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Review: NewTek TriCaster 410

NewTek's latest addition to the TriCaster line is a slim form factor, power-packed SDI-only solution.

Outputs

The output side has two physical 3G-SDI outputs, which function in much the same way as the older TriCaster 450 and 850/855 models functioned.

However, one scenario in which the TriCaster 410 differs—a feature shared by the more expensive TriCaster 460 and 860 models—is the ability to do what’s called a “macro-based auxiliary out" for more flexible outputs. We will come back to macros in a few paragraphs.

"Customers consistently tell us that they are concerned about the number of simultaneous outputs," said Holland, "including social media and the like. That option is now available on the 410."

The output side, like the input side, offers a variety of stream options, ranging from the traditional M2TS MPEG-2 broadcast standard and one-click direct links to a variety of popular content delivery networks (CDN) and online video platforms (OVP) used by a few key vertical markets: enterprise, houses of worship, and media and entertainment.

Other Features

Two other key features that we tested were automation and virtual sets.

Automation/Macros

Even though this is considered the entry-level professional model, NewTek has added control and automation functions from its upper-end TriCaster line.

From an automation standpoint, this allows users to program control surface keys and even MIDI commands to automate everything from a studio’s lighting to a venue’s public-address audio installations. In essence, while the TriCaster doesn’t take the place of a Crestron, Extron, or Lutron automation system for lighting and sound reinforcement, the TriCaster can be tied into these systems to gain control of particular functions necessary for shaping environmental lighting and sound in a way that eliminates the need for human intervention.

This leads to one of the most powerful features of the TriCaster 410, in my mind: macro setup. Thinking beyond environmental control, this is the use of automation to trigger things within TriCaster itself, from button presses to full automation of content playback at key times.

The macro concept is powerful enough that Dan Parker and I joked that I could fill a review or three just explaining the possible workflow scenarios. I may still do that, but for now, I will describe briefly what I can of the concept using one example.

In our example, a solo newscaster sits at a desk with two tripod-mounted static cameras trained on her, and an additional overhead camera perpendicular to the desk at which she sits.

The two cameras facing her, at eye level, can be set for a wide shot and a close-up shot, allowing her to be positioned in the virtual sets. So far so good, but nothing earth-shattering to see here.

The third camera, however, becomes a virtual control surface: When pointed down at the desk, various hot spot areas of the frame are assigned a specific macro. Each of these macros can be assigned a particular task, which the newscaster will trigger by moving her hand into that portion of the frame.

While the audience may never see the image of this overhead camera appear on screen, the macros assigned to each hot spot are set to trigger various functions: Two could be assigned to play back key pre-recorded packages, complete with a transition from one of the two eye-level cameras to a full-screen view of the package playback, or even an over-the-shoulder playback in a virtual set. Two others could be used to transition to commercial breaks, and the additional four could be used to bring up key graphics, at the time of the newscaster’s choosing.

Those readers familiar with our history of reviews on StreamingMedia.com and the older EventDV.net may remember coverage of similar technology more than a decade ago, but this is the first time we’ve seen this level of macro automation in an all-in-one streaming and video mixing package. It’s of enough interest that we’ll drill down into the details of macros after an upcoming on-site visit with NewTek at their San Antonio headquarters.

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