Reviews

Jan Ozer on NEWTEK TRICASTER MINI

The first TriCaster with HDMI I/O. 5/12/2015 10:42 AM Eastern
TAKE AWAY

You can learn basic mixing procedures in about five minutes, and NewTek simplifies the learning curve with lots of free training videos on its website.

The NewTek TriCaster Mini is the first TriCaster with HDMI I/O, and it enjoys the same polished interface and many of the same features as NewTek’s HDSDI- based models, including audio/ video mixing and the ability to stream events live, output to a projection system, and record ISO streams. With a sleek, compact look, and a competitive price tag that starts at $5,995, Mini should be very attractive to live-event producers using cameras with HDMI outputs.

HARDWARE AND I/O

The Mini is 4.6in.x9.2in.x7.9in. and weighs around 9lbs. There are two models: the HD-4i, which includes a 7in. LCD output monitor on the side and 1.5TB of storage, and costs $7,995; and the HD-4 base configuration with no LCD monitor and 750GB of internal storage ($5,995). Other options include a control surface ($2,495) and a four pack of 100ft. HDMI cables ($495). The unit ships with a locking mechanism that keeps the HDMI cables from slipping out of the unit, a concern with HDMI-based mixing gear.

The Mini includes four HDMI inputs, plus three HDMI outputs, one video only for projection, plus a DVI output. Audio inputs include a single 1/4in. mono mic-level microphone jack, and left and right 1/4in. line-level audio jacks. Audio outputs include a 1/4in. headphone and left and right 1/4in. outputs, plus audio outputs on two of the HDMI outputs. The unit has four USB ports for connecting keyboard, mouse, or control surface, and for copying videos, still images, and other content to the unit, plus an Ethernet port.

One of the strengths of the TriCaster is its ability to integrate content from other, non-traditional sources. For the Mini, this means two network inputs that can deploy audio/video from computers on the same network, or wirelessly from iPhones and iPads via Apple Airplay. Or, you can add video delivered remotely from cameras using Teradek encoders. The Mini also has two digital disk recorders (DDR) for playing back disk-based video, and two graphics channels for titles, logos, and other still-image content. To help polish your productions, Mini comes with multiple title templates that you can customize for your own use and an editor so you can create your own from scratch. There are also multiple customizable transitions.

The unit has four Mix/Effect (M/E) channels for mixing content sources to create picture-in-picture effects or for compositing video over virtual sets. There are also two downstream keyers (DSK) to overlay content like titles and animations over the videos.

Like most TriCaster models, Mini can upload still image and video clips to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube during your production. Mini also shares the ability to overlay greenscreen video within virtual sets, all of which come with matching center, left, and right views to accommodate multiple cameras. Most virtual sets include placeholders for one or two speakers, plus video screens for other inputs, like video coming from a different camera or a DDR. All sets come with prepackaged camera moves, so you can zoom into and around the set to highlight different content. These features, combined with very capable chromakey functionality, can make it so that a wall with a $20 greenscreen cloth can create a production that looks like it was done in a professional studio manned by seasoned camera operators.

For output, the unit can record up to four ISO streams, which can either be inputs or the program output. The Mini can also connect to any RTMP streaming server and has presets for many of the more popular services like YouTube Live and Ustream. For projection, the unit supports either DVI or HDMI outputs.

MINI IN USE

The Mini interface is logically presented, with media sources in small windows on the upper left, and the larger preview and program windows in the middle and top right. There are buttons in the middle of the interface for loading content into the preview window, which can be taken live via a T-bar transition control. The bottom of the interface contains libraries of content within the DDR and graphics inputs, an audio mixer, and configuration areas for creating titles and other configurable elements. The interface is configurable, and you can customize labels to help identify content, like changing the label “Camera 1” to “Front Right,” for example.

You can learn basic mixing procedures in about five minutes, and NewTek simplifies the learning curve with lots of free training videos on its website. The more learning time you invest in Mini, the more you’ll get out of the unit, particularly if you’re a one-person show. In this regard, you can record macros for automated operation and even create hot spots in the video that onscreen talent can use to trigger macros.

Overall, if you’re using HDMI gear for live-event production, the TriCaster Mini is worth a very long look.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

COMPANY: NewTek | www.newtek.com
PROS: HDMI input, portable, feature-rich video-mixing software with strong I/O support, including streaming, ISO recording, and projection.
CONS: HDMI-only inputs, no analog or HD-SDI
APPLICATIONS: Any live-event producers
PRICE: $5,995

SPECIFICATIONS

VIDEO FORMATS: NTSC model: 1080/30p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 480/60p. Multi-Standard model: NTSC 1080/30p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 480/60p; NTSC-J 1080/30p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 480/60p; PAL 1080/25p, 1080/50i, 720/50p, 720/25p, 576/50p
VIDEO INPUT: 4 HDMI, plus two network inputs
VIDEO OUTPUT: 2 x HDMI (primary); 1 x DVI and 1 x HDMI (video only) display ports for driving displays or projectors; Network output for live streaming; A/V output to network-connected TriCaster over local network
MONITORING: Preview all sources or select sources in a variety of layouts and dual-monitor display combinations via Workspaces control panel
AUDIO INPUT: 4 HDMI Embedded, 1 x 1/4in. (6.35 mm) balanced mic, 2 x 1/4in. (6.35 mm) balanced line
AUDIO OUTPUT: 2 HDMI Embedded, 2 x 1/4in. (6.35 mm) balanced line, 1/4in. (6.35mm) stereo headphone jack
MEDIA EFFECTS: 5 integrated digital media sources for video, graphics and sounds (2 DDRs, 2 GFX and Sound) + 15 buffers
DIMENSIONS: 4.6’’x9.2’’x7.9’’
WEIGHT: 9lbs.

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