If you’ve never been inside a live production truck like I have, it is fascinating! I’ll never watch live TV the same way. The producer is barking out commands and orchestrating a team of people to create a broadcast that produces powerful emotion and gives the viewer the feeling that they’re there. If you’ve ever said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to broadcast what we’re doing?” you know that this is much more difficult than many would think. In order to get from one camera focused on a speaker to a vibrant live feed, you are going to need the right tool.
The NewTek TriCaster Mini HD-4i is just that. This 9-pound computer is all the brains you’ll need to create live broadcasts of presentations, shows and events so professional that you may not notice the difference between your production and one with a much larger budget.
NewTek has continued to improve on their design, technology and power. This product is just as the name suggests: Mini. It’s 4.6 x 9.2 x 7.9 inches, but don’t let the size fool you. It has merely consolidated any extra space into a powerhouse of a studio.
Unlike the TriCaster Mini HD-4, the HD-4i model comes with a built in 7-inch monitor side monitor, which we found to be extraneous. Although it does help to know what you’re outputting, by the time you have all of your cables and cameras plugged in, this monitor is not very useful. Even when it is visible, the monitor is small and not interactive. We think having a separate monitor for output just makes more sense. Considering this is really what separates the HD-4i from the HD-4, we can’t recommend considering the more expensive option.
There are four HDMI inputs for video as well as two HDMI for video out. The audio in includes ¼-inch inputs for mono and stereo and ¼-inch for mono and stereo output. With current video technology, the Mini makes it easy for you to connect with solid connections so that its durability matches its portability.
Setup was quite easy. On the NewTek website, they advertise that anyone can setup their studio in under six minutes. We were skeptical, assuming it was marketing rhetoric, but this product truly was simple to understand. Hooking up your monitor, keyboard and all of your cameras is quick and painless, and the HDMI inputs are easy, strong and self-evident.
Once you connect all of your devices — monitor, keyboard, and mouse — it’s a treat to see the easy-to-use design that sets NewTek apart. Within seconds, you are whisked away into the beautiful world of live broadcasting. This, we found to be as turnkey as advertised. The connections are simple, the log-in was easy and the display takes you logically right where you need to be.
The software seems to be easier to follow than reviews we read about the TriCaster Studio suggest. We found it extremely easy to navigate through the different input options. The software also allows you to create and animate titles to make your show look even more professional.
The display is a standard production board that is quite easy to use, even for someone who is not used to TriCaster’s previous models. The displays take a little bit of playing with, but ultimately makes it easy for you to get the hang of switching videos without much training. As a live broadcasting novice, this author found it easy to use, but being great at it will take a lot of practice. The TriCaster brand makes practicing fun and intuitive, which is very important for someone like me.
In addition to live video creation, the graphics for animation are a great function that makes your productions that much more professional. The custom animated transitions and content were top notch. This seems to be an area in which NewTek is leading the field, and their products seem to be current with the latest technology. This review hasn’t even tapped into all the possibilities that this tool offers, but we suspect that beginners to live broadcasting will find the TriCaster greatly improves the production quality of their shoots after just a bit of practice.
The ability to combine all the new tricks from input and output impressed us. This simple box allows you to broadcast in many different formats. They have stayed current with social networking sites — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — and make this output simple so that you don’t have to combine several different tools before going live.
The NewTek TriCaster Mini HD-4i is unfortunately no cheaper than former models, and this might be the only major weakness. It does seem to be an improvement from past models in a way that makes your product look more polished. If you’re looking for something to make your live broadcast a professional production, then look no further than this. The portability only enhances the features if you wish to make quality programming from an alternate location.
Switcher Channels: 16- 6 external 6 internal 4 M/E buses
Video Input: 4 simultaneous live video sources over HDMI, with per-input auto-detection of format, resolution, and frame rate
Network Sources: Two live inputs via Gigabit connection
Video Output: Configurable for up to 6 output connections, 2 x HDMI (primary), 1 x DVI and 1 x HDMI (video only) display ports for driving displays or projectors, Network output for live streaming, A/V output to network-connected TriCaster over local network
Audio Inputs: 4 HDMI Embedded, 1 x ¼-inch (6.35 mm) balanced mic, 2 x ¼-inch (6.35 mm) balanced line
Audio Outputs: 2 HDMI Embedded, 2 x ¼-inch (6.35 mm) balanced line, ¼-inch (6.35mm) stereo headphone jack
Supported Session Formats: NTSC model: 1080/30p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 480/60p, Multi-Standard model: NTSC 1080/30p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 480/60p; NTSC-J 1080/30p, 1080/60i, 720/60p, 720/30p, 480/60p; PAL 1080/25p, 1080/50i, 720/50p, 720/25p, 576/50p
Playback Media Formats: AVI, DV, DVCPro, DVCProHD, FLV, F4V, H.263, H.264, MOV, MKV, MJPEG, MPEG (1, 2, all profiles, program or transport streams), MP4, WMV, WebM, PSD, PNG, TGA, BMP, JPEG, EXR, RAW, TIF, AIFF, MP3, WAV and more
Processing: Video: 4:4:4:4, 32-bit Floating Point, Audio: 4 channels, 96 kHz, 32-bit Floating Point
Case Display: 7.0 in (17.8 cm) LCD
Built-In WiFi: 802.11ac WiFi standard
Built-In Bluetooth: Yes
System Physical: 4.6 x 9.2 x 7.9 in (11.7 x 23.4 x 20.1 cm), 9 lbs (4.1 kg)
• Exceptionally intuitive
• Graphics software
• Cost may be a barrier for some
Chad Fransen is the Pastor of Orchard Church in Chico, California. He uses video to deliver messages through work, social media and the internet.