This article was syndicated from our sister website Church Technology Superstore.
As the church has entered the world of live streaming and video production, the demand for video switchers has increased exponentially. So has the demand for honest recommendations and upfront information concerning these products.
Having spent 7 years live streaming now, I thought that I could add to this conversation and hopefully help you as you put together the best live streaming system for your church. As a pastor myself, I understand the tension between spending money on something you may not be convinced you need with the value of wanting to produce the best live stream you can for your church. I have kept that tension in mind as I made these recommendations. I hope that you will find what is the best video switcher for your church in these recommendations.
The basics concerning video switchers
What is a video switcher?
In a nutshell, a video switcher is a piece of hardware that allows you to switch between video signals and then outputs whichever signal you are currently choosing. This is helpful and sometimes necessary depending on the amount of cameras, video feeds, or graphic overlays or displays you want to show in your live stream.
What does a video switcher do?
A video switcher takes multiple video feeds and allows you to designate which feed is showing at any given time. You can “switch” between camera 1, camera 2, and your presentation software showing song lyrics or Bible verses. It will convert your video signal from SDI, or HDMI, or sometimes even from USB inputs and convert them to either HDMI or directly encode them and allow you to connect the switcher to the internet directly to live stream. Those are called video switchers and encoders.
How much does a video switcher cost?
As with all things, the cost of a video switcher depends on the amount of features and the quality of the equipment. You can get a video switcher for as little as $300.00 with the RGBLink Mini Video Switcher and for as much as $9,000.00 with the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420 which in all honesty is more of a video studio than just a video switcher.
The benefits of using a video switcher
Can I use two or more webcams at once?
Yes, when you use a video switcher you can use more than two webcams at once as long as your definition of webcam is not those cheap little cameras that clip onto your laptop. You really need a good camera for live streaming your church services. Trust me, I tried to go the cheap route and the picture was not something I wanted to put out to the public.
How do I get multiple cameras on Facebook Live or YouTube?
One of the limitations of live streaming to Facebook Live or YouTube is that they only accept 1 video feed. They do not provide any type of software to control your production. Now some people just use video switching software like OBS or vMix to do this, and that is a good option for a limited amount of feeds, but as you increase the feeds, you increase the amount of processing power needed to run the program. As a result as more feeds are added, many people experience lag in their live stream.
Will a video switcher stream directly to Facebook or YouTube?
There are some video switchers that will directly stream to Facebook or YouTube. The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme is one such video switcher. It will allow you to live stream directly from the switcher. These types of video switchers are more accurately called video switchers/encoders since the unit is also encoding the signal to be used with the protocols used by Facebook and YouTube.
Isn’t OBS, vMix and Wirecast Video Switchers?
Yes they are! They are software based video switchers. They work great as long as your computer is powerful enough to process all the signal. However if you try to use multiple video feeds with them on a standard computer you bought at a big box store, you are going to strain that computers processing power. So if you do not want to go through the hassle of having a computer guy build you an expensive gaming style computer, a video switcher is the best alternative.
The Best Video Switchers For Church Live Streams
As I mentioned above. I understand the tension that many church leaders face when deciding on buying a video switcher. You don’t want to overpay when using money given by donations yet you also want a good quality live stream to show the world.
That is why I have chosen to recommend 3 different categories of switchers. I have chosen what I feel is the best switcher, along with the best one for the money, and the best for those on a tight budget. I hope these selections will help you narrow down your choice and find the one that is best for you.
Best Overall Video Switcher
When determining what would be the best overall video switcher I weighted quality much higher than cost. Although I did not just go with the most expensive video switcher, I did not consider what would be feasible for churches on a tight budget. With that in mind, I chose the Roland V-8HD HDMI Video Switcher.
Roland V-8HD HDMI Video Switcher
Roland is a premier brand not only in the video production business, but in audio equipment as well. Ask your musicians. Roland puts out a quality product. The V-8HD seamlessly mixes eight HDMI sources with Full HD support, even when the sources have mismatched frame rates and color spaces. And with the built-in scalers on two of the HDMI inputs, you can easily interface with other-provided sources like computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, and legacy 4:3 devices like your old video projector.
