The new TV switching, recording and streaming suite of products announced today by Blackmagic are both an evolution and a significant upgrade — and there's one brand new category of product altogether. David Shapton reports.
Evolution can be as powerful a force as revolution. And with technology, sometimes you get both at the same time.
Today Blackmagic has taken the wrappers off a new generation of its TV switching, recording and streaming products that evolve them and upgrade them significantly. In combination, the two factors point towards revolution.
The new ATEM Television Studio HD live switcher
First off is the new ATEM Television Studio HD live switcher. It’s one rack unit high, but it’s two thirds of a rack’s width. If you’re wondering what goes in that empty third, then we have got some interesting news for you.
The ATEM Television Studio HD is a fundamentally new design, that pays homage to all the features of the original unit (which, remarkably has been in production for around six years).
It has more inputs. It’s ten-bit. Remarkably, it has all the controls you need to use it as a fully-fledged live video switcher, in miniature, on the front panel. It's absolutely tiny. You can put it in your bag. It's truly portable.
The front panel also sports a confidence monitor. At the rear there’s SDI and HDMI in and — this is a high-end feature — each SDI in has a corresponding SDI out which can be configured as a mix-minus feed, so you can, for example, send a presenter’s feed without an audio signal.
What fits into that remaining 1/3rd rack space? Two very intriguing new products.
HyperDeck Studio Mini
The first is an evolved HyperDeck called the HyperDeck Studio Mini and it’s a third of a rack space wide. It records to SD cards. It’s still able to record to ProRes. With this in the rack it becomes a recorder (with several of them it can be an ISO recorder, taking an individual feed from each of multiple cameras). It’s also a playback deck that you can use as a source for the ATEM Studio HD switcher. It’s simply staggering to think that something that is being sold for $695 can arguably perform better than a Digital Betacam deck costing thirty times the price. Even more astonishing is that SD cards are probably cheaper to buy now than Digital Betacam tapes were back in their day.
The Hyperdeck Mini isn’t confined to a rack. It’s also able to be used as a stand-alone recorder player. It can play 4K and is small enough to be hidden behind a TV screen. If you want to see 4K video material in the best practical quality this is an ideal player. There’s another feature that makes the Mini significantly more versatile: an Ethernet socket. This is not for video over IP but so that files can be uploaded to the Mini for playback. There’s an extra bonus too, which is that it’s a Power Over Ethernet connection, so the unit doesn’t need a separate power cable.
This is a set-up that says “digital signage” and “digital advertising” all over it. It’s fascinating to see how close Blackmagic has positioned itself to enter this market if it chooses to do so.
Blackmagic Web Presenter
The final candidate for the remaining rackspace (you’ll have to put one of them in the next space down if you want all three!) is the Blackmagic Web Presenter. This is a streaming device with some very handy talents.
It’s $495 and comes with SDI and HDMI inputs, with a USB output for connection to a computer - Mac or PC. This is clever: the Web Presenter looks to the computer like a webcam. It doesn’t need any drivers: it’s “class compliant”. So, for example, you could plug a DSLR or Mirrorless camera into the Web Presenter and use it for Skype - or any other application, including, of course, connecting it to a streaming service like Livestream or Facebook Live
It even has RCA inputs so you can connect a CD player for background music during a live broadcast, or you could add a separate audio commentary.
The Web Presenter has a single output format: 720p at 25fps. According to Blackmagic, this is the most commonly streamed format. If you want, say, a 1080p output, you’ll have to use something else; but, to me this is a good compromise between cost and versatility. It’s probably an example of the 80:20 law: it’s going to be absolutely fine for 80% of people and the other 20% have other options (which are almost certainly more expensive).
So who is going to use these new devices? They’re certainly very versatile and very well priced.
The ATEM Studio Mini has the same broadcast-quality specifications as the original unit. The Hyperdeck Mini is tiny, uses cheap media and can even be used as a portable 4K player. The Web Presenter plugs into almost any computer and when connected to a streaming service can broadcast virtually any camera to the globe.
With the world increasingly moving online and live, it’s more difficult to see who wouldn’t want to use them at some point in the near future.
You can watch the recording of the live stream presentation Grant Petty from Blackmagic made of the new products below. And if you want the full tech specs, the press releases are over the page.