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TriCaster® Mini Conference AV Setup with Timer and XKeys Control

January 16, 2018 by Grant Whitehead, Chuck Baker

In this video, Grant Whitehead of Wallfly Streaming applies a TriCaster® Mini as a conference A/V presentation system, one of the primary considerations in the design of the product. This setup provides what the presenter needs on screen, easy monitoring at the lectern or dais, and keeps time for both presenter and audience.

TriCaster Mini in Presentations and Meetings

Here is the equipment and software list from the demo in this video:

  • TriCaster Mini HD-4i
  • Systems:
    • Mac Laptop with Keynote
    • Windows Laptop with PowerPoint
  • NewTek NDI® Scan Converter (free with NDI Tools Pack), running on each laptop, to send the display to the TriCaster Mini over the network.
  • X-keys® XK-16 Stick, controlling the TriCaster Mini via custom macros assigned to the keys
  • Display at the lectern, receiving output from TriCaster Mini
  • Display or projector for the audience, receiving output from TriCaster Mini
  • Audio Mixer/PA system

This setup provides a speaker’s choice of Windows or Mac systems for presentation. Here, Windows is running PowerPoint, and Mac is running Evernote. Any available presentation software can be used from either system. NewTek NDI Scan Converter brings any screen from a networked laptop into the TriCaster. Whitehead conveys great satisfaction with the very low latency and the dependability of the NDI signal.

The configuration works well for conferences, conventions, or meetings where speakers or panelists provide their presentations to the operator in advance.

With the proper remote, a speaker can control the presentation on the laptop. All the TriCaster operator needs to do is switch between laptops for each speaker or program segment, control the “Timer” video as needed and key it over the current program, and reset everything at the end to be ready for the next speaker.

That’s a capable setup for conference and convention sessions, where speaker follows speaker throughout the day. What about meetings that may require much greater flexibility, and perhaps more sources?

TriCaster Mini setups can be substantially more flexible and make more sources available with ease. This demo is a TriCaster Mini running Standard Edition software. That allows four hardware inputs (HDMI in this case, but there is also an SDI model) and two network inputs, Net1 and Net2. TriCaster Advanced Edition is standard on TriCaster Mini models as of January 2018, and allows for eight inputs, but if you choose, up to all eight can be NDI network inputs. And any NDI source on the network is available and can be selected for any given input, so that’s up to eight at a time from an unlimited number of online resources.

At NewTek, we frequently have meetings where different people present. Who presents is often spontaneous. Everyone has their laptops. In the past, we had to pass around a video connector to hook a laptop to the projector. The new alternative is for everyone to have NDI Scan Converter on their laptops, and to have one operator controlling a TriCaster Mini attached to the projector. Anyone who needs to simply activates NDI Scan Converter and selects the presentation application or the whole screen to send as an NDI stream. The TriCaster operator selects that NDI source and puts it on the Program output.

It works over wireless networks. It displays any type of content you need to including video playback. And it handles impromptu additions to the presentation roster completely on the fly.

TriCaster Mini HD-4i UI with timer overlay circled on preview, and the output to the lectern monitor showing on the Mini's built-in monitor.

Keeping On Time

Timing is a key factor in tightly scheduled events, and sometimes a creative approach is needed. For some situations having the timer as a video in the Media Player (a.k.a. DDR) works better than taking up a live graphics channel for the purpose. In conference sessions, the simple presentation-style workflow does not miss the extra DDR.

To produce the Timer video, in TriCaster, Whitehead first created a full-screen sized graphic of a DataLink-driven graphic timer countdown from 60:00 minutes to 00:00. Next, he played the graphic over a black background for the full course of an hour, and recorded the timer to a video. To finish, he added audio alerts at 3 minutes, 1 minute and 0.

The video is recorded by TriCaster with alpha channel, so it can be keyed over other video sources. The operator can, in fact, use the video from the DDR to overlay on multiple sources, where it will provide a synchronized timer on each source. The operator can use the sizer and positioner to set the size and location for each overlay.

We see it at top right in Program Output, which would go to a display or projection for the audience, in the early part of video. An M/E is also used send the active source on Program Output to a monitor allowing the speaker to follow the program while facing the audience. We see the timer overlay at bottom center in that lectern monitor.

X-keys XK-16 Stick button strip with custom labels for TriCaster Macros

TriCaster has the ability to distribute control to other devices, and supports X-key products from P.I. Engineering, among many others. Whitehead uses a USB X-keys XK-16 Stick button strip connected to the TriCaster to provide a simple custom controller for this task. He assigns a TriCaster macro to each button and labels the buttons accordingly.

Hold, Stop, and Start keys control playback and keying of the timer video. The buttons labeled numerically set video playback to begin at the inpoint for the number of minutes on the button. At the right end of the bar, A and B set Mac or PC to the Preview Bus, C and D turn the video to the lectern display on and off, and the last button is assigned to Auto, so that he does not need to go back to the TriCaster to do the transitions from Preview to Program.

In conference and meeting situations described here, TriCaster Mini provides mainly switching and effects, with the presentation content coming from computers via NDI. However, the ability to create layered video and graphics in an intuitive and easy-to-use interface make TriCaster Mini a natural for producing content for presentations in corporate communications, classrooms, houses of worship, and many more environments and applications.

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