Video Switchers For Mac

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When a church first decides that they want to use more than one video source in its live stream, it could be tempting to just go to the local electronics big box store and buy a video selector. These devices are very inexpensive and are designed to expand the number of video (and sometimes audio) ports a display can use without the trouble of switching cables.

At home, you might use an HDMI selector to switch between video sources like a cable box, an AppleTV, and a BluRay player. At its most basic, that sounds like what a video switcher does, but there are a few gotchas to such a simple system.

First, they're designed to be switched only a few times a day. So, they're not the most robust pieces of hardware.

Second, and more importantly, each time you select a new video source, there will be a visual (and often auditory) glitch. The actual switching might cause the displays to show video that's completely useless for 10 frames to 5 seconds or so.

If you have no other choice, you might think, 'Hey, it's not that bad,' but you don't want your tech efforts to be measured on the 'how bad is it' scale, but the 'how good is it' one.

Additionally, you're looking at a very limited system. Want to change how the transition itself looks? Sorry, you're out of luck. Want to layer video sources on top of one another? It can't do that either. Want to send out multiple video outputs to different locations? Nope. Need to scale different sources so your display doesn't switch resolution between sources? I can't do that either.

Video Switchers For Mac Desktop

That brings us to the actual solution you need--a video switcher.

Unlike passive selectors, video switchers enable smooth switching between sources. When you cut between cameras, if everything is set up correctly (including the type of shots the cameras are shooting), most people won't even notice that you switched, even though people who are watching for the transition will (so don't be fooled by that).

This sort of capability comes at a price though. While you can find a selector locally for almost no money, a switcher will have to come from a place that sells video equipment ... unless you're using a computer and software to accomplish the same thing. So, there's a time element involved in getting one. There's also a larger financial commitment. Usually, we're talking about something that's at least several hundred dollars, but some churches need switchers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

To add to the confusion about switchers, consider that there are different types that meet different needs.


Presentation switchers

The first of these are presentation switchers. These devices are aimed at the business market and meant to switch between sources that are more likely to be used for business meetings and presentations. Of these, there are two types. One creates the transition between sources by freezing the current source and transitioning to the next. The other is truly seamless, dissolving between the current and next source in the case of a dissolve transition or instantaneously cutting with a cut. The second type is the only one you could use effectively with a live stream.

Usually, they have limited controls and effects, though. They might enable a variety of sources to be connected, not only HDMI and SDI, but VGA, component, and for older models, composite as well. This is very useful if you're going from one computer to another, but has fewer applications if you're trying to cut between video cameras for a live-stream.

Brands that manufacture presentation switchers include Folsom, Analogway, Kramer and Extron.

Software switchers

Another category of switcher that churches often use are software switchers. Don't confuse these with switchers that have software components that enable better control or that can be used for setup of hardware, these switchers use the computer hardware to do the processing of the video itself; they don't merely interact with external hardware, telling it what to do.

Video Switchers For Mac

Churches can get confused about this type of switcher, thinking that low-cost (or even free) software means that the switchers themselves are a great deal. What is often forgotten is that you'll need a way to capture each source (which might mean multiple capture cards) and that they often introduce some amount of latency in the process, making them impossible to use for IMAG.

Software that switches and therefore falls into this category includes vMix, Wirecast, and even OBS (Open Broadcaster Software).

Video Switchers For Mac Windows 10

These solutions rise and fall on the hardware they're attached to, so while vMix, for example, has a great reputation in live-streaming circles, you might have quite different results if the computer you run it on isn't up to the task or is used for different work during the week and falls victim to the results of bad network security.

Software that switches and therefore falls into this category includes vMix, Wirecast, and even OBS (Open Broadcaster Software).

Hybrid switchers

It's worth mentioning that there are some video switchers that are basically purpose-built computers with specialized hardware, sold as turn-key switcher solutions. While the Tricaster is a video switcher built for IMAG, live streaming, and recording, it's actually, at its heart, a Windows computer.

While the Tricaster is a video switcher built for IMAG, live streaming, and recording, it's actually, at its heart, a Windows computer.

This fact means that while it can be very reliable when set up correctly and not monkeyed with, it can also have problems if either of those things are not true.

Other similar solutions include the SlingStudio, which isn't exactly a video switcher, but isn't exactly a computer either, and the Wirecast Gear switcher.

Video Switchers For Mac Download

Pseudo switchers

Since we're talking about switchers for live streaming, it's worth mentioning the Mevo, which isn't exactly a switcher, since it uses a single video source--a 4k camera, but takes part of the image and switches between that and other parts of the image. Its control interface is very much like a switcher, but it isn't really one.

Since we're talking about switchers for live streaming, it's worth mentioning the Mevo, which isn't exactly a switcher, since it uses a single video source--a 4k camera, but takes part of the image and switches between that and other parts of the image.

Hardware switchers

When most churches think about video switchers, what they're thinking of are hardware switchers. The standard interface, with separate preview and program buses for selecting sources, and cut and autotrans buttons along with a t-bar for executing transitions chosen and previewed with the preview bus, is what was repurposed to look like a complicated control system for the Death Star's main gun in Star Wars.

Video Switchers For Mac Os

Even with the advent of touch screens and other interfaces, this control metaphor, with tactile illuminated buttons remains the preferred way most video directors and technical directors control which shots display in the final production.

Higher end models of this type of switcher enable not only switching between more sources and the use of more effects, like keys, pips, etc, but they also enable a single director to control multiple video destinations at once. So, while one aux might go to the live-stream, another might go to the recorder, and a third to IMAG, all with subtle variations and, at times, different shots.

Video Switchers For Mac

While they may run on some sort of operating system, most tend to hide this from all but the most advanced users and tend not to have a mouse and keyboard attached as required peripherals.

Prices range too. Devices like the BlackMagic Design Web Presenter with Teranex faceplate (which just switches between a single SDI and HDMI source, outputting as a glorified computer capture card over USB) and the Roland V-02HD (which has a more tactile interface for its two-HDMI source switching capability) both sell for around $650.

The next step up, which is in the sweet spot of capabilities and price for most churches that need a switcher, the Roland V1-HD and BlackMagic ATEM Television Studio HD both sell for around $1,000 and add more sources (four HDMI sources for the Roland and both four HDMI and four SDI sources for the BlackMagic) and more capabilities, like better keying. The Roland has the familiar Preview/Program bus and T-bar interface, while the BlackMagic has a more abbreviated interface on the front of its 2/3 rackspace-wide face. You can augment the ATEM interface with software control, but the work is on in the unit itself. The ATEM also adds the ability to do a downstream key with an alpha channel from something like ProPresenter's Alpha keyer module and associated hardware.

From there, prices increase along with capabilities and we start adding manufacturers like GrassValley, Ross, and others. These are at the upper end of the spectrum, so if you're just moving from a single camera to multiple, you probably aren't going to be looking at them, unless you're also moving into a larger building, with a capital campaign that justifies their price point, too. If you're looking for this type of switcher, you're looking past entry-level and have crossed into professional solutions. At that point, it's best to get a professional systems integrator involved.

Whatever you get, adding multiple cameras will greatly increase your church's capabilities. Used correctly, a video switcher can turn a boring static shot or too frequently moving single-shot into a nearly professional production.

Choose well for the future and your live stream will have a level of professionalism and engagement that you can't achieve from one camera alone.