Mix of Video Switchers For Multilayered Mixing Options

Producers no longer have to acquire broadcast-issue consoles
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Grass Valley’s Karrera Video Production Center

Video switchers are essential tools for many government video producers who need switchers both to manage multi-camera in-studio productions, and to allow for multi-layered mixing during editing sessions.

In the past, such producers would have to purchase a version of a standard broadcast switcher (whether they wanted to or not). But today things are different with switchers available for all levels of production sophistication, portability and budgets. Some of the video switchers that caught the attention of Government Video are:

RUSHWORKS

Rushworks has simplified the art of video switching by developing two software-based, touch-screen controlled switchers that can configure and use a range of pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) remotely controlled cameras. VDESK II is designed for a single operator, and providers of multi-camera coverage of meetings and events, while REMO II offers the same functionality for events at remote locations.

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Rushworks’ REMO II

“Both VDESK II and REMO II are next generation successors to our multi-camera television production system solutions,” says Rush Beesley, Rushworks’ president. “They are specifically designed to be operated by people with little or no video production experience, using a simple touch-screen interface with nine user-named presets per camera.” Both switchers also interface with manned cameras.

Both VDESK II and REMO II support four video and four audio inputs, with output selections of composite, component, S-Video, and serial digital interface (SDI). The “Preview” and “Program” buses show the four inputs, two (internal) CLIP inputs, the video graphics array (VGA) input, and a BLACK source selection. “The file browser is the portal to all clip and graphics selection,” Beesley says. By clicking on a clip it cues the Preview Window, where the user has motion controls for playing and manipulating the clip, he says. Users can select a TAKE or AUTO transition between the item in the Preview Window and what is currently on the Program bus, he adds.

VDESK II and REMO II allow the operator to drag any clip, graphic or “lower-third” from the file browser to a playlist. “This is handy for creating meeting agenda items in advance,” Beelsey says. Users can create and save as many Playlists as they wish, he says. Both systems have MPEG-2, AVI and WMV encoding built-in, with the ability to encode in all three formats at the same time.

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NewTek’s TriCaster 450

“What sets VDESK II and REMO II apart from conventional switchers is the total integration of the PTZ camera controls with the switcher components,” Beesley said. “After you’ve named and saved your nine presets per camera, when you touch a preset it automatically selects that camera on the Preview bus and in the Preview Window.”

NEWTEK

Need an HD video switcher that is highly portable? The NewTek TriCaster 450 and 450 EXTREME switchers can deliver. Both systems fit into just two 2RU cases with each system weighing just a total of 28 pounds. Add the TriCaster 450 customized keyboard, and flat panels monitors to view the video to create a complete system that can be taken on the road easily.

“The TriCaster 450 is a breakthrough product that takes our live switching technology to a new level,” says Andrew Cross, NewTek CTO. “We have been able to pack a 14-channel switcher with full HD virtual sets, keying, multi-channel recording, streaming and more into a portable 2RU system.” The TriCaster 450 EXTREME comes with extra features, such as NewTek’s IsoCorder multi-track, multi-format video recording technology.

“Of particular interest to government producers is the fact that TriCaster is a live truck in a box; including everything needed to produce sophisticated, multi-channel productions,” says Philip Nelson, NewTek’s senior vice president of strategic development. “This includes a four input switcher, graphics system, chroma key and green screen capabilities and digital DVRs.”

Many government video producers are still working with analog equipment, and then converting the output to digital. The TriCaster 450 EXTREME can work with both analog/SD and HD equipment. “In fact, being able to handle SD and HD, many government clients have purchased TriCasters to work with their existing cameras for now,” Nelson tells Government Video. “The plan is then often to upgrade cameras at a later date as budgets allow.”

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Snell’s Kahuna

Worth noting is that TriCasters are used by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NASA and the Department of Homeland Security.

SNELL

Originally, the term ‘kahuna’ was a Hawaiian term that denoted a native priest, shaman, or someone else with rank in a respected profession. The term ‘Big Kahuna’ was used to describe the head surfer – the recently deceased actor Cliff Robertson – in the 1959 surf movie “Gidget.”

H owever, Snell’s Kahuna and Kahuna 360 are neither shamans nor surfers, they are cutting-edge video production switchers. The Kahuna works seamlessly in the worlds of SD and HD, allowing government video producers to make the analog/digital camcorder transition at their own pace. Meanwhile, the Kahuna 360 adds 1080p HD production, for truly high-quality videos. The best news for government producers is they can acquire a Kahuna and upgrade it to a 360 when their needs demand it.

“Both the Kahuna and Kahuna 360 offer extremely easy-to-use operator interfaces, combined with a tremendous capacity for multi-input, multi-layer production,” says John Carter, Snell’s senior product manager. Producers can obtain the central switcher hardware, and use it to interconnect and support multiple user stations.

Worth noting is the Kahuna 360’s Galaxy Event List feature allows senior producers to prepare templates for individual shows. Those can be accessed as needed by entry-level operators, eliminating the need for manual reconfigurations between shows. Meanwhile, Snell’s Kahuna Watch feature allows producers to develop graphics on a PC or Mac, and then send them directly into the Kahuna for immediate conversion and playlist availability.

GRASS VALLEY

Grass Valley has recently introduced a “lower cost” switcher platform called the Karrera Video Production Center. The Karrera family features two frame sizes (4 RU and 8 RU) with frame configurations from 1 to 4.5 mix/effects (M/E). Either frame can be combined with a choice of two or three M/E control panels as well as a M/E soft-panel graphical user interface.

Karrera comes with Grass Valley’s DoubleTake split M/E mode, which effectively increases the maximum number of M/Es (including an optional half-M/E) to a total of up to 10 channels. All of these switchers feature HD/SD SDI signal support with (optional) up/down/cross converters on selected inputs and outputs.

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“The Karrera brings a new level of performance to more productions with innovative features and all the signal processing capability you would expect from the global leader in video production switchers,” says Scott Murray, Grass Valley’s SVP of live production solutions. “With Karrera, we’re enabling customers to take advantage of all of the powerful, high-end features that Grass Valley has become famous for.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Clearly, today’s video switcher market offers products at capabilities and prices to work with every government video budget no matter how tight. That said, video producers should be careful to first list their current production needs, and then project additional needs in the future, before settling on any given platform. In that way, they can ensure their departments saves the maximum of money at buying time without sacrificing quality and capability.

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