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Review: Epiphan Pearl Nano

Epiphan's Pearl Nano ($1,495) provides an outstanding feature set in a polished hardware and software package, and it should be a strong candidate for those who are seeking a hardware encoder for lecture or interview capture or any of the other use cases the product supports.

In addition, Pearl Nano supports simplified broadcasting, which you also enable in the Streaming panel (Figure 6, below). On the left in Figure 6, you can see the options for HTTP and RTSP streaming and the ability to enable HLS streaming, along with stream access controls. On the right, in the channel status screen, you can see where to grab the URLs for the different protocols so you can distribute them for viewing.

Figure 6. Enabling streams for direct viewing from the unit (on the left) and grabbing the ULRs (on the right)

Using this technique, I was able to play the local stream on my iPhone, which is shown in Figure 7 (below), and other computers in my office network. This functionally would seem to be ideally suited for small, in formal audiences, with some type of multicast solution (which the unit also supports) for enterprise- wide viewing. Pearl Nano can also stream using Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). This allows compatible players on the network to discover and play Pearl Nano-encoded streams.

Figure 7. Playing video directly from Pearl Nano on my iPhone

You record with Pearl Nano either by inserting an SD card into the slot or by adding an M2 SATA SSD drive to Pearl Nano’s expansion bay and then pressing the capture button on the front of the system. The SD card is formatted for Linux, so you can’t directly read the card in most Mac or Windows systems. However, you can download captured files in Mac/Windows format from any computer logged into the Pearl Nano, which is even more convenient than popping out the card and installing it in a card reader. Or, you can configure Pearl Nano to automatically copy the captured files to an attached USB drive or upload the files to remote systems via FTP, CIFS, SCP, WebDAV, and AWS S3.

Finally, Pearl Nano is compatible with Epiphan Cloud, which allows you to control multiple Epiphan devices from a single interface.


To test Pearl Nano, I created multiple sets of recordings. The first compared Pearl Nano’s output with video captured on a separate computer via OBS using an Epiphan 4K USB dongle. The second compared Pearl Nano’s output with video recorded by an ATEM Mini Pro. In all tests, I output via HDMI from the source to an HDMI splitter, which output the same video to both capture devices. One set of recordings used disk-based test files played out of the HDMI port on a Mac Mini as the source. Another used a Panasonic AGHMC150 camcorder, and the final set used a Sony a6300 DSLR.

These tests revealed two issues. The most serious was that Pearl Nano introduced a grayish color cast over the recorded video that didn’t exist in the other tested outputs. It’s not something that viewers would likely notice when viewing just the recorded or streaming files, but when I toggled between the source and the output, the cast was obvious. You can see this on the right in Figure 8 (below).

Figure 8. Note the grayish cast on the left side of my face (the right side of the image).

I asked Epiphan about this, and a representative responded, “The color ‘cast’ or shift is a result of Nano converting all incoming video signals to limited RGB range. This is a known bug. The development and QA teams are aware of the issue and it will be investigated to fix in a future firmware update.” When pressed about the timing of the release, my Epiphan contact replied, “We expect a fix for the ‘casting’ issue to be part of the free firmware update that is expected to be released in May.”

The other issue with Pearl Nano’s output is related to periodic single-frame skips in the recorded video. I saw a similar pattern with OBS, but the ATEM Mini Pro dropped no frames in our tests. This isn’t as serious as the cast issue, since few, if any, viewers would notice a single frame drop every few moments. When I reported this to Epiphan, I learned that it was potentially a new bug. Regarding when it would be resolved, my Epiphan contact said, “The frame drop is something that we are currently investigating so I cannot comment on whether that will be part of the May release. It depends on what we uncover.”

Assuming that Epiphan resolves these two issues, I can recommend Pearl Nano without reservation. Readers who are considering buying Pearl Nano should check the Streaming Media website when they read this article, and I’ll confirm if the issues were fixed as soon as I can.

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Epiphan's George Herbert describes how Epiphan uses SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) and remote contribution encoders with multiple remote guests to upgrade streaming quality substantially over what Zoom provides in this clip from his presentation at Streaming Media Connect 2021.