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Review: Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel and ATEM Television Studio HD

This review is an introduction and an overview of the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel and the Television Studio HD. The Advanced Panel is accessible enough for rookies to not be intimidating, but it's also advanced and customizable enough for veteran directors.

In this review I’ll look at some brand new equipment from Blackmagic Design. First is the ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel (Figure 1, below). Powering that unit, I have Blackmagic’s ATEM Television Studio HD (Figure 2, below Figure 1). In this article I’ll refer to the Television Studio as the switcher and the Advanced Panel as the panel.

Figure 1. The Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel. Click the image to see it at full size.

Figure 2. The Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio HD. Click the image to see it at full size.

Setting Up the Hardware

First, I’ll walk you through the setup of this hardware. It was very straightforward, which surprised me, because I've worked with hardware like this before that requires a lot of cables and a lot of interactivity, and sometimes it can be very difficult to get everything just right.

Basically, the panel acts as a network hub. There are two ethernet ports on the back of the panel (Figure 3, below). One goes to the computer; the other goes to the Television Studio switcher. I set my IP range to a certain range, and then I set both of the devices, both the switcher and the panel, to the same range, but gave them different numbers at the very end of that range--basically, 50, 51, and 52.

Figure 3. Ethernet ports on the back of the ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel

Once that was set up, I made the panel search. It found the Television Studio and then, in this software, ATEM setup, it also finds the hardware. As you can see in Figure 4 (below), the setup software has already found the Television Studio HD, the switcher and it sees the advanced panel. Again, this works simply by seeing an IP range and it searches that, and it finds the hardware that it needs.

Figure 4. The ATEM setup software identifying the Television Studio HD

Once you've done that with the setup software, there's not really much you need to do here anymore. You can quickly access settings and jump straight into the software control panel via the buttons shown in Figure 4. After I hit the button, it switches me over to the software, which I already had running, but it would launch the software for you, if needed.

Switching and Mixing with the Software

Immediately it shows me what I'm seeing on the Advanced Panel in Figure 5 (below). It shows which source is on program, which source is on preview, and then any other buttons that are toggled at the time, including the position of the T-bar, which changes as I move the T-bar, the physical T-bar.

Figure 5. The software shows everything that’s happening in the Advanced Panel. 

The software is mostly straightforward because it's basically just mirroring what you can see physically on the panel. This could be useful if you have two operators in the control room. You could have one person setting up graphics or colors, queuing up media to play or stills to call up. The other person could actually be the tech director, calling the switches and operating the panel itself. That would take some practice because the right hand would have to know what the left hand is doing, so that the director doesn't get confused by something the person running the software is setting up.

On the right side of UI, shown in Figure 6 (below), we have Palettes. Here you can set up Color Generators, which I've set up with a blue and an orange in Figure 6. I can do everything on screen what I can also do on the hardware. I can call up Color 1, which brings up the blue color, and then I can transition to that, if I wanted to show a solid blue. And then I can switch my preview to another camera and go back into my camera feeds, having gone through that color.

Figure 6. Palettes

Below that, you have Upstream and Downstream Keys. You have transitions: Mix, which is like a dissolve; Dip, which you dip to a color; Wipe, of different shapes; and then DVE. The last panel under Palettes is Fade to Black. Here, you can adjust the duration of the fade and also tell it whether the audio should follow the video or not. If you're using Fade to Black as a cut to commercials, or to end the show, then you would want the audio to follow video, so that it kills your entire feed all at once.

If you just want Fade to Black to be available to you as an option for an actual image, but you want the audio to continue--let's say you're trying to hide something visually, whatever that may be--you can toggle that on or off for whatever you need.

The next tab over, Media Players, shows you what stills are called up. You can quickly change to other stills that you have loaded. As you can see in Figure 7 (below), you can have up to 20 in each media player. Then there's HyperDecks. If you have a Blackmagic HyperDeck, this would be for recording and under Capture is where you would see those devices showing up.

Figure 7. Media Players