I got a lot of feedback, some people angry that I had that opinion, and others saying that they actually loved using the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini at their church. So, I decided that I was going to revisit my review of the ATEM Mini, and see if it could change my mind.
And it did… kind of.
In this article, I’ll share the pros and cons of using the ATEM mini (pro or pro iso) for church video production and live streaming. And, I’ll also share the three reasons I’m going to replace our church live streaming PC with the ATEM Mini Pro ISO.
Reviewing the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro ISO
I was pretty set in my opinion that the streaming PC was better than using the Blackmagic ATEM Mini because the software options of Vmix, OBS, or eCamm were far greater than the flexibility of the ATEM Mini. There’s just no way a small piece of hardware like this can do as many things as software. And, that is definitely true.
However, after consuming a ton of information on the ATEM Mini, and playing around with it for hours, I developed a hunch. This hunch said that I wasn’t using all the bells and whistles of the software when streaming or recording my church services.
I considered all of our recordings and live streams and, that hunch is correct.
This had me rethinking the ATEM seriously. For church use, it doesn’t really matter that OBS or Vmix has more features because 90% of churches aren’t going to be using those advanced features anyway. With that said, let’s look at the three major disadvantages of the ATEM Mini.
The Cons of the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro
Con #1: No Native Video Functionality
You only get the option to add images to your live stream. So, if you want to play a video using the ATEM Mini, you can’t.
Con #2: No Animated Overlays
With streaming software, you can add transparent video files over your stream and create really cool animated overlays. You can also add dynamic, real-time alerts using Stream Elements or Streamlabs.
However, this really isn’t a thing for churches. The lack of animated overlays isn’t great, but for the most part, these aren’t cons for church streaming – most churches won’t take advantage of it anyway.
Con #3: No Way to Save “Scenes.”
In software, I can set up scenes with overlay graphics, including any animations, etc. I can configure each of these scenes to feature a specific camera, and it saves that scene. Then, with a single button push, I can load that scene with its overlays, its animations, and its camera angle.
That’s almost impossible with the ATEM Mini pro… unless you take the time to learn how to work the macros, and even then it’s pretty janky. So, if you want a lot of custom graphics and animations, and scenes, the ATEM Mini just can’t do that on its own.
The Benefits of the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro
Benefit #1: It’s Tiny!
Seriously, it’s small and very mobile. Compared to the footprint of an entire streaming PC, this one is so small and unobtrusive.
Benefit #2: It’s Easy to Set Up
It works almost out of the box. If you wanted, the only setting you would have to customize would be to enter in your stream keys for whatever platform you’re streaming to. Other than that, you can pretty much plug in your cameras, plug in your audio source, and call it a day!
Benefit #3: It’s Easy to Operate
There are a lot of buttons on the ATEM Mini Pro, but you will probably mostly use four buttons. That’s it. It’s super easy to learn, and anyone – even computer illiterate volunteers – can operate the live stream.
Benefit #4: You Can Control It Remotely
This was a big deal for me because as a church planter, I don’t have any volunteers running my live stream. So, I needed to be able to control the entire thing from my phone or iPad. There are a lot of mobile apps that will connect to the ATEM Mini, allowing you to control it from anywhere with the push of a button.
Benefit #5: It’s Cheaper!
The ATEM Mini Pro comes in at under $600 by itself. It’s much cheaper than a respectable streaming computer, not to mention software licenses.
Benefit #1: You Can Remotely Control Cameras
If you use Blackmagic Pocket Cinema cameras, you can control them remotely using the ATEM Mini and the ATEM Software. You can change the exposure, the aperture, the ISO, the focus, and even the zoom if you have a mechanical zoom lens on the camera. This gives you a much higher level of “live” control of each camera without having to physically access the body of the camera.
Why I Choose the ATEM Mini Pro ISO for My Church
Originally, the deal-breaker for me was that there was no native video functionality.
There are five things I need from a live stream:
- I want to play countdown videos before service.
- I want to be able to show lyrics.
- I want to be able to show sermon slides and scriptures.
- I want to be able to show video clips and announcement videos.
- I want to be able to show a “service is over” screen
Without native video functionality, the ATEM just becomes wasted space. However, if you only use up to 3 cameras, that leaves you a 4th HDMI input that solves all these issues.
What I discovered was that I didn’t use the native video functionality of OBS or Vmix either. Instead, I just fed an input from my projector computer, running Pro Presenter, and just “mirrored” it on the stream. Running that projector HDMI to the ATEM Mini’s 4th input allows me to do that, too.
So, are there additional reasons I’m replacing my streaming computer for the ATEM Mini Pro ISO? Yes!
The ATEM Mini Pro ISO allows me to, not just record the live stream, but to record all of my camera inputs separately at the same time. That way, once the service is over, I can “remix” the video version. If any mistakes were made (like forgetting to switch camera views) during the live stream, I can correct those mistakes in a final edit.
This alone is reason enough to use the ATEM Mini Pro ISO.
Should You Use the ATEM Mini For Church Live Streaming?
It really just depends.
I would say, if you are going to consider the Blackmagic ATEM Mini switcher, you need to at least get the Pro or the ISO versions.
The ATEM Mini base version has no onboard encoder. This means you’ll still need a streaming PC with software, or purchase a hardware encoder. This will just make it more complex than it needs to be. Plus, if you’re using OBS or Vmix with an ATEM Mini, all you did was reduce your multiple cameras to a single camera source. This limits the things you can do in the software.
So, I don’t recommend the ATEM Mini.
However, the Pro and ISO versions have a built-in encoder. This allows you to stream directly to the internet from the ATEM Mini without needing a computer at all. In fact, you can manage the settings and remotely control the Blackmagic cameras without needing your computer to be physically connected to the ATEM. The software will work over your network.
So, if you already have a streaming PC, I wouldn’t recommend trying to use it with the ATEM. You can, of course, but I would recommend just using the Stream Deck with the streaming PC.
But, if you’re building a new streaming setup for your church or event venue, the ATEM may be the best choice. I know I am going to use it, and I’m excited about getting more room in my sound booth, being able to record all cameras simultaneously, and being able to remote control everything from my mobile device.
If you want, check out our all-in-one kits with the ATEM Mini Pro.