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The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini--Is It for You?

Smashing through the $1,000 floor for a 4-input hardware video mixer, the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini costs just $295, and it looks like a stunner on paper. Let's take a closer look.

Who Is it For?

If you’re doing a regular show, maybe even a show where you are both the host and the producer/engineer, then you can appreciate having tactile controls and being able to tap a button and have the cameras switch. You’ll be able to see in an instant if something is amiss and switch to another input, and that's part of being live. This may be fine for those who are perfectly fine accepting what may come. Talk through it. It’s part of the show.

Maybe you have locked-off shots and don’t really need to see the previews. The shots you’re cutting to are the same every time, like public service, chamber meetings, etc. The cameras are super reliable. You don’t need preview. Or maybe your setup already has the inputs going through some monitor loop through, or video distribution, so you can see the camera feeds without having to do anything additional, this new mixer can just slide into place.

The ATEM Mini would also be good as a pre-mixer for backup sources like redundant video playback, redundant graphics sources. They are seldom changed, and the preview happens on the computer screen, and also further down the line, so the mixer doesn't need preview.

For YouTubers who are currently using one camera and looking to up their game, this can be a good fit. This allows single-camera producers to add capability very inexpensively. It's even cheaper than adding multiple capture devices to a computer for multicam, without any of the headaches of asking too much of the computer. Gamers can do a PIP in hardware, as well as add a logo, and lower-thirds, all in the ATEM before handing that video to the computer for streaming.

The ATEM Mini’s USB out is also very useful for those who need to integrate polished multicam productions into business software that external RTMP streaming can’t reach. BMD mentioned Skype, but there’s any number of business collaboration tools that will accept a webcam input, but not a push from an external streaming appliance.

The ATEM Mini is also good as a backup for other hardware. Already have an ATEM mixer and dedicated computers, adding the Mini is a super way to add a layer of backup you can quickly deploy. You already have the workflow and familiarity with the setup and control. Not you have an extra layer of hardware that you can use at an amazing price. It’s the cheapest insurance you’ll ever get.

Even if you don’t have an ATEM mixer, the Mini is, by far, the lowest cost 4-input video mixer available. It’s also quite capable for very specific uses--maybe just as a format converter for a source to match a non-frequency agile system. It can be used to embed audio into a HDMI pathway. It’s also a still store/graphics playback device. It’s even a USB device converter, to make the connection for other video mixing hardware that isn’t recognized by chat apps. If you need any of these features, or several of them, the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini is an affordable tool to add functionality to your kit.

For comparison, the Roland VR-1HD has three HDMI inputs, three faders for audio mixing (it'll also do the HDMI sources), also no preview, USB output to computer. But it also has auto audio mixing, and auto video switching that follows the active microphone, plays back audio samples via the hardware buttons, audio meters on the mixer, frequency agile inputs and output, downstream keyer, but the price point is 5x higher at about $1,500.

The ATEM Mini is indeed coming in at a price point that will be making the other video mixer makers turn their heads. The features you get for the price is amazing. Just be aware of the caveats of what this little device can’t do, so you can be confident in what it can do.

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