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Selecting the Videoguys Top Products of 2017 was tough!
2017 was one of those years that saw a ton of exciting new products released – many with ground breaking technology. So many that I couldn’t nail it down to just 10, in fact, when you count the ties, it’s more like 15 products featured in this article. Before we even get to the list, I want to talk about the single biggest product / technology to hit our industry in years. NewTek NDI – Network Device Interface. In fact, I’m going to declare 2017 the year of NDI!
NewTek NDI was introduced a couple of years ago. It’s an IP-based technology that allows you to transmit audio and video over standard GigE networks. So it can replace costly SDI and not as reliable HDMI cables and connections in your live production workflow. Even more important, NDI is a two way communication. This means that in addition to sending video between devices, it allows those devices to communicate with each other and even control each other over the network. Simply amazing!
We’ve posted several videos this year featuring NDI and NDI products. Many of the products on this year’s Top 12 list are NDI based. Kudos to Dr. Andrew Cross and his team over at NewTek. NDI adoption has been tremendous and new NDI products and workflows keep coming. That is why I will say it again: 2017 was the year of NDI!
So let’s go to the Top 12 list!
Our Top 12 list is not in any particular order or ranking, but I do have to say that one product on the list stood out above all the others, and for this reason I’m going to call it our Top Product of 2017 – the NewTek TriCaster TC1!
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1. NewTek TriCaster TC1
The TriCaster is tried and true, proven technology that has set the standard for live switching, mixing and streaming productions for years. The TC1 represents a complete re-design optimized for NDI workflows and capable of delivering true 4K 60p workflows. For under $20K you're getting features and performance that rival and actually blow away the TC800, NewTek's previous top of the line solution with a $35K price tag.
TC1 supports up to 16 video inputs that can be any combination of SDI or NDI sources. While it ships with 4 SDI inputs you can add additional SDI inputs with their I/O expansion modules. One of the key factors that make TC1 such a tremendous value is its expandability. You can add more functionality, I/O, and performance down the road, when you need it.
2. Epiphan Webcaster X2
Webcaster X2 is an on camera device that allows you to stream directly from your HD camcorder to either YouTube or Facebook Live. This is a big deal for web streamers who actually care about the video quality and composition of their productions. By using you favorite HD Camcorder you can shoot dramatically better quality video then you can with a smart phone or tablet. If you are reading this article, then you understand this and just how fantastic a product the Webcaster is for just $299!
When Epiphan introduced the Webcaster X1 family of products I thought they were great, but I didn't like that they had 2 different versions, one for Facebook and another for YouTube. With the Webcaster X2 this issue is solved. Webcaster X2 gives you the choice of live streaming to either YouTube or Facebook, and it supports both hard wired and wireless connectivity. Kudos to Epiphan for listening to their customers and delivering a much improved, more powerful Webcaster at the same great price!
3. NewTek Connect Spark and BirdDog Studio
Both the NewTek Connect Spark and BirdDog Studio are on-camera NDI encoders that turn the HDMI or SDI output of your HD camcorder into an NDI signal. Now you can connect your camcorder to your TriCaster or any other NDI enabled mixer / switcher via your standard GigE network or even Wi-Fi! This is so cool! NO more hassles of long SDI runs or HDMI cables getting pulled out. No more limits to where you can place your camera because of the wiring limits. Now let’s go into some of the specifics about these products.
The NewTek Connect Sparks come in two different flavors, HDMI for $499 and SDI for $699. They use a subset of NDI technology call NDI HX that delivers NDI connectivity at a lower cost, with slightly lower quality and some additional latency. Don't fret, the video images look fantastic. For the bulk of our customers, the lower cost and added features more than compensate for this. They allow you to use Wi-Fi connectivity into your NDI switcher. Being wire free gives you an enormous amount of flexibility for camera placement and movement. Just be aware of any dark spots in your coverage to avoid dropped signals.
The BirdDog Studio is a more expensive product ($895) based on NDI technology that supports both SDI and HDMI with cross conversion and loop out, tally light, V-Mount and Anton Bauer mounting options, and has almost zero latency. These features make it a more professional product. It does not support WiFi.
