live video switching and recording
I have read a few posts similar to my request but thought I'd start a new one to see if I can generate any ideas specific to my situation.
My Church is planning to start video recording our sermons and I'm looking into the most cost-effective way to have a doable workflow for a crew of volunteers. Our end result is web videos (likely uploaded to YouTube) so I want the best quality possible for this use.
At the moment we are planning for a 2 camera setup, audio feed from our sound board, and a dedicated computer for basic graphics (opening logo, lower third for the speaker, closing logo). To eliminate the editing time I'm planning to get a video switcher and a recording system (preferably with capability to make files web ready, i.e. Mp4 1080p.)
I was initially looking into streaming options (such as UStream) but don't want to be limited to online options as our internet connection can be unreliable.
From my preliminary research it looks like a low-end switcher is pricing at $1000 and a video encoder/recorder is $1500. Is an encoder the best end route or would it be best to record to an editing software (i.e. Final Cut Pro on a laptop). I am also having trouble finding an encoder that accepts an HDMI signal.
Would appreciate any suggestions.
There are a couple of ways to go, but IMO, a very typical approach for "worship" applications like yours would be to get a Newtek Tricaster, which is an all-in-one unit including switcher, graphics, recording, editing, and streaming. Really kind of a swiss army knife machine. There are others out there that work similarly, but Newtek has really kind of carved out and dominated this particular niche for itself.
What's good about them for your application is that the Tricaster can take in various SD and HD sources using different protocols like HDMI or SDI or composite or component video. Anything from a RED to a GoPro to an old DV camcorder. If your ministry uses slide shows as part of the presentations, you can import the slides, or attach the laptop to the Tricaster, and run it in with the video as if it was another camera.
There are slick effects possible, including chromakeying, if you want to have the more ham-boned parishioners do dramatic re-enactments of something. It's relatively portable so you can securely store it, or you can take it on the road for documenting mission trips, summer camp meetings, youth events, whatever. The built in editing software lets you make quick and easy montages with stock images and text and music, for a visual kick-off to weekly sermons or meditations. It has a built-in streaming server and archives to disk simultaneously; with something like Ustream, you could do the services live, or first go and edit out any mistakes, or just make a shorter version, before you publish to the web.
Budget may be a concern; the tricaster comes in various price points based on how much capability and how many extras you add. There will be some used ones on the market here and there, as well as their bulkier, somewhat more finicky cousin, the Video Toaster.
Though they look pricy at first glance, they become competitive when you look at what it costs to do everything that they can do, to cobble together another system out of discrete components and get it all talking to and from the pieces and working right. If you're a hands-on hardware maven, yes, you can do it cheaper DIY, but if you are the kind of person who says: "Don't tell me how to build the clock: I just want to know what time it is", then you're likely a Tricaster Customer.
Great post, Mark! I would add though that HDMI input is not supported on ANY TriCaster, requires a mini-converter outboard of TriCaster to a compatible format. HDMI is good only for short cable runs and uses a non-locking connection, so it not seen as a practical input type for a professional switcher.
Safe Harbor Computers
Didn't mean it to sound like such a Newtek ad, LOL. My personal relationship with them is that we got a Video Toaster that was assembled for us by the lowest bidder, and that vendor who shall not be named, not only built it using substandard or low-end parts, they were also one of the most indifferent organizations regarding customer service and responsiveness that we've ever experienced. The Toaster they put together for us rarely ran right... when it wasn't completely "Tango Uniform", in military slang. It was very frustrating to see other people get great performance and satisfaction out of their VT, and then come home to our "boat anchor".
On the plus side, I have seen or worked with customers using two different Tricasters, one of them was our switcher for a live statewide remote, webcasting a live multicam switch in FLASH to a web repeater. ...and they were solid, "bulletproof" performers. I think that's because Newtek builds those in-house and doesn't leave it to a VAR to assemble.
VAR's are generally great, and I usually recommend them. We just happened to get one that was expert in lowballing specs, not at customer satisfaction.
Thanks Mark and Jeff for the suggestions, I will for sure take a look at the Newtek options.
We don't incorporate PPT slides into the sermons at the moment but might be worth considering in the future. Good to know there are many options out there based on needs.
I guess my initial impression is that I need a switcher that handles a 1080p HDMI input, but I guess this is not the case? From my research it looks like composite is the standard input.
Will I be losing any quality going analogue?
No, there are any number of switchers out there that will take an SDI input for your HD cameras, and I know of a couple that can mix HD and SD sources. There are just not too many all-in-one solutions like the Tricaster, so you start having to add-on separate devices for the CG and etc. and cost and complexity goes up. But you could also look at the BlackMagic Designs ATEM series, or the inexpensive switchers from Edirol. I used one of those on an Obama gig once and it worked very well. Our shop's next switcher may turn out to be a Ross; the Grass Valley we've had for over a decade is obsolete and near retirement.
I recently encountered the Vaddio line of switchers which can control PTZ cameras and have SDI and DVI inputs. You'd need a external recording device, such as a Blackmagic Intensity attached to a computer, or a standalone recorder such as a KiPro or PIX240. But you're looking at over $10,000 for that setup.
Inputs on low-priced switchers could be an issue.