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REVIEW:  Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Video Switcher

Dollars To Donuts: Through The Roof

By Bruce A Johnson | March 17, 2012

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I've been working in TV stations for over 30 years now. I can trace one of the primary reasons I made this career choice back to a basic fact of my DNA:

I love buttons.

I wanted to switch video on a video switcher from the day I saw my first one, and eventually I managed to get to that point. While never having joined the ranks of the elite folks that switch sports or national news programs, I have at least some experience on switchers from such old and new names such as Grass Valley, Ross, Sony, Crosspoint Latch, Echolab and CDL, among others. And while their operation varied between brands, they all had a couple of things very much in common: They were expensive, they were tweaky, and they required lots of external gear to make them more than basically useful. I'm happy to announce that those days are largely gone.

Blackmagic Design has been revolutionizing the video world for the last ten years or so with boxes that are compact and cost-effective, and always address some annoying need, be it digital video interfacing with computers, routing switching across a plant, or solid-state video recording. Their acquisition of Echolab in 2010 gave them access to some of the most robust video switchers on the market. Now we can see the results of that merger.

I was provided with a Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E switcher to put through its paces. (By the way, M/E stands for "mix/effects buss.") There are actually three switchers in the ATEM line - the 1 M/E and 2 M/E, and the ATEM Television Studio. All three switchers can be controlled by the software control panel, or the hard switching surfaces that are sold separately.

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The switching surface is a switchers dream - heavy, solid, with robust buttons that light up in different ways depending on what is currently selected on the switcher or what is coming up next. A group of buttons on the upper left of the board change color and label depending on what function you want them to perform. In the center middle is an alpha-numeric display with four knobs that can be programmed to modify hundreds of parameters on the switcher, from the color of a background or a wipe border to setting the various IP addresses of the parts of the system.

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