Review: NewTek TriCaster Pro
NewTek’s TriCaster Pro builds on the solid base of the initial TriCaster but adds features that make it worthy of use in a professional environment. The $6,995 price point positions the product well below the price of other all-in-one products currently on the market, most of which have been created by streaming-centric companies. Given NewTek’s background in video, audio, and RGBHV, the TriCaster product line—with a few tweaks—could rival and outdo products of many times its cost.
Several products on the market today offer all-in-one capture, encode, and output solutions with streaming audio, video, and RGBHV signals. All of these products offer professional audio inputs, including balanced (XLR), and limited gain control, primarily through simple code created by the audio/video card manufacturer. These products also offer not-quite-broadcast-quality video inputs (composite and S-video) and limited local monitoring of the "out to air" signal that will be streamed, although none offers downstream output showing graphics, titles, video overlays, and the like. If the video and RGBHV content are to be displayed locally as well as streamed, however, even these high-priced systems require an outboard audio/video mixer and an RGBHV distribution amp.
The NewTek TriCaster Pro seeks to solve those problems and does so quite admirably in the audio and video categories but with a few tweaks needed on the RGBHV side. The product builds on the original TriCaster, introduced in 2005, as well as on NewTek’s tradition as an early innovator in live production with its indispensable Video Toaster, which it introduced in the early 1990s.
Those of you who’ve been following developments in this space for some time will remember that a group left NewTek in the late 1990s and founded Play, Inc. Play started making standalone frame grabbers but ended up finding nominal success with its Globecaster product, which was spun out into a company called Play Streaming Media Group. This group then received about $22 million in funding in early 2001 and was rejoined to Play, Inc. under the Globecaster moniker. They created another product called the Globecaster that combined streaming with live video switching, at a price point aimed at high-end broadcasters.
Meanwhile, NewTek saw an opportunity to build on its success with the Video Toaster while also moving into a new area: streaming. After porting its Video Toaster product line to the Windows platform, NewTek began addressing customers’ requests for a product that would allow them to do live switching and limited postproduction work while also providing an opportunity to move into the new world of streaming content.
Enter the TriCaster
NewTek listened and created a product called TriCaster; since its launch in 2005, it has won numerous awards, including a Streaming Media Editors’ Pick earlier this year.
The first TriCaster was missing several key tools that are a part of professional-level streaming systems. First, it lacked balanced audio (XLR) connections. Second, to meet demanding professional video production requirements (and the challenges of other all-in-one streaming products), NewTek needed to add a vectorscope and waveform monitor. Finally, in order to surpass other products currently on the market, the TriCaster needed to provide high-resolution (XGA, SXGA, and widescreen) inputs and outputs.
When NewTek began shipping the TriCaster Pro at InfoComm in early June, all these features, plus several others, were included, moving the TriCaster into the professional production realm.