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Review: Matrox Monarch LCS

The Matrox Monarch LCS is an inexpensive dual-input lecture capture solution with two output channels that can be independently set for recording and/or streaming.

If you choose either the Picture-in-Picture (PiP) or Side-by-Side modes (Figure 3, below), you’ll have to choose between one of four canned presets; those are the layouts shown in the middle left of Figure 2 for PiP. With PiP operation you can crop the incoming video to focus on the single talking head, but that’s your only customization option. Most other lecture capture systems offer more design flexibility, though Matrox has some useful features coming, specifically the ability to add a color background to your videos (by November 2016), though there is no timeframe for adding a background graphic, which many competitive systems enable.

Figure 3. By November 2016, you should be able to choose a background color (rather than black) but you’ll have to wait longer for a graphic background. Click the image to see it at full size.

In the Video section in Figure 2 you see the I/O selectors. Input A, which is designed to be the talking head, can be either HDMI or SDI, while HDMI is your only option for the second input, again designed to be from a computer. As you can see, you control what’s pushed through the SDI and HDMI output ports; I found the channel preview the most helpful view. On the right, you choose the audio source and the sample rate and bitrate, though you can only choose audio from a single source, and there are no volume adjustments.

Figure 4 (below) shows the two output channels, one configured for Ustream, the other for recording. When running a single encoder in streaming mode, you can stream at up to 16 Mbps. When running in dual mode, you can stream at up to 8 Mbps, and record at up to 10 Mbps. Matrox offers multiple presets for both recording and streaming, which you can tweak using the advanced settings shown in the figure. All streaming and recording are encoded using H.264, which you can record in either an MOV or MP4 wrapper. All recordings have a maximum length of 300 minutes.

Figure 4. The Encoder configuration screen

You enter your streaming coordinates as you do with most encoders, copying and pasting the long server URL and stream name from your service provider, and entering your username and password. You can also load a Wowza Streaming Engine or Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder XML file for those services that provide them.

As with the other Monarch products, there are some rough edges in the software. For example, there’s no way to check if your encoder settings actually work before trying to go live, a feature that the venerable Flash Media Live Encoder has provided for years. You also can’t check if the Monarch can write to your SD card or USB hard drive without clicking over to the Status window.

We raised these issues in our October 2015 review of the Matrox Monarch HDX, which uses much of the same software, and it’s frustrating that they haven’t been addressed.

On the other hand, Matrox has committed to an aggressive development program for additional features. For example, by November, you should be able to automate operations via a schedule in iCal-compatible format that you can load manually, or place in a path that the unit can periodically retrieve. Speaking of scheduling, via the unit’s API, you can already autoschedule events with third-party CDNs Ensemble Video, Presentation2Go, and StreamShark. Matrox will also support Kaltura’s Open Video Capture Standard, which will provide immediate integration with Kaltura and other programs that support the standard. Matrox also plans a store and forward feature for uploading recorded to network storage during off hours to preserve corporate bandwidth.

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