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Re: BMD Camera and ATEM News

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Tim Wilson
Re: BMD Camera and ATEM News
on Apr 4, 2020 at 2:45:18 am

[Michael Gissing] "....the big deal with the Pro is the built in hardware streaming encoder and the way you can go direct to FB, YouTube etc. But you are right. They are much more and are being used in broadcast and other non web applications"

Yep, agreed.

I've posted the press release coming out of this morning's live stream here: Blackmagic Design Camera and Live Production News: ATEM Mini Pro, Blackmagi...



That's my screencap of Grant at his most presenter-y, which I honestly get a kick out of.

I should mention that I was in fact watching this for kicks. Most definitely not in the context of my job here at the COW. A proper write-up of this sort is enough work that I go out of my way to avoid it. LOL Especially at 7am, which it was at my local time. I gotta tell you -- I felt every second of my age trying to pay attention that early in the morning. LOL But pay attention I did. I even took notes!

Again, not officially. I was there as an old nerd. I knew from the minute I saw the inside of the control room in "A Hard Day's Night" on NBC's first broadcast of it as a schoolboy in 1967 that I wanted to work in television, and not a dozen years later, I was tech directing my first live TV.



(A Hard Day's Night also inspired my love of cinematography, which had a lot to do with where my career bounced after starting as a TD. Still one of the most gorgeous movies I've ever seen; a nice take on its visual style here.)

So I was just watching Grant's presentation as somebody who's been a fan of this industry for over 50 years, and a participant for over 40. Sitting down groggily in my PJs and saying, "Tell me a story." LOL

And as a former product manager who prided myself on giving demos as well as anybody in the company, I have mad respect for Grant being able to do genuinely engaging presentations for an insane number of products. (I think my most ever was 5 or 6 at a time, but he routinely blows past that.) Not only doing it live, but being willing to have any of his boo-boos immortalized.

Here's some of what jumped out at me:

-- Grant really is good at this, but you know what? So is Blackmagic. When he said that something was easy to set up, HE SET IT UP. As in, he started with a bare ATEM Mini Pro, and plugged in the power, four cameras, connected it to the internet shared with his laptop, got the streaming key from YouTube, and EVERYTHING ELSE, and he did it while speaking intelligently about the products.

I don't know how many CEOs are up to this kind of thing, but I've worked with a lot of gear since I started in this business in the 70s, and I know that even you youngsters have too. There's just not many people making this many things this easy to use.

-- The ATEM Mini has a super-easy set of controls on the box itself that cover most of the bases. I'm sneaking ahead of myself and showing a picture of the new ATEM Mini Pro, but you get the idea.


But where I started waking up a bit was when he showed the software running on his laptop that includes basically the wheels from DaVinci Resolve for setting up your cameras, and an audio page with the pertinent tools from Fairlight. It's not that he's loading ALL this stuff into an app for a $295 piece of hardware, but in classic BMD fashion, he's taking the most directly applicable pieces, and assuming that you'll do things with this that he hasn't thought of.

That really is the quintessence of Blackmagic. Most other vendors create customer profiles, and they design for these theoretical constructs of potential uses. They do a really good job with that, but they're not necessarily thinking about who they haven't thought about.

I won't say that Grant is necessarily designing for people he hasn't thought about. Once he's thought about them, the jig is up. LOL But he's clearly more interested in creating potential scenarios that may yet emerge every bit as much as meeting specific needs that the company has already identified.

I like that.

-- Here's the first quote I wrote down: “Nothing about ATEM Mini makes it a low-end switcher." He's right! And that's the $295 version!

So what's the Pro part? In addition to some extra buttons, the big thing is built-in hardware encoding for streaming to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and others. By offloading this from the computer, you're going to get a much cleaner compression, and much less likely to drop frames. You're also only get to compression once, in the ATEM Mini Pro itself, rather than once in the webcam, again in the hardware, and again in the streaming software.

Other Pro features include recording the stream direct to USB flash disks in H.264, plus support for recording to disk, including a nifty demo of the HyperDeck with its FOUR disks, but really any disk fast enough to keep up with H.264, including a decent thumb drive.

-- I mentioned that the software adds a ton of cool additional features, and one that nearly made me spit was MULTIVIEW, which also including a boatload of status indicators all on one screen. Again, my cap of the stream:



On the bottom row, note the "Record" monitor -- combined views for the estimated TIME available for recording, and the available SPACE for the recording. Sweet!

Also, in the lower left, that's a graphic with alpha, so the preview monitors include all the cameras AND the graphics store. And in classic switcher-y fashion, you can tie together the graphic through the linear keyer with one of the cameras, so you can bring up the vid+gfx with one control. Sweet again!

-- One of my favorite parts of the demo: at one point, Grant yanked out the cable on the pocket drive he was recording to. Something you wouldn't do on purpose, but that might happen when some lummox lumbers by. No worries! The recording is SAVED up until that very point. And he didn't just SAY this. He SHOWED it.

This is why old bastards like me drag our flabby butts out of bed at the buttcrack of dawn to watch presentations like this for FUN. Because that there, my friend, that's FUN.

