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Review: vMix Go Portable Live Production Solution

vMix GO is an affordable, portable, SDI-based live production and recording solution that showcases the vMix 4K live production software, which, in my view, is probably the best software in the space that you've never heard of, though it is Windows-only.
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vMix GO is an affordable, portable, SDI-based live production and recording solution that showcases the vMix 4K live production software, which, in my view, is probably the best software in the space that you’ve never heard of, though it is Windows-only. I hadn’t had the opportunity to test the software before January 2015, though vMix won a Best of NAB ‘13 from Streaming Media magazine, and was prominently seen this NAB driving the eight-camera production in the Teradek booth.

The vMix GO is a luggable lunchpail portable computer with an integrated 17" LCD panel (Figure 1, below), and lots of video and audio inputs that I’ll discuss below. However, the primary value proposition of any turnkey system like vMix GO is a proven set of hardware built around the production software. If you like the software, and want to produce events with it, the turnkey GO system is worth considering. If not, it’s definitely not. So I’ll briefly cover the hardware, and then jump to the software.

vmx1

Figure 1. The glamour shot of the vMix GO. Click the image to see it at full size.

Note that I produced a video tutorial on the vMix GO. It contains an overview of the GO hardware and vMix software. What I’ll do here is summarize the hardware offerings, and discuss the many high points of the vMix software. That said, a quick view of the tutorial will give you a great sense of how the software works.

The vMix GO Hardware

Just to keep the names straight, StudioCoast Systems, Inc. is the American company selling the vMix GO hardware, while StudioCoast Pty Ltd, an Aussie company, develops the software, which is available separately. You can buy both through dealers such as Videoguys.com.

There are three vMix GO systems, all built around the same 14.1"x16.5"x7.0", 22 lb chassis with a 17” LCD panel and wireless keyboard and mouse. The primary differences are shown in Table 1 (below). Basically, vMix GO Jr is for HDMI producers, while the two higher-end systems are for SDI producers. The Plus is the premium system, featuring more RAM and much more storage. The SDI systems use the AJA Corvid 88 card with full-size connectors (thank you, thank you) and support the capture of up to 4K resolution video at up to 60p.

Table 1. Available vMix GO systems and pricing

Though the system runs Windows 8.1, it’s got a distinctly Windows 7 feel, so there’s a Start menu and you never see the interface formerly known as Metro, which is definitely fine with me. In addition, the GO units ship with a complete version of Sony Vegas Pro, though you can load any video editor that you’d like on the system. This means you can produce your live event and perform any postproduction on the same system, a nice benefit when you’re paying high-four-figures or low-five-figures for a production station.

The GO hardware ships with a removable metal cover over the LCD panel, which is smart, and a heavy-duty padded cloth carry bag with wheels and retractable handle. In use, I wish I could have swung the bottom of the panel out for better viewing, or that the case had legs in the front to tilt the whole unit back a bit. I used a lens cover for this purpose which worked fine. Note that there are rubber mounts on the back so you can lay the unit flat—a nice touch if you’re mixing while it standing up.

The Software Side

Figure 2 shows the basic vMix interface. All inputs are on the bottom left, which you click to open in the Preview window on the upper left. To take the preview live, you click any of the transitions to the right of the Preview window, or drag the T-bar. Note that beyond the transitions shown, you can also configure two “stinger” animations for use as transitions.

Figure 2. Here’s the vMix interface. Click the image to see it at full size.

The Program window is on the upper right, showing what’s live at that moment. Beneath the Program window are audio controls: one for each audio input, plus a master. Buttons on the bottom of the window open configuration dialogs for controlling recording the live program, streaming the program, recording any of the inputs, or configuring playlists or overlays.

vMix’s input capabilities are extensive, and include the normal camera inputs, still images, and disk-based video files for single-file playback, slideshows, or playlists. You can also input the video from a computer on the same LAN by running a free, lightweight application on that computer, which is great for showing screens and software demos.

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This tutorial will explore the capabilities of vMix GO, an affordable, highly functional, and easy-to-use live production system.