As my return readers will notice, I tend to post my lengthiest and most frequent articles based on real-life experience using much of the gear I discuss on this website. Often times the best lessons are learned the hard way, but that doesn’t mean you have to touch the burner to know the stove is hot. You can learn from me, and hopefully head-off a few potential disasters at the pass.
This post is no different. The focus, however, is a bit more specific than some of my other posts. It deals with live event switching for HD video streaming, specifically targeted to needing your switcher to accept signal from a presentation computer (as well as cameras), and still allow that computer to feed a projector. Confused yet? Well, the idea is one that you’ll use often when doing corporate gigs, as well as church services or meet-ups like the ones we’ve done for FCP or Adobe.
The above is the rig we brought down. I made what I thought to be an extensive gear checklist prior to the show, and for once didn’t forget anything small that ruined the show. However, I did forget the one piece that would’ve made it a 100% sure success, in relation to the above issue with using a computer signal. You can click the link below to view my checklist, which includes all the above and below pictured gear that we brought. (Projectors and presentation computers supplied by the venue)
So, the one piece I needed? The Atlona scan converter. Even with the Edirol VC-300HD (a $12,000 piece of gear a year ago) we couldn’t do the correct conversion. You see, there’s a difference within DVI signals: DVI-A and DVI-D. The difference is Analog vs. Digital. Technically, we were able to get the computer into the ATEM switcher via VC-300HD or AJA ROI, but the problem with converting the signal to digital for this is that when it goes into the DVI-A projector, it’s not able to calibrate the green channel correctly.
What does that mean in easy terms? If you do what we did, you get the picture in the ATEM, but it’s totally green on the projector. This doesn’t work for a live demo. So, we once again had to cut bait on this and basically film the projector screen with a camera. Ugh.
So, back to the title of the article: There’s a switcher for everyone. This event taught me one key lesson: there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, especially if you have a limited budget. It pays to really do the research on what’s available, what functions different switchers and rigs offer, and what kind of work you’ll be doing the most frequently. In our case, we love the sheer power and sleek results of the Blackmagic Studio 4K, Hyperdeck 4K Pro SSD, and even busted out our camera converters and ran fiber up to one of the Cinema Cameras so I could use the com function for this shoot and give direction. However, in all honesty, it probably wasn’t the best bet for the particular needs here.
Roland just released the VR-50HD. This sleek little mixer is going to run you about $7,500, but removes the need for other pieces of gear, and provides more power than others. The #1 benefit for this production would’ve been it’s built-in scalers channels 1&2, as well as having RGB/component and composite on those channels. It offers SDI, HDMI and VGA inputs for video, as well as XLR, 1/4″ and RCA for audio. It also combines basic controls for audio brought straight in (or embedded), and supplies a touch-screen multiview monitor. It’s small, but it’s there. Consider that I brought an additional 4RU rack specifically for audio, and used 6RU in my video rack for the Blackmagic Design Smartview HD (acting as the 4K Production Studio multiview)
But best of all, it would’ve handled the conversion we needed all by itself. With SDI inputs, our Cinema Cameras would’ve had no problems, and it does export SDI, which is the output we use to go into our NextComputing streaming computer. So, basically, we could’ve saved ourselves the trouble of bringing 2 different racks, and a bunch of extra pieces, by knowing all of this ahead of time.
It’s important to note, however, that we had no idea what type of projector or computer would be used during the presentation. This is something you might deal with at a paid gig, so it’s important to have a small army of converters at your disposal if possible. But it also helps to know the difference in switcher hardware that’s out there, just in case the one you’re drooling over isn’t actually the best fit for your actual needs.
So, if you can get more info pre-production than we had, such as presentation computer model, projector model, connections used, etc, obviously that’s crucial. If you have switcher hardware already, there’s some solid converters you can add to your arsenal to get through things like this, (such as the Atlona), but in the end, just remember that there could be a much more simple solution out there from start to finish. It pays to spend some extra time doing the research to save yourself the multiple heartaches I’ve experienced already.