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The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING

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CreativeCOW presents The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING -- Blackmagic Design Review


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I have installed a pre-release of the new Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E video switcher for one of my clients. Words can hardly describe this incredible new product.

There is an optional conventional switcher control panel for this product, but at a retail cost of $5000, we wanted to try to avoid this cost, and use just the Blackmagic switcher electronics for $2495, and use a Mac laptop as the actual switcher.

You download the ATEM software from the Blackmagic website and run the installer. It is a tiny program. You plug in a USB cable and a standard Ethernet cable between the ATEM switcher and your Apple Mac computer, and run the ATEM Setup Utility program, which shows you the IP address of the ATEM switcher electronics. You can change this IP address to match your computer, or change the IP address of your computer (in System Preferences>Network). Once you accomplish this (all of 10 seconds), you click on ATEM Software Control, and the video switcher appears on your Mac.


Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E video swticher at Matchpoint Studios in Tampa, FL
Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E video swticher at Matchpoint Studios in Tampa, FL


INPUTS

The switcher electronics has LOTS of inputs and outputs. There are eight discreet inputs - input 1 can be analog component HD or HDMI. Inputs 2, 3 and 4 are HDMI inputs. Inputs 5, 6, 7, and 8 are HD-SDI inputs. This means that if you have 8 cameras or HD-SDI sources, you will need to purchase inexpensive Blackmagic HD-SDI to HDMI converters, so you can get these HD-SDI sources (like cameras) into the first 4 inputs of the switcher. But with today's varied products on the market, it's nice that there is a wide varity of inputs available.

For the tests I did at Matchpoint Studios in Tampa, we used a JVC HDV camera with analog component HD outputs, a Canon EOS 5D with HDMI output, and a FCP edit system with an AJA Kona 3 card, that has HD-SDI ouputs. Because all inputs to the ATEM have frame synchronizers on them, there was no reason to genlock anything, and everything just locked up instantly.

There is a setting menu which allows you to set the video standard that you are working at. In the US, the choices are 720p and 1080i. You cannot "mix and match" 720p and 1080i sources, and you cannot work at 23.98 - so if the Canon camera is set for 23.98, you have to change it to 29.97. At the time I am writing this, you also cannot use SD-SDI standard definition sources - everything must be Hi Def Video. Blackmagic has converters that will take care of you if you need them.


Blackmagic Design ATEM Switcher interface

MONITORING

Once you plug in your sources, you need to see what you are doing. There is no video output displayed on the Mac computer screen. Instead, you can hook up an inexpensive LCD or Plasma display with an HDMI input to see all of your input sources, program and preview all on the same monitor. This is called the Multiviewer. There is a second multiviewer monitor output, which is HD-SDI, but this would require an expensive professional monitor, and since we are cheap, we used a computer monitor - which looked great!


OUTPUTS

There are lots of other outputs - specifically a program HD-SDI output, as well as 3 AUX outputs, which can be assigned by a menu to show program, preview, any of the input sources, or lots of other stuff.

One of the striking features of the ATEM, is that these menus are not "buried" or levels deep. Almost everything can be found at the top level of the screen, right in front of you, or just a click away in another screen menu. My point is that there is not hours or days of studying to get this working. It is very intuitive, and you figure all of this out very quickly. With the Aux output assignments for example, the 3 aux outs are assigned by the top menus of the Mac, which simply say "Aux 1, Aux 2, Aux 3" with dropdown windows that let you select what should go to these outputs. There is also a SD-SDI downconvert output.

It is important to note that the ATEM series of switchers do NOT have streaming web outputs. If you need to stream video live to the web, you will need an external box to do this, or a software program like Telestream Wirecast.


Blackmagic Design ATEM Switcher outputs


GETTING TO WORK

The switcher has 8 primary inputs, internal black, and internal color bars (so no need to purchase an external bar generator). It has a total of 6 keyers - 4 upstream keyers which can be chroma keyers, or luminance keyers, and 2 downstream keyers, which are only luminance keyers. The luminance keyers allow you to select a foreground source and background source, and can use an alpha channel. There is also a DVE (Digital Video Effects) unit built in, so you can do page flips, and "squeeze backs" for picture in picture.

We were initially discouraged that we could not manually move the DVE squeezed box around, but we were ultimately shown that if we would spend the money for the Blackmagic Control Panel ($5000) the joystick on the control panel would accomplish this task. We were also shown how to use X-Y coordinates to squeeze back the image to a specific location. Of course, we decided to consider this a "limitation" rather than to spend the 5 grand for the control panel.

