What Does a Video Switcher Do?
Whenever you see the angle of the field change during a game or see the camera shift from the interviewer to the interviewee, you’re experiencing a video switcher at work. Video switchers allow you to change between cameras and camera angles while recording. Many productions use them, including sporting events, news broadcasts, and interviews.
Video switching systems can be as simple as a two-camera setup or as extensive as a 10+ camera operation. Switchers allow you to monitor multiple video inputs to find the best way to tell your story visually.
What is a Switcher in Video Production
In video production, a switcher refers to a piece of hardware or software that allows a director or producer to monitor and switch between different camera shots. Switchers have been used in recording studio settings for many years. They have grown in popularity among content creators as in-home recording setups become more complex.
What is a Video Switcher For Streaming?
A streaming video switcher is used the same way a director would use a switcher in a studio recording environment. Content creators can switch between multiple webcams and other input sources by pressing a couple of buttons. Video switchers are also great for streaming because they let you add live effects to your video to up the production value. Many software switchers have built-in encoders to ensure high-quality streaming video content.
What is an HDMI video switcher?
An HDMI video switcher has HDMI inputs and outputs for creating and sharing high-quality video content. Then the switcher can connect to a PC or TV. Many pieces of video switcher hardware have multiple HDMI inputs for cameras and at least one HDMI output. Ensure to check the product specifications of a switcher for input and output information if you need an HDMI video switcher.
When Would You Need a Video Switcher?
Video switchers have several uses to add to the production value of almost any type of content. Some of the most common reasons for using a video switcher include:
Recording a Podcast - Switchers are an excellent tool for changing the camera angle between hosts and guests during a video podcast.
Live Sports Events - You can use a video switcher to seamlessly change camera views of the field and players during a live sports event.
News Coverage - News programs use switchers to change news anchors during their broadcasts.
Church Services - Churches often use video switchers to capture their entire service program, from speakers to singers.
How to Use a Video Switcher
The primary purpose of a video switcher is to monitor multiple video inputs so you can find and broadcast the best video for your content. This could mean choosing the best angle for your host or not displaying the video of a camera experiencing technical difficulties. Using a video switcher takes some time and practice to master, but the more you do it, the more intuitive it becomes.
With most video switchers, you can easily change between cameras. Many have illuminated displays and clear labeling so you can tell which camera you’re selecting for your output. Consider which camera will capture the best visual story when monitoring your video inputs. Use this as a guiding principle when using your video switcher to produce content.
Do You Need a Capture Card with a Video Switcher?
Whether or not you need a capture card depends on where you stream your content. Capture cards make sense for people streaming from video game consoles or more than one PC. A capture card isn’t required if you’re streaming from a PC using a webcam or screen recorder. However, you might need it when using an external camera or other devices.
How To Select the Best Video Switcher
The best video switcher for you will depend on a few factors, such as what you’re creating, the connected devices, your budget, and how you plan to broadcast your content. To help, we’ve highlighted the top seven below so you have an idea of specific features to look at. Keep reading to find out more about what makes a quality video switcher.
Make sure the switcher you choose can connect to all of your recording devices. Check the number of inputs you can connect to a switcher to confirm all of your cameras can connect simultaneously. Video switcher hardware is used more frequently to connect professional video cameras and camcorders for video switching. Meanwhile, a software video switcher is primarily used for webcams. If you’re using hardware, make sure your cameras are compatible. If you’re using software, make sure it works with the webcam type.
How do you plan to broadcast your content? Before choosing a video switcher, have a clear idea of how you’ll broadcast your content and the outputs you’ll need. HDMI and SDI outputs make it simple for you to connect to a TV, projector, or other pieces of equipment for broadcasting content. A USB output makes it much easier to connect your video switcher to a computer for streaming content.
All video switcher software comes with a “multiview” option that allows you to see all of your inputs on your computer screen simultaneously. Make sure the video switcher you choose has a display screen if you don’t plan on using it with a PC or other piece of video monitoring equipment. An LCD screen lets you preview all of your video inputs at once, so you know the best camera to switch to at any given time.
