Broadcast Pix iPixPanel Review
Jun 21, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer
An Apple iPad app for wireless live production switching.
Broadcast Pix sells video production switchers that, on the surface anyway, can look similar to traditional switchers. Specifically, many Broadcast Pix configurations use standard-layout 1M/E or 2M/E control panels. But Broadcast Pix has never tried to be like every other switcher maker, and the new iPixPanel is a great example of the benefits of the company's unique approach.
Instead of typical "black box" switchers, Broadcast Pix switchers leverage the horsepower of general-purpose Windows computers to handle the video processing, which has given the company's products several unique features. The iPixPanel is the latest such product. The iPixPanel provides a new wireless control panel interface that can work in tandem with a traditional 1M/E or 2M/E panel or even as the main control interface for live production.
The iPixPanel is a software application ($199) that runs on an Apple iPad tablet computer and essentially duplicates the Broadcast Pix SoftPanel virtual control panel that displays on the Windows monitor. Instead of SoftPanel's tethered computer mouse to depress virtual onscreen buttons, the iPixPanel leverages the built-in wireless capabilities of a Broadcast Pix Slate or Granite switcher systems to offer a cable-free, touchscreen control panel.
All right, so why would any serious switching pro want to use a touchscreen interface to run a live video production? After all, the whole idea of using a traditional 1M/E or 2M/E panel is so experienced users can operate by feel and keep their eyes on the action where they ought to be. Skating one's fingers around on a touchscreen and hoping you've got the right source doesn't sound all that practical in a fast-paced, live switching environment. But, of course, that's clearly not what Broadcast Pix had in mind with the iPixPanel.
Offload the upload
Last fall, Broadcast Pix released the iPixPad application for the Apple iPhone. Admittedly, the tiny iPhone screen seems even less practical for live switching than the touchscreen of the iPad. Despite what might seem like little more than a clever gimmick, Broadcast Pix claims that the iPixPad on the iPhone has been surprising well-received and has already been used to facilitate the live production of major red-carpet events. Its value is in offloading a specific set of assistance functions to a secondary deviceone where function matters more than size.
On an iPhone, the iPixPad replicates the PixPad section of the switcher control panel, which cues up stored stills, logos, other CGs, and video clips. Duplicating those content store and cue functions on a separate device, no matter how small it is, allows a production assistant to do the loading and cueing of content for a production director, thereby allowing the director's eyes to stay on the action. Since the two devices work in tandem, no element of production gets taken away from the main panel. Rather than having four hands crowded around one panel, the assistant can give the director space while still doing an important job.
The iPixPanel on an iPad tablet does much the same, except in a larger and far more capable interface. With the larger iPad workspace, a production assistant can better identify the electronically labeled PixButtons and work more effectively finding, loading, and cueing content and transitions into the PixPanel. But the iPixPanel also has the real estate to run the entire SoftPanel.
Beyond just loading clips, that added functionality affords the iPixPanel remote control of external devices. It can trigger secondary video source devices, pan and frame remote-controlled cameras using a virtual joystick function, set up color keys, and trigger clip previews in one of the sub-sample frames on the main Windows monitor.
For less than $200, plus the cost of an iPad tablet, the iPixPanel offers an inexpensive value-add tool that can play a major role in a large-scale production. Of course, appealing to cost-conscious organizations has also been one of Broadcast Pix's calling cards.
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