Finalist 2021

Blackmagic ATEM Mini Extreme

Blackmagic Design

An ultra-compact eight input live production switcher designed specifically for professional live streaming of large productions and events.

ATEM Mini Extreme an ultra-compact eight input live production switcher, designed specifically for professional live streaming of large productions and events on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Costing just $1285 it has proven to be a vital tool for broadcasters, educators and businesses adapting to life in the wake of COVID-19.

Design Brief

Typically designed for mainstream broadcasters, live production chains consisting of separate rack-mounted switcher ‘processing-brain’ and ‘control panel’ are large, complex and expensive. Often costing in excess of $20,000, they are virtually inaccessible to all but the most well-resourced facilities.

The original ATEM Mini represented a highly affordable, portable and professional alternative. But with COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing forcing people to seek more innovative ways of engaging remote audiences, it soon became clear that a more powerful option, capable of enhancing the production values of larger multi-camera broadcasts, was required.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

For a fraction of the cost of traditional switchers at $1285, the purposeful design of ATEM Mini Extreme belies its powerful nature. Combining a fully-featured broadcast switcher ‘processing brain’ and ‘control panel’ in an ultra-compact, lightweight enclosure, it can be used almost anywhere, allowing real-time control of up to eight HDMI video sources.

Four upstream chroma keyers allows layering of camera footage over rendered backgrounds, enabling users to create professional, immersive virtual sets regardless of the location of the presenter.

Design Excellence

Failsafe reliability is critical when streaming live from challenging remote locations. Despite its inexpensive, lightweight enclosure ATEM Mini Extreme is solidly constructed, enabling it to be confidently used in a range of environments.

The paired back aesthetics of ATEM Mini Extreme are an exercise in restraint and discipline, distilled naturally from its comprehensive functionality.

Presented to the user at a natural 5° angle, the minimal, non-reflective black control surface ensures that the control layout remains the focus of the design, free from unnecessary visual distractions.

Optimised efficiently around the internal hardware to achieve the most spatially efficient design, the tapering form offers an ergonomic work surface that also minimises perceived size.

A true plug-and-play solution, ATEM Mini Extreme needs only a computer and up to eight HDMI video inputs to be ready for professional live streaming.

The hierarchical layout of physical controls puts core functions at the user’s fingertips, allowing responsive switching that is significantly faster than software-based systems.

When streaming live to a global audience, immediacy and reliability is critical. Soft-touch silicone keys are engineered for effortless, error-free switching, remaining firm enough to eliminate accidental activation.

A high speed USB connection allows users to tether an Apple or Android phone, ensuring continuous streaming over cellular or satellite networks in challenging locations.

The main work surface of ATEM Mini Extreme possesses a low-gloss black surface that minimises glare from overhead lighting and provides tactile contrast to switcher panel controls. Backlit for legibility in darkened environments, the durable keypad is easy to see and activate, minimising fatigue and eye strain.

Exported to 87 countries, ATEM Mini Extreme complies with all relevant safety standards and regulations, including AS/NZS 60950, FCC, CE, RCM, WEE & ROHS

Design Innovation

The ATEM Mini Extreme is the world’s smallest and most affordable eight input switcher, able to be used discretely by a single presenter. This was achieved through a careful rationalisation of core functions, materials and manufacturing processes.

Traditional switcher buttons, which are tall and mechanically complex, were replaced by a low-profile silicone keypad, fine-tuned to emulate the high-end responsiveness of more expensive systems. This reduced costs significantly and enabled the lowest possible profile without compromising performance or durability.

Thermal management
Switching up to eight live feeds simultaneously generates significant heat from hard-working FPGA processors, which is compounded in ATEM Mini Extreme’s ultra-compact enclosure. This can impact the quality of video feeds, resulting in lost frames, noise and other undesirable artefacts. To alleviate heat and ensure on-going performance and reliability, a custom thermal control module was engineered to draw heat effectively away from critical components.

ATEM Mini Extreme enables real-time switching. With eight HDMI inputs, multiple camera angles can be set up for engaging live streaming to social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook Live and TwitchTV.

By connecting an input to a computer, users can also switch between PowerPoint slide shows, video clip playback, websites or gaming consoles.

Rich, professional, multi-layered audio is also possible with ATEM Mini Extreme, with up to four audio signals from each HDMI source and two 3.5mm inputs allowing additional microphones for the presenter and a guest.

The back-lit, hierarchical control layout is logically organised into clear functional groups: Video and audio Input control buttons on the left; transitions, effects, streaming and recording functions on the right.

Design Impact

Blackmagic Design’s fundamental goal is to empower creative people with affordable professional video technology. Never has this been more relevant than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For just $1285, the affordability, approachable design and professional output of ATEM Mini Extreme has enabled broadcasters, medical facilities, and educational institutions to quickly respond to this unprecedented situation, allowing remote ‘garage’ studios to be set up at a fraction of the usual time and cost.

This has also materialised in an unprecedented surge in sales from a diverse range of new small business customers, many of whom have never before considered the value of live streaming technology.

The impact of ATEM Mini Extreme is demonstrated in its integration into innovative productions like KulturMachtPotsdam, a 12 hour, multi-location digital cultural festival in Po¬tsdam, Germany.

Robert Klix, of live video specialist Wir Streamen, was responsible for facilitating a non-stop YouTube broadcast of the festival, designed to support artists and professionals involved in a Potsdam cultural scene brought to a standstill by the pandemic.

“We needed a flexible but robust live production hub able to handle multiple content streams without taking up valuable performance space. ATEM Mini Extreme was so impressive, it really was the heart of the production desk.”

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

ATEM Mini Extreme is built from high quality, long lasting materials and engineered for optimal part-count. Sub-assemblies are designed to be re-used in future product variations.

Access to advanced features and regular updates to the proprietary ATEM Control software further increase the longevity of ATEM Mini Extreme, eliminating the need for regular wasteful hardware replacement.

Reusable packaging further reduces waste, acting as a protective insert for transportation in a standard road case.

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