Honey, I Shrunk the Studio

by Jeff Gooch
in Video World
From top to bottom, ATEM Television Studio HD, HyperDeck Mini, Web Presenter and Teranex Mini Smart Panel from Blackmagic Design.
From top to bottom, ATEM Television Studio HD, HyperDeck Mini, Web Presenter and Teranex Mini Smart Panel from Blackmagic Design.

A Look at Four Compact Tools for Video Production

I’ve been using a Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio for a while now, so I was excited to get my hands on the newly released Television Studio HD. Why stop there, though? This month you get a bonus equipment review — I took possession of not only the ATEM TVS HD, but also a HyperDeck Mini, a Web Presenter and a Teranex Mini Smart Panel. Basically, a complete eight-input switching/record/playback system designed to fit in a 1RU space, with the exception of the Web Presenter.

Form factor is big on everyone’s minds these days, but a unified form factor is the Holy Grail. Blackmagic Design seems to have cracked the code in their latest iterations of recorders, converters and switch racks.

ATEM TVS HD

‡‡         1: ATEM TVS HD

Let’s start off with the ATEM TVS. I’ve always liked the ATEM, but its Achilles heel was the fact that you had to use a software GUI to switch with it, and for button fans like myself, this made me crazy. A mouse is just not the best way to switch a show. Luckily, BMD made use of some hot keys, and it didn’t take users long to hot-wire USB button banks together and make a simple switch buss. Heck, there are entire forums out there dedicated to hacking BMD’s ATEM SDK to use things like Just Macros and X-keys interfaces. I saw a complete 2 M/E switcher with playback server for less than $10K!

The original ATEM is quite powerful, given its diminutive footprint, but what could be improved? The hardware, of course. The newest iteration of ATEM has a full set of switch buttons on the front of the unit as well as a bright LCD panel for program out and menu access.

As previously mentioned, it is a 2/3, 1RU unit with side venting. This cooling design pops up through the latest releases of all of BMD’s gear, and it works well. On the front are 8 lit keys with either red or green for program or preview. There are also “On” and “AFV” keys above each button. “On” allows the user to add any source’s audio to the program, even when there’s another video source live. The AFV button allows you to set Audio-Follows-Video to let the source audio flow between your switching. There is a dedicated 1/4-inch headphone jack as well as a 1/4-inch mic input for talk back to sources. Over on the right of the unit are the Cut, Auto, FTB, DSK1to mix, MP1 and MP2 buttons as well as the program/menu screen and a jog wheel and menu/set buttons. The menus are smart and clean, while access is quick and easy. The screen is bright and has audio VU meters built in so a quick glance gives confidence.

On the back of the unit you get HDMI on inputs 1-4 and SDI on 5-8 as well as SDI outputs. There is also an AUX in, Ref in, PGM and Multiview on full-size BNC. There is an HDMI multi view output right next to two XLR analog audio ins, and a USB port as well as Ethernet. As with all BMD products as of late, you get to supply your own IEC electrical cable. The Multiview layout is standard and familiar, and you can use broadcast monitors or plain old consumer TV’s if you’d like. To really trick out the interface and use proper labeling of sources, etc., you’ll need to network the TVS and use a laptop.

The ATEM software GUI is chock full of editable features. Unfortunately, it’s the stuff that you need to set up a proper system, but you just can’t get to with the hardware unit. Can you switch a show right out of the box? Yes. But if you want the full power of the system, you’ll need to hook up a laptop and do some clicking. It really shines when you have multiple users logged in and dividing up the switching/monitoring duties. This device will be great for churches, schools, weddings, and YouTube programs. For the more hardware inclined, there is the ATEM Television Studio HD Pro that is closer to a 1 M/E switcher, but a lot pricier.

2 HyperDeck studio mini

‡‡         2: HyperDeck Mini

This is the unit I’ve been waiting for. It’s a 1/3 space 1RU box with the same side venting as the ATEM, and it takes UHS-II cards to record on! On the face, you get two SDHC slots, transport and control buttons, as well as a jog wheel and a small LCD confidence screen (with VU meters! Nice touch!). Around back are Ref In/Out, SDI In and two SDI outs on full size BNC. You also get HDMI out as well as USB C, Ethernet and remote in. With the cost of SD Media dropping every day, this unit is a godsend. It operates much like the old HyperDeck did, using two media slots to hot-swap and bang back and forth. 128GB cards are something like $70 these days, so you are not limited to size. This unit is easy as it gets. Simply plug in an SDI source and hit record. The HyperDeck will automatically switch to the next open card when one reaches capacity. Simply pop out the full card and insert another for continuous action. Use it for playback as well. It even gets recognized as a PB/record unit on the ATEM!

3 Web Presenter

‡‡         3: Web Presenter

This is an odd box. Odd, but useful. 1/3 space, 1RU blank face. It takes any SDI source up to 2160p and uses built-n Teranex scaling to knock it down to low-data rate 720p so you can webcast easily. It’s essentially tricking your chosen software (YT, Skype, Open Broadcaster, Facebook Live, Periscope) into thinking you have a little cheap webcam hooked up. Simple dip switches and a USB connection on the front control what’s going on in the box. Around back, you’ve got SDI, HDMI ins and outs, as well as analog audio in on XLR and RCA. The slick thing to do is to get BMD’s Teranex Mini Smart Panel and swap it on to the front. Then you have a full-blown 2 input switcher for web output.

4 Teranex Mini Smart Panel

‡‡         4: Teranex Mini Smart Panel

Remember when your car stereo had a removable face? The Mini Smart Panel is just that. Remove the front panel of any of the Teranex line of converters, or the Web Presenter and swap it for a Teranex Mini Panel. You get a built-in LCD monitor as well as switching control and menu functions. Four simple screws do the trick.

With the 1/3 rack space form, you can easily stack any of the BMD converters, DA’s, and recorders in a tight, easy to transport rack with minimal cabling. These four products are the future of small, scalable production switching. They’d be right at home in a church, school, university, web production office, heck…a home studio.

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