Cost Effective video switcher (software?)

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      Wilton HelmWilton Helm
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      Our church has migrated from occasional video projection or guest Power Point to installing an 84 inch 4k TV ad making more regular use of power point and other content. Then came Covid and zoom and now mixed remote and local attendance. I am trying to put together the pieces of what we need, but not finding the information I need in the marketing material for the products, as they tend to have a different emphasis. So I am hoping someone with some experience can save me the grief of installing trial versions of half a dozen product to see if they can be used.

      First about us. The congregation is small , with seating for about 50. Of course that means the budget is small, and the talent pool is small. I’m about the only one with ANY experience in this area. I’ve played with some Grass Valley A:B switchers back in the NTSC days.

      Now our requirements: We have an 84 inch 4k TV in the sanctuary. We need to add a stage monitor. We also have a 65 inch 4k TV in an overflow room. We also stream interactively through Zoom. We have a PTZ camera with HDMI, SDI and RTSP that could be upgraded to NDI. BTW, one of the annoying “features” of the TV is that they don’t go to black with loss of signal–they go to a menu offering Hulu and a dozen other internet sources–totally inappropriate for a live service.

      My biggest frustration is that we need two distinct feeds, and that appears to be something no one talks about. One feed is for the live audience. It is primarily video playback, Power Point, etc. It would also include presenting the Zoom session so we can see the remote participants. It also needs to go to black when not needed, which eliminates any of the matrix switches I’ve see, not to mention that they don’t switch seamlessly. The second is for overflow and streaming through Zoom. It needs the same inputs as first feed at key times, but our camera feed when nothing more important is needed. (i.e. M/E 1 is a source for M/E 2).

      I also recognize that for content we generate, I’d prefer to put things like song words and scripture texts on a downstream keyer, rather than on Power Point, using a non-distracting background for the live audience and the camera as a background for the remote audience. And finally, guest presenters are going to come in with anything from NTSC to VGA to HDMI and we need to scale at least that one input.

      The first thing that strikes me in all this is that while we could use two switchers, besides the added bulk, that means splitting, possibly scaling, and converting each input two times, which seems wasteful. Also it may not be the most efficient way to handle a situation where the two streams are going to have transitions mostly at the same times, although not always between the same sources.

      My Grass Valley background suggests I need a switcher with two M/E (or A:B) banks (there aren’t any for under $1,000). My general thinking is that a software switcher is likely to be a more cost effective solution to this, but the one’s I’ve looked at have a very different paradigm, and don’t seem to cater to two different output feeds. BTW, we absolutely DON’T need an audio mixer as part of the switcher, just an audio input that can be time synchronized. Unless a church has a large enough team to devote a separate person to mixing sound just for TV, an audio mixer is a liability, not an asset. We will use an aux bus on our existing mixer (which will probably be operated by the same person doing the video switching and PTZ control).

      Here are typical scenes for the two feeds:
      1. Audience Remote Comments
      a. Power point Power point Guest presenter. Also canned video
      b. Black Camera
      c. Zoom app video Camera Interaction between local and remote audience
      d. Background Graphic Camera Songs or locally produced sermon
      both with text from downstream keyer
      e. Power Point Power Point alternative sermon presentation
      both with some text from downstream keyer

      One approach would be a switcher with an Aux bus. We probably don’t need M/E on the live feed, although we do need a downstream keyer. But the ones I’ve looked at don’t have that easy access to aux control. It takes several button pushes, not something one does while simultaneously doing an M/E transition on the remote feed. And the software switchers don’t seem to even know the words Aux or Bus.

      It is possible that macros or some other technique might handle this very nicely on a software switcher, but again that has not been the marketing emphasis, so I haven’t been able to determine it. They are more interested in showing a one-man-band live stream U-Tuber who likes gaudy animated transitions and doesn’t have a live audience to support.

      Suggestions from someone who understands what I’m doing and has worked with the stuff that is out there would be greatly appreciated. I don’t think we’re doing anything terribly fancy, but we need the flexibility to target the two different audiences and at low cost and with minimal effort on the part of the volunteer operator.

      Thanks,
      Wilton

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