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First Look: NewTek TriCaster Mini

The ultra-portable TriCaster Mini joins the TriCaster 40 at the sub-$6k end of the TriCaster line, but weighs in 10 lbs. lighter and adds HDMI input ISO-recording, a new compact control surface, an internal monitor, and more.

Key Features

7" Screen integrated into the computer itself

Useful as a program monitor or it can be turned around in small or self-broadcasting applications, so the talent can see it. Plus, since it's built into the computer itself, there's no extra hardware to carry around. Unfortunately, it's only 7" since the case is considerably taller than it is wide. It's also behind the plastic of the case, so glare is an issue.

Four HDMI inputs, Two HDMI outputs

Finally, the budget model directly accepts HDMI which is the low-end connection du jour. The TC40 takes HD only on component connections and those have been getting increasingly harder to find for several years, making it problematic to integrate with today's cameras without also adding HDMI-to-component converters.

Nelson had a tiny GoPro Hero in his kit and running off the battery and feeding HDMI out, it's about the smallest production camera you could probably have in the kit. Be sure to include adapters because you'll now have to deal with HDMI, Mini-HDMI, and Micro-HDMI.

1/4" jacks for audio in and out

While I would have liked to see XLR jacks for balanced audio that works with ubiquitous microphone cables, a few XLR-to-1/4" adapters in the bag won't make it much heavier. But it would have been nice to see the need for these adapters vanish as well.

The TriCaster Mini also accepts stereo audio from each of the HDMI camera feeds. So that's 8 channels of audio there. Plus the 1/4" mono microphone and stereo 1/4" line inputs. So while you could jack various audio inputs into the cameras, and try to use the seemingly comprehensive audio mixer already built into the Mini, the far easier way to handle audio is to use an external mixer and feed the finished audio in to the stereo line inputs on the TriCaster Mini.

This is sort of a shame because of all the cool audio features NewTek is building into the TriCaster now--pan, soloing, 7-band EQ, compressor/limiter, audio delay, multi-bus routing, audio follow video, grouping, and more. NewTek touts Avid Artist Mix audio control surface integration and I'd love to see more information about that.

Computer I/O

Multiple monitors are supported, as well as external USB drives, and direct ethernet connection for streaming from the TriCaster itself. The Mini can drive up to four local monitors and video screens--the User Interface and Multi-view displays, plus two additional VGA monitors or projectors.

Not having to add another computer just to do the streaming push is a welcome feature. You will likely want another computer anyway to check the feed that people are viewing. A lightweight laptop could tuck into the TriCaster Mini bag for this purpose, even though NewTek touts the ability to view the stream, I prefer having a separate dedicated machine for that.

AirPlay Compatibility

This is a welcome feature addition at the bottom of NewTek's product line. The TriCaster 40 has this as well. Either way, I like when we can reduce the number of wires littering the desk to connect devices that are right next to each other.

Social Media Share

Another timely upgrade is the built-in social media sharing. Real-time publishing instantly links your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) so you can share and distribute right from within the TriCaster while you are still streaming the program. This is pretty savvy.

ISO Record

Formerly a costly feature available only in higher-end TriCasters, I was surprised to see the ability to record the camera feeds built into the Mini. This means you can both stream and record your switched master, and also record the sources--clean--so that if you need to go back in and make changes to the program, you have the raw material to make that happen, without adding additional hardware to the setup.

NewTek also touts the Mini's ability to record four simultaneous channels. You pick how you want the IsoCorder to be used. You could record three camera ISOs and Program. Or you could record two cameras + a clean program feed + dirty program feed, and so on. Plus each is individually configurable up to 1080p with timecode, QuickTime (XDCAM HD compatible, 4:2:2 encoding, 24-bit audio), MPEG-2 (high or normal profile), AVI (SpeedHQ), and H.264 (high or Web quality).

Holographic Virtual Set

Nelson also showed off the "holographic" virtual set that can use a panorama photo from a cell phone and drop people into that "virtual" location. He showed a person live in-studio in front of a casually lit greenscreen, and a second person played back from video. Panning up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and then down to the two people in the virtual shot was actually pretty impressive.

Automation

Another feature useful to shops where the Mini will most likely find itself is the ability to automate the production. Phillip had pre-built an opening sequence where once the shot was started, it panned down from the Eiffel Tower to the host in the studio being shot live, put a lower-third graphic on them, took it away, panned right to make room for a PIP window, and then panned back to center. If you lack extensive production staff, the automation feature looks to be very handy.

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