Video Production Advice: VGA and ATEM 1 M/E


Video Production Advice

Last week’s question came from a videographer in New York who wanted advice deciding which video camera to buy – he was considering the Sony NEX-FS100 and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. This week’s question comes from a legal videographer from Louisiana who is considering switching from the the Roland VR-5 to the Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E. He wants to know more about workflow when working with VGA computer inputs.

Video Production Question


I read your post above re the HD switcher. (Shawn’s note: I’m note sure which post Nat was referring to but I think it might have been my EventDV Magazine review of the Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E)

We do mostly legal type video and have always promoted PinP with documents and the talking head in the smaller picture.

We use a trial presentation program for documents that allows us to crop/enlarge/color/and call out portions of the document. This involves having to compress the video to mpeg1 which while not bad leaves something to be desired.

To get the vga feed, I purchased the Edirol v-8 but not at all happy with the vga and s-vhs mix with PinP.

So we upgraded to the VR-5 and much to our chagrin, learned that we could not mix the vga and s-vhs at all.

With all that being said, we are moving into the High Def area with new cameras and interested in learning more bout the ATEM 1 M/E which does not have much info on the net.

1 Have you mixed a vga signal and a HD signal to do PinP?

2 If so, what do you think of the quality?

In addition to the HD signal, can you send a SD signal to a DVD recorder simultaneously. We use these for back ups.

Thank you for your attention.

Nat Douget

Video Production Response

Hey Nat,
Thanks for the email. I’m not sure which post or article you are referring to but happy to help.

I haven’t used the PiP as we do A/B editing but I don’t see why there would be any problems. The quality overall is awesome.
I guess you didn’t read my reviews on the VR-5 but I tested that mixer (and most recently the VR-3) and don’t like them because they are NTSC 4:3 mixers and not really suited for widescreen. Most importantly they are SD and everything is HD now.

Here is a video review I did on the Roland VR-5 for EventDV Live, which was part of the final article in this four part series on Producing Conference Video: Live Delivery and Post Production

The ATEM 1 M/E does not have VGA inputs. You will find that in the HD switching world, VGA is not supported and really difficult to bring into an HD video workflow. It makes sense as VGA is an old analogue format and DVI and HDMI are the new standards. Unfortunately too many A/V and Presentation companies still use VGA, which poses a challenge for video mixers.

I’m still working to perfect my VGA to HDMI workflow but I’ve learned a few things:

1 – The ATEM 1 M/E requires that all inputs have the same resolution (1080i or 720P for HD). You cannot mix and match because the ATEM 1 M/E does not have a built-in scaler on each input.

2 – Most VGA signals you will receive are not 1080i or 720P so you have to both convert and scale at the same time in order to make the signal compliant. You can find consumer grade VGA to HDMI scaler/converters for under $100 but I haven’t seen a VGA to HD-SDI converter. I own a Lenkeng LKV352 VGA to HDMI 1080P scaler. I also found that some VGA signals, especially if they are coming from a video presentation switcher, are not compliant and you cannot convert them to HDMI. I had this problem with an Analog Way Octo-Vue FX presentation switcher on both the VGA and DVI outputs. But if you are taking a VGA signal direct from a computer or laptop you shouldn’t have any problems and might even have more control over the resolution.

3 – Be careful if you are using a 2 or 4 input VGA switcher (sometimes referred to as a VGA switch or “bang-box”) as many of them do not support full 1920×1080 signals but instead output a maximum 1920×1440 signal – this is the case with the ATEN VS491 that I bought when I discovered that the VGA signal from the Octo-Vue that was being provided to me by an A/V company wasn’t compliant. I had to split each computer output, switch it on my own (there were four computer inputs), and then scale the signal from the ATEN VS491 with the Lenkeng LKV352 scaler. Not the prettiest workflow but we got it working – well, sort of… I wasn’t able to get it to work in 1080i on the ATEM 1 M/E but I was able to get it to work at 720P. This required me to output 720P from all of my video cameras because as I mentioned above, the ATEM 1 M/E does not have scalers on the inputs. I’m still looking for a better workflow…

4 – I still prefer an HDMI or DVI signal but I know that I need to be prepared for VGA. I looked into the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital VGA to DVI converter but it doesn’t support clone mode and doesn’t look like a fit for several reasons. I think the Iogear ESB External HD A/V Adapter might be another option for laptops that only have VGA outputs and can’t support 1920×1080 natively but the big problem is that I need to get a compliant VGA signal from the A/V companies.

Let me answer your final question now. The Blackmagic Design does not have any scalers on the inputs but it does have an always-on NTSC SD output on one of the BNC connectors. So you can connect this HD video switcher to a DVD recorder.