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USC School of Cinematic Arts Uses ATEM Mini Pro

13 April 2021

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USC School of Cinematic Arts Uses ATEM Mini Pro

Blackmagic Design announced today that the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts is using the ATEM Mini Pro to teach remote classes during the ongoing pandemic.

As the 2020 Fall semester approached without the ability to safely teach classes in person, the technical team at the School of Cinematic Arts were faced with adapting to a new reality for the foreseeable future. Already using a number of Blackmagic Design products for student education, from DaVinci Resolve Studio to URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2 cameras, the school realized that Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Mini Pro switcher might prove to be the answer they sought.

Neil Short, Creative Technology Support Supervisor for the School of Cinematic Arts, began testing the ATEM Mini Pro in June of 2020, and quickly found the system was both powerful and easy to configure.

“I’ve had a great experience with Blackmagic ATEM switchers in multi camera studio control rooms, but I wondered if asking instructors to run a switcher while teaching might be too much.” said Short. “After testing the ATEM Mini Pro, I realized how accessible it was designed to be.”

The school quickly purchased a number of units, and helped instructors design a method of teaching remotely. “Each class and instructor had their own unique needs, and we wanted to help accommodate them,” said Short. “The solution was to construct switcher carts for the sound stages as well as at home switcher kits for faculty.”

With the units set in Cut Bus mode, the instructor simply had to press an input, a process that was simple and would not distract from the process of teaching. “Using the ATEM Mini Pro was about as easy as you can imagine,” said Adjunct Lecturer Jeremy Royce. “I plugged the switcher into my computer and connected my cameras via HDMI, and everything just worked. There was no learning curve and live editing was a breeze.”

“One area we didn’t expect to use the ATEM Mini Pro switcher was on our motion capture stage,” said Short. “But the built in live streaming feature gave us the flexibility to broadcast switched feeds from multiple cameras and computers for a technically complex class.”

Each instructor found their own unique way of using the new technology to create a special class. Associate Professor Linda J. Brown used the four inputs to help allow students see different angles for her cinematography classes. “The ability to have multiple sources going into the switcher is perfect for lighting demonstrations to cover multiple points of view.”

Beyond the ability to hold live classes, Brown found she could use the ATEM Mini Pro to pre record demonstrations. “For example, to demonstrate the procedure for getting critical focus on a zoom lens I used the production camera as one source, a second camera positioned on the lens of the production camera and a third camera on myself when I describe the procedure.”

Brown found many ways to create educational tools despite teaching remotely. “Another example is demonstrating how to take light meter readings. One source is on a model, one on each of the lights and a third displayed a close up of the light meter display. It’s perfect for any demonstration that benefits from multiple points of view.”

Jeremy Royce also found unique ways of teaching using the ATEM Mini Pro. “Since transitioning to online instruction, I’ve collected a small LEGO city that sits on my dining room table. I use this scale model to demonstrate how to shoot and light exterior shots while remaining in the comfort of my home near my computer. The ATEM Mini Pro allows me to show the students what the shot will look like, how the shot is lit, and allows me to have a separate shot of my own commentary throughout the process. It has allowed me to teach concepts that would have been impossible to illustrate otherwise.”