Blackmagic - Drexel University - Ultimatte 12 ATEM - Virtual Production

Drexel University is committed to training its students in the increasingly popular virtual production using equipment such as Blackmagic Design’s Ultimatte 12 HD and Ultimatte 12 HD Mini compositors.

Drexel University, founded in 1891, is a leading private research institution based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Its ACE-Lab allows students to learn and perform activities related to animation, visual effects, motion capture, 3D scanning, virtual and augmented reality, and a wide variety of other traditional and immersive digital media content formats. In addition to various classroom, screening and meeting spaces, the lab has a 12.2 m2 studio, which includes a 7.6 x 5.2 m green cyclorama, a motion capture system, lighting equipment, immersive projection with Fulldome technology and large-scale virtual reality systems.

For several years, Nick Jushchyshyn has been the programme director for virtual productions and digital media at Drexel University’s College of Art and Media Design. In this role, he has been able to lead the technical integration of the virtual production studio, in which Blackmagic Design has a significant presence: “We’ve used Blackmagic Design for many years as part of our volumetric, stereo photometric and stereo 360 VR systems, VFX courses related to green screen compositing, and 3D camera tracking courses. We’ve also used it for remote learning and streaming pre COVID. However, I recently completely rebuilt the A/V architecture of the lab’s main teaching studio around Ultimatte 12 HDs, ATEM SDI switchers and more. The Ultimattes and ATEMs have been transformational for us.”

Blackmagic - Drexel University - Ultimatte 12 ATEM - Virtual Production

Ultimatte 12 HD and 12 HD Mini

One of the key reasons Jushchyshyn has opted for the Ultimatte 12 is its “affordability”, which has allowed the university to invest in several units that are used for different purposes: “It’s truly a full featured compositing unit. Virtual production interfaces real world video equipment with digital 3D technology, and we use tools like Unreal Engine and Ultimatte to teach the students these skillsets, since they are the same technology used in major sports broadcasts, network news and weather. We even use Ultimatte 12 HD Mini as a bidirectional interface for our HDMI Pocket Cinema Camera 4Ks, which we didn’t necessarily buy for live use, but can now bring into an SDI live virtual production space.”

Jushchyshyn elaborates on the uses of this system: “In addition to teaching the workflow and technology, I also personally use an Ultimatte to create my remote office for meetings, interviews, classes, etc. I have a Micro Studio Camera 4K and an Ultimatte 12 HD feeding into an ATEM Mini with the Ultimatte performing the key, which is fed into Unreal Engine. That creates a 3D environment that appears to be a full TV studio with a moving camera on a dolly track, but really, I’m sitting in a 9 ft. x 9 ft. closet space with green fabric behind me.”

Blackmagic - Drexel University - Ultimatte 12 ATEM - Virtual Production

ATEM at Drexel University

In addition to the Ultimatte 12, Jushchyshyn uses various ATEM SDI and ATEM Mini production switchers, which allow him to show students the workflows most commonly found in a professional production studio in a “compact size”. In his own words: “The ATEMs are very approachable, and everything the students learn becomes foundational for the future. Outside the classroom, students get hands on experience by working events, such as an end of year showcase, and managing live productions for the college both on campus and offsite.”

One of the most prominent models Jushchyshyn relies on is the ATEM SDI Extreme ISO. The Drexel University faculty member particularly appreciates the system’s eight inputs, to which he connects two ceiling-mounted Micro Studio Camera 4K units and two computers running motion capture software. The four additional inputs provide the flexibility to add different sources, such as a camera focusing on the presenter, or other witness or reference cameras. The four outputs connect monitors installed at various locations around the venue.

“The ATEM is fully featured. The built in Fairlight suite of audio processors lets me configure the audio into the sweet spot for use in the studio, the dynamic range isn’t all over the place for the remote folks, and the recording is automatically attenuated for those watching later. I also love the SuperSource as it provides a polished look, and I can easily connect to Zoom via USB, use the ATEM with Ultimatte to replace green screen, and more,” concludes Jushchyshyn.

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By • 5 May, 2023
• Section: AR / VR / XR, Study, Television