4. LaCie 2big Dock
This is the RAID storage solution I have been asking for and waiting years to get! It's a two drive external RAID with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity that also has built in card readers! YAY!!
2big Dock can be easily configured for Windows or Mac, in RAID 1, 0 or JBOD, using LaCie's excellent RAID manager tool. Because it is Thunderbolt 3, it also supports USB-C, USB3 and USB2, so you can connect it to any computer you own. The throughput will vary based on connectivity. With Thunderbolt 3 in RAID 0 you get a blazing fast 440 megabytes per second throughput. More than fast enough for all HD workflows and most compressed 4K formats.
The 2big Dock includes an SD card and compact flash reader. It also gives you a USB3 port and display port, making it a must have storage solution for laptop based digital photographers and video editors. In the future I'd love to see a version with more professional readers like CFast or XQD. Starting at $649 for an 8TB model it's pretty affordable, but I think the 12TB for $799 and 16TB for $999 are much better values. While the 20TB for $1,199 is a great investment for those who need massive amounts of storage.
5. G-Technology G-SPEED Shuttle XL & G-SPEED Shuttle XL ev with Thunderbolt 3
If you need to support 4K, 8K or VR workflows look no further than G-SPEED Shuttle XL, an 8-bay hardware RAID, Thunderbolt 3 storage solution that is both portable and rugged. When the first generation of G-SPEED Shuttle XL with Thunderbolt 2 connectivity shipped a couple of years ago I really liked it, but I was disappointed that it only had Thunderbolt 2 ports. That really limited the computers you could use it with. The new Thunderbolt 3 versions include cables for USB-C, USB3 and USB2 connectivity. Mac owners can also purchase a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 converter which enables Mac Pro connectivity. Sorry PC owners, this converter only works on MACs, currently there is no Windows Tbolt3 to Tbolt 2 conversion solution. You can configure your Shuttle for RAID 0 to get the maximum 2000MB/sec throughout, or as RAID 5 or 6 for redundancy. G-SPEED Shuttle XL can be configured as either RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and 50. G-SPEED Shuttle XL comes in wide range of capacities starting at $3,999.95 for 32TB and maxing out at a whopping 96TB for $9,999.95.
The G-SPEED Shuttle XL ev supports G-Tech’s Evolution Series workflows. These models come configured with 6 hard drives and two Evolution drive bays allowing you to use the G-Tech Red, CFast, and Atomos readers as well as any of their Evolution series G-Drives. For those creative content creators who shoot action video s or footage out in the field, the Evolution workflow makes moving, managing and working with your footage and images so much easier. G-SPEED Shuttle XL ev starts at $2,7999.95 for 24TB and goes up to 72TB for $7,699.95.
6. Atomos Ninja Inferno and Sumo 19
Atomos field monitors and recorders are the industry standard. They support all the latest 4K HDR workflows. If you are shooting with a professional 4K camera from Panasonic, Canon or Sony you are not doing yourself justice if you are not using an Atomos Inferno. When Atomos introduced the Ninja Inferno this last year with a $995 price tag I knew they had a winner. It has the same great feature set of the Shogun Inferno, but with HDMI connectivity, this was going to be the Atomos solution for so many 4K video shooters. What are those great features?
- 4K 60p 10 bit recording in either Apple ProRes or Avid DNx formats
- 7.1 inch 1920x1200 resolution screen at an incredibly bright 1500nits
- HDR support for most Log formats (Sony, Canon, Arri, Panasonc, JVC and Red) and gamuts (Sony, Canon, Panasonic and Arri).
HDR allows you to control the brightness of your image giving you blacker blacks and brighter whites without blowing out all the other colors, because you can control the brightness of the entire image range. Let me let you in on a little secret about HDR: It's more important than 4K for delivering the very highest quality video images. Why? Because the human eye perceives HDR 1080p footage as being sharper and clearer than 4K non HDR footage. Put 4K and HDR together and you can deliver the absolute best video possible.
