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STUDIO by Kieron Seth T he video switcher (aka vision mixer) is at the heart of all live television, all AV and many a live webcast. But despite its core role, it’s remained essentially the same concept for decades, consisting of a digital video effects processing unit, matrix switcher and control panel. Fundamentally this hardware-based approach is strongly favoured by broadcasters and live event teams because of its inherent reliability. In the unlikely event of failure the inevitable “turn it off and turn it on again” typically resolves any issue within seconds. Compare this with the process of rebooting a computer-based mixer and you’ll appreciate why hardware trumps software in live, mission critical situations. A less conservative approach Because of this fear of failure, developers have innovated slowly and methodically. Blackmagic Design was one of the fi rst to inject new energy into the sector with its ATEM switchers which have proven to be incredibly popular with users everywhere from the BBC to start-up webcasters. One of the reasons has been the option to control the hardware via a software interface. Installed on a touchscreen laptop or a tablet computer, it’s very affordable, stable and intuitive. However, there’s much more to it than the low price (from well under £1,000). With the ATEM range you can have multiple operators all working on the same programme at the same time. For example, operator one switches between camera angles and recorded clips, the second controls the Studio Cameras’ settings, the third mixes audio with a forth creating and organizing graphics and titles. All this can be achieved using four laptops and a single low profi le ATEM base unit. 54 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 104 AUGUST 2015 The production desk fi nally gets innovative Remote control, remote mixing Until recently, vision mixing has been a very local affair. While the cloud has started to impact on media archivists and remote editing teams, it still plays a very limited role in live production. The chief reason for this is latency. Cutting between live sources (camera one to camera two etc.) requires accuracy and the ability to monitor video feeds and previews on a multiviewer in real-time. Until now this has been a very costly exercise, with SDI signals and control signals transmitted expensively over anywhere between 5 and 20 individual cables over a maximum distance of around 75 metres. Is this an issue? Yes. In corporate environments or venues, no facilities manager is going to allow holes to be drilled through the walls of meeting rooms or conference suites for bundles of cables. In schools and universities there is no budget for extended lengths of SDI cable, and production teams cannot be placed in each classroom or demo theatre.