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Additional Video Hardware

Note: If you have only one video source being sent to a given video program (like a camera to a DVD recorder, or a presentation computer to a projector), then it is not necessary to use any of the equipment on this page for that particular video program. Just go straight from the video source to the program display or recording device. Some adapters or signal boosters may be required. Some recording devices even have a monitor signal output, which can be used to feed another display, such as in a Cry Room or Fellowship Hall.
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Video mixers, matrices and switchers all accomplish the same basic thing: allow multiple video sources to contribute to a live video program.

Currently, due to the size of the bandwidth of video signal compared to the abilities of most computers, as of the year 2013, this realm of technology is still most popular as standalone proprietaryhardware.

Software-based systems that operate through a single standard computer are becoming more popular as computer speeds and RAM abilities increase, often available with outboard control surfaces that plug into your computer via USB or Firewire. Before attempting to implement a software-based mixing system, be sure to do your research, including:
  1. Availability of the software for functioning in your particular Operating System environment.
  2. Computer hardware requirements for achieving stable performance without crashing or errors.
  3. If you have PTZ cameras, then how are you going to control them? Will you send the program output of your old PTZ camera mixer to a USB port on your computer?
  4. Reliability & durability of the interface connections.
Note that some professional grade presentation software programs may actually be able to handle some situations where there is only one external live video source (could be a camera or anything). You may want to look into the capabilities of your presentation software compared to your sources of video, because your presentation software could possibly serve as a video matrix for you, saving you a lot of money. One such software program intended for presentations is ProPresenter, listed below in the Software Solutions sectionIt is important to test the stability, reliability and functionality of such features before implementing them into your events. It is possible that mixing a video program while simultaneously following song lyrics or the pastor's sermon presentation may be too complicated. Be nice to your presentation technicians! If they say it seems too complicated, then it probably is. ...you probably need an extra person to do the live video mix, as well as the necessary equipment.

Survey of the Hardware Architectures
Will standalone proprietary hardware systems become extinct due to improvement to computers? Probably not until far into the future, beyond the year 2025, maybe decades, maybe never.

  • Switcher
    • # Input Channels = multiple
    • # Output Programs = 1
      • Only once source can be displayed at a time.
    • Video Signal Types: depends upon the model. May or may not come with audio capabilities.
      • Analog: VGA, component, S-video, composite.
      • Digital: IP (via ethernet/RJ45 connection), HDMI, USB, Firewire.
    • PTZ camera control: none.
    • Transitions: simple stuff, via button press (no faders)
    • Overlays: not possible in standalone setup
    • Outboard control surfaces: not available on many models:
      • Mixer surface for in-depth control of transitions and overlays.
      • Keyboard for text creation.
    • Operator's Monitor Display
      • Signal Outputs: available on some models.
      • Onboard Display: not available.
  • Matrix (plural = matrices)
    • # Input Channels = multiple
    • # Output Programs = multiple
      • Only once source can be displayed at a time.
    • Video Signal Types: depends upon the model. May or may not come with audio capabilities.
      • Analog: VGA, component, S-video, composite.
      • Digital: IP (via ethernet/RJ45 connection), HDMI, USB, Firewire.
    • PTZ camera control: none.
    • Transitions: simple stuff, via button press (no faders)
    • Overlays: not possible in standalone setup
    • Outboard control surfaces: not available on many models:
      • Deluxe matrixing control surface, but not as much functionality as a mixer surface.
      • Mixer surface for in-depth control (see Mixer features, below).
      • Keyboard for text creation.
    • Slave Control: some models may be able to control or be controlled by another matrix, or may themselves be designed as dedicated slaves only.
    • Operator's Monitor Display
      • Signal Outputs: available on most models.
      • Onboard Display: not available on most models.
  • Mixer
    • # Input Channels = multiple, but none it is merely a dedicated master control surface.
    • # Output Programs = depends upon the model, but none if it is merely a dedicated master control surface.
      • Can mix 2 or more video sources together into the same program (on top of each other, split screen, picture-in-picture, etc.). Can be useful if you are using a sign language interpreter for the hearing impaired.
    • Video Signal Types: depends upon the model. May or may not come with audio capabilities.
      • Analog: VGA, component, S-video, composite.
      • Digital: IP (via ethernet/RJ45 connection), HDMI, USB, Firewire.
    • PTZ camera control: depends upon the model.
    • Transitions: fancy stuff, via fader and/or button press (a lot more control than standalone switchers and matrices)
    • Overlays: created internally. Some models may also be able to import from computer, either in pre-production or live, or even mix a live overlay from another source into the video program.
    • Outboard control surfaces: keyboard for text creation.
    • Master Control of Slaves: some models may be able to control external matrices or switchers.
    • Operator's Monitor Displays
      • Signal Outputs
        • Available on most models: Program, Preview
        • Available on some models: Cameras, Players, Overlays, Effects, Record, etc.
      • Onboard Display: available on some models, but usually limited to only Program & Preview.

Hardware Solutions (analog, digital)
  • Tricaster http://www.newtek.com/tricaster/
    • Versions: Multiple versions are available.
    • Features: transitions, overlays.
    • Who uses it: The synod uses Tricaster Studio for our live event recording/streaming. For many congregations this might be overkill, but for those who really want to dive in, it's fairly easy to use, but expensive. It ranges in price, depending on model, between $4,000 and $10,000. The Tricaster is essentially a production studio "in a box". The box happens to be a proprietary type of computer with a bunch of audio and video ins and outs.


Software Solutions
Software solutions require a very fast computer with a lot of RAM, plus analog to digital interfaces for analog source signals.

  • VidBlaster http://vidblaster.com/
    • Intended Design: Video Mixer
    • OS Platforms: Windows
      • From the VidBlaster FAQ page, as of 2013-05-18: "Q: Will there be a Mac OS X version? A: I will not be doing any work to directly support Mac OS, Linux, Mono, or any other platform. I prefer to focus on the best quality and support for the Windows platform. You can run VidBlaster in Windows on a Mac though. Check out the support forum if you have any questions."
    • Recommended Editions: Home, Studio
    • Who uses it: Mainly... Some churches. Some TV studio production companies.
  • ProPresenter http://www.renewedvision.com/
    • Intended Design: Presentation Software
    • OS Platforms: Windows & Mac
    • Recommended Editions: any
    • Who uses it: Thousands of churches, corporations and professional speakers around the world.

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