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Switcher recommendation?

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Todd Terry
Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 6, 2010 at 5:31:40 pm

Hey gang...

I don't haunt this forum much (I usually host/haunt over in business, cinematography, etc.), but I find myself with a "live events" issue...

We are in need of a switcher recommendation. That's completely out of my genre of normal day-to-day work, so I'm clueless.

We are a production company that usually does broadcast commercials, and a few corporate projects. We very rarely have to do a live event (and do not consider them our forte by any means), but every now and then we are called upon to handle one... even though we are somewhat ill-equipped to do so.

I had a train wreck of an event Friday night... that otherwise would have gone flawlessly except the switcher decided to go haywire. This was an organization's big black-tie gala event... with several hundred people at a $100-a-plate dinner, speakers and honorees, and a big-screen presentation. We had produced the video that was shown, and the organizers begged us to do the live event as well. That meant a multi-camera feed to the big screens, as well as recording the whole thing for DVD distribution later.

We used all our own gear (cameras, decks, audio, support, etc.) except for the switcher. We don't own one since we don't really have a daily need for one. We used a rented Panasonic WJ-MX50A, as we have several times in the past.

It was easy breezy and I could have directed it in my sleep... except about halfway through the event the switcher developed a mind of its own, and started routing sources randomly to the wrong inputs. I'd call for camera 1, but I'd get camera 2... or we would punch up the DVcam deck, and get camera 3. It was random, and constantly changing. I have a feeling that if we had powered the switcher down and restarted it, it might have behaved... but I couldn't do that of course during a live show. I yelled through the headsets to make sure my camera ops always had a usable shot unless I told them specifically to make a change, and was able to cover my butt without too many glaring mistakes. The whole thing was a headache, though.

So.... in anticipation of having to do this again, I'm on the lookout for a different switcher.

I do not want to use an MX50 again. Even when they work, I hate this switcher. It was great as a little post-production switcher back in the tape days... but the fact that its air/preview outputs and busses don't work and route like a "real" switcher does makes it unsuitable for live events, in my opinion.

Anyone have any recommendations I should look at? We do NOT need anything big or fancy. Something that will take in about four or five NTSC inputs and simply let me do hard cuts, dissolves, and fades-to-black would completely fit the bill.

Advice muchly appreciated...


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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maurice jansen
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 6, 2010 at 8:13:10 pm

hi todd

i fully understand your MX50 issue's this mixer belong's to the past.
and actually in the trash.

i don't know if your cam's can output SDI otherwise i recommend the panasonic HS400(does not support composite) the thing is it's future proof due to it's SD/HD design and has a frame synchroniser per input.
which you can switch off when your source's are genlocked. giving a lipsync output. next to that you have the possibility to switch a iso reel on the aux. and you have a multiviewer.

if you do have composite source's you could go to the MX70. but this has it's latency problem's.

other option is a Echolab overture. but this has some impact on budget.

grt
Maurice

People saying they don't make mistake's often make nothing at all!


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Todd Terry
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 6, 2010 at 9:17:32 pm

Thanks muchly, Maurice...

I'm sure both those are great switchers, but they are way wallet-overkill for anything we could justify... at least for a purchase.

As I said we only do maybe one live event a year... that gear would be obsolete long before it ever paid for itself at the rate we're going. We don't even hardly charge anything for the couple of live events we have done (it was the pre-produced portions of the events where we made our money).

Of our four in-house cameras, only two of them are HD and only one of them has an SDI output. I know it's far from ideal, but I've just used S-video as camera outputs and board inputs. It's easy and uber-cheap to run a hundred feet or more of S-cable to each camera and looks quite good. Going component would be a lot clunkier and much more expensive. If we did this every day for a living, yes, but for these occasional one-offs, no.

I really probably shouldn't be looking to buy anything, in our case rental is much smarter.... but the downside is that the only rental vendors for that kind of gear are at least two hours away from us... and the only small switchers they stock in rental inventory are the MX50s. Uugh.

I'd be happy with something small cheap and simple... standard def, a few inputs component/composite/S, hard cuts and dissolves. IF that exists.

Funny how the world changes... hit eBay sometime and you'll find Grass Valley switchers as big as a grand piano that probably new cost more than my first house.... with starting bid prices in the $350 range. Not what I need, though.




T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Richard Crowley
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 7, 2010 at 1:47:34 am

If you do live events that infrequently, indeed you would probably be much better off renting one when you need it. Sounds like you need a better rental vendor, too.