The Sumo 19 and Sumo 19M field monitors allow you to work with the same great 4K and HDR image quality on a 19 inch filed monitor. The original Sumo19 includes all of Atomos Inferno level recording capabilities for $2,495. The Sumo 19m is a monitor only for $1,995.
I think that when you combine an Atomos Inferno on the camera with a Sumo in the studio you get the very best HDR workflows possible. We have some DPs, cinematographers and producers using Sumos for reviewing their footage and dailies in the field, even outdoors under full sunlight.
7. Telestream Wirecast 8 and Wirecast Gear 230
With the introduction of Wirecast 8, Telestream added some cool new features and important performance enhancements to their popular Wirecast live streaming and production software. Wirecast is the only live streaming software available for both PCs and Macs. It is easy to use and allows you to mix video from multiple sources, add graphics, lower thirds, and virtual sets. You can stream simultaneously to multiple CDNs including Facebook, You Tube, Persiscope, Twitch Wowza and more. One of the best things about Wirecast is how easy it is to use. In a couple of hours you'll be able to produce multi-camera shows. Wirecast also supports NDI for increased connectivity and functionality. Wirecast upgrades start at $299 while a new seat of Wirecast Studio is $695 and Wirecast Pro is $999.
With Wirecast 8 Telestream added a couple of new features we really love:
- Rendezvous allows you to bring remote guests into your productions
- Multi-track audio mixing allows you full control of your audio mix
- The much needed and requested multi-viewer lets you preview any source or camera angle.
Telestream also introduced a new top of the line Wirecast Gear solution, the Wirecast Gear 230 for $7,995. Wirecast Gear is a Wirecast optimized Windows 10 appliance with 4 inputs and internal SSD storage. The Gear 230 gives you 4 SDI ports that can be configured for input or output, along with 2 TB of internal storage, capable of storing up to 40 hours of HD footage.
8. PTZ Cameras with NDI: NewTek NDI | HX PTZ-1 camera & PTZOptics Gen 2 PTZ cameras with NDI firmware
Before we go into the individual products, let's talk about PTZ cameras in general. PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) robotic cameras allow you to shoot your video without a camera operator. This can save you thousands a year depending on how often your show runs. You can control the PTZ cameras via remote control, joystick control surface, or within your switching / mixing software. With the addition of NDI, PTZ cameras get taken to another level. Just plug them into a GigE network jack with PoE (Power over Ethernet) and you are good to go. No other cable to install. The video gets sent over the network, the camera gets powered by PoE, and you can control it over the network as well. Any NDI aware switcher or device on the network can see and control any NDI PTZ camera on the network!
The NewTek PTZ NDI camera is a 1080p 60fps camera with 20x zoom. It costs $2,699 and delivers outstanding performance and the highest level of NDI integration, including tally lights and remote control / monitoring via web based interface. In addition to NDI connectivity you also get 3G-SDI and HDMI video output.
PTZ Optics 1080p 30 fps PTZ cameras start at $1599 for 12x and $1699 for 20x. They are available with USB & HDMI or SDI & HDMI video output and they are available in your choice of gray or white. You can upgrade any Gen2 model to NDI with a $300 firmware upgrade. This means that you can buy a PTZ Optics camera and NDI for under $2K! That's a tremendous value!!
9. Avid NEXIS | PRO 40TB
I really love the NEXIS | PRO intelligent shared storage technology. With NEXIS | PRO you get an easy to use configuration tool that allows you complete control over your users, projects and media. You can quickly change settings without having to completely re-configure your storage like other shared storage solutions. Obviously NEXIS | PRO is optimized for Avid collaborative video editing environments, but it also works great with Adobe and FCPS environments and projects. There is no other shared solution that can deliver all of the Avid Media Composer workflows like bin locking, self-balancing file system, intelligent distribution of media across drives, and selectable failure protection with support for other NLEs. If your team uses Avid or a mixed NLE workflow with attached storage, NEXIS | PRO is the best possible shared storage solution for you to migrate to.
A single NEXIS | PRO 40TB engine ($8,999) delivers an incredible 600 MB/sec of bandwidth, and you can connect up to 4 of them to scale not only your storage up to 160TB, but the throughput to 2.4GB/sec!
