Review: Brick House Callisto-P Video Mixer
Another reason I had to go to the manual was that, with a serial number of 28, my Callisto-P is one of the early models. It lacks some of the silkscreen labeling on top that would indicate which button brings up the wipe-border color. I am assured that regular production models have the silkscreening seen in the photos and discussed in the manual. Another feature my early model lacked is the ability to hot-punch between inputs on the program bus. Brick House says this is also going to be a standard feature—and a very useful one at that. Probably 95% of any switched program is just straight cuts.
Even in the absence of hot-punch capability, I found that hitting the next input up on the Preview bus and then hitting the Take button was nearly as easy. With two hands, it is nearly as fast, and enables your right hand to be ready to throw the mixer into a dissolve, wipe, or key mode very easily. There’s even a separate fade to black, so there’s always a one-button solution to any faux pas that may happen on screen.
The Callisto lets you adjust settings in the middle of transitions. You can use the T-bar to push a wipe half-way, and then leave it there while you change colors, softness, reverse, and wipe type. If there’s a fault with the switcher it is that there is too little variation in these settings. The thin border is appropriately thin, but thick is nowhere near as chunky as it could be. I had to look carefully for the softness. It’s there, but it only takes that one-pixel edge and makes it less edgy. It is certainly not a wide, soft wipe that can take up 1/8–1/4 of the frame.
I also found the lack of a moveable oval or box wipe to be conspicuous. While the Callisto switchers lack a joystick to move an oval to a particular part of the frame for picture-in-picture, it is one of the more useful and necessary wipes I have used over the years in corporate production. It allows you to put a close-up of a speaker or singer over a crowd shot. The Datavideo SE-800 installed in my studio has a rudimentary PiP that I use from time to time. The Callisto does have settings for three custom wipes, so there may be a way to select an upper right or left oval or box and have it embedded in these custom wipes.
I looked forward to the Callisto’s internal DSK because most productions need the ability to key lower-third graphics over the video. I was unable to get the DSK to work because it is designed to work with SDI video only. This is similar to my Datavideo. When I find a PC card or USB device that can send SDI video out of a lightweight laptop, then this will actually become a lot more useful for portable productions. This type of capability is one I consider essential in today’s switchers.Conclusions
Overall, I was impressed with the smoothness of the dissolves and wipes produced by the Callisto-P. They were linear and clean, and not at all jumpy. They started and stopped without any effect on the video I could see during my testing. This is the type of professional look to strive for.
I was able to punch quickly or slowly and there was never any time I felt hindered by the Callisto. Tactile feedback is excellent and the professional, durable colored buttons can be opened to insert labels if you are looking to use this in a permanent installation.
Prices for the switchers are on par with the uniqueness of their capability. The Philip-Cooke Company (www.philipcooke.com) imports the Callisto mixers and other gear from Brick House Video for U.S. customers. Prices range from $8,495 for the Callisto-F to $10,695 for the Callisto-P. That’s a little pricey in my book, but you are getting a quality piece of compact yet capable gear that feels built to last a good long while.
The ability to mix composite and SDI signals bridges the gap for productions that use high-end gear and need to add "one more thing" that always crops up at the very last minute. With the ability to toggle any input to composite, and the internal video synchronizers, you are finally able to handle greater than four inputs in these compact and easily transported mixers.
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