web presenter, Hyperdeck Studio Mini, and the ATEM Television Studio HD and this further fueled my belief in the previous statement.
The ATEM line of switchers from BMD have long been an incredible, affordable option for multicamera productions. Offering both SDI and HDMI inputs, a vast media pool, and the ability to control the various production aspects (switching, audio mixing, graphics, and camera controls with the proper cameras), the uses in education are limitless. Other “all-in-one” options mean “only one” person has to work but the networking of the switcher to different computers allows us, as educators, to give more students, more opportunities to get hands on.
The ATEM Television Studio HD is no different than the previous models in the inputs, outputs, networked controls but it offers another wrinkle to the production workflow - the ability to switch cameras with a built in “mini” control surface. The face of the Television Studio HD has controls for input selection for both audio and video as well as “cut” and “auto” switching functions. In my testing of the ATEM, I tried a couple of different approaches including not connecting the ATEM to a computer running the control software. While I would not recommend it, I will say it worked.
I used the switcher to produce 2 of the 3 graduations in our county (couldn’t physically be at the 3rd because of time). It took less than 30 minutes for me to set up a 2 camera shoot with external audio through a board and graphics in the switcher. The ATEM Television Studio is extremely easy to use while there is no reduction in production quality.
Like most schools now, we streamed our graduations and BMD has a solution for that as well. The Web Presenter is a USB 2.0 solution to get your video out of the switcher and into a streaming encoder. I used OBS (https://obsproject.com/) to get my video to YouTube. OBS is a free service that will encode your video to a variety of services. Web Presenter is EXTREMELY simply straight from the box. In the traditional BMD fashion, the Web Presenter has a not frills presentation with a blank faceplate. Simply connecting an HDMI or SDI will get your video into Web Presenter. Connecting the USB 2.0 to your computer and using any variety of ingestion/encoding software will get your video to the web. We did learn that OBS isn’t as straightforward as other encoding softwares in that you have to add your audio feeds. It does not just pair the audio and video.
But BMD wasn’t happy with simply giving you the option to use just HDMI or SDI, they wanted to give you the option to use both and switch as needed. By removing 6 screws and adding the optional Teranex Mini Smart Panel (and replacing the screws), you can now not only monitor what is being sent to the streaming service of your choice but you can switch between inputs. The applications for this are endless. IF you wanted to do a broadcast from one studio then switch to another room for something else, it is really just a click of a button away. The transition is smooth - there is a moment of blackout but nothing that is unacceptable. I feel that while you can purchase and use Web Presenter without the Teranex Mini Smart Panel - Why Would You? It’s only around $90 retail and pays for itself the first time you use it because of the peace of mind it offers.
When we stream something as important as graduations, it is important that we have a back up in case everything goes wrong with the stream (It happens to all of us). Blackmagic Design has a solution for that as well. The Hyperdeck Studio Mini is a way to record your program feed to SD cards on the fly. The Hyperdeck Studio Mini takes an SDI signal in and records to an SD Card. It also can serve as a media player if connected to the ATEM. Again the monitor window on the front allows you watch ensure great video and audio levels for your recording and if your event goes REALLY long, you can “hot swap” the cards, meaning that if there are two cards ready to be recorded to and one fills up, the Hyperdeck Studio Mini will start recording to the other card instantly. I must warn you though that this is not an effective solution for longer broadcasts. Our graduations lasted a little over an hour and it required over 70 gB of space to record the entire ceremony. If you are doing long form programming, sports games, etc, you need to find a better way to get a recording of your program feed that isn’t so heavy on space.
I still stand on my assertion that BMD is targeting education. The prices are affordable, the tools are plentiful, and products are professional. There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to setting up the ATEM because of the networking but a quick look through the manual and you should understand the role of the IP addresses and the immense number of tools available once you are using the ATEM control software.
Producing a multicamera broadcast in a footprint of about a rack unit and half worth of equipment was one unimaginable but thanks to Blackmagic Design’s continual commitment to development, it is now not only possible for affordable. All of the products presented above add to a little over $2k retail. This is far less than other options that not only limit the number of things you can do but the number people who can do things and as teachers, we must create opportunities for our students to get hands on an learn the ins and outs of the field we love so much.