What Is a Video Switcher?

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If your house of worship wants to live-stream or record sermons, classes, and broadcast productions, you need a video switcher. Also called a video mixer, these devices come in various sizes and types, and they essentially allow you to bring together all of the functions you have to perform to live-stream or record something.

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Most live streaming involves managing video and audio sources such as cameras and feeds. When you bring all these things together, it produces a video you can be proud of and share with others. For all these things to happen, however, you need the right video switcher.

video switcher

The Main Purposes of a Video Switcher

Video switchers are devices that choose between multiple incoming video signals from various sources, including cameras, PowerPoint feeds, etc. It then directs one of those signals to a single output, usually a screen or a monitor. The output can also come from a video recording or a streaming device. In most instances, it is the director who controls the video switcher. He or she will analyze the incoming camera angles and then select which view is the best to output.

Think of a video switcher as both an incoming and outgoing device, where different camera angles are input into the device and output on a large screen or monitor for everyone to see. Video switchers are used for live-streaming and recording; they can do both simultaneously. These days, many houses of worship record all of their sermons and place the videos on their website so that home-bound members and even guests can view them whenever they like. To make this happen, they will certainly need a video mixer.

Are There Alternatives to a Video Switcher?

While video switchers are important, you can also accomplish the same by using a computer with the right software. While this is usually cheaper, you are always at your computer’s mercy when doing this. If the computer slows down, freezes up, or crashes in the middle of a recording or live-streaming event, it can wreak havoc on your ability to produce smooth-running videos in the future. This is perhaps why most houses of worship and other organizations choose a video switcher instead of a computer.

Of course, you should also keep in mind that video switchers need software, too. Software for video switchers includes OBS, vMix, Wirecast, VidBlasterX, XSplit, and Livestream, to name a few. Some of these, including OBS, are free, while you’ll have to pay for others. The important thing to remember is to determine beforehand what you need from a video switcher and your software. Much of the free software is more than enough to meet the needs of the average house of worship, while other facilities may need to purchase other software so their needs can be met.

video switcher

Let’s Get More Detailed

With video switchers — also called video mixers, production switchers, and visual mixers — you get many options to make your productions look professional and amazing. They can create many visual effects, including simple mixes, wipes, and even super-fancy and elaborate effects. They can perform keying operations, produce color signals, and utilize different input sources to apply different effects and produce one or more outputs. This is simple: they take all the devices you’re using to record or live-stream an event and bring them together to get the final results.

With most video switchers, you get two main knobs: a program bus and a preview bus. Each of these has its monitor. The program bus is the main output feed, and the preview bus allows you to select and preview the source that will go live soon. Using the preview bus is not required unless you want visual effects in the final recording. Today’s video switchers also give you additional features they didn’t always have, with the final result being more professional-looking, high-tech recordings and live-streaming videos.

If you think of what an audio console does for audio productions, you can start understanding what a video switcher does. A row of buttons represents the bus mentioned earlier, and when you press one of those buses, you select the video signal in that bus. The preview bus is the second main bus, also called the preset bus. If any of this sounds confusing, don’t worry because these two buttons will be used quite frequently so it won’t take you long to learn to use them properly.

Other important features of a video switcher include:

  • The transition lever is also called a T-bar or fader bar. With this function, you can more easily transition between two buses.
  • The key bus, of which there are sometimes several of them. This bus is usually used for functions such as fills and cuts.
  • The Program/Preset section comprises several buses, including the fader bar and the key bus. If a facility takes part in big productions, it can also have a section called the Mix/Effects, or M/E section, which is usually numbered.

There are additional keys, of course, but these are the main ones that nearly all facilities that use a video switcher will utilize. Because of their functions, video switchers can get very fancy regarding the effects it provides. One of the best factors in choosing a good video switcher is the ability to produce very professional-looking videos that were formerly only available with switchers that cost a whole lot more.


blackmagic design atem switcher

Video switchers combine video production and make it look how you want it to look. While some of these devices are expensive, they are well worth it because they give you the tools you need to make professional, high-tech videos that you’ll be happy to show off to everyone else in the future.

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