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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flash - All New Low cost HD TriCaster - TriCaster 40

NewTek just announce the newest member of the TriCaster family the TriCaster 40.

TriCaster 40 Features Set:
4 HD/SD analog video inputs; component (HD & SD), Y/C (SD), composite (SD)
Stereo audio in
Microphone in
Stereo audio Out
Headphone jack
Two video outputs (one at the session resolution the other a dedicated SD output)

1 DDR for video playback
2 DSKs down stream Keyers for overlays
2 Network Inputs (inputs for computers, 3Plays, LiveText or Apple AirPlay)
2 Title/Still Player
4 Virtual Inputs w/LiveSets and up-stream key
Record Program Video to Hard Drive
Built in streaming encoder

Basically the 40 has most of the software features (doesn't include LiveText or SpeedEDIT.) of the TC300 plus an extra input and a second Network Input for $4995. That's right half the price of the TriCaster 300!

The TC40 is Shipping Now.
A new control surface will be available but no ship date has been announced. I'll post more on it as info becomes available.

Designed to be easy to setup and portable but provide professional level features and performance.

Now just because your on a budget you don't have to settle for standard def or some complicated, half baked solution. You can get real TriCaster power and ease of use.

The TC 40 shares a software platform with the TC455, 855 and 8000 and has a similar user interface. This makes it a good choice as a backup unit for the 855.

The shared platform across the line also allows NewTek to more easily develop updates in the future.

Both the TriCaster Studio and 300 are being discontinued so if for some reason you must have one of those models call us immediately.

I can hear you now "What's the catch?" Or "how did NewTek add an input but cut the price in half?"

  • No video editor included. - Standalone SpeedEDIT is available.
  • No CG editor included - It comes with hundreds of templates but you'll need to purchase LiveText if you want to create your own.
  • No SDI - Most cameras that the target user of the TriCaster 40 can afford don't have SDI anyway.
  • No HDMI - While most inexpensive cameras have an HDMI output it's not appropriate for long cable runs. But if you need to (your camera doesn't have component outputs) you can convert HDMI to analog component for about $50 a camera.

All in all, for the money, the 40 is the most powerful and complete live production suite available.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TriCaster 855 Hands On

The TriCaster 855 and 455 are the latest in NewTek's TriCaster line of all-in-one production devices. The 855 incorporates a 24 input video switcher with 8 camera inputs, audio mixer, overlay graphics, live streaming and clip play back all in a single 4U rack mount box. The 455 has four camera inputs and is housed in a 2U rack mount case.

When the original TC100 first crawled from the primordial ooze at NAB 2005 and was showered with awards we all knew it was something special but I'm not sure we would've believed at the time how far its descendants would go. Almost every year NewTek released more and more powerful versions. At this year's NAB the new 855 and 455 were overshadowed by the announcement of the up-coming TriCaster 8000 but in any other year they would've been big news.

This latest iteration of the TriCaster have a well thought out user interface that makes it pretty easy to use. If you're a complete neophyte you'll need to study a little but I give Steve Bowie at NewTek top marks for his clear and concise manual. Users of the TC850 or 850 Extreme will feel right at home though, as there have been only small changes to the user interface.

The 855 is basically the next generation of the 850 Extreme and replaces both the 850 and the 850 Extreme in the line. It's more expensive then the base 850 was but now includes the 855CS controller which used to be a $6000 option. Now even with the controller it's under $30k. That's $16k less than the price of the 850 Extreme and controller when it shipped in 2011.

The 855 is also joined in the lineup by the TriCaster 455 which shares all the software features of the 855 but only has four camera inputs and few other differences in I/O in a compact 2U box. Since there are only a few differences between the eight input 855 and the four input 455 I'll concentrate this walk through on the 855.

Under the hood NewTek claims plenty of improvements to efficiency and reliability along with lower latency. As well as a more modular approach to make updates easier. This is all probably side effects of TC8000 development trickling down. I haven't performed any controlled tests of the latency but it looks to be less than two frames.

Inputs and outputs 
The back of the 855 sports DVI connectors for both the user interface and the multi-view monitors as well as an HDMI port for a program monitor. You also find four USB2 ports, a gigabit Ethernet connection and an eSATA port to connect an external hard drive. The bulk of the back panel is taken up by all the various audio and video I/O. On the audio front there are 16 XLRs inputs for analog audio (both mic and line), 8 BNCs for AES digital audio input. A set of  audio outputs (four channels) in both XLR and AES flavors are included as well as an independently configurable set of aux outputs. Rounding out the audio is a 1/4" headphone jack. The TriCaster 855 can also input and output embedded SDI audio.

The 855 has eight video inputs that can be configured as component, composite, Y/C or SDI standard def or component or SDI high def . All common formats are supported, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 720/24p, 480/60i. The multi-standard version also supports the PAL equivalents. There are two sets of outputs plus an aux output. The aux out can be configured independently of the two main outs. There is also an HDMI out that also carries the program audio.

