Ross Carbonite Switcher 12.3 Software and Touchscreen Custom Controls (aka-Macros)

IMG_7552At work we have a 2ME Ross Carbonite Video Switcher. It’s a work horse. Perfect for many church video switching environments; 4 keys per ME, 24 input panel, DVE, 8 Aux, 6 frame syncs built in. For basic IMAG and Stream/TV/Record switching it works really well. Of course, there’s always other options out there, but we have been really happy with our Ross.

We had been running version 10.0 of the software since I’ve been here. The computer based Dashboard software was very handy for setting up and changing switcher configurations, but I didn’t use it for much else. The Ross is capable of recording and recalling macros from the control panel, but I have to admit, I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to do it. A macro is a function that allows you to record multiple button pushes and switcher states and recall them with the push of a button.

So we used the Ross to do the what we needed, but didn’t use any of the advanced featured. Then lightning struck. Or some sort of power surge, we don’t know what it was. The surge was strong enough and fast enough that even though the switcher was on a UPS with surge suppression, the frame lost connection with the control panel. When we reloaded the settings, not everything was exactly the way it was before. Since I was about to tweak some things anyway, I decided now was the time to update the software.

The update process is simple, but a little scary. There’s a big warning on the Ross download page about not being able to downgrade below version 11.0 of the software once you update. Version 12.3 had only been out for a few weeks. I tried the basic update, but I think going from version 10 to 12 was too much for that. It froze during the update process. I ended up having to do a Forced Update which erased everything. In order to do a Forced Update you need a fat32 formatted USB drive of 2GB or larger with only the new software on it. (Make sure you save your settings BEFORE you try to update.) On the frame, power down the switcher, insert the USB. Hold down the “Update” rocker switch and power the frame back on. Keep holding how the rocker switch for a 10 count, then release. A few seconds later the control panel will see the USB and start the update. To go from 10.00 to 12.3 it takes a few minutes. At one point the screen will say Critical Update. That’s normal. Once it’s finished, reload your saved settings. We had to do this twice. For whatever reason, some of our settings didn’t come back the first time.

Now, we were back to basic operation. And could keep using the switcher just like we always had. But I wanted to use the new features in 12.3. In order to do this, we needed a computer on the network near the switcher control panel. I snagged an unused Touchscreen HP we had that used to be a lighting computer. You don’t have to have a touchscreen, but if you have one it is so very sweet.

Ross’s macro functions are call Custom Controls, and the 12.3 software has a very easy to use interface. Their beta editor has worked flawlessly for me. You simply open the editor, select a bank of macros, and select the macro you want to create or edit. On the screen you hit record, and then start punching buttons on the control panel. Once finished, hit stop recording. You can edit the name of the macros if you want. Exit the editor and your new Custom Control is listed in the bank of “shot boxes”. To recall the macro, just select it.

You can also go deeper. I created a macro that tells all 4 keyers on both MEs to turn off. Not just to autotrans all for keyers. That’s something I can program do on the control panel. I was able to go into the editor and tell the switcher to turn the state of the keyers to off. And recall that as a macro.

The media store is also pretty powerful and easier than ever to use. Each file in the media library has a number. In the Custom Control editor you can tell the switcher to select and load a specific numbered file, and then display it. Since our panel is pretty full of inputs, we don’t have all 4 of the media stores quickly available. This little feature allows me to load any media, and fire it at the touch of a button. (One thing to note, in Ross world, if you are keying an image via the media library, the media stores 1 and 3 will be used together. 1 to hold the image, and 3 to hold the alpha information. Same for 2 and 4. This happens automatically.)

In just a few days I’ve programmed 17 Custom Controls. I’m sure I will add more as time goes on. I’ve programmed macros that range from foundational (reset all auxes, keyers and DVEs back to our Sunday morning settings, set up for a weekly Bible study we record in the WC) to functional (fade both MEs to black or the bail loop, clear all keys, transition the background animation and key lyrics on the IMAG ME) to specific (load and key 1 of 7 icons we use that coordinate with our new kid’s worship journals). We used it this past Sunday. Everything worked. I found a few things to tweak, and will do that this week.

Overall, the upgrade to 12.3 and used of the new beta Custom Control editor has been really great.


The Day the Network Died

Ever notice how gear doesn’t break when you don’t need it? It always breaks when you need it most.

Last year our IT department began the process of replacing switches and other gear that was beyond 7 years old. They wanted to replace it all, but these things are expensive. So, slowly, they are swapping out old tech for new.

Unfortunately, this past weekend one of the old pieces that had not been replaced yet went down. It was in a core part of the network, and all access was severed. There was nothing internal and nothing external. No email, no servers, no internet, no, nothing.

Well, church has been happening a long time without internet, so we should have no worries, right? For the most part, but you just don’t realize how much you rely on something until it’s gone. The network went down saturday afternoon, right before we began prepping for the service. We store lyric documents and sermon notes on a serve, for easy access. We could not get them. Luckily, I had downloaded them to my Outlook, and was able to put them on a flash drive and we loaded them up.

We could not stream the services. not only could no one get to the website to launch the player, we couldn’t even send the signal out. we were able to record the video for later upload in our On Demand section. But, we literally have hundreds of people who watch us each week. We went to Facebook and twitter to spread the word, using our 3G enable phones we could still access them. we use Planning Center Online to plan the services, and follow it during the service as well. On Sunday one of our technical people brought in his own mobile hotspot and shared it on the mini network we have in the Worship Center, so we could still follow. not powerful enough for the campus, but it worked like a charm for what they needed.

The IT guys worked some long hours, and at one point we had access. Then about 15 minutes before service start it went down again. They were able to get internal servers up and running, but external connection was still out. On Monday we got some help, and Monday afternoon it came back on. We hope it stays working.

While it was down we could not access anything we housed in “the cloud”. My Evernote files we unreachable, except by 3G enabled devices. We use Google Docs and an online service to help track workflow in communications. We pulled the project list on our phones, and wrote them down. If we had to have a file, we would need to run to a local fast food joint and use their wifi. It’s tempting to snag a 3G modem or hotspot just in case this were to happen again. Most of our creativity this morning was used in figuring out how to work around the outage.

In the end it was right at about 48 hours of no network access. I don’t want to go through it again. The internet/network has become like a utility. It’s not quite as important as power and water, but we do rely on it. When things work right, the technology we employ is a huge help. When it doesn’t work, it can be a roadblock. This was 2 days of trouble out of thousands without issue, so we will still be using the network and internet to help us get things done.