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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Backing Up Your TriCaster Session - Best Practices

You've got your TriCaster session set up precisely as you like, all your content is loaded, you've built a couple dozen lower thirds, setup a bunch of macros and comps. You're ready to go. Then something goes horribly wrong, your hard drive gets corrupted or fails and hours of work are gone.

Well not if you had made a backup.

NewTek has built in a lot of functionality to help you keep your sessions organized and safe from disaster but it's up to you to take advantage of them.

I suggest you start by creating a Template session with all your inputs and outputs pre-configured so you don't have to re-create this every time you want to make a new session. Especially if you use a lot of NDI sources and have complicated audio routing. This will save a lot of time and prevent Stupid Errors.

You do this by making a New Session from the main TC menu and configuring everything the way you like. Then only use this template for creating working sessions for your actual productions.

Create a Session Template

  1. Start a New Session with the proper output resolution.
  2. Give it a name like Setup_Template.
  3. Configure video inputs, the audio mixer and various output settings as necessary.
  4. 'Import' any content you intend to use i.e. audio, video or still images.
  5. Add these imports to the appropriate media players.
  6. Setup M/Es as necessary.
  7. Set up any comps, macros etc. that you need.
  8. Set the switcher to a convenient state for starting your production.
  9. Exit the Session

Now that you have the perfect session back it up.

Back Up a Session

  1. From the Session menu select the 'Manage' icon
  2. On the Manage panel click 'Backup Session'
  3. Navigate to the location where you wish to save the backup file. It defaults to d:\Session Backups. This is a pretty good place for them.
  4. Click 'Save' to write the backup file. This will take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on how much 'content' you have loaded into the session.
  5. Exit back to Windows and copy this file to several other locations on and off the TriCaster so that if you have any hardware failures you will have multiple copies of the template session.


Now you can create a new working sessions from the new template. This will make a copy of the template with whatever new name you've entered for the new session. All the configuration, content macros etc. will be loaded into the new session leaving the template session unmolested.

Create a Working Session From a Template

  1. Go to the New Session Panel from the main menu.
  2. Enter a name for identifying the session.
  3. Use the Template pull-down to select the template file we created previously.

If the worse happens you can always restore the template session from the backup you made. On the Open Session panel select 'Restore Backup' and navigate to the session backup file we saved earlier.


A few notes:
Only content that has been 'Imported' will be saved as part of a session backup. Any content loaded into a media player that didn't go through the import procedure will be linked to but content that's not in the original location, has been renamed or is missing entirely won't be accessible.

Import is either on the Manage panel (from the session menu) or can be found on the 'File' tab of the Live user interface depending on which TriCaster version you are running.

Be aware that if you import large files the backups will be large and may take a long time to copy and may not fit on flash drives and the like. For your templates I would keep the imported files small, things like you 30 second intro and the like.

Similarly session backups will also contain any files you captured during the session so in general make your backup before you record the three hour football game.


Using and Saving Presets

While session backups will save media player, switcher and M/E presets you sometimes might want to back them up by hand. This is also a handy method of copying a preset between sessions.

The media players all have Presets (sometimes called mems). You'll find these on pop-out panels on the side of the player. You can open a preset by clicking on it. Then add and arrange content for that preset. To switch to a different preset simply click on it in the pop-out panel.

The M/Es and the main switcher also have presets on pop-outs on the left side. To use these first configure the M/E or switcher the way you want it then click the camera icon on the desired preset to snapshot the current state.

Presets can be exported (saved) and imported (loaded) by right-clicking in a preset and selecting the appropriate function.


Saving Macros

Again session backups will keep session macros but  macros can also be exported and imported via the right-click menu from the Configure Macro panel. You can import/export individual macros or whole folders of them. Global macros are not saved as part of a session.

These instructions should work for Standard Edition, Advanced Edition and the IP Series. Older machines like the TC 450/850 will have more limited functionality.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

NAB Report

It's taken me a c couple of days to digest NewTek's NAB announcements. My predictions were way off in some ways.

The big news is not really news if you've  been  paying attention, NewTek is continuing to innovate. It seems the next step in the evolution of their IP based production systems is to (buzzword warning) virtualize them. Now NewTek has always been about "Better Hardware Through Software", making greater and greater use of general purpose computer hardware. But now their plan is to to take it to it's logical conclusion and eventually eliminate the custom IO hardware completely. Or a least push it to special purpose  black boxes.

Convert video at the source to NDI or even use native NDI cameras. Feed that over a standard network to a computer that will act as a production switcher. Feed in audio, graphics and data the same way then output the production via IP to the web or onto some other NDI enabled device.

This is the long term plan. In the mean time they are making it easier to integrate the existing products in a hardware world with a bunch of new and improved stuff.

