Production: 9 Tips for using a Video Switcher

A video switcher will let you mix together several different video feeds. It can also be used for creating transitions and other effects. It is important that you have a switcher that can accommodate all of the different cameras you are using and has plenty of compatible ports. You will not only need video ports but also audio ports. 

  1. Programming: It is possible to program in the different effects and settings that you want for each channel. To make things go faster you can have this diagramed out before hand. If you are unsure of what will look best then have several options available so you can do several feeds and experiment.
  2. Testing: Testing is very important when using a video switcher. Make sure that for each camera you can clearly see the picture as well as hear the audio. Do this for each camera you are using. Once you are happy with the picture and sound, you can check the other cameras.
  3. Labeling: To keep things from getting too confusing it is best to label each channel with the corresponding camera number. You can easily do this with tape and a permanent marker. This can help if you have a specific storyboard you need to follow and will help remind you where each camera is located. It also makes scene transitions very easy.
  4. Switching: It is the T bar that will switch between the different cameras. Using the T bar you will change where the active channel is. The bar controls everything including the speed of transitions as well as any effects. Make sure you practice using this before you start shooting.
  5. Cables: To make sure you get the best sound and picture possible you want to make sure you are using the proper cables. Depending on the type of switcher you are using you may need standard RCA plugs or multi pin cables. Check that you are using the correct cables for all connections.
  6. Security: You can use a switcher for more than just videos as this can be very useful if you have several different security cameras but only 1 or 2 monitors. You can use the switcher to change which view is being displayed on the screen.
  7. Time Base Corrector: If you are using electronics without external reference connectors or phase controls then you will need a time base corrector or TBC. This will take the unsynchronized signal and then synchronize it with your switcher.  The TBC will let you tweak colors, contrast and other settings.
  8. The Monitor: In order for your switching to work properly you will need to have the monitor settings properly adjusted. If you have a vectorscope than this is easy but if not you will need to make these adjustments manually. It is best to have the contrast, tint, brightness and color dials centered when you are starting.
  9. Using THRU: Professional switchers will contain a THRU or loop through connector. This makes it possible to daisy chain the signal through several different electronic pieces. It is important that you terminate the THRU when you are not going to use it. Normally there is a switch you can turn off. You can also check the connection with and ohm reader.