Reviews |Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO Review

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO
Review

Price when reviewed

£745

$875

Our Verdict

A year ago an ATEM switcher would rarely be seen outside of a professional production studio. Now, however, through the COVID lockdown, I’ve seen these small machines being used with increasing frequency. Put simply, an ATEM Mini will webstream footage from up to four cameras or media devices, enabling you to switch between each source as if you were in a professional studio. The ATEM Mini ISO is at the top of the range and differs from the Pro by being able to record all feeds individually. It may seem like a small feature, and a feature with a steep price attached, but trust me, it’s worth it.

For

  • Easy to set-up
  • Stream up to five channels
  • Live stream

Against

  • Macro set-up takes getting used to
  • Some advanced features need research
  • No way around plenty of wires

What is the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO

I looked at the ATEM Mini a while ago and was impressed; it was relatively cheap and enabled me to overcome the issue of how to stream from multiple cameras and sources for a professional broadcast look.

Since that initial look, Blackmagic has released two new versions, the ATEM Mini Pro and ATEM Mini Pro ISO.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO

If you’re unfamiliar with the ATEM Mini, then it’s what’s known as a video switcher. A switcher enables you to switch between different sources. In this case, cameras or media players, to create a single stream ready for output.

In a professional studio that output could be the from the cameras on the studio floor as well as pre-recorded footage which is all outputted as the program that we see on TV, imagine a news or magazine program.

On a far smaller scale, the ATEM Mini ISO brings that same functionality to your web streaming by utilising any device that is able to output a signal through HDMI.

Streaming from individual cameras is of course already possible, many manufacturers added the feature through firmware updates during lockdown.

The ATEM Mini switcher takes things a step further by enabling you to switch from one camera to another easily. This means that rather than you live streaming a gig from a solo camera, you can now mimic that multi-camera look and style of a professional live broadcast.

Each ATEM Mini model builds on the features of the last, and with each model, the price goes from cheap to reasonable to expensive, with seemingly small additions between each. They may seem small, but actually, those additional features all add to the ease of your workflow.

The biggest leap is from the Mini to the Mini Pro, with the Pro adding direct recording, direct ethernet streaming and multi-view. Those seemingly small features add an average of £400 to the price. Take the step from the Pro to the ISO Pro, and you add another £200.

For that additional cash you pay for the ISO you get the ability to record each of the video channels as separate feeds along with assets used in the stream. So, between the simple Mini to the Pro ISO there’s a price differential of around £600.

In this review, I’ll be looking at the ATEM Mini Pro ISO, but I’ll run through the features of each ATEM to help you make an informed decision about which video switcher is best for you.

If you have any question on the ATEM Mini, its features, or how to use, please let me know ali@camerajabber.com.

Features

The ATEM Mini Pro ISO is the flagship of the ATEM Mini range, there’s also a broadcast range of ATEM’s, but those are in another league and not something that we’ll look at hear on Jabber.

The ATEM Mini Pro ISO is a compact switcher measuring in at just 237.5 x 103.5 x 35mm and weighing in at 550g. That means that it’s ultra-portable but does require mains power.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO

The ATEM Mini Pro ISO also requires you to link into a computer with an internet connection to enable the live link. However, once set up, you can use the network connection to connect without a computer.

The ATEM is laid out as a control desk, which enables you to use buttons to switch between each of the feeds from the cameras or media devices connected through the HDMI’s on the back.

What differentiates the Pro ISO from the Pro is the ability to record each of the inputs separately so that the video and assets can then be edited in your chosen video editing application after the streaming event.

For users of Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro, this is a great feature, but users of Blackmagic Design own DaVinci Resolve have one additional bonus. The ATEM Mini Pro ISO also saves down a project file automatically syncing the steams along with graphics and transitions ready for the edit.

The main feature of all the ATEM Mini Switchers is the ability to live stream, and here with the Mini Pro ISO, you can live stream through a robust Ethernet connection.

There’s also the option for a USB output which essentially turns the entire unit into a multi-camera webcam that can be used in any supportive application such as Zoom, Skype or Facebook.

