SJFD Enhances Video Comms With BlackMagic ATEM

SJFD used BlackMagic’s ATEM production switcher to help establish a video communication system between stations.
SAN JOSE, CALIF.—Protecting the heart of Silicon Valley, the San Jose Fire Department responds to approximately 80,000 incidents annually over 200 square miles of urban and suburban area through 33 fire stations. Radio communication drives the response network, but keeping our firefighters in tune with the day-to-day issues confronting us is a challenge. The department is at its best when the men and women who directly deliver our services provide input on management decisions. This is best achieved in real time, but getting busy managers to 33 work sites on three different shifts is not practical.

To address this gap, the video streaming project was initiated and funded as a pilot program and acquired the following key components: BlackMagic Design ATEM Television Studio switcher, BlackMagic Design HyperDeck Studio SSD recorder, 6-Core Mac Pro, three cameras and BlackMagic Design Mini Converters HDMI to SDI. For audio we selected the Behringer Xenix (X1204USB) and Ultramatch Pro (SRC2496) for AES/EBU conversion. We selected Livestream (Premium Plan) for streaming and messaging. All of the hardware, including three video monitors, is mounted onto a rolling cart that allows us to move production effortlessly throughout our building.

As a video production beginner, I was most concerned about the video switcher. I was worried about facing a steep learning curve, and with a limited budget, the wrong choice could have stopped us in our tracks. The ATEM Television Studio, a broadcast-quality production switcher for creating live SD and HD programming, turned out to be a great choice.

Setup was trouble free and I was fortunate to find some great information sources that cued me to the AES/EBU format and how to achieve it at a low cost. Using the ATEM switcher is very simple, and training others to step in takes only minutes.

The cameras output via a mini-HDMI port, which we convert to SDI for input to the switcher. Because of the static camera setup, we capture audio separately and process through the Behringer mixer and converter. The live three-camera production uploads through the ATEM in H.264 through the Mac Pro to Livestream.

We stream staff meetings following a published annual work plan as an agenda which means that we can now offer viewer participation on all of the issues that we are working on in the form of online messaging. After a few months of webcasted meetings and presentations, we are receiving very positive feedback from line personnel and have even found some unexpected efficiencies. The medium is still new to us and we anticipate even more benefits going forward.

Robert is responsible for the Operations Bureau inclusive of Emergency Medical Services, Radio Communications, and Special Operations at the San Jose Fire Department. He can be reached

For additional information, contact BlackMagic Design at 408-954-0500 or