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Review: Epiphan Webcaster X2

Testing the Epiphan Webcaster X2 compact encoder on a packed schedule of interviews streamed to Facebook Live from the show floor at Streaming Media East 2018

Update Before You Stream

As I was settong up for the shoot and live stream in the Streaming Media East exhibit hall, in-house A/V staff supplied an ethernet cable and told me to use the hotel’s Hilton Meeting WiFi account, which wasn’t a dedicated line, but appeared to offer enough bandwidth to get my 2Mbps stream online. I’d connected to the network earlier and knew the password.

But I encountered one seemingly insurmountable problem: as I navigated through the various screens in the Webcaster X2’s UI, I couldn’t find any page that would allow me to access the splash screen I’d need to bring up to enter the password. I contacted Epiphan tech support and was told I’d need to upgrade to the next iteration of the unit’s firmware to access that feature. This presented, as my Epiphan contact conceded, a “chicken and egg problem”: if I couldn’t get online to stream, I also couldn’t get online to download an upgrade.

With no additional time to set up and only a few minutes’ breathing room in our tightly packed interview schedule, the first few interview streams simply didn’t happen. Once we had a break in the action, our interviewer, Streaming Media contributing editor Tim Siglin, came up with a workaround using his MacBook Pro as a hotspot, and we were able to upgrade the Webcaster X2 firmware, and the Captive Screen option popped up in the Webcaster X2’s Settings menu (Figure 4, below), which made it easy to access the hotel’s splash screen, enter the password, and get online (Figure 5, below Figure 4). Details on the how to handle this scenario (post-firmware upgrade, if necessary) are available from Epiphan support.

Figure 4. Entering a password after choosing the Captive Screen option from the Settings menu

Figure 5. Online via the Hilton’s WiFi menu and ready to stream

It’s worth noting that users of the Webcaster X2 may well encounter this problem if they attempt to stream not just from a convention center but from nearly any public place, be it an airport, coffee shop, hotel room, or anywhere that getting online involves a splash screen. Epiphan originally sent me my eval unit in March; the Webcaster X2 may well ship with the current firmware patch that eliminates this problem. But if, like me, you’re fortunate enough to unbox this unit with a splash screen-free internet connection, and unfortunate enough to put it to work the first time at a venue that won’t let you get your stream off the ground without entering a password on an online splash screen, by all means, upgrade to the latest version of the firmware before you do anything else.

Streaming Success

After these initial issues, the Webcaster X2 worked like a charm. On the second day of the conference, we had even less room for error in our tight interview schedule than the day before, and any snafus would have meant missing more streams. But once we got the Webcaster X2 online, every interview went off without a hitch. Stream quality was rock solid, and it was nice to be able to monitor the streams as I went rather than having to guess what was happening and hope for the best, fumble around with my phone while shooting to check out the stream, or ask someone off-site to watch and report what they were seeing. Two-button compact streaming encoders rarely allow this flexibility.

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