How a funeral inspired the pandemic's hottest hardware

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If anyone was poorly prepared for worship during the coronavirus era, it was the church I attend in New York's Hudson Valley. While modern evangelical churches have broadcast systems that would put most local PBS broadcasters to shame, air conditioning was recently installed in our 250 year old rural church.

When New York's lockdown restrictions came in in mid-March, we had to improvise. First, I and another parishioner helped our priests record the services, which were uploaded to the Church's YouTube page on Sunday morning. We used our cameraman's DSLR camera, my iPhone, and a podcasting microphone which collected dust and developed a serviceable multi-camera rig.

This worked for several months, but when it soon became apparent that the restrictions on personal worship would persist, we had to find a more sustainable solution. There were two problems: the posting of recorded videos was taken away from the live community that the Church provides to the people, and second, I spent up to five hours a week editing the videos together.

Our initial assumption was that any type of live streaming equipment would be prohibitively expensive until research led me to a product called the ATEM Mini by Blackmagic Design, which took church technology YouTube by storm (yes, that's one thing).

Blackmagic Design, headquartered in Victoria, Australia, is included in broadcast and cinema hardware such as high-end ultra-high definition camera housings and multi-input broadcast switches that can cost north of $ 10,000. In November 2019, the company introduced the ATEM Mini, a scaled-down version of its ATEM broadcast switch. The price was a pretty radical $ 295.

The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini is priced at $ 295.
Blackmagic Design

The ATEM Mini accepts four HDMI inputs – whether cameras or from a source such as a video game console or PC – and allows the operator to switch between them with transitions, picture-in-picture and advanced features like chromakey (green screen) ) and audio processing. It becomes very convenient that all of the processing of the video signals is done on the device, so that when connected to a computer, the device appears as a ready-to-use USB webcam Zooming, YouTube or a video streaming platform of your choice.

"The idea came to our CEO at a funeral of all things," said Bob Caniglia, director of sales operations for Blackmagic Design for North America. “At the funeral, people tried to play videos and then switch to something else, and every time they plugged in and unplugged cables. He said it just had to be a small box to switch between entrances. How heavy is this? "

All three products in the ATEM Mini range accept four HDMI inputs.

The Blackmagic development team soon realized that there would be other uses for such a box, such as: Jerking players, YouTubers, classrooms, business presentations, virtual conferences and yes, churches.

What they didn't realize is how popular this product would be just months after it was launched. "If someone had told me last September that we were now selling as many as we have, I would have asked, 'Who is buying this? "But suddenly you throw in a pandemic and suddenly …"

In fact, the ATEM Mini was sold out at A / V retailers and above Amazon for months. Scalpers resold the units at almost double the MSRP when companies, places of worship and politicians switched to online. (Joe Biden's campaign uses Blackmagic Design devices for his home broadcasts.)

The ATEM Mini Pro (center) on site at the live stream station of our church.
Daniel Bentley

Blackmagic Design has now caught up on the order backlog for the ATEM Mini and has even added two new products to the product line: the ATEM Mini Pro for $ 595, which has an Ethernet jack and an encoder for direct streaming on YouTube or Twitch for recording includes a hard drive through the device's USB-C port and a multi-view monitor so the director can see what is happening at each entrance; and the ATEM Mini Pro ISO for $ 895, which allows each input to be recorded into a separate video file.

I gratefully accepted the offer of a test device of the ATEM Mini Pro and the product lived up to the hype. It's easy to set up (if you know how to hook one up Apple TV into a TV then you already know how to set up the ATEM) and the results are surprisingly professional for such an expensive box. Our church has since purchased one and intends to resume streaming services as soon as they can be fully reopened. Alleluia.

More needs to be read technical coverage from capital::

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