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Best video switchers for live streaming in 2021: Atem Mini and its alternatives

Best video switchers: Blackmagic Atem Mini
(Image credit: Blackmagic)

A video switcher, also sometimes known as a vision mixer or video mixer or production switcher, allows users to switch between different video or audio sources in order to record or output a curated real-time edit of filmed events.

They are especially useful for live events such as theater productions, live broadcasts, interviews, and other situations where multiple camera (or multiple video source) setups require a change between feeds. For example, an interview may include a wide shot, close-up, and an over-the-shoulder shot. Therefore, it’s important to be able to switch between cameras in order to provide instant results for broadcast.

You might also want to take a look at our guides to the best cameras for streaming,  the best cameras for vlogging and best microphones.

Although they are useful for live events in-person, video switchers really come into their own when paired with the ability to broadcast live over the internet. Live streaming videos have never been more popular. Streamers such as YouTubers and gamers using Twitch have been doing this for a while now, recording live straight to social media platforms, but even huge trade shows have now been forced to rely on these live streams in order to keep running during various lockdowns.

While all the video switchers in this list are capable of accepting multiple video feeds and sources, and can handle or even mix audio, some are more tooled up than others. The launch of the Blackmagic Atem Mini, which offered accomplished option at a price than any vlogger could afford has helped to popularize the use of switchers - but there are plenty of alternatives.

If the production is small or on a tight budget then a simple switcher with the ability to output straight to a computer may be the way forward. 

However, for fancier affairs, there are video switchers that can handle many video inputs, mix multiple channels of audio, offer transitions, chroma key, on-board previewing, and instantaneously stream to multiple social media platforms simultaneously all without requiring extra hardware. 

This, plus a wide range of price points mean that there’s something for everyone, whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned video pro.

Best video switchers in 2021

(Image credit: Roland)

1. Roland VR-4HD

A do-it-all video switcher that handles everything you need

Specifications
Video Inputs: HDMI Type A x 4, RGB/COMPONENT (Mini D-sub) x 1, Composite RCA Phono x 1
Video Outputs: HDMI x 2, RGB/COMPONENT (Mini D-sub) x 1, USB 3.0 (B-type)
Audio Inputs: XLR/TRS combo type, phantom power x 4, RCA Phono x 2, Stereo mini 3.5mm x 2, USB B type (stereo)
Audio Outputs: XLR (L, R), RCA Phono (L, R), USB B type (stereo), Stereo mini 3.5mm
Max video resolution/refresh rate: 1920 x 1200/60Hz
Max audio sampling rate/bit depth: 48kHz, 24 bit
Reasons to buy
+6 inputs with 4 channel video switcher+Excellent hardware controls+Faders and touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Mid-level cost-Heavier than some others

The VR-4HD is aimed at single-person use, and as such features a wide array of hardware controls through the use of faders, buttons, and pots. Also included is a color touchscreen which makes it simple to preview switching without the need for an external monitor for multi view previewing (although some users will definitely want an external monitor as the on-board screen is relatively small).

A capable video switcher, it has six video inputs and is able to switch between four channels for comprehensive control. It also mixes audio well and can handle 18-channels via both audio and video inputs. The VR-4HD allows both XLR and RCA Phono audio connections for professional use, a step-up from the ubiquitous stereo mini 3.5mm jacks. With light-up buttons and an audio level monitor it can be used in the dark or in low-lit situations for inconspicuous operation.

(Image credit: Blackmagic)

Small, lightweight, and chock full of useful features

Specifications
Video Inputs: HDMI type A x 4
Video Outputs: HDMI type A x 1
Audio Inputs: Stereo mini 3.5mm x 2
Audio Outputs: N/A embedded audio only
Max video resolution/refresh rate: 1920 x 1080/60Hz
Max audio sampling rate/bit depth: 48kHz, 24 bit
Reasons to buy
+Compact, ergonomic design+Incredible value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Does require additional hardware-Can’t live stream directly to social media from device

The ATEM Mini’s tiny form factor means that it can be used in even the tightest of spots. An added benefit is that thanks to its size and the large, tactile buttons, the host can seamlessly and discreetly switch between video feeds in small studios, should they need to. It works great for interviews handling multiple cameras for wide, close-up and interviewee shots but will require dedicated streaming software to broadcast directly to social media platforms live via the USB webcam output.

Useful Digital Video Effects (DVE) include picture-in-picture and video transitions such as fade, dip, wipe, DVE squeeze, DVE push, and graphic wipe. The ATEM Mini has separate button controls for transition duration including 0.5, 1, 1.5, and 2 second intervals. It’s also capable of green screen chroma key and has 20 stills in the media pool for titles.

