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Review: Teradek VidiU Mini

Tested on a recent live concert shoot and stream at Galax, Virginia's historic Rex Theater, the Teradek VidiU Mini and Ustream provided quick-and-easy setup, and nearly problem-free performance.

Though I’ve tested several Teradek products, I’ve never actually produced a live event with one. That changed when local country/bluegrass group Loose Strings asked me to shoot their CD release concert at the Rex Theater in Galax, and a lot of pieces fell into place. First, I was reviewing the Ustream Pro Broadcasting platform, so I had a live platform to distribute to. Second, I had the perfect scenario to test the Teradek VidiU and the accompanying iPhone app.

That’s because I wasn’t sure if the Rex had an Internet connection; it hadn’t when I’ve shot there in the past. One of the coolest features of the VidiU and accompanying iOS and Android apps is that you can broadcast using your mobile device’s cellular connection, even if it’s not setup to be a hotspot. With my iPhone consistently pushing out over 5 Mbps outbound bandwidth on the Verizon 4G network, I knew this was more than sufficient to push out a high-quality stream.

It turned out that the Rex had Wi-Fi, and when I tested on Friday night, it delivered superior outbound bandwidth than my 4G. So I used Wi-Fi to broadcast the event, which came out well, but not perfectly. I’ll explain why in this review of the Teradek VidiU Mini.

Technology Overview

The VidiU Mini (Figure 1, below) is an H.264 encoder with HDMI input and Wi-Fi output; there is no Ethernet connector. Unlike the original VidiU, there are also no on-screen controls; you configure and control the unit almost exclusively via the mobile app.

Figure 1. The Teradek VidiU Mini

The unit comes with an internal battery with a claimed 2-hour life. Since the concert itself was two hours, AC power was a must for my application. Note that the unit comes with a standard-length USB cord that powers the unit, so if you try to mount the unit atop your camcorder, and need AC power, you’ll likely need an extension cord. Teradek could win a lot of hearts and minds if they included a much longer serial cable with the unit.

Ustream is one of the largest live streaming service provider in the US with various plans you can read about here. Ustream deploys video in channels its customers create, and Figure 2 (below) shows the Loose Strings Concert Channel I created for the test.

Figure 2. The Ustream channel page for the concert, showing one of the archived clips.

Architecturally, Ustream uses live cloud transcoding to create an adaptive streaming experience from the single stream you send to the server. That is, you send one stream into the server from your encoder, and it transcodes that stream into multiple streams formatted for delivery to desktops via Flash and mobile devices via HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). So there’s a real benefit to pushing the highest-quality stream possible to the Ustream platform.

Just for the record, like most live streaming service providers, Ustream can display your video within the Ustream channel structure, or give you an embed code for playing the live event on your own website.

Setting Up the VidiU

You find and install the VidiU app normally, then turn on the VidiU hardware and run the app, which searches for the hardware over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Click the found unit (Figure 3, below) in the VidiU app to configure the VidiU.

Figure 3. Selecting the VidiU to connect and configure the unit

Once you connect, you’re taken to the main control screen (Figure 4, below). This is the kickoff point to access the Settings icon shown on the right beneath the image. It’s also where you’ll start the stream by clicking the round green button, and monitor the stream during the event.

Figure 4. The VidiU’s main control screen

Once you click Settings, you’re taken to the Settings Screen (Figure 5, below). Most users never need to touch the Video and Audio settings; your only inputs are HDMI, so unless you want to disable the audio, you should use the defaults. The System option shows serial numbers and firmware versions, so you won’t spend a lot of time there, either.

Figure 5. The VidiU Settings screen

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