Blackmagic ATEM Mini Extreme Review
Switch between eight different video feeds instantly
Review Manufacturer: Blackmagic Design
Price when reviewed
$995 Check current price
The ATEM Mini Extreme is extreme! You only have to look at the length and volume of buttons to realise that.
It’s bigger and therefore enables more cameras to be connected than the small versions, 8 cameras, or video inputs in total, and features USB-C, Audio, Chroma and Media Player options that we’ve seen in the smaller ATEM Mini models, just in a greater volume.
In use, the ATEM Mini Extreme’s workflow is identical to the ATEM Mini Pro; you have more buttons to push or course, and more options when it comes to camera angles, but essentially it’s very similar.
Like the other ATEM Mini’s, it takes some practice to figure out which button does what, but after a few uses, you quickly find the ones you need and others you don’t. The moral here is to get familiar with it before you use it in anger.
If you need to switch between more than four cameras and media devices, then the ATEM Mini Extreme is an obvious option.
Versatile video switching Expanded features Highly portable
Workflow still takes a little working out
What is the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Extreme?
The Blackmagic ATEM Mini Extreme is the largest of the ATEM Mini range of video switchers. All switching means is that you can have several cameras feeding into one box, ATEM Mini, and then one video stream coming out for the viewers to see.
Imagine a simple three-camera setup – presenter on camera one, wide studio shot on camera 2 and guest on camera 3. You’re shooting live so you can’t edit after filming so instead, you have a box with buttons showing Cam 1, Cam 2 and Cam 3. You then tap the button for the camera that you want the viewers to see and the video feed switches. Essentially editing on the fly.
This in itself is clever, but the hidden gem of technology, and one that you don’t even realise is in play, is that the ATEM Mini Extreme standardises the video stream formats.
This means that you can mix and match cameras, and the ATEM Mini Extreme will ensure all feeds are in the same format ready for streaming.
Each ATEM Mini model builds on the previous features, and over the last year, new ATEM Mini models seem to have been popping up on an almost monthly basis.
The sudden ramp-up in the popularity of streaming can probably be put down to the covid pandemic, but gamers have been doing it for years and it was slowly growing in popularity anyway.
All the pandemic has done is make more of us aware of streaming technology and what it can do. After the initial madness of ropey single-camera Zoom conference calls, video streaming has evolved and the art of switching has grown in popularity.
Live music events from village halls, product launches, lectures and all manner of creative broadcasts with multi-angle video have all been made possible by the compact video switcher.
While the ATEM model has been around for years in the broadcast industry it wasn’t that accessible to smaller or home productions due to size and cost.
There were and still are cheaper switchers designed for the home, however, their function is often limited to simple switches and fades.
Blackmagic Design with the ATEM Mini has streamlined the design of their professional switches and made them available at a skill level and price that enables anyone to use the technology.
The problem is that the use of small switchers like the ATEM Mini is relatively new and users are hungry for more features and functions.
The ATEM Mini Extreme is here to provide, an incredible 8 HDMI inputs that you can switch between at will during your live streams on Zoom, Skype, Teams or any other platform you wish.
HDMI Inputs: 8 HDMI Outputs: 2 USB ports: 2 Type-C Headphone port: 3.5mm Chroma Keyers: 4 Picture in picture DVEs: 6 Media Players : 2 Multiview: up to 16
Let’s start at the top with the ATEM Mini Extreme as most of the features remain the same as with the ATEM Mini Pro; aside from physically, it’s larger obviously with more buttons.
First up, you have the inputs. These increase from 4 HDMI to 8 HDMI, meaning that you can plug in up to 8 cameras or video inputs. Alongside HDMI are two 3.5mm audio inputs and a headphone jack to monitor what’s going on.
A feature introduced with the Pro was the multiview option; this enabled you to display the live feed from each camera on a single screen. With the ATEM Extreme, this now extends to 16 possible feeds, those from the cameras, media devices and information from the ATEM Mini.
On the back of the ATEM Mini, you’ll also find USB-C ports that enable webcam output. Using this feature instantly enables you to use the ATEM with any software that requires a webcam, and offers a fast plug-and-play solution. The USB can also be used to record the stream down to an external hard drive directly.
As there are two compared with the small ATEM Mini’s on you have the choice of how you use the two ports.
At this point, it’s worth pointing out that there are two versions of the ATEM Mini Extreme, the standard, which we’re looking at in this review and the ISO.
The only difference between the two is that the ISO enables you to record down the separate feeds from each camera, along with audio and transitions individually. Not only does it save down all the individual components of the stream, but it also compiles them into a DaVinci Resolve project file.
This feature is incredibly useful and a major timesaver for anyone filming live events that may need an edit for later delivery.
As with the other ATEM Mini models, the Extreme streams in HD, there’s no 4K option; for that, you need to go to the professional broadcast ATEM’s. However, it will enable you to stream at HD 60fps; this is more for the gaming community where Multicam and picture streaming are all part of the course.
When it comes to streaming, you have two options, either a USB webcam or Ethernet. Going through Ethernet, while not as straightforward as USB, enables you to make the full quality options.
A new feature rolled out to Pro and Extreme models are the 4G and 5G connectivity for when you’re on location.
This may burn through your monthly data allowance, but does make it possible to stream when out on location. This works by connecting the iPhone or Android device to directly to the Extreme by cable. Blackmagic has ensured that this all works automatically, so as soon as the phone is plugged in, the network connection switches.
One of the features that stands out with the ATEM is the video transitions. These feature swipes and fades that can be applied to the live stream video switch. Adjusting type, time and effect can all be done through the physical buttons, making it very easy to understand.
