I’ve written before about the Blackmagic ATEM switcher. The switcher is OK by itself for what it costs (the basic 1 M/E is $2495, so it’s not bad for a 4 SDI input switcher that also has 4 HDMI inputs). What I really didn’t like was the surface. I felt it was cheap and yet very expensive (the 1 M/E is $4995). That seems very steep to me considering it’s just a dumb controller with inexpensive buttons on it.
However, I’ve recently become aware of an alternative. A fellow believer in Denmark named Kasper Skårhøj has been building control surfaces for the ATEM. Now, I haven’t actually seen or used one, but these look interesting. Not only does he have a pretty standard looking 1 M/E controller panel (the C200), he also makes a touchscreen/multiviewer version with a T-Bar (the C250) and some pretty cool smaller controllers for simpler tasks.
He’s also able to to custom builds and offers DIY kits if you should want to build a controller yourself (now that would be fun!). Based on the pictures, they look fairly basic, but pretty rugged.
Pricing is significantly lower than Blackmagic as well. Take the C200 for example: Available in multiple configurations, you can get a 1 M/E version with a T-bar for $2,899. If you’re not in a hurry, they’ll knock 20% off the price when you participate in the “pool order” program. Basically, they will wait until they have enough orders for it to make sense to run a batch then build and ship them.
I don’t really know a whole lot about these guys other than what they told me and what they read on the website, but I applaud people doing stuff like this. See a need, fill it and come up with some unique solutions.
This gets really interesting to me when you consider that the TV Studio version of the ATEM is $999. If all you need is simple cuts and dissolves (which, let’s be honest is 99% of IMAG), you could pool order a C30 for $1,200 and be switching cameras for less than $2,300. You could save even more if you assembled it yourself.
Granted, this is not for everyone, but if you are part of a small church with a limited budget that still wants to get into video, this may be a solution.
Part of me wants to buy some parts and see what I can build just because. I keep looking around the tech book thinking, “What could I trigger from one of these little switches…” So maybe there are other ideas and things to do as well.
Anyway, check it out. It could be just what you’re looking for!