(Note: this is the eighth post of a series on how to do iMag without a megachurch budget.)
The good news is that BMD devices are cheap. The bad news is that they can be, well, cheap. I had a friend from another church tell me they refused to use them because of reliability issues. Our current ATEM Television Studio is waiting to get sent back for a warranty repair on one of the SDI jacks that stopped working.
However, because these BMD devices are so incredibly cheap, not all is lost. If a “better” switcher is $5,000 and a BMD ATEM TVS is $1,000, I figure you just buy two of them, right? You’re still saving $3,000, and you have dual switchers to boot! (And, of course, even that “better” expensive hardware can fail.)
Well, not so fast I guess. If you want a live failover system, you need your cameras and your graphics feed to go into BOTH switchers, and you need BOTH switchers to feed into your projectors. My initial thought was to create frankenstein. You can get $46 SDI splitters from MonoPrice and $72 SDI switches from MonoPrice, so I could just buy 5 splitters (2 cameras plus 2 feeds for our Key and Fill plus one splitter for our SDI-out to 2 projectors) and 1 switch (to switch from one TVS to the other in case of failure), and call it good. Total: $302 plus a bunch for SDI cables and jumpers. Unfortunately, that would also mean 6 EXTRA boxes floating around, complete with their wall-worts (read: 6 more things that could fail). There is a ‘better’ way, but it’s also not as cheap.
$1,500 buys you a BMD Micro VideoHub. It’s a 16-in, 16-out SDI matrix, again for a fraction of a price of the competitors. It will do all the routing and switching you need in one rack-mountable unit.
Add on $495 for a rackmount controller with easy-access idiot-proof buttons, and now if one device goes down we can switch to the other with the press of a few buttons.
If you’re good at math, you’ll notice that the cost of cleanliness and convenience is about $1,700, which on our budget is considerable. Of course, if you could find a gently used VideoHub on eBay…you might close that gap a little bit. Your choice!
Either way, I’m still coming out cheaper than a single, more expensive switcher. I dare my Television Studio to fail…we’re perfectly poised for failover!
NOTE: Aside from redundancy, there are other benefits to having two ATEM Television Studio devices. Given that both devices have access to all the same video sources, we can show one live feed/mix to our in-house audience while simultaneously producing a second, different feed to our live internet stream through the second unit. For example, a wide-angle staging shot is helpful for a remote audience, but distracting for our live audience. This also can help keep your video operators from getting bored.
NOTE: The two BMD Video Matrix items I mentioned can also be purchased integrated into one unit. I prefer them as two in case of the small possibility that we will need to upgrade to a bigger router, which can utilize the same controller. It also allows me to place the control unit in a more accessible location without having a gazillion SDI cables plugged into it.
Next up: final recommendations