The switch software allows you to "push the buttons" not only with the mouse or trackball, but with the keys of your computer keyboard. For example, if you hit the 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 keys, it will move the preview buss to buttons 1 - 2 - 3 - 4. If you hold the shift key down, and do the same thing, it will move the same buttons on the Program buss. So fast switching was very easy. And of course, there is an Auto Transition button, which will let you do very smooth fades and dissolves, as well as wipes, keys, and DVE moves.

The multiviewer can be set up to reconfigure the way the multiview screen is displayed on the LCD or Plasma screen. It also lets you quickly name all the crosspoints, so the name of Camera 1 can instantly become "George" if you so desire, to make it easy to know what camera is looking at what person. This of course applies to all crosspoints.

But wait - there's more ! There is a clip player, which lets you store 32 still frames, and two animation clips that can be played back. To get these clips to playback, all you do is import them into the list (like you import a file from FCP), and drag them into the clip list.


DRAWBACKS AND WORKAROUNDS

The animation player can only hold a total of 180 frames (6 seconds) and that's for BOTH animation clip players. So you can't have lots of movies ready to go at a moment's notice. AND the files must be in TARGA (.tga) or TIF file formats. No .mov or Quicktime files. We HATED this fact, as most people want to simply drag in their .psd Photoshop or .mov clips - but this will not work.

The process for getting clips imported, and then dragged into the clip player is a relatively slow process - but my client does a lot of political campaigns and trade shows, and needs to be able to call up different graphics very quickly, and. We found a great workaround.

Because the switcher electronics and the Mac computer are connected via an Ethernet cable, we put both the ATEM electronics and the Mac computer on a cheap Ethernet switch. We then plugged in another laptop, and loaded the ATEM switcher software onto that (and assigned a different static IP address for that new computer on the same subnet). When we launched the software, BOTH Mac computers showed the switcher control panel.

On the new computer, we were able to click on the Media Clip player menu, and one operator was able to load in the Targa graphics files into the clip player, while the other Mac computer was able to continue working, switching away. JUST LIKE HAVING A CHYRON GUY THERE, but using a cheap laptop for this purpose. Amazing.

Another feature which was not yet working was the USB3 output. This is NOT for streaming video, or creating an H.264 file. This is so that you can record the full res HD signal to a computer as uncompressed video. The only ATEM switcher that will offer a built in H.264 output in the future will be the small ATEM Television Studio ($995).

So, as of time of this writing, which is pre release of the product, what's not working is the USB3 output used to record the show to an external computer. As of this writing, the only inconveniences are no mixed HD formats, and no SD-SDI sources.

Everything else seems absolutely AMAZING.


Blackmagic Design ATEM Switcher


AMAZING

Can other switches do this. Of course they can. Are any of them even remotely priced near $2495? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

In addition to the extremely low price for what you are getting, there is another single fact about this product that I cannot stress enough. This is the simplest video switcher to learn that I have ever seen. There are no hidden menus - no spending hours with a manual to try to figure out how to configure it. It plugs in, and works.

And if you weren't a cheapo like I am, you could have plugged in the Blackmagic Control Panel ($5000) with a single Ethernet cable, and gone to work within minutes, instead of the 90 minutes it took us to figure out how to do a lot of stuff - and still come out ahead of any other switcher out there.

The ONLY thing we sat and suffered with during the setup and testing of this new product was the clip player. We simply could not understand that this product wants to see Targa files, and streams of targa files for the animation clip player. We are so used to dragging in .psd or .mov files, that it confused us.

So a bulk of the "learning curve" was understanding how to use the clip player, and ultimately that we really needed to tie in a second Mac computer to load the clips, in order for things to get changed quickly for a live production.

Ultimately, my client will purchase the $995 Matrox Convert DVI, which will convert the output of a Mac laptop DVI port to an HD-SDI signal, so we can rapidly get lots of motion graphics instantly into the Blackmagic ATEM switch. The cost of the Matrox Convert DVI is cheaper than the DVI input option cards in most switchers anyway.

For a version 1 release of a product, the ATEM 1 M/E switcher is simply amazing, and an amazing value. For the money, there is nothing on the market even close to this product - not even on eBay.




A note from JP Manterola, Director at Matchpoint Studios
In September 2011, Matchpoint Studios will be making history as the first and only company to fully produce and transmit a presidential debate to a live web audience.

