How does a video switcher work?

A video switcher’s primary function is to create a master output of various inputs for real-time video broadcasting or recording.

If you are planning to host a live broadcast event or presentation where you need to switch between several inputs like from a laptop to a camera or a second laptop, then you need a video switch, which can be confusing if it appears as an additional cost on an invoice.

However, the hardware device is crucial for these events as it functions as a master output of various inputs during a live broadcast event or presentation.

Therefore, the video switcher is popularly used during live award ceremonies or sporting events with the director at the helm to decide when it is best to display the action of the moment.

Is there a difference between a production switcher, vision mixer, and a video switcher?

The answer is no. The terms can be used interchangeably to refer to the same hardware device and are dependent on the individual experience in terms of the common term used in their field.

As such, whichever term is used is meant to refer to a device that is used to choose between primarily selecting and watching between video and audio inputs.

But more recent designs can also add special effects and mix videos from two inputs. Hence a video switcher is commonly used for film and television productions like live sporting events and award ceremonies.

How does a video switcher work?

Primarily, a video switcher works through three-steps. This includes older version video switchers and the latest video switchers.

The biggest difference is that newer versions of video switchers have more capabilities and features than their predecessors. The steps include taking in the input sources, transitioning, and output.

Steps Description
Step 1: Input This step accounts for the inputs that are plugged into the video switcher. This can include laptops, cameras and/or audio, which is meant to be displayed some time during the live broadcast or recording
Step 2: Transition Probably the video switcher’s most important function is to seamlessly transition between the various input sources without it being jarring to the audience. More recent video switchers have more special effects to do this. This is as earlier versions faded to black during transitions, which resulted in momentary black screens while the video switcher was transitioning from one input to the other
Step 3: Output This is usually entrusted to the director, as they decide when to switch between inputs when projecting or broadcasting to the best input or camera angle to tell the story better. Commonly, this is understood in terms of a single output, but newer video switchers can output to more than one source through the same video switcher

As highlighted above, different types of outputs can be done through the type of video switcher used and its capabilities.

There is the basic one-laptop and special effects, the “non banana” split option, or the spider system. These are determined by the purpose of the presentation or broadcast.

Basic one-laptop and special effects

This is if you have a single laptop with all your presentation footage with the second input being of logos.

It is ideal for basic presentations, as the ability to switch between the laptop and the logo special effects allows the presenter to disable their screen from being projected while they move or find their next slide without it being displayed on the screen as the logo will be projected when this happens.

This is the most expensive option and functionality of a video switcher.

The “non banana” split effect

Quite similar to the aforementioned, this option takes into account having more than one output.

Meaning that screens can be duplicated to have one that has all the inputs displayed on a single screen, like with security camera displays, while the other output can be used to screen what the viewing audience will see.

This allows the director to see all the inputs and decide which angle is best to be screened to the viewing audience to tell or present the story at hand.

Spider system

This refers to video switchers that have multiple outputs. The advantage of having more than two outputs is that it allows the director behind the screen to decide whether to share a single output on more than one screen at times.

But they can also decide to share a single input on each screen, meaning that the viewing audience can view a different output, depending on which screen they are looking at.

For this kind of video switcher, you need to have a relatively big budget as they do not come cheap.