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Mike Cohen
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 8, 2010 at 4:31:10 am

The few live events we have done we did indeed rent an MX-50.
Videonics, while not a broadcast level company, sells interesting studio in a box setups - check out the BHPhoto website.

If you are doing straight switching, no effects, supers or anything but cuts, perhaps a simple push button switcher - something that switches synchronously without a visual glitch. The audience doesn't care. Browse the Markertek catalog - they have tons of those types of switchers/routers, etc.

Or you could always go with a patch panel and patch cables - tell your client that the black flash between sources is retro.

Mike Cohen


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Todd Terry
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 8, 2010 at 2:44:39 pm

Yeah, I'm exploring those options... have visited both B&H and Markertek, though not exhaustively.

I don't need any effects, supers, or keying ability ("We need more star wipes!")... but I do need to be able to do cross fades as well as fades-to-black in addition to hard cuts.

Now that you mention it, I did indeed have a little Videonics switcher years ago... but I never used it and sold it to the educational TV station here.... hmmm.

Renting is definitely the smart option... but not necessarily the best workable one for me. I'm a director by trade and do it every day... but for single-camera scripted productions, not multi-camera live events (I could direct an episode of Law & Order in my sleep, but ask me to direct the most banal game show and my head might explode). And since on these no-budget gigs I end up being both director and TD I'd like to have a board that was in house so I could play with it and get familiar enough that I can punch it without even having to think about it or search for buttons. That's hard to do when an unfamiliar rented unit shows up the same day as the gig.

I sit in awe of really great live directors and TDs. Especially sports. I can't even enjoy watching golf on TV because I'm too busy analyzing the mind-boggling directing job those must be.

One of the more amazing things I ever saw was a couple of years ago during the Emmys when the award for directing was given to the guy who directed the previous year's Oscar show (sadly, I don't remember his name). The thing was, he was directing that awards show at the same time. He accepted the award and gave his speech in the booth... all while calling camera shots and calling for supers and talking to the camera ops... and telling the conductor he was getting long so get ready to "play him off"... and he was cool as a cucumber through the whole thing. Flawless.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Thomas Leong
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 8, 2010 at 5:07:20 pm

Datavideo has a small range of video switchers that may suit, eg. -
http://www.datavideo.info/en/product_categories.php?catID=2



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Todd Terry
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 8, 2010 at 10:09:44 pm

I'd only briefly given them a glance before, they were on my mental list of "go back and look at those."

They look interesting... thanks for the reminder...


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Joel Servetz
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:36:03 am

The Datavideo line of switchers (or video mixers) are very reliable and hit a number of price points. I would also suggest you look at a seamless switcher, such as the line from Analog Way. I've run many, many large events using one of their switchers, easily and seamlessly swithcing back and forth between numerous video and computer sources with nary a hiccup. They're easy to program and update and can be programmed and run from any laptop computer. You can stay under $5K and have a really dynamite machine.

Joel Servetz
RGB Media Services, LLC
Sarasota, Fl
videobyjoel@aol.com


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james lowenthal
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:20:41 am

Hello! I do live events for a living and have used both the MX70 and 50 when the input sources are strictly composite/S video.
You just had a bad switcher! Now, the mx50 is an older switcher so of course that increases the possibility of problems. I used the mx70 just last week with no problems.

My suggestion, find 2 - 3 local video equipment rental companies and find out their reputation for equipment reliability. Then just have them spec out for you which switcher they recommend from their inventory to match your needs and budget.

Also, check out bexel.com. I cross rent from them often.

David
Independent Audio Visual Production and Graphics


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John Livings
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 12, 2010 at 3:35:29 am

Hi Todd,

I "Just" started Mixing/Recording Video Live.

I rented an MX-50 for a day, It stopped working during the mic check. (The rental co. refunded my money)

After some online research, i thought I would try the MX-1

I bought a Videonics MX-1 on ebay for 350.00 + shipping. (No power supply).

I shoot in DV (DV-25) not SD (DV-50), As the inputs/outputs on the MX-1 are S Video or RCA, The quality out of the mixer is about the same as the tape from the Cameras.

I use RG-6 with RCA or BNC connectors soldered on.

The Cable runs are; 2-100 feet 1-150 feet 1-25 feet with NO problems

The video preview goes to a 17 flat screen rack mounted and the output goes to a DSR-11 or a GV-D1000 deck.
I use the DSR-11 if the show goes more than 60 minutes( the DSR-11 records 184 minutes)

I run sound from the mixing board to the MX-1 (No other Audio feeds) I do record audio on all 4 cameras and I pull all 16+ channels off the sound board to mix in post (Alesis HD 24).

