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.

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Live Directing is a Team Sport

front1mepanelMany weekends I am I the director chair,  calling cameras during the weekend services at my church. Other times I’m in the TD spot, punching buttons as another director calls the shots.

I have to confess, I’m not sure what my direction always looks like. I know what I see in my mind. And I know if the members of the team executed the calls correctly. But I don’t always know what it looks like as it goes down. I hope it looks like what I imagined.

As you call cameras, you have 3 things in mind all the time: the shot you were just on, the shot you’re on now, and the shot you’re going to next. And sometimes you even have a fallback shot in mind. As soon as a camera comes free, you are calling the next direction to that operator, while you are waiting for the timing to go to the next shot after the camera you are currently on. It’s a continuous flow of past, present, and future imagery. If you have a good crew, they can help you out by getting shots you like without much direction. But even the best operators can’t read your mind. Much of directing is communicating complex instructions quickly, clearly, and succinctly.

Then there are the times that you get into the zone, and you know the song, and what your camera folks can do. And you can truly be immersed in the worship moment, as you are calling cameras. That’s when it’s fun! You have to find this place where you’re focused on executing the technical and artistic parts of the service and able to worship. That’s only possible if we are all doing our part.

So, there’s about a million things going on. I’m not always conscious of what the shots actually look like, I’m always conscious of what I want them to look like. You cannot direct and micromanage at the same time. You have to turn loose and trust that the team will execute the orders you give. Sometimes you might see a camera op get into focus trouble, or go shaky, and you have to clear off that shot faster than you plan. So you know when things don’t go as planned. But it’s not until I watch the program back that I know exactly what it looks like.

You must trust the team. It’s a creative process, and everyone involved has a part. if it looks good, it’s just as much the result of talented team members as it is competent direction.