I have been doing a lot more playing with the Blackmagic Design (BMD) ATEM Mini Pro over the last few days and continue to be awed at how much the engineers at BMD have managed to cram into this little box.
In fact, I would go as far as saying that a fair percentage of people who have reviewed the BMD ATEM Mini Pro have missed a lot of the deeper features and therefore possibilities, simply looking at it as a consumer level vision switcher for some more advanced web camera type functionality.
On the surface then, yes, ATEM Mini Pro is a video switcher. If you are new to video, this simply means you can have multiple inputs – say cameras – and output any of the video streams by switching between up to 4 cameras as you need.
A good (and again simple) example is an interview.
You might have a face-on camera, a camera shooting from the side and perhaps even one at the rear of the subject such as you see sometimes when politicians are giving a talk from a rostrum live, and you see some bloke (it’s always a bloke) with a dirty, great big shoulder mount camera witha light on it come into view and start shooting from behind them.
But of course, *media* is not always simply a camera’s video stream. You can also get main titles, subtitles, lower thirds, overlay graphics, full screen graphics and more.
Generally when creating a video, these are developed separately and keyed into the video timeline in the editor (such as Premiere Pro, Vegas Pro or of course, BMD’s own DaVinci Resolve) to appear at the correct time when the completed video is played back from say YouTube or gasp! A DVD.
But a device such as the BMD ATEM Mini Pro is designed for live streaming ands recording, so there has to be a way of pre-creating all the stuff you need in graphics applications and have them ready to key into the live stream as and when required.
For those used to webcam streaming, products such as XSPLIT Broadcaster allow a basic functionality, and indeed, the BMD ATEM Mini Pro can mimic this when inputs from cameras are diverted to the inbuilt USB-C port and connected to a PC, thus fooling the web streaming software into thinking it is getting data from a webcam and not a very clever vision switcher-cum-mixer.
Add an Ethernet port to the original ATEM Mini, hard code the ability to live stream to YouTube, Facebook or Twitch, and throw a media pool and downstream and upstream keying into the mix, and the ball game just changed dramatically.
Combine this with some extremely smart software in the form of an ATEM Software Control package and prepare to have your mind blown. If you understand XML coding, you can even create your own streaming options to services other than those hard coded. So incredibly flexible is this piece of software, and adds so much to the functionality of the ATEM Mini Pro, it needs – and will get – a write up all its own.
But the boffins at BMD didn’t stop there either. Oh no!
Audio buffs are not forgotten as you can select the exact audio to mix into the live stream. That is, if you have input from four cameras via the available HDMI ports, you can select which audio to choose for the output from a specific camera and switch between them at will. Additionally there are two separate mic in-ports so an interviewer and a guest could have a Lav mic each, or one of the mic in-ports could be used to receive a music bed say.
Now we can get to monitoring. A separate 5th HDMI port is used to take a feed from the ATEM Mini Pro and display it on an external device (I am using an OSEE 7” 4K monitor, but I am sure BMD had their own Video Assist units in mind at the time of development).
Again there is a lot of depth and flexibility in what you can do here as it is not just a simple feed of what the end user will see. As well as a PGM mode showing the current feed out for streaming (or recording), there is a MultiView (M/V) mode showing all the devices – cameras, the media player built into the ATEM Control software with any GFX or supers, lower thirds etc ready to go, information on the current system being streamed to (YouTube Facebook, Twitch etc) with the data rate and cache status, details on any hard drive that is plugged in to the USB-C port (did I mention you can also record on-the-fly) and audio meters for each HDMI in port.
Now let’s talk effects. A whole section of the panel is set aside for effects from a simple Cut button allowing an instant cut when switching between cameras (or other inputs such as from a computer screen display eg Powerpoint) to transitions like pushes, dips, wipes, fade to colour and so on. You can also set the duration of the effect in 0.5, 1, 1.5 or 2 seconds and use picture in picture options. This makes it easy for example to have a “talking head” (from camera 2) superimposed over a feed from the HDMI port of a laptop for software or other training purposes. And of course Chroma keying is built in too.
As mentioned I’ll have a separate in-depth view of the ATEM Software Control package (which is free by the way), but when you use this in conjunction with the ATEM Mini Pros effects options, you literally have TV station functionality at your fingertips as you can switch between simple cut mode to program / preview mode letting you mix operations and test them as they won’t go to air until you want them to via cut and auto buttons on the panel.
For multistep functions such as preloading graphics titles at different times, ascertaining how long they are to stay on air before fading out and then fetching the next, the ATEM Mini Pro also has a macro creation system to automate all that button pressing.
Well there really isn’t a full conclusion here as there is so much more to discover, and as I say, I still have to go into the ATEM Software Control in some depth.
But I will say this at this point.
With a device such as the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro, the whole is so much bigger than the parts, and in this case the whole, opens up a wide new world to video makers from the humble (and not so humble ) vlogger to the serious short film maker and docco creator to those in the field for wildlife or sport productions.
The BMD ATEM Mini Pro is AUD$1185 and the ATEM Software Control software is free. That alone is a bargain when you look up the cost of a dedicated internet streaming encoder PLUS a separate vision mixer. The rest is honey on the croissant.
But add in the Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve editing software NLE (also free) and that is one hell of a production system you have there, using up to 4 relatively inexpensive camcorders. Throw in a copy of Adobe Photoshop or similar (there is a plugin to allow Photoshop to have a chat directly with the ATEM Software Control package by the way) and you also have a fantastic GFX creation system.
The ATEM Software Control gives most cameras some very basic camera management, but if you use Blackmagic’s own 4K and 6K Pocket Cinema cameras, the video / filmmaking world just grew an even bigger set of muscles, as again, the engineers have excelled by letting you control gain, iris, focus, detail and zoom plus colour balance using the Resolve Primary Colour Collector that is built into these cameras.
The possibilities are staggering and unheard of, and even probably even undreamt of, even only a few short years ago.
The reduction in the number of cables and power supplies by using a single small box makes the BMD ATEM Mini Pro reasonably portable too, and one thing I am dying to try out when the weather is more amenable is using an inverter in my car for power and doing a live broadcast outside of local windsurfers with my smartphone acting as a Wi-fi hotspot with my ASUS laptop and three GoPros and a Panasonic HC- PV100 main camera (and I will get a BMD Pocket Cinema Camera one day).
Now won’t THAT be something to behold! Stay tuned.
Equipment in Photo
- Dell XPS 8920 Desktop PC
- LG 21” Monitor
- Dell 22.5” Monitor
- OSEE 7”4K Field Monitor
- Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve
- Blackmagic Design DaVinci Keyboard
- Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro
- GoPro Hero 7 Black
- Sony DSC RX0 Mk II
- Panasonic HC-PV100
- DJI Pocket OSMO
- SanDisk 1TB Extreme Pro SSD
- Sennheiser MKE 100 Mic
- Sennheiser HD300 Headphones
- Contour Shuttle Pro 2
- Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse
- Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve NLE
- Blackmagic Design ATEM Software Control
- Microsoft OneNote
- Microsoft Word
and incidentally the…
- Pink Floyd, “The Later Years”