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Review: NewTek TriCaster

NewTek’s TriCaster first caught my eye as I was browsing through the latest batch of glossy magazines to land on my desk. At first glance, it resembled a number of other solutions that have appeared over the past few years. Upon closer inspection, however, I saw that it combined both a live video production suite and a powerful encoder into a portable package. The price stopped me in my tracks: $4,995. If the TriCaster performed as advertised, then this was a significant offering, representing a huge price drop for the functionality it offered.

Ironically enough, moments later an invitation to see the TriCaster in action at NAB dropped into my email inbox. I wasn’t going to be at NAB, so a demo unit was arranged, and a few days later two small packages arrived at my office.

The TriCaster is built into a Shuttle PC case, which is just slightly larger than an average shoebox. The front panel is where the A/V inputs and outputs are located, including two microphone inputs and a stereo line input, three camera inputs (S-Video or composite), as well as audio and video outputs (S-video or composite video and stereo line output). There is also a 1/8" mini headphone jack, as well as two USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port. NewTek offers an optional mixer interface, the TriCaster VM, which plugs into one of the USB ports.

The back of the TriCaster features connections for the power cable, keyboard, and mouse, as well as the network and VGA cables. There’s also a DVI output for connecting a second monitor or projector (more on this later).

The TriCaster is simple to set up, with all the required connections being fairly obvious. The manual is helpful and to-the-point. After powering up and logging in, the user is presented with the default TriCaster interface, which resembles a live video production studio. For anyone who has worked on a live broadcast it will be very familiar. The screen is divided roughly into thirds, with the top third dedicated to displaying the available sources and the program feed. The middle third contains the controls for switching video sources, choosing transitions, and setting up overlays. The bottom third offers a tabbed interface for adjusting settings and parameters.

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