When I first saw the box I thought, "wow, this thing is really small.
How can there be a fully featured audio and video mixer in this box?" Then, I opened the box and was surprised once again when I discovered that half the box was foam packaging and saw how compact the unit really is.
My first impression was that this would be a great switcher for remote productions. You can plug four microphones and four cameras into the unit. In my opinion, this is sufficient for almost any production a High School Broadcaster would want to create.
We happened to have a Parish (County) Honor Band Concert scheduled for the day after the unit arrived. What better test for ease of use than to give it a try with my student production crew. My goal was to never take the manual out of the box. We succeeded. It was that easy to use.
We hooked up two cameras and four microphones very easily for the concert production. We even created a stereo mix with the Roland VR-3’s audio mixer by panning the microphones right on the unit’s audio mixer. The final live mix sounded great!
The VR-3 also has RCA connectors for line level audio input and a 1/8” phone jack connector for taking in audio from a computer. There is also a VGA input connector and VGA pass through output connector for hooking up an external computer monitor. This hookup is for showing full screen graphics and also luma or chroma keyed graphics from a program like Powerpoint.
Another handy feature on the audio input side is that the connectors on the side of the unit take either XLR input or TRS ¼” phone connectors with phantom power.
On the video output side, there are two composite video RCA connectors and a preview or multi-view composite video output. The multi-view output mirrors the video on the four-panel touch screen. For audio output you have either RCA or ¼” phone jacks for hooking up an external recorder or sending audio to a sound system.
For those who need to stream video to the internet, the VR-3 also offers a USB connection that sends out a standard 720 X 480 NTSC video signal as a stream that can be detected by your computer or laptop. It was as simple as plugging in the USB cord where the drivers automatically install and then open up an encoding program such as Adobe’s free Flash Media Live Encoder App. It automatically recognized the VR-3. I then just put in my settings from my streaming provider and, bingo, I was streaming.
Switching cameras is as easy as tapping the touch screen on the front panel or by pressing the video selector buttons. You can set the switch to make a fade, wipe or cut between camera changes.
It was very easy to get up and running quickly with the Roland VR-3. It was a great little A/V mixer that was perfect for the concert we taped, but I could see it working equally well at school, while producing a sporting event, or being used in a small studio.
The unit has a few downsides, but considering the price of under $2,000 dollars, this is completely understandable. It does not have an onboard recorder. You must use some type of external recording device like a DVCAM tape deck or an AJA Ki-Pro that we used in our configuration. We also had to use a composite to SDI converter because the Ki-Pro does not have a composite input.
Another downside, the unit only outputs, or allows you to input, standard definition NTSC video. SD video is still pretty much the standard in school productions or for web-streaming, so this is not a problem for most.
Not really a downside, but kind of overkill for the typical education broadcaster are the array of audio effects and MIDI input. This might be good if you produce a lot of music-oriented productions, but overkill for most.
I really liked the Roland VR-3. It was compact, so easy to setup and use that I would highly recommend it. My two student directors who were with me that night had no problem jumping right in and switching the concert. You will need a few extra pieces of outboard gear like a laptop and external recorder for a complete production, but this is the perfect unit for remote productions or for a small education based studio.
For more information on the Roland VR-3, visit their website at: http://www.rolandsystemsgroup.com/products/100096
Albert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005. The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools. The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.
Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years. As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009. He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 6.