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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NewTek LiveText Hands On Review

LiveText is NewTek's standalone CG (character generator) with Ethernet connectivity to the TriCasters and VT (TriCaster 2.0 or VT 5.2 required). This lets you off load CG editing to a second computer or laptop so you can either pre-produce your CGs or have a dedicated CG operator during a live switch.

One of the drawbacks to the TriCaster has always been the fact that it was originally envisioned to be run by a single operator. This is great for a simple production but as you add cameras replays and dynamic CG pages the work load can pretty quickly overwhelm one person. NewTek has been addressing this with several of their recent new products like the TimeWarp Instant Replay controller and now LiveText.

Installation of LiveText on my computer (WinXP SP3, 2.66 GHz Core2Duo with two gigabytes RAM and an Invidia GF8400 graphics card) was straight forward and no configuration was necessary. It installs and you are ready to go. On the TriCaster (or VT) you just select the LiveText machine just as if it were running iVGA by picking it, by name, off a pull down list in the 'External' (iVGA) panel. This presumes your network is up and running and the two computers can 'see' each other.

The TriCaster 2.0 software sports an 'Ext' button on the overlay section of the interface that once engaged it feeds the signal from LiveText directly to the overlay. All the TriCaster operator has to do is verify that the CG in the overlay display window is the one he wants and then either 'Fade' or 'Take' to display the CG.

The LiveText operator can create pages on the fly and then assign them to the TriCaster's overlay by simply clicking the red 'Live' button or by double clicking the pages thumbnail. If the overlay is live on the TriCaster the page will be displayed instantly so it's possible to update a page while it is being displayed.

Creating or editing pages is very straight forward using the large page edit window. The interface is almost identical to the Edit Text panel in TriCaster 2.0 and very similar to the CG Designer in VT[5] so current users will have no problem adapting. LiveText uses whatever fonts you have installed in Windows and the font selection list actually displays the fonts so they are easy to choose.

You can interactively resize text, apply face colors or even complex gradients in addition to apply outlines and several different types of shadows. LiveText ships with about fifty predefined gradients and user text styles can be added to style preset lists with a mouse click. Of course you get a full compliment of horizontal and vertical alignment, layer ordering, and grouping controls.

LiveText also includes a selection of basic drawing tools so that you can easily create graphic elements directly in the program. If you need to import more complicated graphics - LiveText supports most common bitmap graphic formats with alpha channels intact. PSD from PhotoShop. Are supported but have their layers flattened on import so be aware.

You can easily create scrolls and crawls with full control over speed and end behavior i.e. Loop, scroll off screen or stop on last frame. It's also possible to lock elements on the page so that they don't move and you can even combine scrolls and crawls (scawls?)on the same page if you care to.

Ninty-nine fully editable templates are included so you don't even have to start from scratch with everything from full screen promos to lower thirds. These serve as both pre-done pages you can and examples of some of the things you can accomplish in LiveText.

The last cool feature is LiveText supports both 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio and automatically configures itself to match your TriCaster 's output mode.

The bottom line is anyone doing sports with their TriCaster should consider LiveText a must have. For everyone else, including VT owners, you should give it a closer look because it might really make your life easier. By off loading the whole CG process to a dedicated operator you can reduce the stress of a live production by whole orders of magnitude. You can also free up your TriCaster during pre-production allowing you to build CGs on a separate computer.

Unlike some versions of the VT's CG Designer LiveText seems to be rock solid reliable, the installation was painles. The only thing I'd like to see added is away for the LiveText operator to remotely fade the overlay on the TriCaster up and down and cross fade from one overlay to another. But as it stands this is a great addition for both TriCaster and VT users.

LiveText requires a cpu with SSE2 instruction set (typically a Pentium 4 or better) A DirectX 9 compatible graphics card (AGP or PCI-E recommended) and at least 1 GB RAM (2 or more preferred) and a VT with version 5.2 software (shipping soon) or any TriCaster (Tricaster, TriCaster Pro, TriCaster Studio or TriCaster BroadCast) with 2.0 software.

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