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Reviewing the Roland V-1HD Video Switcher – a TV station in a box!

by on 04/05/2016
 

The Roland V-1HD video switcher, the device we’ll be showing you next, isn’t targeted at the usual technology consumer, who occasionally adds an extra memory module to his PC for better gaming performance or multitasking, or roots his phone for more freedom.

That doesn’t make it any less interesting, especially when counting two things: what it does, and what it costs.

Let’s suppose the following: You’re a fairly popular YouTube content creator – popular enough to make a living out of it. Or you make your living filming various events.

Roland is a universally known company, acclaimed for its excelent electronic musical instruments. But today we’ll speak of a very different facet of the company – and a rather less known one at that. We’ll talk of the company’s role as a professional and semi-pro video equipment producer.

Roland V-1HD Switcher

The Roland V-1HD is a video switcher. In principle, when thinking of these kinds of devices, what might come to mind are the big TV stations with hundreds of employees, complex directing efforts for broadcast or studios, lots of cameras and complementary equipment capable of providing coverage for sports events, entertainment shows, talk shows and others, all served by huge and extremely expensive switching consoles.

Roland V-1HD is none of these and yet a bit of each.

It’s a bit of each in the sense that it’s designed to support four different connected cameras simultaneously, and it’s none because the selling price is around a thousand euros. And believe us, for that amount of money it can do a lot of work.

The fun part is just starting, and I’ll say it again – if you make your living by recording events or producing content for your own YouTube channel, there’s no tool better or more suitable for your work than the V-1HD.

This tiny video switcher, even smaller than a regular keyboard, offers capabilities which a few years past would have been unimaginable for a device of this size, at this price. To this we’ll add that it’s also incredibly well thought out.

INPUT & OUTPUT / RESOLUTIONS

We’ll start with the input, the basis for any recording or broadcasting efforts. I’ve said that this switcher, can handle up to 4 cameras at once. The smart part about this device in particular (and this product class in general) is the fact that those inputs are ordinary HDMI ones, universally spread, known and accepted.

This converts into a wide range of benefits – access to a huge market of video (or photo) cameras, with prices ranging from anything from a hundred to tens of thousands of euros. More to the point, what modern camera doesn’t feature an HDMI port? You hook up one end to your camera, the other to one of the switcher’s inputs and you’re good to go.

Roland V-1HD ports

You can quickly start working on transmissions or recordings. Cameras, cables and subs are everywhere and the prices are extremely good. To demonstrate, I hooked an old photo cam with video capabilities to the switcher (which can be sourced for the aforementioned hundred euros), and the process was buttery smooth. You can also add to it… another 3 cameras!

Moreover, the output ports, intended for the recorder and the preview – because yes, we have and use these – are also HDMI-based. Almost any screen with an HDMI input can serve as preview, and any video recorder featuring an HDMI input can be a good enough recorder for a 4-source, pre-cut montage.

And the goodies don’t end here. Any device with an HDMI output can be a source – with one condition: sources must share the same resolution, whether 720p, 1080p or 1080i. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Specifically, whether it’s a laptop, tablet or a phone, any of these can be connected to the switcher as signal sources, and mixed in real time with what the cameras are recording. How cool is that?

Roland V-1HD RCA

Since we’re talking goodies, we also have to talk about the sound – or should I say, the many features offered by the V-1HD when it comes to audio. Roland are showing some serious respect for their own status – 2 inputs and 2 outputs on the usual RCA jacks, allowing you to connect an audio mixer. Whether a cheaper or more expensive one, that’s up to your budget.

Did I get to mention that this little switcher can handle up to 12 audio channels internally, which you can mix to your liking? Oh, the 1-VHD also offers an USB connection for more control, and some handy MIDI in-out. Roland, you just couldn’t stop yourselves. Much appreciated.

Roland V-1HD MIDI

So can we point out any cons in this first part? Too few. One which might be sticky for professionals ties rather intimately to the essence of this device – the HDMI connections. I’m talking about the maximum cable lengths that can transmit video signals with good quality.

