Tech expert and 3D stereographer Clyde Desouza gives us his take on the NewTek Tricaster 8000, which was recently demonstrated in Dubai by local distributor MediaCast NewTeks video toaster was akin to a TV production studio in a box when it made its debut way back in the 1990s on the Amiga computer system. Every […]
NewTeks video toaster was akin to a TV production studio in a box when it made its debut way back in the 1990s on the Amiga computer system.
Every network TV station from MTV to news channels had a Video Toaster system that competed with what other multi-million dollar systems did at that time. The Toaster outperformed many of them in features, intuitiveness of operation and could always be counted on to deliver in 11th hour rescue operations. In a way, Id say the Video Toaster is still alive in a new incarnation, and its evolved to handle HD while also ready to meet the demands and deadlines of the real-time generation of studio professionals. Meet NewTeks Tricaster.
The Tricaster comes in different flavours, to suit different needs and budgets. We looked at the high end version for this test: the Tricaster 8000, and along the way learnt why its taking the production industry by storm from HD through to stereoscopic 3D live content production.
Its a sleek video processing titan. The Tricaster can be called an OB truck on a desktop. In the demo room, it was sitting atop a table, alongside NewTeks three-play system which was also demonstrated.
Two cameras, an approximately two-metre green screen backdrop and three large LCD monitors completed the production environment of the simulated floor of a TV studio.
Touting the intuitiveness of the Tricaster is not without basis. The entire show was being driven by the TV presenter. The demonstration was to show how easy it is to produce HD quality, multicam live television production. The icing on the top was the fact that the anchor of the TV show was seamlessly controlling the cuts between cameras, playing out pre-canned footage from Tricasters dedicated DDRs, as well as driving the show with hand gestures.
The heavy lifting of video content, processing, rendering, video tracking and subtitling was being performed in the background in real-time by the Tricaster hardware.
If this sounds like a fan boy review of a tech gadget, Im guilty as charged. Suffice to say there is truth to the claims. For standard information and specs on the product, you may download a data sheet from NewTeks website.
Since NewTek did us the honour of having its first showing outside of NAB in Dubai, the rest of this review will touch on outstanding features of the Tricaster 8000 and some food for thought that hopefully contributes to the ongoing evolution of this impressive video wrangler.
New Generation Virtual Video Wrangling:
The first remarkable feature is the way the system handles green screen and virtual sets. There are 24 live sets which include virtual camera moves such as panning, pedestal and zoom. These moves can be adjusted and executed live. There is also a live set editor that is optional for those who want to tweak the sets.
I asked the anchor who was conducting the demo if the sets were actual 3D models. They were not. Instead, virtual sets in the Tricaster are layers with alpha masks. This is not so bad as it sounds, because virtual sets should not be all about fancy camera moves and match-moving live talent to the virtual environment. Such a feature will only introduce one more variable that may go wrong in a live environment.
With the combination of camera moves available, and the very little real estate needed for the green screen (approx. 2 metres), the final output was perfect. It really was like watching network TV. Convincing reflections, perspective changes and the other bells and whistles that the Tricaster threw at the final out monitor showed that indeed, a TV news station could be run off the space of a table top!
One small glitch that appeared was a drop in frame rate when the demonstrator pulled up a menu item. The porgramme out monitor stuttered while this menu was on the preview monitor. I was told this was a beta version of the software and there would be no such occurrence in a live production environment.
Mixer effects busses and virtual inputs:
If you are a professional who has worked behind a video mixing desk, prepare to re-evaluate what you thought was possible with a video mixer.As a teaser, heres what the Tricaster 8000 does: It features eight re-entrant M/E busses. These can be configured with up to four live sources each including using an M/E as a source in another M/E. There are four down stream keys that can use any source including M/Es in addition to four channels of overlay on each M/E.
Thats not all. In addition to the above, the Tricaster can record multiple video streams with timecode to the hard drive. It supports Quicktime.
We were shown macros that could be programmed to do complex actions at the touch of an assignable key. While all these impressive features were coming out of a single Double height rack mount unit that the Tricaster occupies, the presenter dazzled the audience in the room with animated transitions, courtesy the built-in TransWarp 3D effects engine. Yes there is a transition editor that can be used to customise the transition effects.
The Godzilla claw transition where a lizard like hand grabs the live video and crumples it into a page (while the distorted video is still playing on it) brought sweet memories of the old NewTek Toaster.
A toast to social media and trans-platform television:
Multi-tasking and real time are middle names for the Tricaster 8000. While its working all its magic at HD resolution, it can also do social media publishing. The system allows the operator to integrate live production into Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, and other social media sites in real time. Industry standard video streaming formats are supported.
What about stereoscopic 3D?
Tricaster 8000 supports stereoscopic 3D, we are told but in parts. The demo did not have this on show. There is presently one version of the virtual set in stereoscopic 3D, and in essence I believe the stereo 3D is achieved by some pre-built macros.
If you are into live media production, either for broadcast, live events, social media or stereoscopic 3D, the Tricaster 8000 is handy.
Clyde DeSouza works behind the scenes with leading stereographers and producers in the film and broadcast industry.