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Review: Telestream Wirecast 6

With version 6, Telestream has converted its premier live production software application to 64-bit operation, which should enhance performance and stability. Telestream also added several key features, including playlists, social media support, input from iOS devices, and instant replay.

NewBlue Titler Pro Integration

Most live event producers spend their first few productions perfecting audio and video quality and getting their workflows down. Then it becomes a matter of polishing and improving. One way to make a dramatic quality improvement in your Wirecast 6 productions is to buy the NewBlue Titler Pro Live option ($299), described below, which contains families of configurable titles that you can easily integrate into your productions.

Within Wirecast, you access the titles in the Source Settings window shown in Figure 4 (below). You complete the fields shown, add an image (if the template supports it), and you’re done. Each title comes with intro and outro animations that are pre-cached and GPU accelerated for smooth playback. The Titler option comes with four template sets, each containing twelve variations on a similar theme, with intro titles (such as the one shown in Figure 4), and lower-thirds. These take about 30 second to create, and you’re rewarded with great-looking animated titles that rival those used on television or similar-quality productions.

Figure 4. Create this handsome, animated, full-screen title in 30 seconds or less.

If you’re the creative type, you can click Edit Template in the Source Settings window, and access the NewBlue Titler Pro add-on, which gives you an After Effects-like editor for creating animated titles. It’s a very powerful tool with a fairly steep learning curve, but NewBlue has lots of tutorials available on its website, and within 15 minutes or so, you should be fairly productive. Overall, while not cheap, the NewBlue Titler Pro Live option is a great way to add a very noticeable touch of polish to your productions, particularly interviews that include lots of lower-thirds.

Wirecast Cam

With the new Wirecast Cam iOS 8 app, you can now add video from any iPad or iPhone 4S or later running on the same WiFi network as your Wirecast station to your productions. To add the iDevice, you install the app, configure the stream, and press the Record button. If the device is on the same network as the computer running Wirecast, it will appear as a Wirecast Cam in the Source Settings window, and you can add it to your production as normal. If the device doesn’t appear automatically, you can manually install it by typing in the device’s IP address in Wirecast, which is shown in the app. I never had to take this step, as the phone always showed up automatically.

Because every network is different, the app has multiple configuration options, including for resolution, data rate and keyframe interval, which you can experiment with to optimize the video received by Wirecast. You can also choose between the front and back cameras.

In my tests, I experienced 1−2 seconds of latency in the video, which meant that it showed up in Wirecast between one and two seconds after it was shot. In most use cases, this would be totally irrelevant. For example, if you’re using the iDevice to show what’s going on in another location (“here I am backstage with band manager John Smith”), and the audio and video is coming from the same camera, you won’t notice a lag. However, you couldn’t use the iDevice to provide another angle for your lead singer, because the audio would be noticeably out of sync with the house audio.

For the record, I asked Telestream about Android support, and learned that there’s nothing on the short-term drawing board.

Other New Features

There are several other noteworthy new features in Wirecast 6, starting with the ability to increment scoreboard titles (a Pro-only feature) via keyboard shortcuts, rather than in the Source Settings window, as you had to do with previous versions. Specifically, when the title is live or in the preview window, you can use the minus (-) and equal (=) keys to increment the top score, and the left bracket/right bracket keys to adjust the bottom score (Figure 5, below). This will prove very handy to sports producers who use the scoreboard feature.

Figure 5. Now you can adjust scores with keyboard shortcuts rather than directly in the Source Settings window.

Telestream has also added keyboard shortcuts, which you can apply to content on one or more layers within the program, simplifying the creation of multiple-layer compositions. For example, suppose you wanted to load a live video source (on layer 2) and a lower-third title (on layer 1) into the Preview window simultaneously. To make this happen, you would assign the number 1 shortcut to both. When you press 1, Wirecast will move the video and the title into the preview in one step.

Finally, Telestream also added ProRes recording capabilities to the Mac version of Wirecast, and Motion JPEG recording to the Windows version, improving the quality of your archived presentations. During recording, Telestream also saves the recorded file and file metadata every 20 seconds; in the event of a catastrophic failure, you should lose less than 20 seconds of video from the recorded archive.

Overall, for many producers, the playlist function alone should be sufficient to justify the upgrade price. Otherwise, the Wirecast 6 upgrade contains multiple new features that simplify operation, improve viewer engagement and add polish to the webcast.

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