If my memory serves me well, the HDMI protocol supports cable lengths of up to 15 meters, unlike the SDI protocol used in TV, allowing for much longer distances. We could say it’s a pseudo-problem, a calculated risk that Roland took with the 1-VHD from the get-go.

Would this be a problem for use-cases such as those outlined in the beginning of this review? Do you think you might need to cover more than 10-15m of distance? We think not.

There’s lots more that can be said, especially regarding the resolutions this switcher supports. As I said: 720p, 1080p and 1080i, which is to say, HD and Full HD – the latter in both versions, progressive as well as interlaced – at PAL or NTSC framerates of 50 or 60 frames per second, and 4:2:2 8-bit signal output.

I’d say these are good news, especially for joiners of the 60fps YouTube bandwagon, for gameplay videos as well as actual filming, or for those wishing to record video using good codecs at a high bit-rate.

Roland V-1HD switching resolution

Since you got this far, I’d also like to tell you what a great tool the V-1HD can become by adding a hardware streamer such as a Terradek Vidiu or Cube for multi-camera, direct-to-YouTube live-streaming.

Hook the mixer’s (or recorder’s) HDMI output to the input of a streamer and you can do a live YouTube broadcast using multiple sources, whether cameras, or combinations of laptops, tablets or smartphones. For Instance I can play a game on the PC or tablet, and by the touch of a button I can switch to the camera and then back to the game.

An excellent „aggregator” for video sources, and a spectacular addition to the material being produced, thanks to this combination of sources.

INTERFACE AND EFFECTS

Roland v-1hd remote app

In the last few days we have yet to tire of playing around with the Roland V-1HD, and I noticed one extremely important aspect: usability.

An Apple Lightning-to-USB cable allows you to hook up an iPad to the switcher’s USB, a few extra seconds spent downloading the V-1HD Remote app from the AppStore, and in under a minute you’ll get a complete – and highly intuitive – digital interface by which you can control the switcher’s software straight from the tablet screen (or through a PC or Mac).

Clear, easy to use, instant effect – brilliant! Sure, that’s only if you LIKE that kind of control. If not, the physical buttons, switches and dials on the Roland V-1HD are at least as useful, if not more effective.

Roland V-1HD features

Direct hand-control is definitely another plus of this switcher. There are competing solutions currently on the market at a similar price-point, but whose control is exclusively digital. In other words, a closed box handling the processing, with control displayed on your laptop or tablet.

Effective physical control is another decisive functionality Roland have chosen to implment on this device. Sound and image, sources, cuts and effects can all be configured and execute by a button, with no additional external support required.

Roland V-1HD transform

And because we’re on the subject of effects, let’s talk about the icing on the cake of such a device: Transitions, Cut, Dissolve, around 30 types of Wipe, maybe 11 Transform effects, Picture in Picture, tons of video effects such as Monochrome, Posterize or Flip and – hold on to your seat – Chrome Key and Luma Key! Amazing what this toy can do at this size and in this budget.

Roland V-1HD controls

Sure, there are some small glitches, acknowledged by the manufacturer. I noticed slight iridescent green contours when keyframing on the Green Screen, something we know the manufacturer is aware of and is admitted in the device’s technical manual. This reinforces our belief that it’s possible for this to be remedied in the future. Even if not, the V-1HD still does infinitely more than you’d expect.

Otherwise it’s all good: possibilities for subtitles and text, memory and feeze, PiP, Side-by-Side – i.e. the usual „windows” so often used in television – button illumination depending on active sources, etc. But all these features don’t make the Roland V-1HD complicated or difficult to understand.

It’s a tool laymen can learn completely in maybe half a day, and much faster if you’ve ever used a similar device before. Equally simple is the switching between different resolutions, by use of a three-step switch, as well as the use of a simple standard 12V – 4A power adapter, or the 3.5mm audio jack with separate volume controls for headphones and audio monitoring.

Roland V-1HD separate audio jacks

The Roland V-1HD is a simple-to-use device with a complex feature and capability offering at a price that is hard to beat. In its niche, it’s „as good as it gets”, and definitely will prove extremely helpful for professionals earning their living by filming events or distributing complex shows on-line.

Roland V-1HD_11

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