The audio and video aux outputs are one of the  reasons the TriCaster is so flexible. The audio aux can be used as a second copy of the main out, be assigned to the internal media players either singly or as a group, the solo bus or to an arbitrary group of sources. The video aux is just as flexible. While the two main outputs are locked to your main output format. The aux out can be configured to a different format. So you can do things like output HD and SD or 1080i and 720p simultaneously. Other options include a clean output with no overlays, camera isos, a preview out or even use the utility bus to do a separate cuts only switch.

24 Input Switcher
In addition to the I/O connections on the back panels the TriCaster 24 input switcher also has a couple of what NewTek calls 'network inputs'. These can used to feed, via Ethernet,  Apple Airplay sources, the output from NewTek's live CG LiveText, real-time screens captures from either Windows or Macintosh computers, the output of a 3Play instant replay unit and eventually other 3rd party products. The only real drawback to the network inputs is that there is only two of them.

The screen capture utility, iVGA, has both Mac and PC versions and works pretty well as long as the machine you are capturing from has a pretty decent video card. If you are using a low-ball laptop don't expect to get a good frame rate. A new version of iVGA is supposed to ship soon that is upgraded with support for sound and the ability to capture only selected windows or screen regions.

Other switcher sources include two DDRs that can play back a wide assortment of audio, video and still media formats.a Sound player dedicated to audio, a dedicated still store and a template based title module.

Virtual Inputs / LiveSets
The real core of the TriCaster are the eight Virtual Inputs. These can be used as 'sub-switchers' for creating picture in picture effects, upstream keying effects, chroma-key overlays or  accessing the TriCaster's LiveSets virtual set functions. The 855 ships with 24 LiveSets that run the gamut from basic split screens to elaborate high tech set that rival those used on network television.

Setting up a virtual set shot is quite straight forward. Select a Virtual Input (VI) and then load a LiveSet using a pull down menu. Most of the sets include multiple camera angles so select an angle that matches your intended camera shot. Select your camera on the 'Input A' bus of the VI. Using the controls on the Setup - LiveMatte tab for that source configure your chroma-key. As a side note the keying in the TriCaster 855 is very good and usually very easy to setup.

Frame Buffers
Another group of sources that are often overlooked are the nine frame buffers. Right click on a still image in any of the media players and you can assign it to either the main buffer or any one of the eight Virtual Input buffers. Once you've done this you can remove the image from the media player but it will remain available from it's assigned buffer. You can then use this as an over-layed bug, for example, without tying up a media player. Now the really cool thing about the frame buffers is that the TriCaster will watch those files on the hard drive and if they get updated the new file's image will automatically be displayed.This gives you the option to remotely update your graphics on the fly.

Media Players
The TriCaster 855 includes two DDRs for playing video clips, a dedicated still store, audio player and CG player. All the players can instantly load presets so even if the the number of players is limited you can pop a whole new set of content into one with just a couple of mouse clicks greatly extending their capabilities. The 455 re-arranges the media players a bit. It includes the two DDRs, but combines the Still and CG players into an integrated "Graphics" player.

The top third of the UI is taken up with various preview windows. You can monitor all the switcher sources along with a large Preview and Program window or configure it to display only the external camera sources or just the internal media players & network inputs. The back panel of the unit also has a second DVI (HDMI on the 455) output that can be used as a dedicated multi-view output with similar configuration options. This makes it easy to bring up previews of all your inputs arranged the way you prefer.

The streaming panel has an integrated web browser and presets for most of the common CDNs. It's easy to set up a new preset so if NewTek doesn't support the one you're using in just a few moments you can be up and running. The streaming interface in the SD TriCasters required, in some cases a little juggling to get configured the first time. The new panel makes it a snap and once you get a CDN configured it's just one click to start streaming. If your CDN requires you to log into their site to configure the back end that's easy to do using the browser without having to carry a second computer just to log in.

The switcher interface since the 850 departs a little from NewTek's previous offerings. The 'T' bar can now be assigned ("delegated" in NewTek's parlance) to control the main switch between the program and preview buses, Fade to Black or to control either or both DSKs. You can also mult-select those functions using dedicated buttons on the CS controller or by ctrl-clicking the buttons on the UI.

This allows the director to coordinate switching sources while triggering overlays etc. Another related feature is the third row on the switcher now can be delegated to four different functions: Controlling the FX bus (mostly used to assign a source to multiple virtual inputs at once), assigning sources to either/both of the DSKs or controlling which source appears on the AUX output. This again is accomplished using dedicated buttons on both the controller and the UI and makes it easy on the TD.

The 855CS and 455CS controllers are included with their respective machines and are laid out so that experienced users will feel right at home and the novice can learn to use it without too much effort. The controls are clearly labeled and grouped in a sensible fashion so performing common actions requires as few button pushes as possible and even complicated moves can be performed with ease.

This review only scratches the surface of the power of the TriCaster if you need more details feel free to call us and arrange an online demo.