Alongside the ATEM Mini Extreme hardware is the ATEM Software Control; this is where you can further adjust the setting and load overlay graphics and sting.
It also enables you to add Chroma backgrounds and work with files to get professional studio set-ups with minimal equipment.
There’s far more to the ATEM Mini Extreme than simple video switching and with connection to professional broadcast equipment the ATEM Mini Extreme should be seen as an expandable part of a larger setup. This means that there are plenty of features that you can expand on whatever level of user you happen to be.
Connecting cameras and mics to the ATEM Mini Extreme is identical to the rest of the range. Connect in the HDMI cables from the cameras, plugin the mics and you’re done.
Once everything is connected, the ATEM Mini Extreme is then connected to your computer. There are two ways to do this.
The first and the easiest way is to connect a USB-C cable between the computer and the ATEM. Then the connection of the ATEM Extreme is instantly recognised as a webcam by your computer.
Open up any streaming app such as Zoom, select ATEM Extreme from the webcam list and the ATEM Extreme will then act as a webcam.
You can now very simply switch between each camera using the ATEM Extreme, and the feed will stream as normal but with the multi-camera
option available with the touch of a button.
The second option is to connect through the ethernet port. This has a couple of advantages over connecting solely through USB-C.
Firstly the quality of the stream is better, and secondly, you have access to the ATEM Software control.
ATEM Software control is a little daunting to use on the first run, but once you work out that there is no live stream view in the interface and make yourself familiar with the different screens, it all starts to make sense.
The lack of livestream through the interface is the one point that does catch those new to the switcher out. Instead of appearing in the interface as we’ve come to expect with webcams, you need a separate monitor to view all the streams in one place using multiview.
Multiview is a button on the board that, once clicked, outputs all feeds onto a single screen. It’s an invaluable tool and requires you to have a monitor or TV connected to one of the two HDMI outputs.
Another point that takes a little working through is the graphic overlays. These are essentially graphics loaded into the Media Manager area of the software that can then be assigned and placed over the live stream video. Here you can assign the graphic to buttons and switch them on and off as you need.
One area here that would have been nice would have been assigning the overlay to a single HDMI input. So if you have several people in an interview as you swap the camera, the graphic overlay for that person would appear.
As it stands, a quick push of one button for the video steam and then another for the overlay does the job, but it’s very hands-on and open to complete human error.
ATEM Mini Extreme in use
Getting started with the ATEM Mini Extreme is easy, plugin, and off you go. At least, that’s how easy it can be if used as a straight webcam connection through your chosen streaming app.
Once connected, the ATEM Mini Extreme enables you to switch between the cameras, add transitions and switch between audio. The whole process is streamlined and easy to follow.
The only thing you can’t do is adjust the camera settings from the desk, but there are add on’s that you can buy that will do this, but you’re headed into the professional range of products and the cost escalates quickly. While this isn’t possible for most cameras, ATEM Software Control does have a feature that enables this interaction with the Blackmagic 4K and 6K cameras.
Used as a direct webcam connection, the ATEM with cameras and media devices connected through HDMI is simple and easy to understand.
I ran several live tutorials using four cameras and two media devices, one media device to show the end product and a computer used to run through file organisation and behind the scenes content.
The workflow was seamless and easy to understand, the only errors being when I switched to the wrong camera.
I found that even when using the ATEM Mini Extreme in this way, having the multiview output monitor was essential, just so you know what’s live and what’s not.
Switching to the network
Although almost everything can be handled directly through the hardware, you need to access the ATEM Software control when it comes to loading graphic.
I found it took some time to watch through tutorials and ask daft questions to get to grips with all the functions and features I needed.
Blackmagic has packed in an incredible amount into the combination of hardware and software, and it takes a little time to work out.
However, the main function of the Extreme connected through the network remains the same, and again you can connect a monitor to access multiview which is essential.
What the software really brings to the party is the ability to load graphics and assign those graphics to the buttons.
Once done you can use the Multiview to show the graphics hopefully helping to avoid human error.
This is where the 16 multiview options come in; you have your eight HDMI feeds from cameras and or media players, then the rest show status, those graphic overlays and audio monitors.
Back in the software, the Media Manager is where all graphic is uploaded to. Currently, this is limited to stills, motion graphics can be keyed in as overlays relatively easily, however, but again this is one area where the workflow is a little more complex.
The Audio Mixer is another important area of the interface and enables you to adjust levels, which is important when someone speaks quietly through the audio check then blasts out the vocal during the live performance.
One final area worth noting is Camera Control. This isn’t available for all cameras, but if you’re using the excellent Blackmagic 4Kor 6K, this area gives you the ability to adjust almost all of the camera settings. It’s a true software insight into the professional world and again works incredibly well.
During the review, it felt like I could only touch the surface of what the ATEM Mini Extreme could do.
You have the base function of switching between multiple video inputs, be that camera or media player.
It standardises all the video inputs ready to be mixed in real-time with effects ready to be output as a live video stream.
You can mic in audio, add transitions, effects and even overlay graphics and video all in real-time.
The ATEM Mini range was already a powerful broadcast tool that has brought professional multi-camera productions within reach of anyone who wants.
The Extreme builds on this, offering the ability to Multicam up to eight video inputs in real-time.
While the ATEM Mini Extreme is well thought out and easy to use, some of the functions and features are still firmly rooted in the broadcast arena once you dig beneath the surface and can be complex. Feature such as motion graphic overlays.
However, as a complete and expandable version, the ATEM Mini Extreme is an incredible piece of kit.
In this review, I looked at the ATEM Mini Extreme, and while it is good, I would pay the extra and go for the ISO version. The ability to save and edit the stream after the event is a definite bonus and one that you will thank yourself for, for stretching to in the long run.