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Review: NewTek TriCaster 455

Half the size of the NewTek TriCaster 855, the TriCaster 455 holds its own for live production and streaming at a lower price point. We really like the functionality of the 455, especially when it comes to one-button streaming, a robust but manageable control surface, and the ability to add AirPlay virtual inputs to the HD-SDI physical inputs.

Live Streaming

One of the big benefits of the newer TriCasters—unlike the older Broadcast, Pro, and Studio models—is the inclusion of streaming presets for popular streaming service providers. According to NewTek, these presets only go up to 720p, on the premise that 720p is the upper-end of what most service providers allow, and that the presets support the most common streaming profiles and custom multi-bitrate streaming profiles.

Not only do these presets support Adobe Flash connections to Flash Media Server (or the never Adobe Media Server 5) but they also work with older Microsoft Windows Media push/pull configurations.

In addition, as we found out during our review testing phase, the TriCaster 455 now supports an integrated Livestream plug-in with a number of different web, mobile, and set-top box H.264 profiles.

Kyle Long, Digital Fridge

We asked Kyle Long, owner of Johnson City, Tenn.-based video production outfit Digital Fridge, to run through a scenario on the TriCaster 455 that mimicked an earlier project he'd done. What he found was that the new presets for Livestream really cut down on prep work when he needed to send a stream to multiple types of devices.

"The Tricaster's Livestream.com plug-in was impressive," said Long. "It give you the ability to configure the specifics of your video streaming from mobile quality (198Kbps) up to a combination of HD and other settings, at a maximum of 4952 Kbps."

The TriCaster's Livestream plug-in does, indeed, have a number of offerings: besides the mobile and HD, the plug-in offers H.264 content in normal quality (446Kbps), medium + mobile (876 Kbps), high + medium + mobile (2632 Kbps), HD + Medium + Mobile (3196 Kbps), HD + High + Medium + Mobile (4952 Kbps).

To see whether he could simultaneously view content on a laptop and a mobile handset, Long chose to connect three cameras—a Panasonic HVX200, a Sony HDR-FX1 and a GoPro Hero camera—into the 455.

"I selected the HD + Medium + Mobile option for Livestream.com," said Long, noting it was a single button choice from the pull-down menu. "I was impressed with the results of the video stream after viewing it online full screen and on my iPhone."

Downstream Keying and Virtual Sets

No review of a TriCaster would be complete without a mention of the virtual sets. TriCaster 455 Extreme offers twenty-four built-in virtual sets, with the option to create or buy many more from the larger TriCaster community.

In addition, down stream keyers (DSK) are available for every input. Two primary DSK channels are available per physical input, and each virtual input also has a dedicated upstream overlay. The DSKs have independent transition controls, meaning they can be independently scaled, cropped and "warped" via the integrated TransWarp technology.

Recording

Finally, the TriCaster 455 offers the same ISOcorder technology of its big brother, the 855. This multi-format recording of up to 4 simultaneous channels can record up to 1080p, including timecode, but each source can also be recorded at a lower rate if desired, including QuickTime, AVI, H.264, with a mixture of SpeedHQ, high, normal or web quality profiles.

Bottom Line

While the price point is still a bit steep, we really like the functionality of the 455, especially when it comes to one-button streaming, a robust but manageable control surface, and the ability to add AirPlay virtual inputs to the HD-SDI physical inputs. 

We'll be curious to compare the new Livestream Studio HD500, which claims to have equal functionality at half the price, as well as the new TriCaster entry-level TC40, which has analog-only HD inputs.

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