Vaddio ProductionVIEW Switcher- Review

The following appears in the current issue of PLSN magazine, and I can’t thank them enough for printing it. But here on Projectionfreak you get some extras….

I use a PTZ camera system at work that is a package supplied by Markertek (outstanding prices and service from these folks….highly recommend them!) ….and manufactured by Vaddio…namely a ProductionVIEW switcher, 3 HD19 PTZ cameras with CCU, a Vaddio 3-way monitor, and a Vaddio 2-way HD monitor. The switcher is at the heart of the rig, providing control over the 3 cameras, a fourth PTZ (Sony EVI-D70), computer input, and DVD input. I should say up front that I am not paid by Vaddio or Markertek, nor do they receive advertising credit or endorsement from me or from Projectionfreak.com.……although ANY/ALL of those options and scenarios are open for discussion! Hint hint- as in “call for a rate card” hint….

I happen to use their gear based on price and performance and I couldn’t be happier. It’s great stuff and the image quality is outstanding- but on with the hands-on review:

Vaddio ProductionVIEW HD Switcher

As the ‘video guy’ I get asked to wear a lot of hats and it’s not just because I’m a nice guy that says “yes”. There’s a lot of factors to keep track of- not the least of which is keeping a decent image onscreen. If you’re touring, you’re usually just trying to keep the gear from being destroyed- if you’re in corporate you have the constant harangue of having to edit presenter imagery- if you’re in trade shows, well- that list is too long. Usually this is all on top of being the switcher. If you are the lucky person that owns/rents the gear that makes all that happen, you need equipment that does more than one thing. So it goes that video products are constantly under ‘convergence’ (to use a lighting industry moniker from way back when) to do multiple tasks- and switchers are no different. High quality, dedicated switchers are good at switching. That’s it. And that’s how it should be. But when you need to control cameras AND switch the task gets complicated real quick.

So it was great when the Vaddio ProductionVIEW HD switcher came into my life. It’s a switcher- it’s a camera controller- it slices and dices- it makes lasag….I digress. Vaddio is known for making quality, high performing remote-controllable cameras, but to control them has always meant using a separate device. And subsequently, two extra appendages or another person. When you’re flying solo the ProductionVIEW line of switchers not only switch in high quality but allow control for up to six separate camera/input combinations.

Vaddio manufactures four switchers- all with the ProductionVIEW prefix and all sharing the same physical, rack-mountable form- the MV, the HD, the HD-SDI, and the FX. Each has it’s own particular attributes which are obvious from the name. The MV has multi-view output capability, the HD is the all-around HD input model, the HD-SDI utilizes that format as it’s I/O, and the FX adds effects to the switched output but is SD only.

The model for this road test is the HD with three WallVIEW HD-19 CCU cameras attached. The layout is familiar to anyone acquainted with video switching. Program/Preview busses on the lower left, processing/output/effects on the near lower right, but the ProductionVIEW has a few different items. There is a 3-axis hall-effect joystick on the lower right, camera preset/select buttons in the upper right, focus/iris control on left, and LCD system menu in the middle. The rear panel is straight forward as well. Six inputs (with corresponding RJ45 control ports), Preview/Program outputs, all on DSUB HD15 connectors. There are also ports for Tally as well as external control triggers. The unit is powered via 18v power supply. Many PTZ cameras are supported, but the unit is primarily designed for use with Vaddio cameras. All aspects of the system are controlled thru an 8 line, LED menu on the front. System setup was straightforward as I already had cameras in place and the connection couldn’t have been easier.

Connections and Buttons

I love the fact that Vaddio uses HD15 style connectors- they screw in and seat firmly and worries of disconnection are nil. Each input is configurable for 720p thru 1080p, NTSC composite or Y/C, as well as RGBHV VGA thru UXGA. If you need to input/output to Composite or Y/C, you’ll need to use one of Vaddio’s specially wired connectors. When the corresponding control cable on RJ45 is plugged in, the cameras respond quickly and effortlessly. All the buttons on the front panel are rubberized, tactile style, which can be a little disconcerting to folks used to dedicated switchers. There’s no real satisfying ‘click’ when a button is engaged, but that’s just my personal preference. The danger of an accidental button push from an idle hand is still there though, so you have to be vigilant. Each bus also has separate buttons for Lower Screen Graphics as well as Picture-inPicture. PIP is also positionable in one of four corners of the Program output. The LSG and PIP buttons are insert only- no fades, which is kind of a downer, but the transparency and size are adjustable.

Control
An interesting feature of the ProductionVIEW is ‘Select Follows Preview’. When SFP is activated, control of the device in the Preview bus is handed off to the device in the Program bus after ‘Take’ is complete. This can be a little disconcerting at first, but after some practice I was able to switch with total confidence that my resulting ‘Take’ wouldn’t be moving unless I wanted it to. It still didn’t keep me from instinctively glancing at the ‘camera select’ bank though, which is probably not a bad habit. There are twelve camera presets available for each input as well, so you can predetermine the shot and simply hit a preset button for the camera to instantly jump to it. The 3-axis joystick is comfortable, not stiff, and has a buttery feel to it. With a simple twist of the upper half the zoom engages. It’s a hall-effect style, meaning the more you lay into a direction, the faster the camera will respond. It also has preset speed knobs for setting a max speed for pan, tilt, or zoom if you’re ‘feel’ for the joystick needs to be suppressed as well as a ‘home’ button on top. Nine wipe patterns are available as well as transition speed, adding to the Mix, Cut, and Wipe buttons. Mix also functions as fade-to-black (or fade-up-from-black) eliminating the need to switch to a black input or use a separate bus. There are also a separate Focus and Iris control knobs, which is great when you fly ‘no-Auto’.

Output
Another interesting feature is the ‘Dual Bus’ mode. Dual bus allows the user to operate the Preview and Program busses as separate, discrete, seamless switchers- which is really handy when you have a need to feed a live presentation for IMAG as well as a feed for streaming or record. With two Program outputs in Single mode however, I can feed a PGM monitor as well as my record decks. Output is scalable from NTSC composite all the way to 1080p as well as RGBHV but be careful which color space you’ll be in at that point.

Conclusions
I like the build quality of this switcher. It has all things I need and doesn’t try to do too much. The rubber tactile button feel is a little squishy, but nothing that can’t be overcome. The choices for input and output should be enough to cover whatever you need and the whole thing will ride in 6 RU. All-in-all, a great choice for smaller production houses and those on a limited budget for camera control. There will probably never be a good replacement for talented shooters and super duty, broadcast quality switchers- but the ProductionVIEW line of switchers is the closest thing for now.

PRICE:
$7500

Pros
Cost-effective control/switch solution
DSUB HD15 connectors
Compact

Cons
Rubberized, raised buttons

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