Let’s face it, our audiences are wanting more than ever. Higher production values in all productions have never been more important. I think we all get that, right? What about the technical specifications of those challenges? Will the gear you choose be able to deliver not only that engaging content, but do it seamlessly and not fall down on the job?
Today’s creative content creators and streamers have so many challenges to not only create compelling content, but to do it in less time, with tighter budgets and more agile production staff. They also may have the new additional challenges of live streaming which can present another whole set of technical parameters that need to be addressed in order to get that fabulous content to the house.
Moment of Truth
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420 showed up at the office. I'd heard lots of good things about Telestream and their myriad of products but never had the opportunity for a hands-on experience until now.
I was quickly impressed by the ease of set up and use, the functionality, and how in a very short time I was able to get everything going—including things like getting cameras hooked up, importing stills and video sources, and opening and layering in the graphics which looked fantastic. More on that in a moment.
Sold On the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420
Like many of you, my crew and I have spent a fair amount of time tying in a variety of gear in a control room or venue. That was not the case at all with the Wirecast 420. I wanted to know what was on the inside that made the unit so robust.
The Wirecast Gear comes with a powerful Xeon server architecture, high-resolution graphics card, Windows 10 Enterprise 64-bit, 250GB system drive, and 1TB storage hard drive to store up to 20 hours of HD video so when you need to push heavy graphics and all the other elements you are going to have a unit that is more than up for the challenge.
I rotated an image with graphics and in motion video with audio which I thought was pretty cool. There was no lag having to wait. The 420 just worked, and quickly. You have more power to each layer with a great pull-down menu that lets you “build” your content as you go.
Lastly, with the Wirecast Gear 420 you can have up to five HD-SDI or four HDMI professional camera inputs. On my Wirecast 420 we had four display outs, five SDI inputs and one SDI program out. Additionally, there were two full size XLR inputs, Ethernet, and 5 USBs.
On the front of the Wirecast 420 we had a brightly lit and recessed On/Off button and two USB inputs, one where I connected my wireless keyboard and mouse dongle and the other can be used for a camera input. Additionally, the front of the unit is slotted in order to facilitate air flow through.
With the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420 Wirecast Pro you are set up for multiple production switcher apps for houses of worship, big corporate meetings, news, and streaming live events like concerts and sports, all while recording (including iso feeds) and delivering your unique content to online destinations.
The Telestream Switch Media utility is also included to monitor, inspect, and correct your live streams. The streams are compatible with any RTMP streaming services and social media services such as Facebook Live, YouTube, and Twitter. The unit also provides support for NDI input and output, allowing you to fit the stream into your NDI-enabled broadcast network along with PTZ control.
You can also set things up to do live video conferencing via the Rendezvous app, which is very handy if you are doing as much in pre-production remotely as we are.
You can also rackmount the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420. Yes, I know you can always buy a rack tray, but at just 2RU why do that? Just get the rack ears and slug that baby in the rack! Can you tell I love rackmounted gear? Put it in your machine room, back of the house, rolling mobile unit, or production truck. Trust me, weighing in at 15.5lbs it’s not going anywhere which I would think is a good thing.
You don’t actually “fly” the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420. That's just an expression I picked up as a TD sitting in front of switchers “punching” shows. With the Telestream Wirecast 420 I know it would still be a lot of fun to punch and direct, there is just more to it, especially the live stuff. It took just a few minutes and I had set up my large screen, so I was in my comfort zone. Of course, you can set up the Telestream Wirecast 420 layout to whatever works best for you.
There are also a ton of streaming parameters built into the menus so you can set up the Telestream output allowing you to change the settings if needed depending on your needs.
Because I was working off a large screen, I was able to set up and in working left to right, I had a preview panel and a program panel. I did it this way to mimic as if I was producing/directing/streaming for a live event. It was just me and the camera ops in the back of the house. Simple. One interesting function was that you could set a “trigger” which I called the “red dot” to always have the program “live” and or recording and take any source right to “live”.
I think that is great as long as you are keeping track of where you are in the game or service or you know it’s all going to be live, even if you just want to eliminate one more step in the process. I think that all TDs and Directors have gotten “lost” as to where they are in the show sometimes. I know I have a time or two. For more complex productions I would definitely do some practice runs with Telestream Wirecast Gear 420 before going live.
From a creative standpoint, I liked that you could set up and resize a box within your image on the preview panel and then transition the whole thing over to the program panel.
The preview/program look lets you just cut from camera to camera or source or you can utilize one of the adjustable built in transitions that are very smooth. You can also monitor and adjust audio on every source with the audio mixer and there is also an audio level meter adjacent to each video frame. It was a great way to quickly confirm that the audio levels were consistent source to source.
Oh, one more important thing that you may not have thought of—If you are not in production, you can be editing elements for the next show or even the show you just finished. Why have to move you or your files to another edit suite or anywhere else for that matter? How great is that?
Let’s hear from a Telestream Wirecast Gear customer about his experiences with the 420.
“With Wirecast Gear, all I have to do is plug my cameras and audio sources into the ports on the back of the device and I’m good to go. This gear packs up into a compact fly pack that I can move and set-up quickly at different shooting locations. This live video streaming solution has proven to be reliable, portable, and affordable. That’s the value proposition for us.” Forrest McCaleb, Director, Global Communications - U.S., Kedrion Biopharma Inc., in Fort Lee, NJ
That quote from Forrest McCaleb pretty much sums up my thoughts on this outstanding unit. Are there a few drawbacks? Yes, but not many. Some might say it’s kinda of expensive. But is it really? I don’t think so.
If you had to build what the Wirecast 420 can do from scratch, you would be way deep in time and money. Here, you can take the Telestream Wirecast 420 out of the box and get going. Plus, this may be one of my main takeaways. I want gear I can grow into, not grow out of.
The Wirecast Gear 420 can and will take you and your productions in a lot of new and interesting directions. Ok, now I'll get a little nitpicky. For some users, the fan noise bugs them. Yes, the fan noise is there. But, you are running some heavy-duty elements that need cooling. Have you ever been in a machine room? I got used to the fan pretty quickly. Is there a learning curve? Again yes, but that is true with any new gear. You can get the basics down quickly and get going and then build it up from there. Besides, there is lots of online help, tutorials, and the people at Broadfield Distributors and Telestream are more than ready to help you shine.
I know this first hand because I emailed in a help ticket request and it was handled pronto. Plus, there are the annual updates, 1 year of support or the 3-year Gearcare option with priority support, which is what I would get.
Lastly, if you want to be building out and building up your capacity for future productions, you should be taking a long hard look at the Telestream Wirecast Gear 420. On my scale of 1 to 10 cool production gear that you want to consider adding into the mix? I would definitely rate the Telestream Wirecast 420 a very solid 10.