When you have several cameras capturing an event, you have two options: take the footage and use the multicamera editing feature in post or switch it Live. With the ATEM Mini Pro ISO switcher, you have the ability to do both.
In my recollection, it wasn’t possible in the past to switch Live, then take the same switched feed from the recording device and have a switched event with up to four cameras as well as isolated feeds from each of your cameras (without downloading each camera’s individual files). You now have a finished, switched product and all of the individual elements that made that project possible in file folders. That’s technology working for you!
Weighing slightly over a pound (19.4 ounces), the 4-inch-deep, 1.5-inch-high and 9.5-inches-wide ATEM Mini Pro ISO has a small footprint. Consuming only 36 watts and running on 64-bit Windows 10 and Macintosh 10.14 Mojave or later (Catalina included), Blackmagic Design’s miniscule switcher does everything you would need for your production. The ATEM Mini Pro ISO can switch between four HD sources; has one upstream and one downstream keyer (Luma, Chroma or pattern); a pattern generator; DVE; two color generators; a six input and two output audio mixer with a compressor, limiter and six-band parametric equalizer; direct streaming via the Ethernet; Multiview monitoring; 20 titles/stills in the Media Player; and all of the software you need for under $900.
The rear of the ATEM Mini Pro ISO has two mini microphone inputs, four HDMI inputs, Multiview HDMI output, a USB 3.1 output, ATEM Control via an Ethernet connection, and the power supply input.
The business end of the ATEM Mini ISO Pro has four large Source Buttons, a smaller Still and Black button followed by the Cut, Auto (transition) and FTB (Fade to Black). Above each input control are six additional control options. On the top left are controls for microphone one and two with on/off and volume up and down. Moving to the right are the Picture in Picture and on/off buttons, key on and off, record stop and start, and stream on and off. Above the Cut button you can change the duration using one of four possibilities: 0.5, 1.0, 1.5. and 2.0 seconds. The Auto control has effect controls and Video Out has six selections above it.
The USB 3.1 outputs 1920×1080 H.264 files to an SSD and has the ability to stream over the web. Only with the ATEM Mini Pro ISO do you have up to five separate video streams (one 10-bit HD file from each input and an editable project file). The ATEM Mini Pro ISO outputs 1080p footage in 23.98, 24, 29.97, 30, 59.94 and 60 fps and PAL’s 25 and 50 fps.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and in lieu of a live audience, we decided to shoot all of our Main Stage productions, switch it Live and then make them available over the web. Needing a three-camera setup on the stage to record the actors over the course of four performances per show, the cameras were tethered to a cart that contained the ATEM Mini Pro ISO that could be set up and torn down every evening. The ATEM Mini Pro ISO was the perfect choice because of its size, ease of use and it allowed the student director numerous options.
In preparation for the Main Stage event, we set up the ATEM Mini Pro ISO in our TV Studio to shoot a short, green screen production to test the capabilities of the switcher as well as training the students who would be using it during the live events.
Both cameras were shooting in 1920×1080 at 23.98 fps and had the scratch audio captured with their onboard microphones as well as an external Sennheiser shotgun microphone going directly into the switcher (their XLR cables converted to a mini input for the ATEM Mini Pro ISO).
The backend of the ATEM Mini Pro ISO, from left to right, has the AC power connection, the Ethernet ATEM Control, which was attached to my MacBook Pro running the ATEM Software Control. The USB-C (3.1) output was connected to a SanDisk 2 Terabyte SSD drive. The HDMI out was connected to a Samsung 48-inch monitor. HDMI input one and two were attached to Panasonic HX2000 cameras and Mic 1 and 2 had the Sennheiser shotgun microphone inputs.
On a side note, I normally would have just used the ATEM Mini Pro ISO live production switcher for this video project, but we needed to set up the upstream keyer and access the Media Player, so the software on the computer made that setup more convenient.
The SSD Drive showed 487 hours available as the H.264 switcher file was 222 Megabytes and the two-camera ISO files. It was helpful to have the individual camera files saved in a separate folder so the editor could easily access them on the same drive. The only shot we needed to insert was the second keyed image behind Casey (the male) because I didn’t have the time to build both keys with backgrounds with the limited time the talent and studio were available.
Pressing and holding the Record button for a few seconds began the process with the Multiview Monitor indicating that the recording process had begun. The switcher worked flawlessly making a three-minute video actually take only three minutes because everything was live. Having the audio fed directly into the ATEM also saved a step.
On the Multiview Monitor, we had both cameras visible, audio level monitor, Media Player image for the green screen replacement, record SSD Drive monitor and the Preview and Program.
The actual recording wasn’t intimidating for the student using the ATEM Mini Pro ISO. Never having used any switcher before, he had it mastered in minutes.
Everything is clearly labeled and there is no learning curve. At the end of the shoot, the equipment was cleaned (for COVID-19) and packed in less than 15 minutes. Never in my 40 years in this business has the process of setup, use and teardown of a portable switcher been easier!
The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro ISO is amazing. You no longer need an engineer to time the inputs, keep them in phase while switching or anything else that prevents you from making videos. Right out of the box the ATEM can be put into immediate use. The free software is a lifesaver and the learning curve is extremely short. Rarely do I see a piece of equipment that is so uncomplicated and any question is easily found in the downloaded manual.
Portable with a quick set up, can be used with or without the computer software, Live switching for four cameras and very user-friendly. I can visualize this in every school being utilized for morning announcements, debates and news programs. With virtually no learning curve, it’s plug in and use! You can’t even put in an incorrect cable—it won’t fit!
Simple to connect video (HDMI) and audio (1/8th inch mini), multiscreen option, recordable H.264 to SSD Drive with ISO feeds, live streaming, keying, audio control with equalization, and it does everything a larger switcher can do. If you don’t need more than four cameras, why settle for anything else?
Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro ISO Switcher: $895 (MSRP)
ATEM Software Control: Free
2875 Bayview Dr.
Fremont, CA 94538
Chuck Gloman is an associate professor in the TV/Film Department at DeSales University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.