Blackmagic Web Presenter Review: the easiest way to use your camera for Live Streaming

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170424 Update: Blackmagic announced a software update today at NAB for the Web Presenter which adds the missing audio menus from their ATEM switchers. It should allow mixing as well as audio switching as you switch sources. I’ll be downloading when it becomes available and testing testing testing.

The email they sent outlining the new features and menus:

“…we have just posted a Blackmagic Web Presenter 1.2 Update that now adds some menus for controlling the built in switcher when the web presenter is used with the Teranex Mini Smart Panel. The new menus include a transition menu, an audio menu and more.

The transition menu lets you change the transition between a cut, or a dissolve of 0.5, 1, 1.5 or 2 seconds and a dip to black transition of 0.5, 1, 1.5 or 2 seconds.

The audio menu is the same menu as we have in the ATEM Television Studio HD switcher, and you can set the audio levels of the HDMI, SDI, XLR and HiFi audio inputs independently as well as set the audio inputs to be on or off. You can also set audio follow video for the SDI and HMDI inputs. So it’s quite flexible.

There are some extra details below for new features in the software update and this update is available now if you would like to download it and update your Blackmagic Web Presenter.

Features include:
Add support for menus when using Teranex Mini Smart Panel.
Add transition menu to select cut, dissolve or dip transitions.
Add menu to control audio mixer to set gains on all input sources.
Add support for both line and microphone levels on XLR input.
Settings are saved to flash memory and restored when powered on.
Fix intermittent bug with audio on the SDI program out when capturing
from HDMI.”

Will be going Live Thursday, June 8th at 12pm EST with a full hands-on review of the features and menu


If you’re like me and have a great video camera with HDMI or SDI outputs you want to use on your computer, the Blackmagic Web Presenter might just be the tool you’ve been waiting for. It’s the easiest, most compatible, and least CPU-intensive way of getting your DSLR, Mirrorless, or video camera into your computer. But be warned: there’s definitely a few “gotchas” as of this video review.

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WHAT IS IT?

More than just as simple HDMI or SDI video capture card, the Blackmagic Web Presenter includes hardware that transcodes almost any current video source into high-quality, internet-broadcast-friendly 720p HD content seen as a webcam by any computer.

Converts virtually any professional SDI or HDMI video source (up to 4K = 2160p60) to a webcam feed for use as a high quality video stream on your windows, mac or linux computer. Perfect for streaming live (Facebook, Youtube etc), video chat (Skype, Google Hangouts etc), and desktop video recording.

WHY IT MATTERS

Unlike other video capture cards, the Web Presenter is seen as a simple Webcam by your computer (mac, windows and linux). This is great because there are no special drivers required, making your video camera compatible with all webcam-friendly software. Importantly, the CPU-intensive task of converting video sources into a web-friendly stream are done by the Blackmagic Web Presenter’s hardware, reducing the burden on your computer.

WHO NEEDS IT?

DSLR, mirrorless, camcorder or video camera owners who want to use their video camera as a webcam for video calls (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc), live streaming (Facebook Live, Youtube Live, Twitch etc), or video recording.

SETUP and IN USE:

Sadly, there are absolutely no cables included, so you’ll have to scavenge or purchase everything. Thankfully, setup is super-simple:

  1. plug in power cable
  2. plug in video sources (HDMI or SDI)
  3. plug in USB2 cable to computer

If all you need is a great video feed, you’re DONE!

More on audio inputs below ….

Blackmagic Design Web Presenter
List Price: $495.00
Price: N/A
You Save: N/A

OPTIONAL SMART PANEL OVERVIEW:

  • curently only one added feature: switching between 2 video input sources (Input 1 = SDI input; Input 2 = HDMI input). All other buttons and knob currently have no function

PROS:

  • plug-and-play easy setup with no tinkering needed when connecting one camera to computer
  • great quality of image (even though down-sized to 720p)
  • 3-year warranty

CONS:

  • no cables included: not even power or USB
  • requires additional Smart Panel Purchase to connect 2 cameras and use as switcher
    • no other controls on front panel work!
  • no audio mixing controls: all audio inputs are mixed together and sent out without any way to control relative volume. Also no headphone output to check audio mix
  • could not get mic input to work (and no phantom power for condenser mics)
  • audio sync drift: I’m not sure if it’s Blackmagic, OBS software, Facebook/Youtube, or the nature of live streaming, but the audio and video sync drifts even during an on-going livestream. It can start perfectly in sync; drift to almost a second out of sync, then go back in sync all within several minutes of a continuous livestream
  • could not get signal out of SDI program out (but cannot be sure the SDI input on my LCD monitor is working as this is the unit which I own to test with)
  • make sure your video cameras can output a clean (i.e. without menu items) signal out the HDMI port
  • For DSLR users: remove live view time limit (mirror lockup timer)
  • when switching between 2 cameras (smart panel required), both cameras must be set to same resolution and frame rate or the switching will not (a) fade and will (b) glitch very quickly when switching and (c) may lock up your Web Presenter and stop switch activation
  • if, like me, all your cameras have HDMI outputs and no SDI output, you will need to purchase a HDMI to SDI converter (and the necessary cables) to switch between two video cameras with HDMI outputs

QUIRKS AND QUESTIONABLES:

  • making one purchase the smart panel with fancy knob, screen and buttons to ONLY get the one feature of switching between inputs seems unfair. Would have been better to just include a SINGLE BUTTON on the front to allow simple switching between inputs
  • 1 HDMI + 1 SDI input. RANT: would prefer to see 2 HDMI inputs for DSLR users like me who have no SDI output video cameras
  • no HDMI program out (only loop). No way to monitor output except through SDI program output which I cannot confirm is working. HDMI program out would be easy fix and would allow non-pro TV’s to be used as main monitor too
  • when switching between two cameras with different framerate settings (1080-60p and 1080-30p), the Blackmagic Web Presenter controls froze (stuck on the HDMI input camera) and all smart panel buttons became unresponsive. On the bright side: at least the HDMI video signal was still streamed to my computer
  • hoping for future firmware updates that resolve these issues and increase resolution from 720p to 1080p (pretty please??)
  • heat and noise: gets pretty warm, and fan runs constantly. Not terribly noisy, but you won’t want to keep it too close to your microphone. Side vents + heat mean rack-mounting three units side by side might decrease lifespan?

Here are the cables I use to connect my Nikon D750 DSLR’s (which have mini-HDMI output) to the Blackmagic Web Presenter.

VERDICT & RECOMMENDATION:

  • not a complete solution: audio is an after-thought and mic input does not work
  • but ease of setup and quality of video output (at 720p) make it a niche product that delivers on video, though not audio

For me, I’m keeping it and enjoying streaming live with greater quality than I imagined. I’m hopeful Blackmagic will continue their legacy of great support and adding value to hardware with firmware upgrades that add functionality to the currently useless smart panel buttons and knob, fix the audio mixing and sync issues, and add stability.

There are other HDMI capture devices which can get your camera’s video signal into your computer. But none are as easy, compatible and non-CPU intensive as the Blackmagic Web Presenter.

Definitely not a perfect product, but if you’ve got a great camera with a clean HDMI or SDI output and want an easy, no-questions-asked way of upping the quality of your live streams and video calls, the Blackmagic Web Presenter is a decidedly niche product that fits the bill. Just make sure to NOT rely on the Web Presenter’s audio features and hope Blackmagic continues their legacy of great support.


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