Video content is a hot topic right now.
Google’s data suggests half of all millennials would stop whatever they are doing to watch a video.
And it’s not just regular, recorded video.
There is a growing, captive audience that prefer their video content streamed live.
In short, video works.
As a video content creator, you likely use multiple cameras and mics as part of your production suite. You probably want in on live video streaming as well.
For all that, one piece of equipment is an absolute must-have:
An all-in-one AV mixer.
After much research, reading lots of reviews across many sites, only one all-in-one AV mixer stood out for me.
Before I review my number one pick for the best all-in-one mixer for small event filming and live streaming, let’s discuss a few things first.
What Is An All-In-One AV Mixer?
An all-in-one AV mixer combines the twin functions of audio mixing and video switching in one stand-alone device.
This AV mixer typically has enough input ports to connect your cameras, mics, and secondary sources.
Without an all-in-one AV mixer, you will need at least two separate mixing devices to film a live event. That would make your job that much more difficult, especially when you have to record and live stream the same feed as well.
A mixer that brings all these functions together reduces the amount of work you will need to do, as well as the equipment you have to buy and haul around.
Our pick goes a few steps further and adds capabilities for:
- Both SD and HDMI input
- Touchscreen preview monitor control
- USB port for live streaming and recording
- Output scaling, which allows you to convert SD input to HDMI
Who Needs An All-In-One AV Mixer?
Just over a year ago not many people cared much about AV mixers.
Now everyone with an audience to service should probably be out shopping for one.
Yes, social media empowered us with a more accessible communication channel.
But until recently, there is a content format only the top influencers with connections to the larger, traditional media networks could properly exploit:
First YouTube and then, more impactfully, Facebook decided to do something about it.
Now regular Joe’s like me can run our own little broadcast studios and stream live video from wherever we happen to be.
Basically, anyone with an internet connection can live stream.
You can be a:
- Online music teacher
- Stand-up comedian, or indie talk show host
Live video content has the highest engagement and conversion rates!
Even though video content is the most expensive to produce, authoritative research suggests it also has the highest ROI of all content types.
Just over a year after Facebook Live was launched, one in five videos shared on the world’s most popular social network is a live video.
According to this article, Facebook Live videos are watched three times longer than recorded ones.
In engagement terms, the same article says there are 10 times more comments on Facebook Live videos than regular ones.
To illustrate the power of video content in general, Hubspot puts video content ROI at a staggering 50.9 percent.
On the demand side, Hubspot’s research also found that 43 percent of people want to see more video content from marketers.
Their research shows 45% of people watch at least an hour of video a day.
Besides corporate marketing content, almost any video content can be shared and streamed live:
- A budding musician or young band struggling to grow their fanbase could live stream their free town square concerts and build their appeal
- Churches and other faith organizations can stream their services to reach congregants who may have missed the service, as well as to attract new members
- Schools, charity organizations, lobbyists, and others can also live stream their events as a way of building awareness around special causes
Considering that 1.32 billion users log into Facebook every day, and the sky-high engagement and conversion stats for videos, there is every reason for you to step up your live video production game.
Because video harnesses both audio and moving pictures to stir emotions and stimulate engagement, it is the most personal and powerful way of connecting with your audience.
But quality video production starts with a capable all-in-one AV mixer:
Our Pick For Best All-In-One AV Mixer
The average person producing and streaming live video content is typically the one-person agency or small team making YouTube videos, or filming and streaming conferences, church services, high school sports events, and small venue concerts for Facebook livestreams or webcasts.
You aren’t a large broadcast or film production house with a large budget.
You ideally want one piece of equipment that can receive, mix, stream, and archive the input coming from your cameras and microphones.
This is a mixer for which you don’t need an army of cameramen, sound engineers, and technicians to put a production to bed.
Most of the mixers you get on the market don’t seem to bring all these attributes together in an affordable all-in-one mixer.
Our pick combines the trusted audio mixing capabilities of, say the Presonus Studiolive 16-Channel Audio Mixer and the video mixing attributes of a workhorse like the Edirol/Roland 4-Channel Digital Video Mixer, in one compact, all-in-one AV mixer at a cost of just the latter.
With the gulf in features and affordability between our pick and the options closest to it, I decided to cut to the chase and do a fuller review of our top recommendation for the best all-in-one AV mixer for small event filming and live streaming:
Roland VR-3EX All-in-One A/V Mixer Review
In a world where everyone has their own YouTube channel, you need acceptable resolution videos accompanied by a good sound to really make a mark.
This video below goes into details about this mixer which you can watch:
When it comes to all-in-one AV mixers, and video mixers in general, Roland is the standard.
You either go with the brand or you go full studio or broadcast network quality. The latter is of course not an option for smaller video content producers with limited budgets.
And, typically, it is only the smaller AV mixers that come with a streaming feature.
In this class, the Roland VR-3ER All-In-One AV mixer has no peers.
But why is this av mixer in particular such a fit for smaller video producers who have to battle the competing demands of a limited budget and good quality, stream-ready video content?
Quick and Easy Setup for Plug-And-Play Operation
If you are like me, you are put off by any product with a thick instruction manual and a steep learning curve.
Even for a product as technical as this Roland VR-3EX, I want something that I can set up and use right out of the box.
With this av mixer you don’t need hours of hauling and rigging to set-up. Just pull the mixer from your back-pack, hook up your cameras and mics, connect your PC, and you are good to live stream.
All in a matter of minutes.
