Streaming Media

Streaming Media on Facebook Streaming Media on Twitter Streaming Media on LinkedIn
 

Review: NewTek TriCaster Mini--Small Package, Big Potential

Company's newest TriCaster fits in a backpack, assembles quickly

Power

The power supply, which uses 110-240 volts AC converted down to 12 volts DC, is about one-third the size of the Mini case itself, and about half the thickness of the Mini. Given the fact that it uses 12v on a standard 5.5mm x 2.1mm male connector, the power supply connectivity is exactly the same as my small server’s DC power supply, right down to the requirement to have a cloverleaf plug cable on the AC side of the adapter.

While the physical form factor of the NewTek version is quite a bit bigger, allowing for more heat dissipation, it actually doesn’t draw as much potential power: the NewTek TriCaster Mini power supply is 12 volts at 12 amps, so no more than 144 watts under full load. That’s less than many 15-17" laptops or mobile workstations, which often rely on AC to 19v DC inverters to lower the overall cable thickness and up the voltage to gain 170 watts or more of load power.

The added benefit to 12v is the ability to go off-grid if you have the proper gear already on location. We’ve been testing a solar-panel and 12v battery array in a late-1800s house that’s being remodeled, and we’ve been able to run the servers directly off the 12v battery bank, connected to the same 5.5mm x 2.1mm male connector, for multiple hours.

Not recommending that you do this with your TriCaster Mini, unless you’re faced with a lack of AC power, and it would probably void the warranty if you opted to go this route, but the simple fact that the use of DC power at 12v can be done means that the TriCaster Mini is a truly portable video mixer that stands in a category of its own.

Cabling

The TriCaster Mini that we tested, the HD-4 model, is fairly simple when it comes to cable choices. In fact, there are only two cables to use, one for audio inputs and outputs and one for video. Audio inputs, including the tip-ring-sleeve (TRS) balanced inputs, use a 1/4" (6.35mm) connector. NewTek provides a single mic-level balanced input, along with two line-level balanced inputs marked L and R, for left and right channels, respectively (Figure 3, below).

Figure 3. Audio I/O on the TriCaster Mini.

In addition to the TRS line- and mic-level connectors, each of the four video inputs allow for embedded audio via the HDMI connection. This means that the TriCaster Mini HD-4 version has a potential for five stereo pairs, four from the HDMI and one from the TRS line-level connectors, in addition to the single mono mic-level input.

On the output side, audio can be mixed down and sent to either of the two HDMI outputs, as embedded audio alongside the video, or separately out the the two 1/4" TRS balanced line outputs. In addition, a final 1/4" connector provides non-balanced stereo audio output to headphones or an external monitor. That’s a speaker monitor, not a computer monitor, which is part of the output of the other side panel of the TriCaster Mini, which we’re not covering in this review.

If you’ve not guessed it by now, the other cable type used on the TriCaster Mini has HDMI connectors (Figure 4, below).

Figure 4. HDMI connections on the TriCaster Mini.

Due to the fact that these cables can be a bit unwieldy, as they’re fairly thick and tend to arch in multiple directions, NewTek has included an odd-shaped but very functional cable bridge that can be attached and removed from the TriCaster Mini using two quick thumbscrews. Figure 5 (below) shows the cable bridge from above, mounted to the top of the TriCaster Mini, but it can be mounted along any of the indented sides, to be control cable bends.

Figure 5. The included cable bridge helps cut down on cord clutter.

The cable bridge comes with a few velcro cable ties, which can be inserted into slots on the bridge. We used ours to separate the blue HDMI input cables from the black HDMI output cable, running the inputs on the left-hand side of the cable bridge and the output on the right hand side.
As shown in Figure 6 (below), each group of cables was secured firmly to the cable bridge via one velcro cable tie.

Figure 6. Cables secured.

 

Related Articles
In this tutorial, Jan Ozer demonstrates how the NewTek TriCaster Mini delivers portable, affordable, and full-featured live production to producers using HDMI cameras.
The ultra-portable TriCaster Mini joins the TriCaster 40 at the sub-$6k end of the TriCaster line, but weighs in 10 lbs. lighter and adds HDMI input ISO-recording, a new compact control surface, an internal monitor, and more.