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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

NewTek 3Play - Hands On Review

The 3Play is a three channel instant replay/slo-mo/field recorder device from NewTek . This is NewTek's first foray into the HD jungle and probably a little higher-end then they have attempted in the past. The TriCasters and the VT are all aimed at, priced for and dominate the church/school/independant producer market. While the 3Play is aimed squarely at a market dominated by EVS and the Thomson K2 but still at a game changing price point.

The basic features of the 3Play are straight forward - three input channels that will accept either SD or HD signals via composite, S-Video, component analog or serial digital (SDI). Each channel also includes four audio inputs with your choice of balanced analog, digital (AES/EBU) or embedded SDI. The outputs duplicate the input connections.

All three video and twelve audio inputs are recorded simultaneously in a single multi-stream file to ensure that everything always stays synchronized. The 3Play's output can be configured as either three separate streams to feed a downstream switcher or with a single output to which any of the streams can be switched by the operator.

The 3Play work flow is also straight forward. When you begin a new session you select which video format (1080i, 720p, 4:3 SD or 16:9 SD) you want to use and whether you will be using the three output or single output mode. The only restriction is that all three inputs and outputs have to be the same format as the 3Play can't transcode between them. You can then configure the input connectors you will be using. 

In the triple output mode when you begin a session the 3Play is simply passing through the live audio and video from all three inputs. Simply presses the 'Record' button on the included  3P-10 controller and the unit begins recording all three streams to the internal RAID. My unit has enough storage for 11 hours of 720p multi-stream and 8 hours of 1080i multi-stream. So even if the game goes to extra innings you have plenty of space.

In single output mode you also get to select which of the three streams is active on the output simply by clicking the corresponding small preview window or using the three selection buttons on the 3P-10 controller.

Once recording, you as the 3Play operator, become a wizard of space and time. You can build a replay list in real time using the 'Mark In' and Mark Out' buttons and completely control play back. While you're playing back a segment the 3Play continues to record so you never have to worry about missing any action. This is great for sports that don't stop like auto racing or soccer.

The slo-mo is interpolated so that no matter how slow you go the motion remains very smooth. The engineers at NewTek have obviously worked hard on the slo-mo algorithm. You can control speed with either preset buttons for 25, 33, 50, 75 and 100 percent playback speed or adjust the speed interactively using a t-bar.

The 3Play can be operated entirely from the 3P-10 and the only time you need to use the mouse and keyboard once you have begun a session is to label replay list events. The controller has a jog/shuttle wheel for cueing up events, controls for managing the replay list and the play back transport.

The replay list is the heart of the 3Play. There are actually six replay tabs. As you add events to the master list you can color code them. These color coded events are automatically added it to one of the five color coded tabs. This allows you to organize your events in order to build highlight reels or to make it quicker to pull up a particular type of event you might need.

The replay list is completely non-destructive so you can add, remove, modify or reorder events at any time. The events in the replay list have a selection for camera. You use this to set the primary camera for playback in single output mode. This selection is also used when you export a list. If you want to replay an event from several cameras you can clone an event and change the camera for the second angle.

During the export process the mult-stream file is split apart and individual files are saved as per your replay list. The exported files are in a standard mpeg2 format so they can be edited with almost any editor. The cool thing is how fast this export function works, it's apparently just a simple file copy process so it's both fast and lossless. There is no degradation of the video quality.

The 3Play has other applications besides instant replay. It's a cost effective field recorder since you can record three cameras and twelve audio tracks it has uses for recording concerts and other live events. All three streams can be exported for post production editing. Sports motion analysis is another application since you can playback the same action recorded from three angle in perfect sync.

The bottom line is that you can't touch the 3Play's features for any where near it's $21,995 list price. NewTek has really brought network quality instant replay to the masses. The video quality is top notch, the workflow is easy to use and the price is a bargain.

NewTek 3Play available from Digital Arts call us for a price at 1-800-692-6442

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