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First Look--Epiphan Pearl 2

Epiphan's David Kirk gives Streaming Media Producer's Tim Siglin the skinny on Epiphan's new 4K-capable streaming appliance, the Pearl 2, at Streaming Media West 2016.


Tim Siglin: Welcome back to Almost Live, here at the Streaming Media West 2016 show, I've got David Kirk here with me. Dave, tell me about your company, and what your title is?

David Kirk: I'm the VP of marketing at Epiphan Video, and we're really focused on capture, stream, record of live event production.

Tim Siglin: Last year we talked about something called the Pearl, and you've got the Pearl 2 now, tell me what the Pearl is, in a nutshell?

David Kirk: Sure, the Pearl itself, came out about two years ago, and was a basically mixing, streaming, switching, and recording box, all in one. Multiple inputs in, and switch between them, mix them together, and then stream and record out your output. Pearl 2 is really the evolution of that, we moved up the number of inputs from four to six, the processing power's a little more hefty, and most notably we added 4K capability to it. The original Pearl was all up to HD, and then Pearl 2 is now handling 4K.

Tim Siglin: Are the inputs on it primarily HD, SDI inputs?

David Kirk: We got a mix, on the original Pearl, we had two VDAs, plus two HDMIs, plus two SDIs. On the new box, we've got the four HDMIs, two of which are 4K capable, and then we've got two 12G SDIs.

Tim Siglin: 12G SDI on there, very nice. Essentially, you could have two 4Ks, and four 1080Ps coming in?

David Kirk: You could, or even on the HDMIs, you could have two 4K HDMIs, plus two 4K cameras on the SDIs.

Tim Siglin: Now, one of the things you mentioned to me before we started recording, you have the ability to actually go in and do windowing, and select different parts of the screen to output lower resolution. By lower resolutions, we mean 1080P, right?

David Kirk: It could be 1080, it could even be 720, or if you wanted to go back to SD, you could do that, but typically guys are trying it at 1080's the most popular, but we even have guys going in to some venues where all they're getting out is two megabits, or a megabit and a half, they're trying to stream out at 720 still. They're taking little shots, cutting out little pieces from that 4K frame, and then switching between them as though they have multiple cameras.

Tim Siglin: It's effectively virtual switching off of a single camera.

David Kirk: Exactly.

Tim Siglin: Nice, and can you assign, if you have say, two 4K cameras, can you assign two windows to one of the 4K cameras, and two to another 4K?

David Kirk: Sure, yeah, there's flexibility there, you can create three on one, and two on the other, or whatever you like.

Tim Siglin: Nice, what other types of inputs do you have on there?

David Kirk: We've upgraded the audio, we used to have TRS, they were balanced, but they were TRS. That confused a lot of our users, because they look at that jack, and think, "Is that a balanced input?"

Tim Siglin: Mackie got away from that years ago, because it confused people so much.

David Kirk: Yeah, we found the same thing, we learned, and we put XLRs on the box.

Tim Siglin: How many XLR inputs?

David Kirk: We got four XLR inputs in there.

Tim Siglin: Nice.

David Kirk: We've really boosted up the headroom too, it's all lined up for +4 dBU, for pro-level mixers. Then we got 20 dB up headroom above that. We really boosted up the audio portion of it, as well as adding the 4K capability.

Tim Siglin: Do you have any SPDIF inputs on there?

David Kirk: No, we don't, everything is analog inputs, or embedded audio on the SDI or HDMI side.

Tim Siglin: Eventually you could carry the AES through the SDI embed?

David Kirk: Correct.

Tim Siglin: How many channels of embed can you do on the audio side?

David Kirk: Right now it's just one, but the hardware is capable of doing more, and that's something we'll be adding in the future to the software.

Tim Siglin: Will you essentially do stereo pairs on the embeds?

David Kirk: That's the way they're set up right now, is we assume that you're using channel one and two on the embeds, and they're a stereo pair. When we expand that out, we'll have freedom to split those up.

Tim Siglin: Is that ultimately going to be a firmware upgrade, because the hardware's capable of doing it?

David Kirk: It is, and one of the scenarios we see, is the multi-lingual scenario. In that case, they're not always stereo pairs, you got mics coming in, and one's French, one's English, one's Italian, and they want to do all that together.

Tim Siglin: What's the price point on the unit?

David Kirk: Price point, we have two price points, because one has the 4K capabilities, if you buy it with all the 4K capabilities, it's about $8000. If you buy it without that, which you can upgrade later, just as a firmware upgrade, then it's $6000. That gets you the 6x HD functionality.

Tim Siglin: Is it houses of worship? Is it venues that are using it? Is it webcasters that do portable systems?

David Kirk: It's all of that, we've even got corporate guys. We've got them using user experience labs, where they got multiple cameras on the subject, they're capturing from the device that they're actually using. UXLabs has been big, corporate video just for town halls, and that stuff as well as set up and tear down live production stuff has been really big. Education's still big for Pearl, whether it's in the classroom, doing the lecture capture, or whether they're even going out in the field, and doing graduation ceremonies and other special events.

Tim Siglin: I could really see 4K as being a solution where if you had the windowing capability, you could put a window on the Power Point, in a window on the lecturer. Where before, you've had to have two cameras to do that, I would think.

David Kirk: Yeah, there's a couple ways to do that. One is as you said, window just the slides separately from the user. We can bring the slides in as its own feed as well, and switch to those. Yeah, we see people creating a tight shot at the podium, but then cutting away to the wide shot, and especially when they have large panels. You got six or seven people at a table, you can have an individual shot of each of those, yeah, and one of the examples we've been using, just lately was the recent debates in the US here, for the presidential election. They had podiums that were maybe 25 feet apart.

Tim Siglin: Right.

David Kirk: For a lot of the broadcast, what you saw was two 8x9 cutaways.

Tim Siglin: Right next to each other.

David Kirk: Right next to each other, and that's exactly the scenario that we see people trying to do.

Tim Siglin: It's Hollywood Squares, or in that case, Hollywood Twos.

David Kirk: Exactly, where the distance between the two subjects is great in the wide shot, and you want to just compress that, and bring them right together.

Tim Siglin: Yeah, because there really wasn't anything in between there. There were words of the constitution occasionally, but that didn't really fill the space. There should've at least been two ferns. I appreciate your time, again, this is Almost Live, here at Streaming Media West 2016.