A Well-Laid Out Workflow And Feature Set

Smaller. More powerful. High-quality output. Easy to use. Fast. These are all buzzwords that describe the NewTek TriCaster Pro production system. Dual-use systems are passà© today; everything needs to provide at least three functions if not more, and the TriCaster Pro does not disappoint.

I first used the TriCaster at a town meeting for which I’d been asked to provide video services. The town is off the beaten path, in one of the largest but most sparsely populated counties in the U.S. The town wanted to stream the meeting, and I knew the TriCaster was out there as a possible solution that could make my job easier.
It did.

What This Baby Can Do
The TriCaster Pro accepts three live camera inputs, numerous transitions (200-plus), titling and the ability to play back previously recorded clips (i.e. DVR). It’s simply incredible that all this takes place in a box approximately the size of two stacked cereal boxes.

Plugging two cameras into the TriCaster Pro via composite connection (the TriCaster Pro is capable of BNC/composite or Y/C input), audio from the house sound mixer into the Line Inputs, network cable to the network card and headphones into the headphone output connections, the system was ready to go in under three minutes. It took nearly half that long for the Windows-based software to boot, but I was managing my connections while waiting for Windows to load.

I had previously recorded off-site scenes of the area that was to be discussed during the town meeting, and so I began to capture/load these video clips into the TriCaster Pro, to be cued up for play during the meeting. Without even cracking the manual, the capture/add process was intuitive and easy. Only a FireWire connection is needed to capture video. I had used a small Sony HC3 camera to record field images; be sure that if you’re using an HDV camcorder, you set the camcorder to downconvert to DV on output, or the TriCaster will not recognize the media stream.

The TriCaster Pro also offers the ability to edit media; this is handy to remove pre/post-roll from captured media, yet it goes much more deeply and can function as a full NLE/post system. It’s basic and simple; you’ll want to use the NewTek SpeedEdit software or other NLE software if your production requires fine media control such as deep color correction or audio repair, or if you need to mix a number of formats such as HDV, QuickTime, etc in a single project. The TriCaster Pro can play back most formats in separate streams, however.

Special Features
One aspect of the TriCaster I immediately fell in love with is the ability to match cameras via Auto-Calibrate. Simply feeding the TriCaster Pro with bars from each camera, the Auto-Calibrate function matched up both of these older cameras without any hiccups. When you have a need for speed and quality is paramount, this is the way to fly. TriCaster Pro also provides vectorscope and waveform monitoring for camera inputs.

One feature the TriCaster provides (which was not used in my live test of the unit) is a real-time Keying feature, allowing for ChromaKeying in the live environment. The keying tool is able to take any number of colors for the key, but you’ll find that standard colors of green or blue are most effective. Keying can occur on live images, previously captured images in the VCR, or from graphics files. The system additionally offers Luma keying for graphics/masks.

The VCR (which should be more aptly called a DVR) allows producers of a live shot to trigger pre-recorded segments that are inserted to the stream on demand or at preset times. For example, if the subject is speaking about land use, it might be that the visual should cut away from the subject and display the land being discussed. This is very easy with the TriCaster Pro.

TriCaster Pro offers a projection output for live presentations; this output is independent of what is being recorded to the system hard drive, which is ideal for live corporate presentations.

The Tricaster Pro switches easily via the GUI. However, fast production environments such as live presentations, will find significant benefits with the add-on TriCaster VM. The VM offers a typical studio environment switcher with A/B roll fader, transition selection, background selection, graphic selection and VCR switch. Connected to the TriCaster Pro via USB connection, this switcher can be conveniently located away from the TriCaster if necessary. The lighted keys may be re-labeled beneath the clear keycaps for customized use.

The TriCaster Pro has the ability to stream live or pre-recorded to the Internet, or record the presentation as a full resolution, broadcast-ready stream. It cannot do both, however. If a user needs both live streaming and live output, the uncompressed live output can be sent to a recording deck and/or downconverted to DV for DV tape archiving. Additionally, the .wmv Web stream may be archived for post-event streaming.

The image processing quality is outstanding; the ease of use allows the TriCaster to fit into practically any corporate, educational or training environment; and it offers a very fast learning curve. Kudos to NewTek for a well-laid out workflow and feature set.