(Image credit: YoloLiv)

3. YoloLiv YoloBox

A portable solution to encode, switch, record, and monitor in one

Specifications
Video Inputs: HDMI type A x 2, USB type A x 1
Video Outputs: HDMI type A x 1
Audio Inputs: Stereo mini 3.5mm x 1
Audio Outputs: Stereo mini 3.5mm x 1
Max video resolution/refresh rate: 1920 x 1080/60Hz
Max audio sampling rate/bit depth: 48kHz, 16 bit
Reasons to buy
+In-built 4G LTE support for on the go+Massive screen for easy monitoring
Reasons to avoid
-No buttons can make it tricky for some to control-Only 2 HDMI inputs

The YoloBox from YoloLiv is the perfect video switcher for those that want to run video productions from a single device, even broadcasting and live streaming straight from the device with no other hardware required. Thanks to the built-in 4G LTE capability, integrated battery, and free premium software features, the YoloBox can broadcast straight to social media platforms itself and do it simultaneously on multiple channels.

Split-view and side-by-side views can also have overlays to allow for additional channel branding, logos, watermarks, and rolling captions to be added to content. Pair that with up to 128GB of storage (via SD card) and a 5200mAh battery with quick charging USB 3.0 port, and it can cover a multitude of events and live production scenarios, whether in studio or on location.

(Image credit: Roland)

4. Roland V-1HD

A compact HD video switcher with excellent physical controls

Specifications
Video Inputs: HDMI type A x 4
Video Outputs: HDMI type A x 1
Audio Inputs: RCA Phono (L, R)
Audio Outputs: RCA Phono (L, R)
Max video resolution/refresh rate: 1920 x 1080/60Hz
Max audio sampling rate/bit depth: 48kHz, 24 bit
Reasons to buy
+T-fader for ultimate control+4 HDMI inputs and 12-channel audio mixer
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than others-Simple design, no screen

The V-1HD is designed to be compact and simple to use with four HDMI input connections and an audio mixer that can control up to 12 channels. Its reliance on buttons and switches means the interface is busy, but everything is laid out neatly and favors those who like physical, tactile controls rather than touchscreens. There’s no in-built preview screen monitor, but it can be operated remotely via USB or MIDI connections in the device.

Easy control thanks to the backlit buttons and smooth T-Fader makes video switching a breeze and there’s a dedicated pot to change output fade to black or white. It also has automated video switching that can be programmed to 1-120 second ranges, and has a BPM (beats per minute) sync to allow automatic switching between Program and Preview at an appropriate song tempo.

(Image credit: Feelworld)

5. Feelworld Livepro L1 V1

A cheap as chips, basic switcher for smaller productions

Specifications
Video Inputs: HDMI type A x 4
Video Outputs: HDMI type A x 1
Audio Inputs: Stereo mini 3.5mm x 1
Audio Outputs: Stereo mini 3.5mm x 1
Max video resolution/refresh rate: 1920 x 1080/60Hz
Max audio sampling rate/bit depth: Not stated
Reasons to buy
+Simple interface+Built-in preview screen
Reasons to avoid
-Design too minimalist for some-Only one audio input

A jack-of-all trades, the Livepro L1 V1 tries to put a foot into two camps by including buttons and a T-bar fader control with an integrated preview LCD screen to make it easier to control video switching. Live streaming is possible via computer with the Livepro L1 V1 appearing as a webcam for simple broadcast handling as with most video switchers.

Unfortunately, a single stereo mini 3.5mm audio input means that users must rely on the embedded audio via USB or use an external audio mixer/interface to control levels and effects on multiple audio sources. Although, at this price point you would expect the need for extra hardware such as this.

(Image credit: Blackmagic)

The ATEM Mini’s big brother can stream directly to social media

Specifications
Video Inputs: HDMI type A x 4
Video Outputs: HDMI type A x 1
Audio Inputs: Stereo mini 3.5mm x 2
Audio Outputs: N/A embedded audio only
Max video resolution/refresh rate: 1920 x 1080/60Hz
Max audio sampling rate/bit depth: 48kHz, 24 bit
Reasons to buy
+Directly stream to social media platforms from device+Recording to USB flash disk
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than standard Mini-No integrated screen

The bigger brother of the Blackmagic ATEM Mini, the Mini Pro has everything that the Mini has plus a little bit more. It can record direct to USB flash disk in H.264 format, stream directly to social media platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Live etc thanks to the on-board ethernet connection, and offers a 4-camera multiview. 

A broadcast quality switcher, the ATEM Mini Pro includes extra buttons on the interface for recording and streaming control, including output selection buttons altering video output from either cameras, program, or multiview.

Read more:

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Jason Parnell-Brookes

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer,  writer, and former Technique Editor of N-Photo magazine. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high profile international clients.