"Presidency 5," the national event sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), will take place in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, and will conclude in a straw poll expected to predict the eventual Republican Presidential nominee. RPOF is enlisting the expertise of both FOX News and Matchpoint Studios to give the entire world a chance to see this historic event.

The 8 HD (1080i) cameras, both wireless and not, the TV set, and the 20+ crew members crucial to a successful transmission are all signs of high hopes and an overwhelming, almost pioneer-like air. However, none of those components would be of any use without the ease and high-end production quality of the Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher.

The first to use it on a trial-basis, Matchpoint has been increasingly impressed with the small size, yet huge capabilities of the switcher, and is pleased to report successful testing so far. JP Manterola, director at Matchpoint Studios, along with video engineer Bob Zelin, praises the small, simple, and compact, couple-thousand-dollar piece of equipment, calling it "friendly, portable, and easy to use." It's also a huge money-saver, as producing the ground-breaking P5 Live project would cost thousands of dollars more had Matchpoint not been given the opportunity to use the device that is sure to generate a lot of approval once it becomes available in the general market. Matchpoint Studios is very thankful to Blackmagic, as one little box is now providing them with all the tools necessary to produce a quality, HD, live transmission.



Comments

Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Bola Abimbola
Hi there,

I just purchased the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher. I just wanted to know what kind of cable do I need to hook up my camera {Cannon 60D} to the switcher? Thanks.

-Bola

FCR Media
Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Lucio Nicolas De Crocci
hi everyone, im from Argentina and im really new in this area, i have in the studio an atem television studio, the swticher 1m/e and the atem studio converter, im trying to capture via usb (atem tele studio) H264 but i only see the audio input coming, no video at all, any help?? please!!
Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Bob Zelin
I am working on your quote right this second Fernando !

Bob Zelin

Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Fernando Jimenez
Hi Bob. As you know, I am really interested in this system and I have seen it in action. What are the requirements I need for the computer for this to run and live capture?
Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Gerbrand Oudenaarden
Tony Konichek, we use Macbook's all the time in conjunction with the ATEM 1 and ATEM 2 mixers. We use both minidisplayport to HDMI cables, DVI to HDMI cables, and BMD's DVI Extender. All work fine, no config required. The Macs immediately recognize the ATEM as a 1080i50 device (we're in PAL country) and send out the correct signal.

To connect Windows computers, we usually use a scaler such as TVOne C2355a to convert any signal to HDSDI. But I would suppose that many notebooks would also be able to output 1080i via DVI, HDMI or (mini)displayport.

Cheers,
Gerbrand

http://www.engagetv.com
multicam and webcasting (the netherlands)
Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Tony Konichek
I have recently purchased the ATEM/1 switcher for live broadcasting. The ATEM resolution settings are at 1920x1080 59.94i. Currently I have successfully used the HDMi inputs to receive video signal from two cameras plugged into the switcher via HDMI. One device is sending out a 1920x1080 60p signal and the other device is
sending out a 1920x1080 30 signal (30 is typically progressive, correct?) This seems goes against the limitation that, on the ATEM/1, all devices must be in the same resolution (1920x1080i)

Curious, but no problem. The problem comes into play when I want to plug a 1920x1080 capable laptop into one of the media ports. It seems that laptops don't send out an interlaced signal. Does that mean you can't output an 1920x1080 HDMI signal from a laptop to this mixer? I don't have a 1920x1080 laptop available for testing this, so I'm asking you for advice on how to find out.

I see from an earlier post from Gerbrand "The switcher has no scalers on the inputs, so all sources need to be on the same video standard as the required output (eg 1080i, 720P. Progressive signals from computers are accepted on the HDMI inputs if they have the correct resolution and frame rate)"

Does this mean that if a laptop specified as having 1920x1080 progressive is plugged in to the switcher it will work? That seems to be what's happening with the cameras I have plugged in.

But Blackmagic tech support had this to say to the same question: "I would not expect a 1080 progressive signal to work. We do not test with 1080p signals from computers, since progressive signals are not supported. If 1080p signals from computers work, then this may be somewhat of a happy accident, but we have not tested this."

I need to input a laptop into this machine, but I don't want to buy a laptop that won't work.

The cameras do not down res to 720p so I am locked at the 1080i setting in the switcher.

Can anyone else verify that you can indeeed plug laptops into this switcher via HDMI? Any other solutions?