Not only do you have a quality video switcher but you have more options. With the V-8HD‘s eight HDMI inputs and three outputs, you’re able to have a vast amount of creative freedom, without increasing the budget. You can send your video feed to the nursery or to an overflow room.
- All HDMI workflow
- Five-layer effects and keying engine
- Built-in multiviewer preview monitor
- Aux output for a different video feed
- Technology-assisted automatic video switching
- 18-channel digital audio mixer with effects
- Start & Stop Atomos recorders
- Free iPad remote control app available
- Ultra-mobile, lightweight, and efficient
- Aids in reducing capital expenditure
In my opinion all of this makes the Roland V-8HD HDMI Video Switcher worth the $2,000.00 price tag.
Best Budget Video Switcher
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I totally understand the need for a video switcher that will just do the job without all the bells and whistles. I am a church planter myself with a limited budget. Small churches just don’t have the budget for something like the Roland. They just need a switcher that will allow them to have 4 cameras or video feeds and just do the switching at a push of a button.
I was torn between two budget video switchers to recommend to you. The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini, and the RGBLink Mini. However, because of the simplicity of the RGBLink Mini’s user interface I landed on that one to recommend to you.
RGBLink Mini Video Switcher
The RGBLink Mini makes the sophisticated simple. Switch seamlessly between any of the four HDMI inputs and output to both HDMI and the dedicated USB 3.0 output. mini is equally ideal for live streaming applications and presentations, allowing multiple sources to be utilized for a professional impression every time. On-board features include transition effects and external audio embedding. You can plug in an external microphone or feed from your sound board and your video and audio will sync up.
The large buttons make quick actions easy, while the provision of the T-bar allows a smooth transition between sources, whether they be cameras or graphics. For a bare bones video switcher the The RGBLink Mini is quite the sweet deal.
- USB 3.0 live streaming port
- Compact design
- Live preview of four inputs
- Seamless switching
- Auto cut and manual switch
- Transition effects
- PIP (Picture-In-Picture) presets
- Audio insert/extract
- HDMI output as PGM or Multi-view
- Control remotely from app
- Support for third party apps including OBS Studio, vMix, and others
Best Bang For The Buck Video Switcher
In determining which video switcher would be best for those that are aware of cost but want the best they can get for the money, to me there was only one option. With 8 HDMI inputs and the ability to not only be a video switcher but stream directly to Facebook Live, YouTube and any other live streaming host, the choice was obvious. The recently released Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme is the best bang for the buck.
Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme
This Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme is an advanced switcher for true professionals! You get all the ATEM Mini Pro features plus 8 HDMI inputs, 2 separate HDMI outputs, 2 USB ports, and a headphone connection. There are also 4 chroma keyers, 6 picture-in-picture DVEs, 2 media players, and a multiview with up to 16 views!
With 8 HDMI inputs, you can connect multiple cameras for different views. Video cameras with HDMI outputs are better quality than simple webcams as they use higher quality lenses and have better low light sensitivity. All video sources will re-sync to the switcher if they operate at different video standards so you don’t have to worry about connecting video devices as they all just work!
To ensure maximum compatibility, all ATEM Mini models feature a USB that operates as a simple webcam source. That means you can plug it into a computer and get working with any video software! The software is tricked into thinking the ATEM Mini is a common webcam, but it’s really a live production switcher. That guarantees full compatibility with any video software and in full resolution 1080HD quality. Choose any software you like, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype for a new way to do presentations with a professional multi-camera broadcast-quality style! The ATEM Mini webcam output also works with streaming software such as Open Broadcaster, XSplit Broadcaster, and more!
This makes the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme very cost effective!
Final Thoughts On These Video Switchers
For some people when deciding on whether they need a video switcher it seems at first that it is just another piece of equipment to buy. They are not sure if they really need one. Well ask yourself this question. Is our live stream at the church a window into the church that people can watch or is it a an extension of our ministry to our community. Neither answer is necessarily wrong, it just depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
If it is a window, then 1 or two cameras may suffice and you may not need a video switcher. However if it is a ministry then you want to have all the tools you need to put into your live stream. Just as your worship team has the tools they need, your pastor has all the books and tools he needs, your live stream ministry needs all the tool they need. A video switcher is part of those tools.
Well, I hope that my recommendations of the best video switchers for church use have helped you make a more informed decision as you move into the world of live streaming.