A 1 MLE (Multi-layered effects) switcher is usually all any of us need to do basic IMAG, and though it is important to get the right switcher for the job, if you are in the market for a new switcher you may want to look into getting something a little bit bigger.
I’m not talking so much about inputs and outputs (even though you need to plan accordingly) I am talking about getting a 2, 3 or even 4 MLE production switcher. Now not all applications will utilize a bigger switcher but a bigger switcher can expand you product output, creativity and make your life as a tech person easier.
Multi-screen: The obvious reason to get a bigger switcher is when you are using multiple screens. You may have some type of video screen on stage so you dedicate an MLE to that screen so you can dissolve between graphics, video, add some keying and maybe do some IMAG on it as well.
Multiple formats: We all do IMAG, but let’s face it. What works on the screens doesn’t always work in the rest of the building. If your facility is anything like mine we have TV’s all around the building. But the people watching those TV’s want to feel connected to the room. We almost need to cut a separate broadcast show for them.
In my facility I don’t always cut an IMAG show and a broadcast show. I give the building TV’s the same as my IMAG feed, minus lyrics during worship, that is until we do a song where we don’t do IMAG. Instead, I roll a moving graphic and send it to my side screens and continue cutting for my lobby. Since I’m not doing IMAG I then change up the style a little bit and take some wider shots so those watching can feel like part of the room. Also, during the message time we pretty much just use 1 camera for IMAG, usually a nice mid shot. Then for the building TV’s and later for the web, we cut an entire broadcast show, again we do this in order help others feel more connected to the room.
Effects: Switchers were originally designed with multiple MLE’s for effects. Doing PiP’s, chroma keys, split shots and more. But in the church world this can also be useful. We may not be doing a lot of chroma keying or PiP’s but we may want to give the IMAG a colorization effect, or strobe effect to fit with a certain song. Or maybe the pastor wants to Skype with someone during the message and you want to do a PiP. Getting a bigger switcher with multiple MLE’s and a full DVE package can be extremely useful and add to your creativity. Even simple things like doing a black a white effect can add a lot during IMAG. Now, you don’t necessarily need lots of MLE’s to do this but it does make it easier. By building the effect on your last MLE allows you to re-enter another MLE so you can still preview, cut, dissolve, ect. Like you normally would.
Automation: So how do you manage a bigger switcher? If you are managing multiple outputs, layers and effects. This is when you really have to learn your switcher. Most professional grade switchers have Macros and E-mem’s. This allows the operator to Pre-program transitions, effects, and gives the operator the ability to do multiple things at one time. You may integrate some GPI triggers or a video server to your switcher to do certain tasks and creative things during the service. Automation will allow an operator to hit a button and let the switcher do all the work.
Before every weekend I spend anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours pre-programming my switcher. I run on average 10-20 macros a weekend in order to transition all my outputs, effects, GPI’s and my video server at exactly the time I want it to. Currently I spend most of my time on a 2 MLE switcher. I have more than 2 outputs, so by utilizing my clean feed and both MLE’s I will route in and out of my MLEs from my aux’s to do transitions. At our primary facility we have a 3MLE switcher that has been outfitted with aux-Keys. This allows for combining outputs to do dissolves and single keying on an aux output that also allows for seamless transitions.
What I have found is that by having a bigger switcher, we have learned to do more with it and be more creative as a church, pushing the switcher to it’s limits. At our primary facility we could easily get away with a 1 MLE switcher and a small router but instead we have something much bigger, and in turn we put on a highly creative, seamless, and clean service. We push our switcher hard, and in turn we get a great product. If you are in the market to buy a new switcher look into getting something bigger, even if it is adding a half MLE (allows for background dissolves and usually 1 key). It will bring your end product to an entirely new level and allow for more creativity that you probably have never even thought you could do.