The TC1 and VMC1 get a new user interface mode designed to use with touch screens. This same UI has also been virtualized so it can be accessed from things like tablets and laptops. This will probably trickle down to Advanced Edition TC's  eventually

A new Connect Spark Pro was announced. This is a full NDI (not NDI|HX) converter that supports HDMI sources up to 4K 60p.

NewTek also announced a SMPTE 2110 bridge device called the NC1 I/O IP While the name is a mouth full it simply translates the SMPTE IP video streams into NDI. This eliminates the primary objection to NDI at the high end.

On the software front we saw the new LiveGraphics CG. This integrates with Photoshop and AfterFx. The idea is to create the graphics in PS then animate it in AE. To make that easier there is a big plugin for AfterFx that lets you pick trajectories off a list. You don't really need to know-how to use AE.

Anyway this post is getting long so I'll leave the rest for another day.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

NewTek NDI 3.5 Announced

From the NewTek Announcement: 

NDI Scan Converter

The new version of NDI Scan Converter provides vastly improved image quality and much, much more. The GPU is now used to capture the screen, and handles the lion’s share of color conversion, processing and NDI transmission. You can now capture all of your system’s desktops in real-time, at full 60Hz and with almost no CPU usage. (Note: This version of Scan Converter relies on the latest DirectX 11 API, thus requires Windows 8 or better.
Choose which audio source accompanies your screen capture, including system audio. Now you can play a computer game or Power Point presentation with audio (with no impact on frame-rate) and supply it as an NDI source. Scan Converter now fully supports webcams, too. Stream games with audio, and overlay your webcam on the stream while supplying voice-over with a high-quality mic. Send PowerPoint to your audience on Hangouts, Zoom Media, Skype, or GotoMeeting (see the all new NDI Virtual Input tool description below), and use your webcam to talk to them.
NDI Scan Converter even now provides ‘region of interest’ support, so you can capture video directly from a YouTube page.

NDI Studio Monitor
It would be hard to overstate the importance of this ‘little giant’. Signage is an extensive and important video field, and Studio Monitor now has it covered. The set for virtually every show now includes multiple video screens; lobbies, building fa├žades and billboards display giant screens, and so on. Supplying these sources over analog cabling was always impractical, SDI hardware costs are prohibitive, and HDMI’s distance limitations prevent it from serving as a reliable alternative. IP is, of course, the perfect solution – ubiquitous, reliable, and inexpensive.

Need to update the display on a remote screen? NDI Studio Monitor now provides an integrated web server; just scan a QR code on the display to turn your mobile device into a (optionally password-protected) remote control. What’s more, multiple instances of Studio Monitor running on the same machine can be independently controlled. Even when you have lots of different computers running Studio Monitor, they all ‘see’ each other over P2P, giving you complete control from any point on your network to all monitors! Not only is this for signage, but think about on set displays, kiosks, projectors, conference rooms and more!

An equally radical and valuable addition to Studio
Monitor lets you overlay titles and graphics (even full motion video) on the display. Assign a unique overlay to appear over video in your lobby and apply something different for your showroom. Or use the Overlay feature to provide picture in picture output. Indeed, each Studio Monitor instance can also now choose which sound device to use for playback, and which video monitor its output should appear on (or which monitors it should span). You can even set Studio Monitor to launch on computer startup so that multiple instances, all correctly configured, launch automatically. Buy a NUC or two to easily and inexpensively create multiple, remotely controllable, 4K outputs with separate audio for each.

Better support for joysticks, keyboard shortcuts for PTZ control and much more are part of this version.

NDI Virtual Input
Assign NDI video sources as inputs to anything that supports webcams (including Goto Meeting, Skype, Hangouts, Zoom Media, and much more!) NDI Virtual Input fully supports 1080p60 or even 4K at full frame-rate, and even allows you to modify audio levels for different application requirements.
VLC Media Player
This new version now supports both VLC 3.0 and VLC 2.x.  Virtual PTZ control is built in, allowing you to pan and zoom around in VLC output displayed in Studio Monitor as though you were controlling a real PTZ camera.  Video format support is improved, as are time-stamps and more.

Adobe CC drivers
The new driver support the absolute latest version of Adobe CC, at the same time as delivering higher quality, floating point color support, and more.

NDI HX Drivers
The NDI|HX drivers are now integrated into NDI tools to make things quicker and more convenient.  The drivers feature many optimizations, bug-fixes and improved support for complex network setups.  In addition, hardware acceleration support has been upgraded.

Changes to the SDK
We’ve made it the entire SDK easier to use.  Functions are easier to understand, but fully backwards compatible. The new SDK Getting Started Guide will accelerate the learning process for those who are new to the NDI ecosystem.

