Global vision mixer production and purchasing trends, from DIS Consulting

Despite the greater ability to ramp up the number of MEs and even to provide production switchers with ME-less abilities, the majority of video switcher/vision mixer buyers continue to gravitate towards single or few ME-capable boards rather than boards with lots of ME levels. In fact, the vast majority — numerically — actually use single-ME configurations. Those boards have allowed greater capability at lower cost to choose from than ever before — a real boon to customers, if less profitable to vendors.

This is a key finding of the latest switcher report from DIS Consulting Corporation of Woodstock, New York. ‘Video Switchers World 2014’ has just been published. The study collected responses from 1,430 professional end-users, globally, mainly via internet completion. It is divided into seven vertical user segments and five geographic regions. Segments include: 1) broadcast/cable, 2) production houses, 3) mobile/OB, 4) event video, 5) independent/freelancers, 6) institutional venues and 7) rental houses. Regions covered include the USA, Europe, Middle-East/Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

The study, conducted over the summer months, largely on-line, is the current edition repetition of an annual project. The production switcher data, as before, is gathered and reported by ME in addition to user segment and geographic region with additional reference to average prices within each ME and their key applications, such as sports, live events, news or other uses.

The range of manufacturers, consistently providing professional grade video production switchers, and not solely routers, has remained pretty stable with no significant expansion for about a decade, with only a few brands leaving and a few new brands arriving during that period.

Even in Sports and Live Events applications, the majority of mobile/OB trucks actually utilise switchers with limited ME capability. According to the new findings a typical mobile/OB truck, somewhat surprisingly, uses a switcher with 4 MEs or less. Larger ME configurations seem to be largely limited to use in larger studios or at network headquarters. Interestingly, even where switchers are capable of being scaled up to accommodate greater levels of ME, they are often deployed at lower ME levels, at least initially.

Although there are certainly instances of rental company ownership of larger multi-ME level units, most switcher rentals take place as the core of a multi-case (or sometimes single case) ‘fly-pack’ configuration and are very likely to be of 1ME or just a few ME levels. Incidentally, the smaller the number of ME buses the more likely a switcher will be of the A-V type and combine audio controls next to video controls.

As the number of ME layers increase, per unit, those functions — audio versus video — tend to be more separate. Of course, ‘fly-packs’ come in many shapes and sizes — from so-called hand toted ‘mini’s to substantially larger and less personally portable designs. And, they contain an assortment of switchers by size, capability and ME.

From a purchase perspective, with the unfortunate exception of the European market, buying of new switchers is enjoying something of a spike in 2014 and anticipated to continue that trend during 2015 and over the coming five-year span. Part of this stems from the need to make up for lost time in the down economic years following the stock market crash of 2008, part an attempt to play technological catch-up and be ready for the adoption of 4K specifically and UHD generally. Most 4K models are capable of being applied downwardly to processing HD and even SD signals too, making them all the more flexible.

Popular technical trends include the growth of greater ME capability, limited to a small handful of big brands; increased interest in ME-less options, less by 3D capability, more by 4K capability; and the rise of virtual switcher platforms touch sensitively operated from a monitor screen. Within features sought in next generation switcher users indicated that they sought memory pre-sets, 3G compatibility, 4K compatibility, touch screen and/or touch surface controls, joystick controls, post workflow interactivity, portability and modularity.

Greater numbers of inputs are almost universally sought after. It is suspected that as more virtual options become possible new brands of suppliers may join the otherwise stable range of traditional sellers.

Money makes the world go round. Overall budgets and revenues were seen tracking up, even slightly in Europe, the industry’s single most depressed region. Worldwide, switcher-specific product budgets tended to be in the current survey, with more of them expecting to see increases rather than declines in budgets in 2015, over 2014.

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