One of the big unseen and complex tasks that happens behind the scenes is that the ATEM Mini Pro ISO converts and re-syncs all HDMI inputs, this means that you don’t need to worry about the camera settings as the ATEM does that for you.

Adding to the hardware features of the ATEM Mini Pro ISO is the ATEM Software Control available for Mac and Windows machines.

This gives you access to features, including setting up the live streams adding graphics and a few more advanced features including live recording.

The ATEM also features internal media for 20 RGBA graphics that can be used for titles, opening plates and logos. These are all loaded in through the ATEM Control software.

As well as video streaming options the ATEM has built-in Advanced Chroma Key for green and blue screen work.

The big feature that separates the Mini from the Mini Pro is the multi-view option and this is also available here on the ISO. Multi-view enables you to see a live feed of all sources on screen at the same time, including the live output.

Audio can easily be forgotten, but here BlackMagic has included an internal mixer, support limiter, compressor and six-band EQ.

Due to the nature of switching audio it can often go wrong as you switch from one source to another, so two 3.5mm audio inputs are also available at the back of the machine, one of which can be used for your live audio link and the other for media audio.

Build and Handling

Broadcast equipment always has a certain style and feel to it, and although Blackmagic Design separates itself from the rest of the industry by employing product designers, there still a hint of the broadcast.

The reason for this is that there is no getting away from large glowing buttons, cables and plenty of cooling required for this type of kit.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO

The design, however, is sleek, it’s a great size that will fit snuggly in most large camera side pockets or cases.

It’s simple and feels relatively robust, I’ve brought one, and although it should sit in its case, for the last few weeks, it’s been sat on a pile of cables in a small holdall being carted around the south of England.

The fact that it is so small and lightweight makes it incredibly portable and useful.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro ISO Set-up

The setup is equally straight forward with the four camera feeds plugging directly into the back four HDMI ports, a media feed can also be plugged in as an alternative to one or all four of those ports as required.

Then there are the two audio inputs. I found that one could be used for a RODE NTG4 Plus, with 3.5mm adapter, and the other I looped into the media player.

The final two connections link into the streaming ability. This is through either ethernet or USB Type-C. Using the USB enables standard webcam style streaming, making it incredibly easy to use although it does take up the USB port that’s required if you want to record your stream onto a connected drive.

Once connected, and with the ATEM software booted, you’re ready to go. One major advantage of the Pro and ISO versions is the multi-view option. This enables you to see the output of each feed on a screen so you can see exactly what’s happening. It’s also a great guide to the content that you’ll be showing as you switch from one feed to another.

Switching between feeds is easy enough, tap the button you want on the ATEM and the feed switches, from camera one to camera two, or the multimedia feed.

It’s worth noting that a bit of practice is needed if you’re doing a live stream. The first time I used the ATEM I forgot about the audio, a mistake you only make once, maybe twice.

The two 3.5mm audio inputs can also be switched between each other using two smaller audio buttons.

As well as the hardware camera and multimedia feeds it’s also possible to overlay graphics. The way that this is done is through Macros. It takes getting used to as the graphic’s need to be set up from within the software by writing Macro’s.

Although writing Macro’s sounds complex these are written within the software and the process is quite straight forward and enables you to get graphic overlays to appear when required.

As with the Pro, the ISO enables you to record your feeds down to a hard drive or memory stick, but with one big difference.

This difference is that rather than outputting a single file of your output, all feeds are captured individually so that they can then be edited after the event.

That in itself is impressive, but at the same time, the ISO also creates a DaVinci project file that includes all the information from the live stream, video, audio, graphics and transitions as separate elements that can then be re-edited.

Performance

Getting your head around all the features and functions of the ATEM Mini ISO takes some time. It’s an incredibly advanced box of tricks considering its size and cost.

In use the Mini, Pro and ISO are all level pegging when it comes to performance, they all essentially do the same things with a few additional extras. Those seemingly small extras make an incredible difference to the usability and workflow especially when it comes to the individual feed recording available with the ATEM Mini ISO.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini ISO

Before we go into that, it’s worth noting the performance of the ATEM Mini ISO, and for that matter, the Mini and Pro, as all are roughly the same when it comes to basic function.

