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Vision Mixer

A vision mixer (AKA video switcher or production switcher) refers to either:

Note that the term mixer tends to be European, whereas switcher is a more American term. For the sake of simplicity we will call the mixing device a vision mixer, and the operator a switcher.


Panasonic AW-SW350

The Panasonic AW-SW350 is a compact half-rack vision mixer with five Y/C and composite video inputs. This would be suitable for a small production studio or field production unit.

Sony BVS-3200CP

The Sony BVS-3200CP is a relatively small desk console suitable for a moderately-sized production unit or OB.

Below: The Snell & Wilcox Kahuna HD/SD console is a monster-sized mixer suitable for large production environments.

Snell & Wilcox Kahuna HD/SD

What Does a Vision Mixer Do?

The main purpose of a vision mixer is to create a master output for a real-time video recording or broadcast. Typically vision mixers are used for live events, or any event where multiple sources need to be mixed in real-time (as opposed to post-production editing).

Vision mixers can also be used to create various visual effects, from simple mixes and wipes between sources to advanced composite effects.

How Does Vision Mixing Work?

Vision mixers are conceptually similar to audio mixers. They take multiple input sources, apply any desired effects or processing, and provide one or more outputs.

Most vision mixers are based around the preview bus and the program bus, each of which has it's own monitor.

Note: The preview bus does not have to be used — sources can be cut online without being previewing if desired. However the preview is normally necessary for any visual effects such as transitions, as the effect is constructed from the preview and program sources.

The Role of Vision Switcher

The vision switcher takes their instruction from the director. Basically, the director decides what is going to happen and tells the switcher to do it. A typical set of instructions might go like this:

Director's Instruction: Meaning:
"1 next" Preview camera 1 and prepare to put it online.
"Take" Cut camera 1 online.
"2 next" Preview camera 2 and prepare to put it online.
"Mix" Mix camera 2 online.
etc etc  

Note: In some studios the director will say "cut" instead of "take". This is a potential source of confusion though, as "cut" is also used to mean "everyone stop".