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Review: Roland VR-1HD AV Streaming Mixer, Part 1: Basic Hardware Functionality

In Part 1 of this 2-part review, Jan Ozer examines the essential hardware functionality, features, and usability of the Roland VR-1HD AV Streaming Mixer.

Titles and Still Images

You can create a title in any image editor so long as you output the file in 24-bit uncompressed BMP format. You can key out either black or white so I created the title shown in Figure 3 (below) as a 1920x1080 white image in Photoshop with the text and red background shown. You copy the title onto a USB stick, plug that into the back of the VR-1HD, load the image into the unit, and display the title by pressing the Key button on the upper right of the unit.

Figure 3. Inputting and displaying a title is simple enough.

This is simple enough in the hardware for a single title, but if you have to switch titles for the host and guest, you’ll have to work through the menu system to load the second title, which could be tough to do if you’re producing and performing. There is a software alternative for this that I’ll discuss in the next segment.

To display images in the presentation you have to assign them to an input channel, bringing the HDMI inputs down from three to two. You can load two images into the unit, but there’s no easy way to switch between them; you have to enter the menu system which, again, would be cumbersome if you’re both producer and on camera.

Overall, configuring and switching your video inputs will be simple for all users, even if you’re producing and performing. If your productions are image intensive you may wish to find a different alternative.

That’s most of the video side; now let’s look at audio.

Audio Mixing

The VR-1HD manages audio on the left side of the control surface (Figure 4, below). Start by pressing the Level Setup button, which lets you set incoming dB levels for all inputs. You see the individual volume controls for Mic 1, Mic 2, and the Line input, plus output controls for the Main output, USB Stream, and headphones.

Figure 4. Audio mixing controls

In default mode, audio follows video, so if you have your mics connected to the cameras, only the audio from the currently selected camera makes it to the output channel. If that isn’t what you want, you can easily correct this via the menu system in the Audio Follows Video menu.

The unit comes with four audio effects that you can apply by clicking the buttons on the upper left of the panel. The voice changer lets you broadly adjust the voice, like male to female or vice versa. Background music (BGM) lets you play a loaded music file in the background, which is nice for atmosphere and breaks. Special Effects (SE) let you play a loaded audio file, with a polite applause track loaded by default. Reverb lets you apply the eponymous effect to the incoming audio.

Note that while you can apply reverb to any incoming audio track, you can deploy the voice changer only to inputs from microphones 1 and 2. More seriously, you can apply other audio effects like noise gate, compressor, limiter, and high-pass filter only to mics 1 and 2, though you can equalize all incoming audio tracks.

You can also apply some effects to the Main and Auxiliary audio bus outputs and the USB stream, including the ability to resync audio and video and apply echo cancellation to correct audio from a speaker picked up by a separate microphone. This is just an overview of the unit’s audio capabilities; if sophisticated mixing and control is critical to your use I suggest that you download the manual here and check for yourself.

Saving the Setup

Once you’ve completed your audio/video setup, you can save it to the USB memory stick so you can pick up where you left off for the next production. I’ll be using that feature to return to discuss the broadcasting and recording options, the VR-1HD software, and some advanced audio switching features.

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