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Review: Blackmagic Design ATEM Constellation 8K

The Blackmagic Design Constellation 8K Ultra HD Live Production Switcher, with its support for up to 10 7680x4320/60p inputs isn't targeted at small live event producers as much as newsrooms and large-scale productions with complicated video routing needs.

Hyperdecks

In addition to connecting hardware and software control panels to the Constellation 8K, you can also connect up to 4 Hyperdeck recorders/ In this workflow, Hyperdecks can be used as a high-capacity media pool or to record the switcher’s output. Hyperdecks transfer video over SDI, or HDMI on supported ATEM models (not including the Constellation 8K which, as previously noted lacks any HDMI connections).

Hyperdecks can be controlled via ethernet (Figure 3, below). Typically, a producer would pre-program video playback from a Hyperdeck using the macro controls for quick recall and playback. Macros are a series of functions that you can record and recall. I also use the macro controls for easy control of what you would typically call aux outputs.

Figure 3. Hyperdeck setup

Signal Processing

As I have stated before, my main use-case for hardware switchers is when I need low-latency signal processing for a live IMAG to projector signal. Each input has a frame sync to ensure clean cuts, but when your workflow supports an external reference source to synchronize feeds, you can use the “ref in” BNC connector on the Constellation 8K to shave-off the typical one frame of additional delay that each device in the workflow adds. It is always best practice to use the same frame rate and resolution on each source and output, in order to minimize signal processing delays, including those performed internally by the Constellation 8K with its internal signal converters.

Audio signal processing on ATEM models has come along way since the original firmware version on my old 1 M/E. On the Constellation 8K you can use embedded SDI audio, external balanced 1/4" inputs, and 32 channels of multichannel audio digital interface (MADI) inputs. MADI is a protocol used to send multiple audio channels through a single line. The Constellation 8K also supports talkback and tally on supported BMD video cameras, although it doesn’t interface with intercom party-line solutions or non-BMD video cameras.

Compositing

Once you move beyond a 1 M/E ATEM switcher, you have much more control over creating picture in picture or picture by picture composites. This is a feature I take for granted on software video switching solutions but is often very limited on hardware switchers.

For me, a picture-in-picture is fine when you want to overlay a small video thumbnail of a gamer on top of their video game footage, but doesn’t cut it for showing a conference speaker next to their PowerPoint presentation. As a result, whenever I need to composite an image, I use software for this function.

With the Constellation 8K SuperSource (Figure 4, below), I can create a picture-by-picture composite with individual controls of cropping and scaling of each input, and the ability to overlay a logo bug (Figure 5, below Figure 4). In total you can composite 4 different sources in a variety of pre-designed layouts that are useful as a starting point and that you can additionally configure to get the right look.

Figure 4. Compositing in the Constellation 8K SuperSource

Figure 5. Multiview preview including my picture-by-picture composited image

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