Newtek Tricaster 2 Elite
A few months ago we had the opportunity to test one of the “smaller siblings” of the Tricaster family, the TC1. Thanks to Newtek, we are testing today the most advanced version of the range, the TC2 Elite.
This production platform (it is more than a mere video mixer) is oriented to the IP environment and has capabilities that are half way between the ‘traditional’ broadcast world and IP and OTT platforms. Let’s take a look at it in more detail.
Lab test perfomed by Yeray Alfageme
In the first place, it must be highlighted that the TC2 Elite has so many features, capabilities, functions and technical specifications that summing them up in an article like this is simply impossible. Of course, we could try, but it would take up a whole issue of our publication. For this reason, we will assume that any and all features inherent to an advanced video mixer are present in the TC2 Elite, as it is indeed the case. Therefore, we are going to focus on the functions that are really a novelty and do make a difference between this system and others on the market.
Newtek has changed the naming convention for its flagship product –Tricaster- with the launch of TC2 Elite. It is no longer defined as a video mixer, but as a content production platform. This is a much broader concept that enables greatly increased capabilities and features in this equipment while raising the expectations placed by us professionals.
A production platform is understood to include more than video processing. It must also offer graphics, replays, media server, format converter, etc. That is, nearly everything a mobile unit can do must be included in a single piece of equipment. Newtek is a specialist (in fact this is how it first reached the market quite a few years ago) in launching reliable all-in-one devices with capabilities unheard of so far in similar equipment at an affordable cost. Now under the Vizrt umbrella, the brand has shifted towards quality while maintaining a focus on the mid-low budget market. TC2 Elite is the best example of this new strategy.
TC2 Elite features up to 32 simultaneous video inputs. If these were traditional SDI inputs, the device would be positioned as a very complete mid-range mixer. However, these input jacks are not only SDI but include a whole range of IP inputs. For instance, the device features video streams from videoconferencing platforms such as Slack, Teams and Skype.
And of course, it offers compatibility with video over IP under the NDI protocol, widely promoted by Newtek and the industry’s de facto standard nowadays. In fact, all 32 input connections can be NDI, thus allowing a complete video over IP ecosystem with large capabilities.
But at present and in view of the ‘new normal’, video sources are in nearly all TV programs -even on the news- widely varying. Having a system that only allows SDI linear signals would force to convert all sources to said format by means of external equipment, thus losing quality and reliability in many instances. Having the TC2 Elite include all these inputs greatly simplifies these kinds of multiformat productions.
As we pointed out before, live video sources through videoconferencing platforms have become a need for most productions, especially news-related ones. They were initially forced by the global situation, but these processes, due to their convenience, are here to stay.
Newtek has made a note of it and added many of the videoconference platforms or, at least the most widely used ones, to the TC2 Elite. This way, it offers acquisition of quality video signal without the need of using external conversions. From Zoom to Facebook Live, and also Skype and Teams, all of them are included in the platform’s features.
All this, with the following audio and video features:
– 4K UHD
– New aspect ratios such as 9:16 and multiple refresh rates
– Advanced routing
– EQ and dynamics control, including delay
– Integration with Dante
– Advanced monitoring
– And much more
Advanced audio and video processing functions are included in the TC2 Elite platform. Previously, more than one piece of equipment was necessary for carrying them out. TC2 itself has a media player, both for video and audio, based on the machine’s own disk capacity; let’s remember that we are dealing with a PC, so expanding it is neither an issue nor expensive.
Furthermore, built-in graphics provide us a lot of creativity functions. One of the most impressive ones is the possibility of creating complete virtual environments thanks to the LiveSet technology. It also makes possible to use Adobe Photoshop formats as a graphic source, which gives us great flexibility and an impressive visual result, again without the need of exiting the platform.
Of course, TC2 Elite supports graphics through NDI, as their predecessors did, so any IP graphics source available in the network can be used and combined with any of the advanced functions within the platform.
Nor does TC2 Elite fall short when it comes to providing monitoring tools. Both for audio and video, it features a multitude of multiviewer and VU metering solutions that can be connected directly to the equipment or be distributed by IP through the network for viewing on an external device if required by our production. All these tools are thought out to allow a single operator to successfully carry out complex productions, so it is not strange that they offer us flexibility normally found in traditional, typically more expensive systems.
The platform has all imaginable interfaces for automation: from the very ancient MIDI up to monitoring via network through NDI or even web interface in order to be able to operate certain features. This not only provides with new capabilities, but also new ways for performing operations. Why not having the main operator in front of the machine and the assistant in a different location? This is feasible thanks to ample automation capabilities. Whether it is interesting or convenient is a different matter, but from a technical point of view, Newtek is offering us a viable solution.
Of course, all automation functions can be included within macro creation in order to sequentially execute actions within production as well as having them integrated with any data source so as to control part of the latter also in an automated fashion.
Once we have seen the advanced features provided by TC2 in other areas, it is obvious to assume that traditional SDI output connectors, both in HD and in 3G and UHD -either quad-link or 12G- are basic options present in TC2 Elite.
Beyond any physical video outputs, something much more interesting is exploiting the publication and streaming possibilities offered by this platform. Automatic publication can be configured without the need of external encoders for Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or even Twitter, thus integrating our social media within our production process.
TC2 features presets –already checked by Newtek- for this. Therefore, by just pointing the stream toward the relevant ingest point in the chosen social media, the relevant stream can work with minimal setup and try-out time.
We can also customize the configuration of our stream in a detailed manner, with the possibility of choosing from codec to data rate for publication, and even the relevant aspect ratio and metadata as well as the number of audio fragments and their content.
We can make a publication on multi-language streaming directly from TC2 Elite. Impressive.
As last option, either on an exclusive basis or in parallel to the video output or main publication, all production outputs, either PGM or Clean or any other feed of our choice, may be recorded. This can be done after selecting our favorite output format to an internal location, to external storage or even in the Cloud. In this fashion we can have an immediate backup copy for our entire production or have content available on demand outright.
This combined with publication on social media and with all the interaction provided via network available in this platform results in practically unlimited creative possibilities… all in just three rack units.
TC2 Elite is a production platform, not a video mixer. This is a significant paradigm change. The device is not just another all-in-one system, but a full-fledged production environment with publication functions more in keeping with an entire production center.
Something worth noting is the reliability involved in all-in-one systems. It is obvious to think that having everything in just one system places the risk on a single spot and this is true. However, this is not only inherent to TC2 Elite, but to any current integrated production system. TC2 Elite has everything necessary for successfully carrying out 95% of our daily productions with advanced functions unheard of in environments of this price and range.
Let’s not forget that this is a system geared to low-mid range productions in which budget constraints must be seriously considered. However, the results achieved through TC2 are well beyond this low-mid range, as productions are of quality and features more in keeping with much more advanced, costly environments.
TC2 should be one of the main options to be considered for any production -whatever its size- provided that the balance between budget and capabilities is a key factor to consider without sacrificing any such features or capabilities.