Choosing a Video Switcher

Keeping up with the Video Switcher market is challenging. There’s always a new product that’s cheaper and 100x better – or is it? It’s easy to get swept up in the manuals, review and forums, trying to figure out which video switcher is the right choice for your organization.

Before we begin, if you’re uncertain as to what a Video Switcher is, this brief article gives a great overview of what a switcher is and how it operates.

Start with Why

The first question you should ask yourself is why are we buying a video switcher? Practical real life examples like “to cut cameras for online broadcast” and “to cut video for our screens” help frame the need. You might have 5 or more “why” statements – write them all down. These form a picture of what functions and capacity your new switcher needs to have.


Determine the necessary features

Once you’ve know your why, the next piece of the puzzle is to work out which features you need. How many mix effects (M/E) busses? How many inputs will you have, and will they be in broadcast ready SDI or consumer HDMI (which will require extra signal processing). Will any of those inputs need to be retimed or scaled? Do you need to key lower thirds (supers) or song words over live footage? Will you require processing power for complex live effects?

Focus on the output

Now we’ve got our video signal into the switcher and it’s been processed, and it’s ready to come back out. But where does the video need to go after it leaves the switcher, and what format does it need to be in? The final step is to consider all the destinations your video needs to get to, and how it needs to get there. Will additional video distribution amplifiers (VDA’s) be required? Will a video router upgrade be necessary? AdobeStock_219008828-1024x683

Choose with the future in mind

It is important to view these needs through two lenses – “present” and “future”. A video switcher is a piece of hardware that has a lifespan of 5 to 7 years (mission critical) or as high as 10 years and beyond if not mission critical. Ask yourself where your organizations vision is going, and buy a switcher that meets your needs today and tomorrow. (Your future self will thank you one day when 5 extra cameras are added at the drop of a hat, and you had the foresight to choose a switcher with plenty of overhead.) Phew. All done. Now you know how to pick the right video switcher for your organization. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the options, a Systems Integrator can equip you with the knowledge needed to make a good decision.