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Review: Digital Rapids TouchStream

This article first appeared in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here for your free subscription.

When I first saw the Digital Rapids TouchStream prototype at the National Association of Broadcasters’ show in Las Vegas in April, I was attracted by the Apple-like minimalist look; even in its powered-off state, a blue ring glowed in the bottom right corner of a solid black screen.

When Mike Nann, director of marketing and communications at Digital Rapids, touched the blue ring, the machine responded by ringing the entire bezeled screen in a blue glow as it began the boot-up process (Figure 1). Right then, I knew I wanted to test-drive one of these units.

Figure 1
Figure 1. A 7" diagonal screen and a single blue button are the only elements of the TouchStream's touch-sensitive front face.

Shiny, bright object interest aside, the Digital Rapids TouchStream takes into account many of the production issues that a portable encoding solution has to contend with. It’s also one of only two truly self-contained machines I’ve used over the years. Even the other, Sonic Foundry, Inc.’s Mediasite Recorder, needed a keyboard and mouse. This one, though, needs nothing to start encoding except a few finger motions on its resistive-capacitance touchscreen (Figure 2). This is not your father’s portable encoding system.

Figure 2
Figure 2. While an external keyboard is helpful foraccessing archive files, the onscreen keyboard handles themajority of tasks, such as naming files or folders.

Let’s start this review with a bit of background for those of you thinking about portable encoders. For as long as there have been encoding systems, there has been a desire to take encoding into the field in as compact a format as possible. This, perhaps, explains the rise of software-based encoding systems, which required nothing more than a laptop to encode and serve streams. These were followed by synchronized presentation systems such as Accordent and Mediasite, which required hardware to capture the video and audio stream in addition to the synchronized VGA capture of webpages or PowerPoint slide decks.

Lately, though, the focus has shifted to higher quality portable streaming audio and video capture stations that are all-inclusive. Examples of these include ViewCast Corp.’s GoStream SURF—which does require a separate keyboard, video monitor, and mouse (KVM to change video input settings in the field)—and the TouchStream.

When I asked Digital Rapids why it chose to create a fully KVM-free touchscreen solution that relies on Windows XP Embedded, I was told it’s part of the Digital Rapids approach to filling market voids.

"Our systems span the critical points in today’s complex media workflows," Nann says. "Our existing interface was praised by our traditional market customers as being comprehensive and thorough, but we thought it might be a bit daunting to the nominal user."

"A portion of the TouchStream challenge was to make this an easy to use interface, so we showed it to potential customers in markets that we couldn’t address with our initial products," Nann says, citing corporate and education as two examples. "Yet we also didn’t want to lose the comprehensive tweaking power that set our products apart. So the goal was flexibility and ease of use, simultaneously. The touch interface and refined user interface gives us ease of use, while [it was] the ability to drive down through the interface to the under-the-hood settings that allowed fine-tuning parameters."

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