At the baseline, plug-in your four sources and then use the large buttons on the ATEM to switch between each. The output you get is a full HD multi webcam experience.

It’s incredibly easy to use and understand, with picture in picture and the ability to drop in graphics if and when you want.

Using the ATEM Mini ISO solely as the control switcher between each of your cameras is easy enough. The Pro and the ISO also have the benefit of the multi-view feature that enables you to see each feed on a separate screen its very similar to a standard broadcast tricaster, just with an additional feed.

The real power comes when you open up the ATEM Control software, from here you can start to create Macros, adjust sliders and settings in a way that far exceeds the features of the ATEM Mini alone.

You also need the software to access some of the more advanced features such as creating Macros for graphic overlays. The workflow for each online streaming service; FaceBook, Skype etc is along the same line as each other. Still, each has its quirks with FaceBook seeming to be the most temperamental but usually resolves itself after a couple of attempts.

On the whole, setting up and using the ATEM Mini ISO was surprisingly easy.

The most advanced part of the ATEM Mini ISO is the ability to record a live stream from each video and audio source. As standard, I had two cameras connected with a third and fourth HDMI source going into a couple of 4k media players.

Each source could be seen fed through to the small pnbe monitor using the multi-view feature.

During the session, I used the physical buttons on the ATEM to switch between each source and used the software to add the overlays to the feed as required using the simple macros.

During the recording, I had the Lexar SL200 plugged into the USB Type-C port capturing all the feeds, transitions and other actions. Once the session was over, I click the off Air button and the recording ended ready for editing.

This is where the ISO is leaps and bounds beyond any other switcher. Plugged into the computer and with DaVinci Resolve open I could open the project file, and everything was already laid out in the timeline ready to be tweaked and adjusted.

Especially the bit where I forgot to turn off one of the mics for a few seconds after starting the next demo video. This feature is massive, as everything from the entire session is here and already laid out in the timeline ready for editing.

Verdict

Checking through the specs of the ATEM Mini ISO for the first time and I have to say I was impressed. It packs in plenty of advanced features that just wouldn’t have been possible or accessible at this price range a few years ago.

But, then I noticed that this switcher had its limits, it’s only 1080p, and there’s no ability to stream 4K. Now, I know that most of us stream in 1080p at the moment, but that change and switch to 4K is happening, and with the advent of 5G and greater access to ultrafast optical broadband I feel that offering a 1080p device in these times doesn’t offer any future-proofing.

But, then this is a device of the time and one that’s thriving due to the present pandemic conditions. 4K might be mainstream in the imaging world at the moment, but it’s not in the world of streaming unless you take yet another step up.

To put it into context, Blackmagic does make a 4K ATEM, it’s a bit more expensive, but not massively so, but does take a step up in technical knowledge.

The Mini is designed for those that just want to have a powerful switching tool that is easy to use and reliable.

Over the two months of using both the Pro and ISO, I’ve been impressed by both. At the end I was so impressed I bought the Pro, I would have gone for the ISO, but my budget has been stretched in recent months, and I couldn’t justify the additional cost.

Had I had a bit extra, there’s no doubt that I’d have gone further and purchased the ISO, and with the way things are going, I still may.

Of all the bits of kit that have arrived through the door the ATEM Mini is one of the first, aside from my camera and lenses, that had instant earning potentially.

That potential is why I have bought a unit; they’re incredibly useful for what we do at Camera Jabber and beyond.

If you webstream professionally, do workshops, presentations, product demos, performances and countless other activities then I would highly recommend an ATEM Mini, Pro or ISO dependent on budget.

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Jason
Jason
1 year ago

Hi, I have the ATEM Mini Pro and am happy with it besides two features. You can’t customise the livestream settings much and the recording quality is linked to the livestream compression settings. If you record using the ATEM then you are limited to the bitrate you were streaming at. I livestream in various locations and there is no option but to reduce the streaming resolution. You are stuck ta 1080p and forced to just reduce the bitrate based on your upload speed. Unfortunately this means that your recording quality also suffers from the same compression. Can you confirm whether the Pro ISO model records the camera inputs independently without the compression settings of your livestream?