Changes to the Protocol
Really, NDI itself has been completely transformed ‘under the hood’, including truly massive optimizations to the underlying protocol to support UDP data transfer, with Forwards Error Correction (for both Unicast and Multicast).  What is more, NDI now automatically detects NICs, and all the possible paths between a source and a destination, in order to spread the bandwidth out across all the possible paths.  This delivers much better performance in almost every case, even on high latency networks.  What is more, very sophisticated internal congestion control reduces packet loss, and helps everything run on real-world networks which often employ ‘less than ideal’ routers or switches.

More reliable discovery
Numerous discovery and connection edge cases are handled better, to provide increased reliability when network topologies change, across multiple NICs (or networks) and much more. In other enhancements, NDI discovery on the local machine is improved as also are NDI sources on virtual networks.
And more …
Traditionally, using RGB video was 80% slower than YCbCr.  We’ve added AVX2 optimizations to bring this down to just 20% (assuming you have enough memory bandwidth on your system to keep up).  We also now support 4:2:0 video color spaces on input, and based on user requests, we even include a build of FFMPEG for Windows with NDI support enabled, and documentation for your convenience, eliminating the hassle of working out how to compile it yourself. There is even example code in the SDK that shows you how to create an NDI network source that acts as a virtual PTZ camera.

You Want it When?
Release is scheduled for right after NAB (when we’ve woken up from the fun. See you at the show!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

NAB Predictions

It's that time of year again where I go out on a limb and make my predictions for NewTek's new products at NAB.

Remember I have no insider knowledge, just 28 years of observing NewTek so I could be entirely off base. Definitely don't make any purchase decisions based on my wild-ass guesses!

New low end machine.
A sub TC Mini (TC Micro?) machine aimed at the educational market. This may be wishful thinking but with the discontinuation of the long in the tooth TC40 NewTek isn't price competitive in the Elementary school market. Software based competitors like Livestream Studio, vMix and WireCast are making inroads into what had, since the Video Toaster days, been a NewTek stronghold.

What I'd like to see is either a big price drop on the Mini (which I doubt will happen) or a new stripped down model. The only way I see NewTek being able to do this is by leaving out the custom I/O hardware and making the machine NDI only. Leave a single HDMI output so it can be connected to an external device like an ATSC or streaming encoder and use the standard PC audio hardware so you can connect an external mixer and speakers but otherwise make it completely IP based.

Pare down the feature set a little (max 4 inputs, fewer output mixes, one record channel, a single  streaming channel etc.) then sell it for $2k. The school can hang a couple of PTZ1 cameras or Connect Sparks on it and get the job done. This would keep the lower end customer in the NewTek ecosystem without cannibalizing sales of the higher end models too badly. I'd prefer a 1U rackmount because I'm not a big fan of the Mini's form factor.

New 3Play(s).
I'm thinking either a 3Play with more (8) inputs or a way to chain two 3P1's together. Or maybe a way to leverage the record function of an NC1 I/O to add more channels to the 3P1. I then see the 3P 440 and 4800 being discontinued as redundant.

I'd like to see an updated replacement for the 3P 425. We sell a lot more of these then the other 3Play models because of it's price point but I'd like to see the low end 3Play get something more like the 3P1 user interface. So I propose an NDI only 3Play, leave out all the SDI I/O hardware and keep the price low, like under $10k. This could replace both the 425 and the discontinued 3Play Mini.

A 4k PTZ camera
The OEM for the NewTek PTZ1 has a 4k camera so I can see NewTek popping in some NDI firmware and bringing it to market as the PTZ4k.

Smaller Features
I'm expecting small upgrades here and there, the one I hope for most is the ability to have Alpha on the output of an M/E. This way you can do fancy multi-layer graphics in the M/E then display them on a DSK with full transparency.

Will NewTek do any of this stuff? I hope so but that'a a lot of new products for one trade show. So these products could be spread out over the next 6 to 9 months.



Thursday, March 1, 2018

NewTek Community Event at NAB

Be the First to See What’s Ahead
NewTek Community Event

Sunday, April 8, 2018
SLS Las Vegas, Congo Ballroom
2535 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109
Cocktail Hour: 5:30-6:30pm, Presentation: 6:30-7:30pm

Join NewTek for an evening of fun, celebration and inspiration with our host Kiki Stockhammer. This is your opportunity to be the first to hear the NewTek vision for the future of live production. This informative event will feature an introduction by NewTek Founder, Tim Jenison, and presentation by NewTek President and CTO Dr. Andrew Cross.
Take this opportunity to learn the latest from NewTek, and spend some quality time with other NewTek users, third party developers, NewTek executives and staff.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Free NAB Exhibit Pass

Take in the Exhibits at NAB in Vegas April 7-12. Sign up at http://NABShow.com and use our promo code EM12 and get the exhibit pass free.