Always check the video quality of any switcher. Many switchers come with an encoder, which will protect the quality of your video while streaming live content. When checking the compatibility of a switcher’s inputs, also find out the video quality supported. Most modern switchers have HDMI inputs that allow high-quality video content to capture.
Your equipment budget will play a large part in the switcher you choose for your setup. While there are quality-free or budget-friendly switchers out there, you’ll have to pay a little more for more advanced features. Have a clear idea of your budget before you start looking for a switcher. Consider starting with a free switcher software program if you’re a beginner or your budget is especially tight.
Type of Controls
Make sure the switcher you choose provides all the control you need. Some video switchers have features to mix audio and perform other video editing services. If you need to add effects with the press of a button or switch between multiple audio sources, choose a video switcher with all of these control capabilities.
Special effects are a great way to add production quality to your videos. If effects are essential for your content, choose a video switcher with all the bells and whistles you need. Many video switchers have effect options like picture in picture, transition effects, and green screen capabilities.
Best Video Switcher Hardware For Live Streaming
In our digital world, online content is king. Because of this, companies have begun making equipment tailored for online content creators. If you’re looking for a video switcher for live streaming, pay special attention to the types of output the video switcher hardware has and whether or not it integrates easily with online sharing sites like Facebook and YouTube. The best video switcher for live streaming content for you will depend on your budget and the features you need. Below, we’ve highlighted the key features of four of the best:
1. Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro
Blackmagic Productions is popular for creating high-quality and highly-versatile equipment like the ATEM Mini Pro. This HDMI video switcher is easy to learn and comes with a built-in encoder that ensures your live-streamed content always looks clear. The Blackmagic video switcher allows you to switch easily between multiple camera angles with the touch of a button. It even integrates with some gaming consoles.
- Input(s): 4 HDMI video inputs, 2 3.5mm audio jacks
- Output(s): HDMI output
- Price: $495
- DVE for effects: picture in picture, transitions, and green screen chroma key
- Preview four camera inputs at once in Multiview Mode
- Live status updates for streaming audio and video
Good For: Anyone looking for a portable video switcher will appreciate this lightweight, easy-to-use switcher.
2. Roland V-1HD Portable 4 x HDMI Input Switcher
Amazon reviews show video producers love the Roland V-1 because of its power and compact size. The Roland video switcher allows you to switch between four video inputs with programmable audio delay. You’ll get the correct video and audio sync, no matter your setup. The main drawback of this switcher: it does not provide any recording options and can function as a video switcher.
- Input(s): 4 HDMI video inputs, 3.5mm audio jack
- Output(s): 2 HDMI outputs, 3.5mm audio jack
- Price: $595
- Can be controlled manually from the hardware or electronically through your PC
- Comes with software that includes a 12-channel audio mixer
- Console allows you to quickly see the status of your inputs with color-coded buttons (even in poor lighting conditions)
Good For: This video switcher is a great option for creators looking for an all-in-one video and audio mixing solution.
3. RGBlink mini
The RGBlink mini offers picture in picture, transition effects, and external audio embedding along with its compact size. The hardware allows for up to 4 HDMI video inputs. The RGBlink live video switcher features a large t-bar that makes it easy to switch between inputs seamlessly. The onboard LCD lets you monitor all videos simultaneously.
- Input(s): 4 HDMI video inputs, 3.5mm audio jack
- Output(s): 1 HDMI output, 1 USB output, 3.5mm audio jack
- Price: $279
- Stream directly to social platforms using the USB output
- Use T-bar or direct touch to switch between input sources
- View all input sources via the built-in display screen
Good For: Video creators who need to shoot and edit on the go will enjoy the RGBlink. With its compact size, you can use transition effects directly from the console.
4. Elgato Stream Deck
The Elgato Stream Deck was explicitly designed for live streamers to switch between multiple inputs and add video effects with just the push of a button. You can switch between cameras and perform other video productions tasks quickly and seamlessly through its customizable 15-button control panel. The simple control deck gives you total control over your content. And, you can easily create professional-quality audio and video. This USB video switcher is versatile and can plug into any PC with a USB input.
