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Virtual switcher control via Apple’s iPad

Apple often touts the fact that users of its products can multitask, surfing the Internet while listening to a new iTune and flipping through a digital version of a popular magazine or newspaper. Many new media companies are working feverously to develop new applications to run on the upcoming iPad, and it was only a matter of time before a broadcast equipment vendor would do the same.

Now, thanks to integrated production system maker Broadcast Pix, based in Billerica, MA, iPad users will be able to run a multicamera video production too. They can do so now with an Apple iPod Touch.

With a newly developed application (yes, there’s an app for that) called iPixPanel, users can control any Broadcast Pix Slate video production system remotely from the interface of the iPad device. The iPixPanel combines the iPad's user-friendly touch screen and wireless control with a Slate panel's feedback, which displays the device and file name on the panel’s buttons, helping users to create engaging live video from virtually anywhere.

According to the company, the new iPixPanel application running on an iPad provides a virtual control panel to producers that previously could not afford one and wireless panels to larger production teams to expand their control options during multivenue live sporting events or multilayered corporate presentations that can be operated by the onstage speaker.

Apple is expected to ship the iPad later this month, and the iPixPanel application is expected to be available for download at Apple’s App Store for $195 in April. Until then, users can try a portion of a control panel for free by downloading the Broadcast Pix iPixPad from the App Store, then run it on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Bob Bolling, a live video producer in Stanton, CA, explained that he was at a recent fan event for a 3-D movie that was broadcast live to millions worldwide on the Internet. He gave his iPod Touch wireless device to one of the production directors, and they used the iPixPad to pull up the next lower-third graphics for the show.

“This was a big help since I had my hands full switching two shows on the Slate system,” Bolling said. “She was on the other side of the [production] truck, so the iPod was the only way to make it work effectively.”

The iPixPanel can control every aspect of a video production, including switching cameras, adding graphics and clips, controlling robotic cameras, and creating special effects like an interview with dual picture-in-picture. It is ideal for entry-level or larger Broadcast Pix Slate systems, where a large production team could control the switcher panel with multiple iPad wireless devices.

The iPixPanel interface replicates a classic switcher layout, including auto transition and cut buttons, plus eight-input program and preview busses with shift for 16 inputs. It adds device controls for the graphics system, clips store, etc. It also features PixButtons, which dynamically change to show the device attached and even the file name currently loaded, so you can tell at a glance what is loaded on every input, key and file library button.

Slate owners will be able to download the iPixPanel application from the App Store and then add a wireless router to the Slate 100 for the freedom of handheld wireless control. According to Apple, the iPad will provide up to 10 hours of battery life and can be charged via a power adapter or USB connection to a computer.

Apple's optional iPad Case can be positioned to hold the iPad in an angled operating position on a flat surface, which more closely resembles a traditional switcher experience. Like other iPad apps, it can be used either horizontally or vertically. When rotated, the iPixPanel will automatically rotate and reconfigure to fill out the entire screen.

Broadcast Pix will demonstrate both of its Apple apps at the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas, April 12-15 (Booth N4506).