In this beginner’s overview, we’ll explain what a video switcher is and what it can do. We’ll break this down into the key elements of a video switcher, namely inputs, transitions, outputs, and special features.   

Quick Answer: Video switchers have video inputs for multiple sources, allow you to transition between them, output video to an external source, and utilize special features that add production value to your event.

Video Switcher Inputs

A good video switcher/mixer will have multiple inputs and a variety of input types. This allows you to mix video from a wide range of sources. Input types include:

  • HDMI
  • VGA
  • SDI
  • RCA

Less expensive video switchers will only have 1 or 2 inputs, and they are usually all HDMI. This is fine for many modern video sources, but some older laptops and SDI cameras will not be supported.

Video Switcher Transitions

A less expensive video switcher will switch from one source to another using a transition known as fade through black. For example, if you’re fading between two laptops. It would start with laptop 1, fade to black for a second or two, and then fade in laptop 2.

It’s not the most desirable result as the black screen leaves people wondering if something has gone wrong.

High-end video switchers offer seamless switching, allowing you to choose the transition effect you want. As a result, they are much smoother, and switches can go unnoticed if done well.

Video Switcher Outputs

Low-end video switchers will just have an HDMI output, while high-end models will have HDMI and SDI. Why is that important? We’ll explain that in more depth now.

Why is SDI Important?

Why is it important for a video switcher to offer an SDI output? HDMI can only run for 75’. We don’t recommend running it for distances greater than 50’ and prefer to keep runs to a maximum of 25’ to 30’.

For cheaper switchers with an HDMI output, you need to convert the signal or route it via a splitter to get a long-distance cable run. High-end switchers offer multiple outputs in a variety of types; they are an all-in-one solution.

Video Switcher Special Features

One handy feature to look for in a video switcher is the ability to save a logo. Why is that important? If you have a last-minute event and only one laptop, it gives you something to put on the screen while you’re making any changes on your laptop.

It’s a high-end feature that can add a lot of production value to your events. Imagine a speaker accidentally exits to her desktop. You can switch to the logo to buy her some time to fix the problem without the audience staring at her desktop. 

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What Does A Video Switcher Do? | Beginner Overview Topics