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Video Switcher Basics

Video Switcher Basics

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Since so many houses of worship live-stream and/or record their productions, sermons, and classes, it’s important to note that using a video switcher is a great idea. Why? Because a switcher brings everything together and allows you to manage multiple audio and video devices on the same box, which means that managing any type of production is much easier than you think. While you can do much the same thing with a computer that has certain software on it, video switchers tend to be more reliable because computers can slow down, freeze up, or even crash in many instances.

What Is a Video Switcher?

Let’s start with just the basics; in other words, what exactly is a video switcher? Simply put, the device switches from one source to another on a regular basis. These “sources” are usually video cameras that are set up to stream in various locations around your house of worship. When you switch from one source to the next, you’ll have to tell the control panel where you want to switch to and then press the appropriate key. In fact, video switchers have a lot of different keys on them, some more than others, and learning where each key is will help you determine how to complete each action.

If you’re new to video switchers, your best bet is to set up a couple of cameras, get your switcher all set up and ready to go, read the instruction manual, and then practice switching between the different cameras. If you practice when no one else is around and the auditorium or meeting hall isn’t full, it will be a lot easier on you and you’ll feel more confident when your event starts. Before your function begins, you’ll need to know what your particular video switcher does and what it doesn’t do. The only way to learn this is to practice on it as much as possible.

What Is a DSK, and Why Is it Important?

Most video switchers will have a downstream key, or DSK, which is usually used when you want to include, for example, the name of the station or house of worship in a corner of the screen (DSK 1), the name and title of the presenter (DSK 2), and subtitles for translation purposes (DSK 3). You can use other keys for this same purpose, including a luma key or even a chroma key, but since the DSK is commonly used for this purpose and because most video switchers have only one DSK, you’ll have to add software if you feel as though you’ll need more than one.

And that brings us to the software that you’ll use with your video switcher. Some software is free and others you’ll have to pay for. The option you choose will be affected by how complex your video-streaming needs are. Simply put, the fancier you want your productions to be, the more likely you’ll end up paying for the software you use. Nevertheless, a lot of houses of worship find that their needs are met perfectly with free software such as OBS. If you do have to pay for your software, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be paying a lot.

Pay Attention to Your Budget

The best way to stick to your budget when you’re looking at various video switchers is to determine beforehand exactly what you need in one of these devices. If your needs are a little more complex than they are for the house of worship down the street, you’ll likely need more than just a “basic” video switcher. After all, it’s pointless to go cheap and purchase a very basic video switcher if you already know that you’ll need 3D or other complicated abilities. You can shop around for the best deal, of course, but if you decide what your house of worship needs before you buy anything, you’ll have a better chance of getting a switcher that will meet your needs from that point on.

Video switchers start out at under $300 and can get up to $2000 or more. Naturally, the more expensive the switcher, the more bells and whistles it has and the more it can do. Nevertheless, it behooves you to learn exactly what you need before you purchase your video switcher because you don’t want to spend too little and not get what you need, or spend too much and have features that you’ll never even use.

Types of Video Switchers

Video switchers usually come in three basic types:

  • Electronic switchers. These solid-state devices utilize vertical blanking intervals that take only a few microseconds. In addition, the information used in the previous switching is stored in memory, and it is a great type of switcher to use if your needs include high reliability and low maintenance.
  • Mechanical push-button switchers. These have interlocked switch blanks so there is no chance of simultaneous punching of the buttons. With these switchers, the video signals are found on the actual switch contacts, so each action you perform is fast and accurate.
  • Relay switchers. These switchers have reed switch contacts that are activated magnetically. The operational time is only about 1 ms, which means that the operation of the switcher is very fast. You also get D-switching capability, which prevents the loss of syncing when switching occurs.

With video switchers, you get different numbers of input and output ports. This is where you would connect all of your devices to the switcher, and the switcher to your monitor or other device. Fortunately, video switchers come with easy-to-understand user manuals that tell you step by step exactly how to set everything up so that you can begin using it immediately. The USB plug-and-play ability that most of them now offer means that you can have the entire system set up in minutes, not hours. From then on, the more you practice using it, the easier it will become.

Conclusion

While video switchers do a lot of fancy footwork, most are not difficult to learn or to use. For a house of worship, your needs might be big or small, but one thing is certain: you’ll easily be able to find a switcher that can accommodate those needs. Video switchers should be researched, but it should be easy to determine which one is best for your facility.

Further Resources On Video Mixers:

  1. Best Video Switchers
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