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For any production, whether it is a program or commercial, the switcher can be the key equipment. This is one of the reasons why the industry supports the emergence of a large number of different designs available on the market today.

Launching products to the market has been the only issue for manufacturers, staying ahead of the competition is the only concern of suppliers and producers, who in turn, want to protect themselves by ensuring that the equipment purchased has a sufficient useful life. We are facing the emergence of many new digital mixers, demonstrated in fairs and specialized publications. Inevitably, one or two have rushed to offer benefits with very little evaluation. The result is that digital has been considered by some to be a potentially costly risk.

First of all, what does digital mean? Is it 270 megabits or 360 megabits? Is it a component or compound? Are they 8-bit or 10-bit? These are basic questions that are not easy to answer. In addition, the questions of production must be considered: is it convenient to use large or small mixers? Simple or elaborate facilities? With widescreen or 4:3? With separate or integrated effects? What will be mixed in the input and output standards?, etc.

Composed of components

Is the first dilemma composed or component? It was increased by the division between the continents. North America was trending towards digital composite, while Europe preferred to take the path of components. Now that these dividing lines are a bit blurred, broadcasters seem to be heading towards the components. Post-production is facilitated as a result of this trend. Studio and location work has naturally adopted the same format. The more equipment available on the market, manufacturers and users will want to find a consensus. The 369 megabits per second argument is more appropriate for widescreen and is not yet viable for a number of devices that are available on the market today.

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How many bits?

Second, how many bits? The original CCIR digital system was proposed as a standard 8-bit sample. The problems caused by such a limitation did not take long to appear, so that today 10 bits is considered the norm to follow. However, some computers are kept with 8 bits and in certain cases are efficient. Some buyers buy 8-bit equipment simply because in them they find the facilities and the price that suits them. How long is this situation going to last?, it is difficult to guess, but it is not possible that it can survive for long, when everything pushes towards the 10 bits.

Appearance of proportion

According to experts, the conversion of the design of a mixer from 16:9 to 4:3 is so simple that any manufacturer that does not provide this facility is losing an attractive market for no apparent reason.

Combination of effects

Many manufacturers have achieved success by combining mixers with DVE and there are many advantages that support this merger. Control integration can facilitate the operator's work and allow transitions and effects to be implemented more quickly; time is money. But this does not mean that it also implies its disadvantages. Digital video effects tend to become obsolete with breakneck speed and therefore need to be replaced much more often than a mixer. Software designers can stay ahead with DVE advancements, but this requires a strong commitment from manufacturers. In today's economic climate, when disaster can easily force suppliers to stop their businesses, consumers also cannot be blamed for not having as much faith in integrated designs.

We need to be aware of the different input and output standards. New users, if they are lucky, can move towards the digital domain, ignoring the world of analog, but most current broadcasters have commitments in the old formats.

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Production vs. post-production

There is now a debate between production and post-production work. Can a mixer serve these two forms of work or should a team be used for each function? What are the differences? Sophisticated editing control is essential for post-production. Editors must be able to control all mixers (in addition to DVEs, disk storage, and similar peripherals). The ability to adjust the effects so that they allow a production that has a style that does not fight with that necessary for the next event, using the same suite, is a very useful attribute.

A mixer for the production environment needs very important operational requirements. Instant access to buttons is one of them. There should be no need to use shif. When the director shouts "cut the camera 8" it means "do it now", and not "play by pressing many buttons". A concept of simple operation with a control panel should be like this. You need to have an adequate number of chroma-keys with self-control. In a live environment the operator can only make one change to the chroma-key setups. There is no time to look at the artistic work. It is also necessary that there be a sufficient number of memories, making it possible to cut an entire piece of music into memories if required. It is necessary to have a disk file capacity such that operators can configure in a personal desktop design and program series that have the style of the production company and be transported to other similar studios. Finally, it would be very beneficial for the industry if both sectors could cooperate and develop disc format exchange.

The future

Could it be that the TV industry is going to join the computer revolution? Will desktop video be the way to get ahead? Only time will tell, but it's worth looking at the advances of our radio colleagues, to get a glimpse into the future. Suddenly, both acquisition and post-production can be moved towards disc-based operation with mixing of non-real-time illustrations and manipulation taking place on a PC. The broadcast of live events can be maintained with traditional techniques. There is no doubt that the considerable changes in the demand for equipment (the post-production sector is the one that acquires this type of units the most) will cause a rise in the price of digital mixers.

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