- Input(s): Unlimited digital inputs
- Output(s): USB output
- Price: $149.99
- Easily integrates with any operating system and many top video production software
- Designed to stream seamlessly to major social sharing platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch
- Key Creator features allow you to customize switching on the control deck totally
Good For: This hardware was explicitly built for live streamers who use multiple camera angles when filming their online content.
Best Video Switcher Software
Video switcher software is a great budget-friendly. It won’t take up any more space in your equipment setup. Plus, it’s easy to use or if you’re intimidated by all the buttons and knobs on a traditional video switcher. A software video switcher also offers an excellent choice for anyone with limited space. We’ve chosen three top video switching software programs based on price and ease of use. Keep reading to learn more about using software to connect to and switch between your recording devices.
OBS is prevalent in video production because it’s free and straightforward to use. You can learn a lot about video production by downloading the program, learning how to record with OBS, and toying with its video switcher and video editing features. Many people enjoy OBS because the controls are intuitive, so you don’t need any technical experience to produce professional-quality videos. OBS is sponsored by and integrates easily with social platforms that include YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch.
- System Compatibility: Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Price: Free
- Enables you to perform video recording, editing, and sharing all in one place
- Studio Mode allows you to preview recorded video before it goes live
- The open-source software is compatible with third-party plug-ins for more advanced features
Good For: OBS is a great option for beginners and anyone looking to complete their video production on a tight budget.
Wirecast was designed with professional streamers in mind. This highly versatile software is used as a video switcher for church services, broadcasters for live sports events, and a digital marketing tool for businesses. The software allows you to split your screen and monitor up to 17 input sources at one time! The software has top-of-the-line encoding, which means you will still get outstanding picture quality while live streaming.
- System Compatibility: Windows and Mac
- Price: Wirecast Studio - $599, Wirecast Pro - $799
- Host 2 remote guests with the Studio version or 7 remote guests with the Pro version
- Integrates with social media to provide Facebook polling, live viewer counts, RSS feed displays, and more
- Unlimited virtual (video, audio, USB, capture card, webstream, etc.) input sources
Good For: Professional streamers will appreciate the advanced features and high-quality audio and picture live streaming output Wirecast provides.
vMix makes it easy for you to make your content more dynamic and engaging using the software’s recording and production features. It’s a great switcher for streaming because it integrates easily with video hardware from Blackmagic Design, Magewell, Elgato and is compatible with all types of cameras, including webcams that record in SD, HD, or 4k. The software allows you to stream instantly to platforms like Facebook, YouTube, or Vimeo, and it also provides SDI output for TV screens or projectors.
- System Compatibility: Windows and Mac
- Price: Subscriptions range $60/mo to $1,200/mo
- Supports all popular video formats, including AVI, MP4, MOV, WMV, and MPEG-2
- Record live in full HD
- Transition effects for cuts, zooms, fades, slides, merges, and more
Good For: Professionals looking for a comprehensive recording/producing platform will love the features vMix provides in addition to video switching.
Video Switchers for Video Production
The market is full of outstanding video switcher hardware and video switching software. Make sure to have a clear idea of your needs and budget before shopping for one. Each type of switcher has its pros and cons, so the best video switcher for you will depend on how you plan to use it and the kind of content you create. Most online creators prefer a combination of video switching hardware and software for their video production needs.
Video Switcher FAQs
Do you still have questions about switchers and how to use them to change video sources while filming? Take a look at the answers in our FAQ section to learn more about video switchers and how to use them for video production.
How do I switch video cameras?
The best way to switch seamlessly between camera feeds is a video switcher. Video switchers can be either a software program or a piece of hardware that allows you to change camera angles while filming. The best video switcher for you will depend on the price and your unique filming needs.
Is OBS a video switcher?
Yes, OBS is a video switcher. The program allows you to stream from up to 8 input sources, and you can switch between input sources using the program’s Multiview feature.
Who is the person who operates the video switcher?
A video switcher is most often operated by the director or a technical director in a studio environment. However, anyone can use a video switcher in content creation because most modern hardware and software programs are designed to be highly user-friendly.