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Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro HD Switcher

by PLSN Staff • in
  • Articles
  • December 2017
  • Road Tests
• Created: December 14, 2017
Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro HD Switcher

Video switchers are not sexy. At least the smaller frames. Let’s face it, in terms of sheer eye candy, small event video switchers take a back seat to their audio and lighting cousins.

It’s a general rule that the larger the console, the more bells and whistles and consequently more blinky lights and buttons. The smaller fare is basic because they tend to be more utility than glam. There’s only so much you can fit in a frame anyway.

The other general rule is that the smaller the unit, the cheaper it is and there’s a reason for that. Generally, build quality is not great, and lower end components and copious amounts of plastic led to a cheapened feel.

So I was pleased when the first thing I noticed about the Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro HD was the weight. This thing is dense. Weight is usually the first unconscious sensory indicator of the quality of a product, right? No matter the usefulness, the quality, the amount of whizz-bang of a product — it’s the initial weight that gives a feeling of confidence.

With the Studio Pro, it’s a sense that belies its svelte exterior. It is about the size of a 17-inch laptop (16.65 by 11.89 inches, to be precise), but with its 9 pounds, 4 ounce heft, it feels like it packs some muscle.

The ATEM Television Studio Pro is the big brother (a more professional level switcher, if you will…) of the ATEM TVS HD. Where the TVS was a comfy fit in a 1 RU 2/3 rack design, the Studio Pro is the beefier, desktop format familiar to so many who have used an eight-input unit in the past.

And that’s exactly what it is — an eight-input video switcher that can handle a small live show, webcast, and oh-so-much more.

Front view

‡‡         Around the Unit

The I/O panel in the back is almost identical to the ATEM TVS (see “Honey, I Shrunk the Studio,” PLSN, July 2017, page 52), with the exception of TRS headphone, Audio in, and 4-pin XLR style power jack. (Now you can use all those battery packs lying around the shop!) You get four HDMI and four SDI inputs on BNC, and the SDI jacks have output as well. This is pretty useful for feeding ISO record decks and confidence monitors.

The cool thing with the SDI jacks is that they are all compatible with BMD’s talk-back, tally, color, and return features built into their line of studio cameras as well as the Ursa line of cameras. This makes it super easy to integrate all the “live” features built in to the switcher and cameras.

There is PGM Out, Multiview out (HDMI and SDI) as well as an AUX. Add in an RJ45 jack for external comm/control and a USB and you have the full back panel. The ATEM software allows multiple users whether you are on the desk or not, so you can have someone loading the media players or communicating with camera ops while someone else is doing the physical switch.

The face of the unit is laid out like pretty much any compact video switcher, with a few notable exceptions. The main PVW/PGM button area on the left double up with a SHIFT key for media player 1 and 2, background, Bars, and Black.

Rear view

Main switching buttons are pro grade, lit and comfy. Above that is the area for Key, DSK, and DVE cut and fill, as well as the audio monitoring area. Each input gets an AFV (Audio Follows Video) switch as well as a level encoding knob with small meters.

I’ve never been a fan of mixing audio and video on the same console. But given that this desk is completely suited to single operator use in live situations, this is a welcome feature that isn’t buried in some GUI deep in the software. A quick glance gives complete confidence that your audio sources are valid.

There’s a mix minus option for sending audio back to an interviewee, if need be, and all the ATEM products are compatible with Mackie USB protocol. Plug in a separate mixer and have someone else do the mix!

As far as keying goes, you get one Upstream Keyer, two Downstream Keyers and two Media Players capable of PNG, TIFF, JPG, BMP and GIF.

The desk is also capable of Macros, which allow you to combine DVE transitions, media players, and complex keystrokes which would otherwise be impossible during a live switch.

The rest of the face is completely unremarkable, with Auto and Cut transition buttons, a fader for a T-bar, and DSK tie and auto buttons. The lack of a T-bar will come as a disappointment to some purists, but the fader had a decent resistance and wasn’t completely uncomfortable to use. Besides, it makes the desk nice and flat and easy to mount on a slide-out traveling rack, with no worries of a broken bar at the gig.

The number of buttons to choose from for a transition pattern was overwhelming, and may be a bit much. There are a total of 36 up there, and I can’t help but think that real estate could have gone to something far more useful. Like expanding the last bit of feature-laden panel, the upper deck.

This area starts with a section for direct comm access to inputs as well as Direct Talk to each. There is also a set of control buttons for access to camera functions like Gain, Shutter, WB, and much more. As I mentioned before, this is primarily for Blackmagic’s line of Studio, Cinema, and URSA cameras and works exceedingly well. It’s laid out with a roller-ball encoder much in the same way Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software is, and it also doubles for PTZ camera control, although I was unable to test this function. PTZ cameras are pretty ubiquitous these days, though, and control protocols like VISCA, RS-232, and RS-485 are all supported with this console, so it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

Rounding out the top of the panel is a small LCD confidence monitor that doubles as the main readout for all the menu functions. The menu itself is pared down to the absolute necessities, and it’s actually quite nice to use. You only have to go a few layers deep to accomplish all the major tasks of getting the desk set up, which should take less than an hour to go from box to broadcast. Blackmagic has really upped their game in the menu function ease department on all their products, and the ATEM is no exception.

For a vast majority of the live social media market as well as smaller rental/live event folks, this switcher is going to accomplish everything you need to put out a quality professional looking product for a minimal investment.

The build quality is fantastic, the features are numerous and useful, buttons and knobs give a great feel, and the setup-to-use time is ridiculously short for anyone with even basic knowledge of a switcher.

At a Glance

Compact and Versatile

Blackmagic Design’s all-in-one ATEM Studio Pro HD live production switcher provides hands-on access to an integrated hardware control panel and packs in features such as HDMI and SDI inputs, multiview, talkback, DVE and more. If you do live social media switching or small event production, you need this piece of kit. Your life will be instantly easier and more gratifying.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro HD Switcher

  • PROS: Small form factor eight-input video/audio switcher for live event/social media broadcast; impressive build quality.
  • CONS: A little too much real estate devoted to wipe patterns.

FEATURES

  • Four 3G-SDI inputs
  • Four HDMI inputs
  • Eight total inputs, all with auto re‑sync
  • Supports All Video Formats (from SD to 720p, 1080i and 1080p HD up to 60fps)
  • Built-in Multi-View for Eight Sources + Preview & Program
  • Plenty of Transition Options (Cut, mix, dip, SMPTE wipes, etc.)
  • Built-in Audio Mixer
  • Internal Sources (Black, color bars, two color generators, two media player outputs)
  • Ethernet connection for computer connection
  • Mac and Windows control panel software included
  • Compatible with all ATEM Broadcast Control Panels
  • Black Burst and HD-Tri-Sync genlock input


STATS

  • Dimensions: 16.65” x 11.89”
  • Weight: 9 lbs. 4 oz.
  • Price: $2,295
  • Manufacturer: Blackmagic Design
  • More Info: www.blackmagicdesign.com

 

 

 

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