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NDI and Live Titling

If you haven't been watching the live titling space, you've missed the NDI revolution, and your productions may be falling behind in terms of graphics quality. In this article I'll explain what NDI is and how it works, and I'll explore how it enhances the titling capabilities of the NewTek TriCaster, Telestream Wirecast, and vMix GO. I'll also look at the base capabilities of each system and discuss when it's time to consider third-party offerings.

Titling and the TriCaster

TriCaster is a live video mixer produced by NewTek with analog-only models as low as $4,995 and pricing at about $35,000 for the TriCaster 8000. Each TriCaster comes with multiple levels of titling-related functionality and numerous title templates that you can edit and display in your live productions. There’s also a version of the LiveText program on the TriCaster that you can use to create additional templates when offline (not during a live production).

You can buy a version of LiveText for $995 that you can run on a separate Windows-based computer. As I’ll discuss later for Chyron and NewBlue titling programs, titles created with LiveText on the separate PC are input into the production via NDI. The obvious benefit of creating titles on a different computer is that you can have a separate producer creating titles during the live event and pushing those to the TriCaster.

The separate version of LiveText also comes with DataLink, which lets you link titles to real-time data sources such as scoreboard systems, RSS feeds, ASCII text files, and SQL databases. For data-driven productions, such as sporting events, the ability to grab data from a dynamic database can be—excuse the pun—a game-changer. For example, during the first quarter of a football game, you could display a graphic of the running back showing how many carries and yards he accumulated to that point. Later in the game, you could display the same title with all information updated automatically.

Another option from NewTek is Advanced Edition ($1,995), which adds DataLink integration to your titles without requiring the purchase of LiveText. You also get DataLink File Watcher, which can convert raw spreadsheet data in SCV, XML, or ASCII text into titles that can be updated in real time. With Advanced Edition, you can also use the Chrome plug-in, DataLink for TriCaster, to incorporate web-based data into a TriCaster plug-in. With the plug-in, which is the main TriCaster schema for adding Twitter and other feeds to a production, you select the data in Chrome, right-click, and identify the title to send it to.

Primarily, you don’t get motion graphics with NewTek’s native tools. Some users will also lack consistency with the graphics used in their own productions and creative parity with CG used in their competitor’s broadcast productions. For Leblang’s productions for Eagles fans, these were critical elements. “Our audience base is large enough and passionate enough to invest in top-of-the-line, purpose-built solutions that can rival the best they can see on any competitors, whether broadcast or online.”

The Eagles produce their traditional television and in-stadium broadcasts using ChyronHego Mosaic titling systems, and the team has invested heavily in both custom graphics and custom database links to feed the information-rich demands of its viewers. The fact that the ChyronHego Lyric system integrated so neatly into the TriCaster production via a network input (and now NDI) was also critical.

“We chose Lyric because it was an industry standard package that could leverage the money already spent on appearance and functionality,” Leblang continued. “During the season,” he added, “we’re producing nearly 24/7 with a lean staff, and we don’t have the personnel resources to allow for one person to be expert at one thing. We needed a system that several staffers could use for redundancy” (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. An Eagles staffer creates the title on the LyricIP system, which is pushed to the TriCaster via NDI.

As an aside, Leblang is also a huge fan of NDI. Though relatively new to the technology at this point, the Eagles production staff used NDI during their NFL draft shows to link their two studios and their stadium production facilities, which share a robust network. Without NDI, these links would have required fiber connections or direct HD-SDI cable links. Leblang foresees the Creative Cloud NDI plug-in enhancing the quality and speed of all his productions.

For example, the Eagles staffers receive all camera angles for each play from the official NFL broadcast, which they can quickly access in their multiple Creative Cloud installations. Before NDI, trying to use a highlight in the postgame show required the operator to trim the clip in Premiere Pro, output a separate file, and transfer the file to the TriCaster. With NDI, the operator can trim the clip, click the spacebar to preview it, and send the preview directly to the TriCaster. According to Leblang, this could make the difference between showing the game-winning kick in the postgame show or simply talking about it.

NewBlue Titler Pro Live

Not all producers have the need, or the budget, for a CG package such as LyricIP. One very popular alternative is the NewBlue Titler Live Broadcast product ($1,499) . Titler Live Broadcast now supports NDI output, so it can work with TriCaster and any other NDI-compatible mixer. It has direct, NDI-based integration with Wirecast. Former ESPN producer Marty McPadden, who now produces live interviews and events for agency clients, is a recent purchaser of the NewBlue software.

McPadden’s specialty is remote interviews produced from his studio in Connecticut. Most of his clients are in Manhattan, and they transmit their streams, plus those of their interviewees, via Skype or Google Hangouts. McPadden mixes and outputs the streams with a TriCaster Mini. The latest TriCaster update converted the two network inputs to NDI inputs that are compatible with NewBlue. With the NewBlue package, McPadden can produce titles with fully animated graphics, which aren’t available on the Mini and are much closer to the graphics he used when working with ESPN.

Beyond ChyronHego and NewBlue, TriCaster enjoys tremendous support from other third-party products, including those listed on the NewTek Developer Network Graphics page. These include data-driven titles, telestration, state-of-the-art graphics packages, and advanced scoreboard systems. These products ensure that if TriCaster producers want to take their productions to the next level, they will have multiple alternatives.

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