I was a bit skeptical when I first saw Production Bot, the portable live broadcast studio, earlier this year at the NAB Show. I'll admit that I'm an old school Technical Director and set in my thoughts as to what a switcher was and what a switcher should be. But, I'm always looking for new and exciting gear to make live production easier. Assistant Technical Director and Production Bot guru Nick Walsh showed me the ins-and-outs of the Production Bot Switch 8 — and I must say I'm pleasantly surprised by what this little switcher can do.
Big Features in a Small Package
The Production Bot Switch 8 has a lot more than what meets the eye. The entire unit is about the size of a computer tower with a convenient carrying handle on top. It reminded me of my mom's old sewing machine!
Sitting at the switcher, you can easily switch and stream live fairly complex events with up to 8 HD-SDI sources or two 4K UHD sources. It comes pre-installed with vMix live streaming software and supports custom graphics including overlays, chroma key and transition effects. You can stream your output live to streaming platforms such as Facebook, Periscope and Twitch.
The good-looking 17.3-inch monitor built into the side of the unit means you don't have to bring along a separate monitor — unless you really wanted to. It also supports 16 channels of embedded audio.
Let's Get Technical
Here are the noteworthy product specs:
- General: Intel Quad Core processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB graphics, 32GB Memory, Gigabit LAN, and Thunderbolt 3 Windows 10, vMix Pro, vMix Social and vMix Title Designer preinstalled
- Storage: 500GB Internal SSD Storage plus 500GB failover SSD, 2TB additional storage in removable hot-swap bay, 4 Hot-swap Tray-less SSD Drive bays for potentially unlimited plug and play storage.
- Video Inputs: Up to 8 simultaneous live HD-SDI video sources w/embedded audio in any combination of HD and SD format.
- Media: Up to 1000 multi-source inputs including video/audio files up to 4K resolution, PowerPoint (Microsoft Office Req.), graphics, streams, desktop apps, titles, live social media.
- Mix/Effects: Each input includes 5 “Multi View” overlay channels to create complex Mix/Effects. Add logo bugs, lower thirds, titles, text in combinations to create compelling productions.
- Image Adjustment: Color Correct, Deinterlace, Sharpen, Zoom, Rotate, Pan and Crop any input in real time. All effects are processed in 4:4:4 32bit color space for optimal video quality.
- Controllers: Includes standard keyboard and mouse control with configurable shortcuts/macros. There's also an optional simple easy-to-use surface controller that would make for an interesting “teaching” tool. I would buy it because it would make it a lot easier to punch the show. The built-in Web Controller can be used to control vMix from any web-connected device on the local network. MIDI controllers also supported.
You can find the rest of the technical specs on the Production Bot website.
Worth the Investment?
I say a resounding yes. It's not the least expensive option, but paying a little bit extra now will save you time and money in the long run. If you're on-to-go and doing a variety of multi-camera shoots, the Production Bot Switch 8 is for you. It's perfect for concerts, sporting events at any level, on-location interviews, award shows and many more. Essentially any production where you have to be mindful about the amount of space you're taking up is perfect for the Switch 8.
The fact that this is a neat portable all-in-one switcher really sold me. There is an optional surface controller that I recommend purchasing along with the switcher — which adds about $2,500 to the total cost. If cost is something you're worried about, there more budget options in the Production Bot family.