Thank you for your help,

Tony

Tony Konichek
Video Editor
Privateer Press
http://www.privateerpress.com
Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Ewerton Dias
have another way to use GC and Media player beyond software?!

software and control panels work simultaneously?
Re: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Jay Del Turco
If I do end up purchasing the ATEM 1 M/EI I think I am going to use an app called Propresenter for my video clip playback. I currently have several iMacs in my live production work flow and use Propresenter and since it will allow you to use the second monitor output as the program monitor I plan on using a displayport to HDMI adaptor to take that second monitor as an HDMI input in the switcher.

I do need to find a way though to get a feed back to one of my iMacs so I can send my stream to Livestream.com.
Re: Article: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Tony Liuzzi
Was wonder if anyone could suggest an inexpensive recorder that would allow us to do slo mo instant reply with the atem?
Thanks

Tony Liuzzi
Re: Article: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Matt Drabick
I have taken the plunge and decided to sell the ATEM 1 M/E, 2 M/E and Television Studio switchers. I like to research a product well enough that I can provide complete and honest answers to customer questions.

To that end I have posted two articles about the ATEM switchers at http://www.digiteksys.com/59334.html and http://www.digiteksys.com/59734.html, added an FAQ column at http://www.digiteksys.com/46323.html and started a forum about the ATEM switchers and other Blackmagic Design products at http://www.digiteksys.com/55034.html to allow readers to post any questions they need answered or want me to research.

Matt Drabick
Re: Article: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Bob Zelin
As Gerbrand points out, and as Blackmagic has pointed out to me as well, you DO NOT need a DVI to HD-SDI converter (like the Matrox) to get MAC Graphics into the ATEM switcher. Gerbrand is correct (as was the product manager at Blackamgic) - a simple DVI to HDMI cable (10 bucks) will allow you to get MAC graphics into the ATEM.

BOY is that a lot different than the Panasonic AV-HD400 switcher !
That saves a fortune.

Yet another amazing feature of the ATEM switcher. And this is day 1.
As this product develops, I can't see how any other switcher brand will be able to stay in business (other than super hi end GVG switchers for trucks and large newsrooms).

Bob Zelin

Re: ATEM 1 M/E switcher: HDMI instead of ConvertDVI, some limitations
by Gerbrand Oudenaarden
Hi Bob,

Thanks for your review.

as an alternative to buying a $ 1000 ConvertDVI, have you considered using a $10 DVI to HDMI cable? Or for newer macs, a minidisplayport to HDMI cable? Apples have no problem outputting to 1080p50 or 1080p60, and the ATEM switcher happily accepts these signals on the HDMI input ports (or 720P when that's the operating mode of the switcher).

I like this switcher a lot, exactly because it has both SDI inputs (which I use for cameras) and HDMI inputs (which I use for macbooks).

On a different forum, some limitations of the mixer have been compiled. The most important ones to be aware of (with the current firmware):

- the switcher has no scalers on the inputs, so all sources need to be on the same video standard as the required output (eg 1080i, 720P. Progressive signals from computers are accepted on the HDMI inputs if they have the correct resolution and frame rate)

- there is currently no way to save the entire state of the mixer with keyer settings and media pools. After switching off the mixer, all settings need to be recreated by hand. This will probably be tackled in a later firmware or software upgrade.

- there is no way to save sets of settings as events or scenes.

- crosspoints can not be mapped. so input 1, 2, 3, 4 are always the hdmi inputs 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

More missing features at:
http://www.ttfn.tv/forums-2/?vasthtmlaction=viewtopic&t=6.0

Best regards,

Gerbrand Oudenaarden (waiting for the 2 ME ATEM switcher)
http://www.engagetv.com
Re: Article: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Eric van Engelen
Great review!

You forgot to mention the Photoshop-export plug-in.
With this plug-in you can export your composition directly from photoshop.
You can select mediapool 1 of mediapool 2 en choose one of the empty banks.
It (almost) can't be any faster!
Re: Article: The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E switcher: AMAZING
by Steve Holmes
I thought this was a great write up of the 1 M/E I am currently posting some of my findings with my 1 M/E. I thought the info might be useful for some people here. Currently it is just an introduction but I am currently writing a fuller post with a lot more experiments documenting signal timing, networking and UDP, the rest of the post should be done in the next day or so. Anyway it is over at http://www.videocy.net/?p=26.

Let me know if there are any tests or settings you would like me to have a look on the mixer.
Cheers
Steve

Transmission VJ Crew


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