With the introduction of the NEXIS | PRO 40TB engine we can now offer you a bundle that includes the NEXIS | PRO 40TB and Dell 2024 network switch for under $10,000!! You connect the NEXIS | PRO to the Dell switch via 10GigE and then up to 20 NLE workstations via GigE. If you need more speed you can use dual GigE network cards in your workstations, or upgrade to a 10GigE switch and 10GigE network cards (or Thunderbolt to 10GigE devices) for the fastest possible connectivity. The choice is yours!
10. LiveU Solo HDMI
The LiveU Solo HDMI brings cellular bonded encoding under a $1,000. That is a very big deal. If you are into video streaming, you know that there are situations when you simply do not have access to the internet, but the show must go on. LiveU Solo technology allows you to bond two cellular modems, delivering outstanding video quality in the field and on location. The secret to the Solo technology is the LiveU LRT cloud decoder. This service combines the signal from two cellular modems from two different carriers together for incredible video quality with perfect audio sync. LRT optimizes your bandwidth to deliver the best possible video in every situation. From the LRT virtual cloud server you can go to Facebook, You Tube Live, Periscope or an RTMP CDN.
You can use the LiveU Solo HDMI on your camera or take the output from any HDMI switcher and feed it into the Solo to stream from the field. We have customers using the Solo with the TriCaster Mini for mobile production systems or with the Roland V1-HD 4 input switcher. In fact, Videoguys offers some great deals when you purchase the LiveU Solo together with a Roland V-1 switcher.
The LiveU Solo can be used with your existing Wi-Fi, wired internet or a single cellular modem as well. You can choose to not use the LRT virtual cloud server if you have enough bandwidth, but in order to bond multiple connections, you require the LRT. LRT can even bond together cellular modems, Wi-Fi and wired internet for the ultimate connectivity.
11. Samsung 360 Round Professional VR camera
The Samsung 360 Round delivers incredible 360 3D VR footage because it packs 17 cameras into its fixed housing. Because the cameras are fixed, you know you are going to get the best possible stereoscopic VR footage. This is a professional camera, intended for VR content creators looking to deliver a truly immersive 360 experience. The $10,495 price tag puts it in a class by itself. You get a level of camera controls and settings that professional cinematographers and video shooters expect and require.
The video footage is just part of the story. Just as important is the real time stitching that allows for the delivering of live 360 3D VR footage. This requires a powerful computer, and we worked together with the folks at Next to configure portable solutions that will deliver perfect live VR footage. These machines are beasts, with 8 core processors, dual GTX1080 cards and a ton of RAM. We've put together bundles with the Samsung 360 Round camera and a Next Computing Radius System for under $20K.
12. G-Technology G-DRIVE mobile SSD R-Series rugged USBC drives
I'm a big fan of mobile SSD drives and the G-DRIVE R-Series drives are my new favorites. They are sleek, slim, sexy, rugged and incredibly fast. Starting at $179.95 for 500GB they are also affordable. The 1TB model at $349.95 hits my sweet spot. These models connect via USBC to any PC or Mac computer, delivering 560MB/second throughput. As mentioned earlier in this article, USBC is backwards compatible with both USB3 and USB2, although you will get slower throughput with these legacy connections. I'd like to see Thunderbolt 3 versions in the future with even faster throughputs, but not at an exorbitant price premium.
Did I mention how rugged these puppies are? IP67 water and dust resistance, drop protection of around 10 feet (3 meters) and a half ton (1000lb) crushproof rating, shock and vibration resistant plus a 5 year limited warranty. These are exceptionally durable and a great choice for action photographers or videographers who need to transfer data in the field, under adverse conditions.
13. 2017 the Year of NDI
That concludes this year's Videoguys Top 12 Products of 2017 list. I think you will agree with me that 2017 was a great year for new technology, and we're hoping to see even cooler, more exciting stuff in 2018. All of the products featured in this article are in stock and available at Videoguys.com. If you have any questions about them or the workflows that utilize them please give us a call at 800-323-2325 and speak to one of our live sales people. We know this equipment because we use it to produce our weekly video programs, product spotlight videos, and more.
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