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Almost Live from NAB: Matrox Monarch LCS

Shawn Lam interviews Matrox's Wayne Andrews regarding the Matrox Monarch LCS, a Streaming Media Best of NAB 2016 award-winning new, dual-input, dual-encoder addition to the popular Matrox Monarch series of streaming and recording appliances.

In this interview from NAB 2016, I spoke with Matrox senior product manager Wayne Andrews regarding the Matrox Monarch LCS, a new addition to the company's popular series of streaming and recording appliances that adds dual inputs and the ability to encode, record, and stream those inputs separately, or deliver a composited stream or recording that combines, say, a presenter and a slide deck, in a PiP or side-by-side configuration.

"It's a new way of webcasting for corporate, medical, and school" applications, Andrews says. "They want to take talent and supporting materials, such as computer input, and without having an external switcher or other production equipment."

With the Monarch LCS, Andrews says, "It's all built into the box."

For streaming purposes, the encoders use either RTMP or RTSP protocol to deliver live streams to local media servers or cloud-based CDNs. In recording applications, the encoders write MP4 or MOV files directly to network-mapped drives, eliminating the need for post-lecture file transfer, or alternatively to local USB drives or SD cards.

The Matrox Monarch LCS, which ships in in Q2 2016 at a price point of $2,495, was selected as one of Streaming Media's Best Products of NAB 2016.

Here is the complete transcript of the video.

Shawn: Hi, it's Shawn Lam, I'm here for Streaming Media Producer at NAB 2016. I'm at The Matrox booth and I'm talking with Wayne Andrews from Matrox. Now, you have a new product here in the Monarch series, the Monarch LCS. How is this different from the popular Monarch products you already have in the workflow?

Wayne: Specifically, it's now dual-input, with dual encoders, and now we have the ability to independently record or stream, or we could take the two inputs, composite them in a picture-in-picture production or side-by-side, for example. We also have cropping. It's a new way of webcasting for corporate, medical schools, and stuff like that. They want to take the talent and supporting material, such as a computer presentation, and combine it without having an external switch or other production equipment. It's all built into the box. It's a basic switcher-compositor, with dual independent H.264 encoders that can do RTSP, RTMP, and independent recording. You could set up the two channels, because there are 2 encoders, to be separate; you could record and stream two streams to two different CDNs, or record both inputs independently.

Shawn: There are a lot of different configurations and options in terms of the displays: You can have the picture-by-picture, picture-in-picture, two independent streams out to CDNs, and there's a new breed of web player that's out there. Can you explain to us how that works, and how Monarch is positioned to deliver to that?

Wayne: With the release of a few web players, and there will be more coming as the days and weeks and months come up, they actually can now receive multi, so there are multistream web players so you could stream 2 independent streams to a single player. Which puts the power of the experience in the viewer’s hand, because they can decide if they want to view it as a composition, or just view the supporting materials as a Keynote or Powerpoint, or just the person who's doing the lecture; so they get to decide what's of interest to them, rather than the producer on the event side saying, "I want to deliver it in this way.” The box is flexible. You can either stream those 2 or you record locally, and then you serve it up after as a VOD. The box has independent frame-syncs on our import, so they will detect that your video is running at 30p or 29fps interlaced--it doesn't matter; we have the interlacers and 10-bit scalers and all that in the box. The synchronizers will actually detect the two inputs, and then, based on what you want to record, will re-sync, or reframe, so that the two of them are exactly matching; and then we put the audio so they are locked. When you’re streaming, when you're switching, it will always be lip-synced, perfect end frame, accurate streaming recording, even when you have mismatched frame sizes and frame rates.

Shawn: That's a very important consideration. I'm glad that you guys put that in there, because otherwise those are things that some people could actually overlook, and then it really results in a poor user or viewer experience. When the lips just aren't syncing, and then there's a different latency between the two different feeds. You have a lot of users that were already using your Monarch products in, say, an education environment, or trying to accomplish similar types of things. Was that the impetus behind this product?

Wayne: Absolutely. We have a good installed base currently throughout corporate, religious services, education, and government, and we were getting a bunch of feedback from them. The one thing that kept coming to the top was, "I want to stream two cameras. I want to take two cameras in, and I want to stream or composite them."

Shawn: On the technical basis you have, how many HDMI, and how many SDI inputs, and what's the capacity resolution-wise, in and out?

Wayne: We have one SDI input, and then we have two HDMI inputs; so, we call it A and B: you decide, "I'm going to have SDI or HDMI," and B is always going to be HDMI. And we have 3G SDI all the way up to 1080p 60fps.

Shawn: What about on the recording side?

Wayne: On the recording side you can go up to 1080p/30fps. Nobody is streaming 60fps, and we have the ability to sync the compositing and stuff like that, but you could record up to 1080p 60fps in single-camera mode.

Shawn: Or 720p 60fps, if you want the high frame rate.

Wayne: You can do that with 2. When you're doing 2, the limit is 60 frames at 720, or 30 frames at 1080. You get 10 megs per encoder 10 megabits per second.

Shawn: And we're recording on SD cards?

Wayne: You can record on SD cards, you can record on USB drives, or through network, through our network shared drive. We have a feature that we called "file segmentation," which is a kind of a fail-safe, where you can define every 5 minutes, for example, "Create me a new file, create me a new file, create me a new file," and when we'd make those files switches, there won't be a frame missing; some people have ... I've said, "You know what you’ve got there? You got a built-in disaster recovery," because if something happens during one contiguous file--say, you lose power--the file is never closed, so that file is kind of trashed. It's garbage, you can't recover it, because the header was never written. So every time we close the file, we write a header, a header, a header. You can be an hour in and then something happens, at least you have that one hour, and then we have a free utility that will assemble it all back into one file. Even if it was a three-hour event, you could still have it. You could decide to play them all in 5 minutes, or you can put it back into one contiguous file and it's done in seconds.

Shawn: Thank you very much, Wayne. This has been a look at the Matrox Monarch LCS, at NAB 2016.

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