As I am not set up to do a final Audio or Video mix during the program, I must edit in post. (However the Video mixer is getting me closer to that goal) With LOTS of backup

The MX-1 Needs an AC to AC Transformer 120VAC to 12VAC.

For me the MX-1 is the Ticket as I shoot in DV, I think you would take a hit with SD (DV-50)

John


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Alan Lloyd
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:16:23 pm

Todd - is there someone near you that could rent you a NewTek TriCaster for these?

They work quite well, have a number of different models/levels up to HD, and also offer recording to a file on an external drive for your archive.

Oh, and you can pre-load your roll-in material and have it as a source that begins to play when you take or dissolve to it.

If you do this, do be sure the vendor can also get you the switcher control panel - works like a standard (think GVG 110) panel, fader bar, preview and key buses, the whole thing.

Also built-in scopes - just bring a good (decently-sized) flat screen and you're off and running.


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Todd Terry
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 12, 2010 at 3:39:16 am

I'll look into that, Lloyd... no, there is no one near me that rents them, but there might be in bigger cities that are each a couple of hours away. Not an ideal situation, but it's something we have to deal with now and then. There are a couple of TriCasters in town now, but they are permanent installs at facilities here (local municipal cable channel, educational TV station, etc.). I've been leaning toward a pure hardware switcher, but times are changing.

The biggest problem I had with the MX50 on previous outings is that they just aren't set up the way I like... I want a switcher where the preview output shows the inactive "on deck" bus, and then automatically switches back to the other bus when you make a cut or fade.... just like the Good Lord intended. The first time I used a rented MX50 ages ago I just about tore my hair out trying to figure out why the outputs "wouldn't work right"... pushed every button and setting until I was blue in the face, and even complained about it so much assuming I had a defective unit that the rental company waived the charges (also agreeing "Man, I don't know why it doesn't work that way, that's the way a switcher is supposed to work."). It was only on the next outing that I downloaded a manual and discovered that the switcher simply doesn't output that way. Yikes.

Thanks to all for the suggestions... I'm not in a hurry so I have time to review them all. Appreciate the help.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Alan Lloyd
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 12, 2010 at 4:02:32 am

[Todd Terry] "I want a switcher where the preview output shows the inactive "on deck" bus, and then automatically switches back to the other bus when you make a cut or fade"

And that's what it does. True "look ahead" preview with toggle.

Make sure you can hire the switcher control panel with it - punching something from a computer keyboard is not a good idea. And as I said, the thing is laid out like a production switcher. And the internal playback DVR functions are very handy.


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Chuck Pullen
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 13, 2010 at 7:07:04 pm

Just throwing out a quick and dirty solution from my past. If you literally only need this thing a couple of times a year, I suggest using a synchronizing punch switcher (Markertek & B&H have them) and say a security camera style 4x1 box to monitor all of the sources on one screen. It's not a perfect solution, but it's cheap and a great cuts only option for an IMAG.

Chuck


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Brent Dunn
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Apr 22, 2010 at 3:19:34 pm

Aside from a switcher, I keep a low tech, low budget solution in my bag as a backup for just such hiccups. Go to radio shack and buy a media switcher that hooks up all of your stereo gear.

It's about $20 - $70 and all you do is press buttons to switch. It does have a bit of flash between image sources, but it will save your but at a live event in case you have in issues like the one you had.

Always, always, have a backup plan. This is a cheap save your butt solution.

Brent Dunn
DunnRight Video.com

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Video.com


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Bob King
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:27:19 pm

Don't know if I'm too late on this one or not. I would suggest you look at a Barco ScreenPro II - EH. It is pretty much the de facto work horse presentation switcher (currently) for the rental and staging business for use in single screen events. It is a strong switcher in the sense that it can take in pretty much anything and scale it to match the projector. It also has a separate scaled output that can do the record feed.

Beware: just like any other solution offered in this thread, here there be monsters... The two big drawbacks to this switcher are the delay when previewing a new input and the steep learning curve. If you are only switching one camera, the scaling delay won't be that much of an issue. The steep learning curve can be offset by hiring a freelance staging video engineer. Make sure he comes with references.

I understand what you are running up against. Please understand that you are making a huge transition from operating in a studio/post environment to what amounts to a walk through the Wild West. Hiring a good staging video engineer will solve most of your problems. It's a different skill set.

Hope this helps.

-bk


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Lee Hopper
Re: Switcher recommendation?
on Jun 22, 2010 at 5:14:55 pm

check out the new Panasonic AW-HS50
its under $4000.00



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