What Does a Video Switcher Do?

This article was syndicated from our sister website Church Technology Superstore.

Video switchers are commonplace in many houses of worship because they help these congregations get access to high-tech tools that allow for very professional, sophisticated video productions. Whether you wish to video-stream a sermon, class, important meeting, or a live or remote broadcast, the right video switcher helps you utilize all of the special effects that make any production look and sound fantastic. Rather than choosing a standard video selector that is inexpensive but also has limited functions, a good video switcher is what most houses of worship need, and for more than just the obvious reasons.

Why Do People Buy Video Switchers?

Video switchers, or video mixers, allow you to connect all of the cameras and other devices that you’re using into one device where you can then direct it towards one of your output ports and send it to another device, which usually means a monitor of some type. When you’re video-streaming or recording an event, you have two options to make this happen. The first option is to buy the right software and install it onto a computer, and the second is to purchase a video switcher. The latter is usually preferred because not only does it provide more options for special effects, but you also don’t have to worry about your computer glitching or malfunctioning. Video switchers eliminate these potential problems so that you can produce high-quality videos every time.

The first thing that you need to know is that there are several different types of switchers, and they include:

  • Presentation switchers. These are utilized mostly by businesses and include two types. The first creates transition between the sources by freezing the current source and then transitioning to the next one. The second creates a dissolve transition, which allows for a seamless transition. More often than not, these switchers’ effects and controls are rather limited, especially when it comes to live-streaming.
  • Software switchers. These are not the same as switchers with software components. They use the computer hardware to process the video. These switchers often provide free software but you have to be careful with the software, because it is often worth just what you paid for it. In most cases, you’ll have to find a way to capture each source, which usually means the purchase of one or more capture cards.
  • Hybrid switchers. These are usually turnkey solutions that consist of a purpose-built computer and specialized hardware. Many times, these switchers are Windows computers that work right only if you don’t work with it improperly or set it up incorrectly.
  • Pseudo switchers. An example of this type of switcher is the Mevo, which isn’t exactly a switcher but has a control interface that is similar to the other switchers. The Mevo uses a single video source, i.e., a 4K camera, but it switches between one part of the image and the other parts.

These days, most houses of worship use a hardware switcher and not one that consists of placing the hardware on a computer. Why? Because of the many things these switchers can do, which most people are surprised by.

What Can Video Switchers Do?

Video switchers not only help you manage all of your external cameras and other devices, but they also produce incredible special effects. These effects can make your entire production look super-professional and high-tech. With the right video switcher, it is easy to get these effects. When you first look at the switcher, it can be somewhat intimidating because of all the buttons. However, it won’t take you long to learn what all of them do, especially if you’re going to be using the switcher frequently.

Some of the many things that the right video switcher can do include:

  • Auto transition. This type of transition occurs with a simple button operation, as opposed to a manual fader operation.
  • Chroma key. This is a type of key that is based on a particular color (usually green or blue), and it is used to cut out the color background and replace it with some type of image. The foreground is the inserted image, and the chroma key image is the composite image.
  • Clip transition. This is a type of transition that allows a frame memory clip to be synchronized with a background transition; for example, a mix and wipe.
  • Digital video effects (DVEs). This refers to the digital application of either 2D or 3D effects. This is usually done one of two ways: by going through the switcher’s built-in processing capabilities or through some type of external system. It is done so that the artistic features of the video can be made even better.
  • DSK (Down Stream Key). This refers to any key that is inserted after a downstream to the M/E (Mix/Effect) output.
  • A key refers to a special effect that involves part of the background image being replaced by another image or even text. The signal that determines how the background is cut out is called the key source, while the signal that replaces the cut-out part is called the key fill.
  • Multi-format. This means that the switcher is capable of handling many different formats, including both analog and digital formats (including SD and some HD varieties).
  • P/P (Program Preset, PGM/PST Block). When you look at the M/E rows, the P/P keys are the very last output row. They are specifically used when you’re on the air.
  • This occurs when you move from the current signal to a new one, and you can do this via a mix, wipe, NAM, clip transition, DME wipe, or many others.
  • These are transitions from one video signal to another via the use of a specific pattern, line, or shape. There are several different types of wipes. A wipe is one of the many ways that you can transition from one signal to another.

There are other things that a good video switcher can do, but these functions are some of the basics.

Conclusion

Video switchers can be intimidating at first, but they always come with easy-to-understand instructions for setting up and using the devices. Your house of worship would be wise to first determine what you’re expecting the switcher to do before going out and buying one. Only then will you feel confident that you’ve purchased the best one to meet your needs.

Further Resources On Video Switchers:

  1. Where To Buy Video Switchers
  2. Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini HDMI Live Switcher Review
  3. How to Chroma Key A Blackmagic ATEM
  4. How to Set up Blackmagic ATEM Switchers
  5. Top Reasons to Use a Video Switcher Rather Than Software
  6. Video Switcher Basics
  7. What Is a Video Switcher?