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Review: NewTek TriCaster 410

NewTek's latest addition to the TriCaster line is a slim form factor, power-packed SDI-only solution.

When Dan Parker, an events technical specialist with NewTek, pulled the TriCaster 410 out of its shipping box to set up for our demo session, I was sort of underwhelmed. The backplane on this one-rack-unit (1RU) device was rather spartan. With only four 3G SDI inputs, capable of offering either quad SDI or HD-SDI inputs, by all appearance it seemed a bit limited for the $9,995 price.

An hour later, though, after Dan and I had put the unit through its paces, my sense of the TriCaster 410’s power and abilities had completely reversed itself. This TriCaster represents the next generation of affordable--if not fully portable--TriCaster units, with a number of features and capabilities that had only been part of the much more expensive TriCaster units. In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised, having covered the news of the TriCaster 410’s launch around the time of the 2013 IBC show.

"We're bringing many functionalities from our $39,995 unit down to our $9,995 unit," said Carter Holland, NewTek's chief marketing officer, in an interview at the time, "so that someone just getting started has the same level of capability on a limited number of inputs and within a more limited budget."

Seeing is believing, and in this case, what I saw was impressive.


To best understand the power of the TriCaster 410, one needs to think beyond physical inputs. While it is true that there are only four 3G-SDI input connectors on the backplane (Figure 1, below), there are a number of virtual inputs that more than double the input possibilities.

Figure 1. The TC410 backplane. Click the image to see it at full size.

Included among these inputs are the network sources, which allow connection to live network IP cameras. The TriCaster 410 provides input of either RTSP or MPEG-2 Transport Streams (M2TS), which covers a wide variety of cameras and unencrypted network broadcast feeds.

Two possible scenarios for IP cameras would be either traditional close-circuit television (CCTV) and security cameras or the possibility of a social media or instant messaging camera, which allows remote subject matter experts (SMEs) to “dial in” in a way similar to the way that SMEs are brought into a traditional videoconference or remote broadcast feed.

Another live input workflow scenario to consider with these network-based feeds is the ability to receive the output stream from another TriCaster across the local network (LAN). In this scenario, content could be transmitted across the LAN, perhaps in a virtual-LAN (VLAN) overlay network, meaning that an additional BNC- or coaxial-based network need not be rolled out for use in temporary venues that would require two separate live streaming and broadcast workflows.

I asked NewTek about receiving MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 streams via the network inputs, and here's what I found out: "We have an option for this under the Output Configuration panel to turn on the Network output for a TriCaster, easily allowing another TriCaster on the same network (or any compatible media software) to view that TriCaster's network output. These network inputs extend their capabilities with this by allowing numerous other software inputs, whether it's off a GoPro Hero 3, JVC 650, a Flash stream, or even a hosted H.264 video online (whereupon it is effectively VOD when pulled in)."

I also asked Parker about the use of HDMI inputs, to see whether the company had shifted from its feeling that HDMI was not a good input connection option.

“Since we expect the TriCaster 410 to be rackmounted,” said Parker, “we feel that HDMI is better suited for an output connector than an input connector. It doesn’t have a locking connector, so it would be prone to being pulled out of an input connector.”

This is similar to the reason that NewTek chose to forego the HDMI connector on its analog-only TriCaster 40 model, noting that the company feels that even component analog is much better than HDMI in terms of cable length and other issues that those who are doing a live show with legacy equipment might encounter.

Another set of inputs, while not live per se, is the idea of accessing on-demand video content from the cloud. In much the same way that digital disc recorder (DDR) works on a “traditional” TriCaster, the ability to access video from the cloud is a nice touch.

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