Wide Variety of Both Audio and Video Inputs
The Roland VR-3EX’s input quality is not going to set YouTube alight, because it is not full HD.
But at that price, the SD video inputs and processing engine still produce pictures of acceptable quality.
If it’s any consolation, the fourth video input is HDMI. Added to that, the Roland VR-3ER has also got a scaling feature that can improve the output quality to 1080p HDMI.
It is worth highlighting that this AV mixer is primarily a video mixer with inbuilt audio mixing capability.
Yet you wouldn't know that after sampling the audio mixing suite. It has an impressive 18 channels, the first four of which spot XLR/TRS combo capability, with a 24-bit support.
Even though you have a number of the less desirable RCA and single stereo audio inputs, these can be merged to use the same HDMI output, which guarantees a better quality audio output overall.
The variety of connections for both video and audio sources streamlines your workflow and reduces the number of devices you have to monitor so you can concentrate on your production.
This also enables you to connect all your cameras and mics so you can avoid running around switching cables.
And even if you are working in a fairly large venue, you can run up to 50 ft of camera cable to this AV mixer with no noticeable lag or loss of signal.
If the signal starts to degrade you can always use an HDMI Repeater, which will double the signal’s reach.
A Simple Interface and MultiView TouchScreen Monitor Ensures a Full Audio Visual Experience
Video mixers have not always had an audio mixing function.
Adding an audio mixing panel can thus make for an awkward design.
Good thing this AV mixer’s designers went with the more straightforward approach.
The interface has the audio controls on the left, while everything you need for the video controls is on the right.
The audio mixing panel features 7 physical faders, as well as controls for gain, and EQ. You can also set up the AV mixer for more in-depth mixing via the touchscreen monitor.
Better still, the Roland VR-3ER allows you to separate the audio mixing and output from the main audio. This enables the AV mixer to function as a mixing station and PA system at the same time.
The buttons and knobs will help you accomplish most tasks.
But it is the touch sensitive 2.5” MultiView Preview screen that really sets this AV mixer apart.
The preview screen can be split vertically, horizontally, and four way, which allows you to monitor up to four cameras at once.
A slew of advanced video switching and recording effects can all be executed from the touch-enabled preview screen.
These include a built-in keyer that unlocks features and effects like picture-in-picture, luminance key composition, and subtitle compositing from the same key.
Switching between video input sources is a simple touch on the preview screen. And all the input sources and outputs can all be monitored from that same screen.
Worried about mismatched video and audio output?
The audio mixer is designed to allow up to 4 frames delay, which is enough to compensate for the lag on your video source.
USB 2.0 Live Streaming Enables Real-Time Interaction with Online Audiences
The Roland VR-3ER does a great job switching video inputs and mixing sound for onward transmission to output monitors during live events.
But it goes further by enabling live streams and recording of the same content through a USB 2.0 port.
The USB 2.0 port is not the fastest, nor the 480i resolution the best there is, but that the output recording is compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs is a big selling point.
By connecting the VR-3ER to your PC via USB you can seamlessly record your video feed using Roland’s free proprietary Video Capture recording software.
If you have no storage space on your computer, the Video Capture software even allows you to record to an external hard drive.
You can then stream your real-time content to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or webcast it through a streaming service of your choice.
Basically, any computer with a webcam will recognize the VR-3ER AV mixer’s USB interface. This opens the possibility of using such popular web conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Skype.
And besides the USB streaming output, there is also an HDMI output port you can use to connect your projector.
You can thus be recording an event, streaming it to your online audiences, and live casting the same feed to your audience right there at the event, at the same time.
To cap it all:
Weighing 8.1 pounds and measuring 3.1 x 13.6 x 8 inches, the Roland VR-3ER is lightweight and remarkably compact for all it does.
This gives the mixer great portability - small and light enough to throw in a carry bag and haul from location to location with ease.
Where The Roland VR-3ER All-In-One AV Mixer Falls Short
The Roland VR-3ER is a fine AV mixer.
But it has a few weak points.
While it is good that you can get HDMI output by scaling your SD input, that you can only get 480p resolution through USB output means your live streams can’t have in HD quality.
That is something of a turn off if all you want to do with this AV mixer is to live stream.
A faster USB 3.0 streaming output would also have made this a better AV mixer.
If live stream picture quality is absolutely important for you, it may be prudent to instead consider the full HD, but more expensive Roland VR-4HD and Roland VR-50HD.
When It’s Time To Upgrade...
The Roland VR-4HD is an upgrade on the Roland VR-3EX with faster USB 3.0 streaming and full HD input and output. But it ditches several of the great features introduced on the Roland VR-3EX.
At almost a thousand dollars more, you could say it is still not much of an upgrade.
Perhaps for a better upgrade, you will have to fork out a few thousand dollars more and get your hands on the Roland VR-50HD. It is a fine piece of equipment and a real investment.
Whether it packs more value than the Roland VR-3EX is still debatable. However, the few people who have invested in it have a lot of good things to say about it.
So if your budget allows, the Roland VR-50HD is definitely worth throwing some cash at.
At this price point and level of function, there aren’t many worthy alternatives. Though I honestly wish there were.
The Roland VR-3EX really is a tough choice to beat for an all-in-one AV mixer.
It is not full HD. But it is compact, portable, and easy to setup and use.
And, best of all, it is sold at a great price.
Regular video is great.
But live video gives you a more personal connection with your audience. And everyone who can is jumping on it.
With the Roland VR-3ER All-In-One AV Mixer with live streaming capability, now you too can.