Joshua asked: “I go to a church that is trying to buy a video mixer and camera for recording our church service. I’m looking for a mixer that will do HD, as well as allow you to add cameras to it later on. Trying to get some help, if you can tell me where to start looking, I’d appreciate it.”
Joshua, unfortunately your church is looking at a fairly big expense. Video mixers and switchers are expensive. You may be able to get away with a less costly camera depending on your needs, but this probably won’t be a cheap project.
We haven’t found any video mixer that can handle HD video for less than around $1000, the least expensive capable mixer we’ve seen is the Roland V-1HD, it comes with some transition effects, but that price is without a monitor. You’ll probably want a monitor even if your mixer includes a screen, since it will likely be tiny.
If you’re just starting out with the mixer and a single camera, you really don’t need the mixer at all, with just one source there’s nothing to mix, so you can always start out with a single camera and grow slowly.
The good news is that if you do get any mixer at all, it will allow you to add cameras later, since multiple sources are required if you’re going to have anything to mix. The question is how many sources do you want to add?
Even basic devices will probably have enough for your needs. The mixer we mentioned before allows 4, and you’ll have a hard time finding one that will take fewer than that.
You asked us where to start looking, B&H and Sweetwater both sell plenty of mixers and cameras, and they are good places to start. Be sure to also search for “switcher,” since that may get you relevant results too.
You can probably ignore the kind that offer Chromakey as an option, since they tend to cost more and you wouldn’t need them to record live sermons.
As far as cameras go, make sure you can have the same output on the camera that the mixer takes as an input. For example, if your mixer only has HDMI inputs, make sure the camera can output to HDMI. Other than that, most cameras with a decent zoom will probably meet your needs.
While you’re buying gear, keep in mind that you will probably need a clean source of audio for your videos too, a camera’s internal microphone won’t do a very good job. Don’t forget to add some audio recording gear to your budget.
One of our staff also works for a church that records and sends out a lot of video, and we asked him for his input.
He says they like Panasonic cameras mounted on a PTZ base (that’s pan, tilt, zoom) that can be controlled from their sound table. They like the Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio switcher, which can manage three SDI or HDMI camera inputs and give you four outputs. For recording, they’d send the video to a Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio which records in any format known to man on a SSD that can be ejected and plugged right into the computer.
None of this stuff is cheap, however. The Panasonic AW-HE40SW camera they like runs about $3500 with the PTZ base, the controller so you can move the camera remotely, runs about $1900, although that will control up to 5 cameras. The Blackmagic switcher and recorder are both $995 list price. That’s a pretty steep price tag for a single camera setup that can expand in the future.
He recommended this to get started. Blackmagic makes a simple recorder called the Video Assist that runs about $500 with an integrated monitor. Records on SD cards in a wide range of formats and any SDI or HDMI camera can connect to it. It has a pair of low impedance mini-XLR inputs to take sound right from your house system. So $500 for the recorder and another $500 for a decent camera and you’re recording broadcast quality video for $1000. You won’t be able to handle multiple cameras, so if that becomes the want then you’re back to the more expensive switchers and recorders. But you might have another facility in the church that could then use the single camera setup so it’s not wasted money.