-- All the settings for the ATEM Mini Pro are contained in an XML file. You can add services, like pre-loading your streaming credentials, and if you're responsible for setting this up for someone else, you can also DELETE settings, so that the end user doesn't have a chance to monkey with them. Very, very thoughtful stuff for the technically inclined!

-- I've always enjoyed Blackmagic's transparency. They're the first to admit that they've missed some ship dates over the years, but there's no headscratching and shrugging here. "We started production today," says Grant. WHAT? WHO SAYS THAT? And he admits that worldwide...uhm, conditions....make it a little trickier to name the date that you can get one in your hands, but hey, they're rolling off the assembly line.

For $595. Nothing low end about this for that price, either.


Okay, now I want to make an observation about Grant's observation about cameras. He said that they were getting a ton of requests from people to use Pocket Cinema Cameras for these kinds of remote productions where you'd want a switcher the size of a paperback book.

Needless to say, this is a pretty bad idea. LOL Blackmagic makes a line of nifty studio cameras of course, and sure, in a perfect world, people would pay for THOSE. But in the world we live in, people buy what they want, and the Pocket Cinema Camera is so much fun that people have 'em laying around....but they're not especially well suited for this.

I mean, on one hand, they're cool little cameras that punch above their weight. Dandy image quality, nice big viewfinders on the back that are bigger and have more control than most of the fold-out viewfinders on consumer-ish cameras, and terrific low light performance. Everything you'd want for a studio camera, except for everything you NEED in a studio camera. LOL These are CINEMA cameras. They're wired for film gamut, RAW output, no tally, no sync timecode, on and on. All of this is addressable, but not easily, not for most people.

UNTIL TODAY. lol

I can tell you that I worked for a company where engineers would say things like, "BUT THAT'S THE WRONG WAY TO DO IT." And I'm sure that somebody inside Blackmagic may have said such a thing. But what Grant showed is a FREE software update that fixes all kinds of these problems from the get-go.

You can use software control panel in the ATEM Mini Pro for all the kinds of CCU setup you want. Tint, focus, gain, shutter speed, iris, you name it. Color matching across multiple cameras, done. Shared timecode coming out of the ATEM Mini Pro's built-in timecode generator (another new Pro feature), done.

With this free software update, the RECORD light on the front of the camera that shines red when you record NOW ALSO becomes a TALLY light: red when it's on, yes, but also green for "ready" (ie,the camera that's about to take) and orange for "standing by." I really did drop my oatmeal this time.

You already know that the switched output from the cameras running through the ATEM Mini Pro can be both streamed AND recorded to disk simultaneously. But it's still a CINEMA camera, so hey, go right ahead and attach a disk for ISO recording to BRAW in 4K or 6K, bypassing the LUT that you've applied for your pretty, broadcast-y HD stream.

It's easy to imagine a program, say, a concert, where you want it to look "pretty darn good" for the broadcast of the live stream, but you want to really give it the full treatment of a cinematic grade to the RAW files in Resolve -- done and done. There's all kinds of workflow that becomes possible here.

"Possible" is the key word. That's the scenario that immediately popped into MY mind, but who knows what popped into yours? (I can never figure out what's going through y'all's mind sometimes. LOL) So i dunno, what can YOU come up with to do with a switcher that fits in your hand that does simultaneous live streaming and recording to disk, coupled with freshly hybridized studio/cinema cameras recording ISO to RAW?

And here's another place where the demo got insane, about 54 minutes into the hour -- in fact, almost exactly where I took the screenshot at the top of this post. Here it is again so you don't have to scroll all the way back up:



The ATEM Mini Pro really is a tiny fella, the tiny box on the desk in the lower right of the screencap, but it's got a big giant brain. So Grant whipped out two 1 M/E panels from the full ATEM production switchers -- but as configured here, they were only for controlling the ATEM Mini Pro. The idea is that you don't have to page through screens on your laptop. You can set up some of the controls to be visible on the attached monitor, and leave the one page that you want on your laptop as the only one you need to worry about.

This is ideal both for people who happen to have full-scale ATEM studios and want the freedom to take some of that gear on the road, AND for people who want to start with the Mini Pro, and grow up into a full ATEM configuration with all the bells and whistles they want.

Look, I don't know if any of this is helpful to you. I don't know if I even meant for it to be helpful beyond the link to Blackmagic's press release at the top of the post. I'm just talking nerd to nerd here, as a fan of this industry and a participant in many aspects of it for longer than many of you have been alive. Heck, longer than Grant Petty has been alive.

That's fine by me, and if you don't mind indulging me speaking as a fan here, I might take this approach with some of the other live streams coming up. I loved watching the presentation, and I've enjoyed taking longer to write up than it took me to watch it, without having to force the disciplines of actual journalism. I'll leave that to Oliver. LOL

And having said all this, I'll emphasize again what you already know, that I don't know nuthin' from nuthin'. I sat down in my jammies and said "Tell me a story," and Grant told me a story...but it's not like I've used any of this stuff. YOU tell ME. Have you used Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras? Ready to consider them for studio use with appropriate software?

I also know that a ton of you have deep experience with streaming. How does this kind of switching solution look to you, including for use with your current HDMI cameras? Are you using Blackmagic's streaming hardware? How does all this sit with you folks who are in the middle of it?


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