Broadcast Pix’s Flint showing the “standard” and one of the optional “conventional” control surfaces
Broadcast Pix’s Flint V2 is a production and streaming system that allows others to see your video creations. In the past, all video sources had to be hardwired to a video switcher which allowed the operator to determine which source would air. Each input needed to be precisely timed so there would be no color shifting or other perturbation between sources. Such systems were finicky and frequently required maintenance. (They were also sometimes difficult to master operationally.) That’s all changed with the Flint V2. Not only can anyone hook it up anywhere, the end result can be live, recorded video, or streaming to a number of sources.
The Broadcast Pix Flint arrived in a box that contained the main switcher unit, a keyboard, mouse and several bags of cables. It works with one or two video monitors (not included), with everything now viewable on a central monitor with all the video sources located in boxes or thumbnails on the monitor instead of each source requiring its own separate monitor. (Broadcast Pix does make available several optional “conventional” user interfaces to use with the Flint for customers who prefer working with buttons and fader bars instead of mouse clicks. These are the 500, 1000, and 2000 interfaces; they differ in the number of source selection buttons available.)
The switcher box or control module accepts up to six video inputs through a variety of connections (HDMI, analog, and optional SDI). Flint allows mixing of SD and HD-SDI video signals. A DVE, three key layers, audio, as well as clips and graphics are built into the unit. The Flint V2 also has an internal eight-channel audio mixing that eliminates the need for an external audio mixer. And if all that’s not enough, you can access cloud-based material.
The end results of your visual efforts can be sent to as many as six external SD or HD destinations via the Flint’s outputs, or it may be streamed in HD using the switcher’s internal capabilities.
The Flint can also record and stream at the same time. You can elect to output in HDMI, HD-SDI, SD-SDI, or Y/C and analog component. Streaming can be accomplished at up to 720p with Adobe Media Live Encoder, or Windows Expression Encoder if you’re operating in SD. With an internal content storage capacity of up to 30 hours, this 32-pound unit will handle most any production requirements.
In an effort to upgrade our TV studio to 21st century technology, I anxiously looked forward to test-driving the Broadcast Pix Flint. I have to admit to a being a bit surprised when it arrived and was unpacked. I’m “old-school” and used to switchers with source buttons and the fader bars; these were absent on the Flint that I received. (As mentioned, several “standard” control panels are available as options from Broadcast Pix, if you want them.) However, my students actually preferred the way the Flint operated.
Once the unit was connected to a couple of Canon EOS C100 cameras and a monitor, we were ready to put it through its paces. When the power switch (hidden behind a door) is activated, the unit’s Windows 7 software boots up. Double-clicking with the supplied mouse activated the program. Our two C100 cameras appeared as thumbnails on the screen and after determining where everything was located I was up and running in no time.
Due to the fact that I was raised on the aforementioned “older” type of switchers I had a slightly longer learning curve in adapting to the Flint’s operation. However, I perceive that this Broadcast Pix product is likely to become the future of such devices. All sources are displayed on one screen, and in my opinion, you really don’t need the optional control modules.
Our everyday switcher at the university has 10 inputs and we use only four of them. With this sort of loading, the Flint provided two more inputs than we really needed.
I do appreciate the Flint’s ability to accept analog and digital signals, as most conventional systems want to see one or the other and if you tried operating with mixed sources you’d run into problems.
I should note that if mixing audio from multiple sources is a requirement you might want to use an external mixer rather than the one built into the Flint, as its display screen does get very crammed with information. However, everything displayed is sizeable and can be moved around just as with most nonlinear editing systems. (After initially testing the Flint with a small monitor, I ran some more testing with it attached to a 46-inch display; this made the thumbnails a lot more manageable.)
As the switcher’s presets (demo files) and instruction manual were included as part of the software, it took a little extra effort to master operations. I first had to read up on what I wanted to do, then try it out and then go back and read some more, and then sometimes repeat. I do have to say that even though it took me longer to get used to this “easier, more streamlined” setup and instruction methodology, once learned, the older way no longer seemed quite as appealing.
The real test was employing Flint to switch an actual show. I let my students crew the production and they switched a short sitcom with ease. The graphics, text, and other footage were conveniently stored on the hard drive and their learning curve proved to be shorter than mine. And they were also able to stream the end result—something that isn’t possible with our current studio setup.
The Broadcast Pix Flint is not perfect and older users will take a little longer to get acclimated to what it does and finding out where everything is located. I also had to activate the menu feature more than I would have liked to, but that’s where most systems are moving. However, having everything—and I do mean everything— in one “box” is truly amazing. And at its price point, the competitors don’t really come that close to providing the cost vs. functionality value line of the Flint. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, but after using it for a while I was won over.
With this industry changing so rapidly, I believe that embracing such new technologies as the Flint is truly the right way to go.
Chuck Gloman is chair and associate professor of the TV/film department at DeSales University. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video production live streaming or recording
Accepts HD and SD signals; has internal audio; graphics; stills; and accepts a multitude of cameras via various HD/SD connections.