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Review: NewTek TriCaster 40

With the TriCaster 40, NewTek's newest compact video switcher and live production box, NewTek goes retro and down-market but still delivers a capable solution at a price $20k (or more) below other models in the TriCaster line. And that, in itself, should be cause for rejoicing.

Source Inputs

We used to review inputs as audio or video, but with the advent of virtual inputs, we've dropped back to the more generic term source inputs.

Video

TC 40 is retro, in that it's an analog-only video input device, meaning that you'll need to remember how to use a waveform and vectorscope to dial in your video settings. 

Unfortunately, the TC 40 lacks these critical tools. During the course of my review, I happened to sit next to Allan Tépper of Pro Video Coalition at an HP media event. Tépper noted that the waveform and vectorscope on other TriCasters are slightly skewed—with a 7.5 IRE marker for black instead of a 0 IRE true black—but that NewTek had opted to remove the waveform and vectorscope from the TC 40.

"A TriCaster 40 without scopes is like an entry-level car without a speedometer," Tépper said, promising a follow-on article the topic.

Ok, so without the proper scopes, and assuming you can tweak colors on your own on analog cameras, what video input options do TC 40 users have?

The TC 40 has three rows of external video connectors, with each row capable of either component, composite, or S-video input. Inputs that are HD (1080i, 720p) can be mixed with SD signals (480i) without the need for outboard scalers. In our testing the on-board scaling of the TC 40 worked quite well, as did the aspect ratio conversion--the TC 40 supports both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, the latter being available only for 480i video sources.

Audio

The external audio inputs on the TC 40 unit are a single 1/4 inch, using Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) for balanced input, as well as an unbalanced pair of RCA inputs. Yes, you read right: There is only one balanced input.

NewTek uses a microphone symbol for the TRS input connector, but what if you're going to do a talking-head interview with two microphones? For that you'll need an outboard audio mixer to mix two microphones to insert on the line level RCA pair. Audio input and on-board mixing has always been a shortcoming of TriCaster units, but the TC 40 dumbs down the audio input to new lows.

Virtual Inputs

Besides the audio and video inputs, the TC 40 has a number of virtual inputs, including support for Apple AirPlay-equipped devices. This means that those users with an iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone can display the graphics off these iOS device screens without needing to rely on an external DVI or VGA connector. AirPlay uses a modified version of Virtual Network Computing (VNC) and frame rates are good enough for anything except full-motion video. 

NewTek TriCaster 40

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